Essentials for a Good Sleep Environment
Anxiety, stress, jet lag, a medical condition – all could be causes of a sleep disorder or impairment. While the treatment of such problems will vary from person to person, a good sleep environment is never a bad idea.
By creating such an environment, it could prove the necessary first step on your road to a better night’s sleep (and all the positive effects that come with it). Here are five essentials to keep in mind when creating your own “good sleep environment.”
- Keep the Bedroom a Place of Rest: These days, many of us have notebook computers, wireless Internet, and other mobile devices that make it possible for us to transform any room into an office.
But if you suffer from a sleep disorder, make sure you keep your bedroom a bedroom – a place of rest away from work and play. Don’t allow the bedroom to become an office, a playroom, or a TV room. Those who suffer from sleep disorders need to eliminate all distractions in the form of noise, light, or activity.
- Ideal Temperature: When creating a good sleep environment, you need to make sure you minimize any discomfort. Being too cold or too hot can disrupt a comfortable sleep and once disrupted (for a person with a sleep disorder) it may be difficult to get back into a deep slumber.
Keeping the room at a constant, ideal temperature will help you get and stay asleep. While it’s debatable as to what the best temperature is, it can be agreed upon that anything about 75 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm and anything below 54 degrees, too cold.
Try a median between 60–70 degrees (65) as a compromise, but the deciding factor should be you personally and what you find to be “ideal.” If you keep kicking the covers off or shivering yourself awake, adjust the temperature until it’s just right – and make note of what that number is for you.
- Comfortable Bed: One symptom of a sleep disorder or impairment is tossing and turning during the night, and one reason you may be restless is that your mattress is uncomfortable.
As with most anything in life, what’s “right” for you (and your back, your posture, your comfort) is specific to your body. However, research has shown that supple mattresses may be more conducive to a good night’s rest versus a firmer one.
Definitely avoid sleeping on a lumpy mattress if it can be helped. A new mattress may be in order if you’ve outgrown your current one, either in size or comfort. If you have a spouse who prefers a different type of mattress, consider getting the type of bed where each of you set the mattress to your perfect number.
- Keep the Clock Out of Sight: If you can, try to keep your clock out of sight. Set your alarm and then put it somewhere else or turn it away from you – out of your general view. For instance, instead of having the clock on the nightstand, put it on the dresser in the far corner.
If a clock is visible, you may find yourself staring at it or waking up periodically to look at it. If you’re making an effort to create a good sleep environment, it means that you’re aware of an impairment.
If you’re trying to break the cycle of sleeplessness, then it’s important that you don’t focus on time. Seeing how early it is or how little time has passed, can only lead to frustration.
- No Lights: Remember that a dark bedroom can help your body “know” it’s time for rest. Light triggers a lot in us and is associated with our waking hours. To help the body adjust to a regular sleep cycle, make an effort to distinguish between daytime and bedtime.
When it’s time to sleep, keep light sources to a minimum, including when you get up to go to the bathroom. As with a TV, computer, or video game, you’ll want to avoid anything that can stimulate your brain or body out of rest. Even if your eyes are closed, light in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep.
If these steps are taken, in addition to noise reduction and a few other considerations, such as making a separate sleeping area for pets (that are used to sleeping with you) – then you should be on your way to eliminating some of the factors that may have been contributing to your persistent sleep problems.
Insomnia – The Most Prevalent Form of Sleep Disorder
Insomnia, a most common sleep disorder, affects about one-third of the American population and is classified in two different ways. It can be classified by how long it lasts. Transient insomnia lasts for only a few days, the short term lasts for a few weeks and chronic lasts for more than three weeks. The other way insomnia is classified is by its source. The main two classifications of this sleep disorder by source are primary and secondary.
Transient insomnia is experienced by most people at some time throughout their lives. It can be caused by stress such as worrying about the first-day school or an illness in the family. Sometimes this sleep disorder occurs due to a disruption of their circadian cycle, which is a person’s natural sleep cycle, caused by jet lag or a shift change at work. Transient insomnia goes away once the stress issue has passed. Short term insomnia is often caused by similar stressors as transient insomnia. If the sufferer of this sleep disorder cannot break the cycle of poor sleep, it often develops into chronic insomnia.
Primary insomnia develops without any obvious cause. Sometimes it starts as early as infancy.
Often it is the result of high metabolic rates or an overactive nervous system.
Secondary insomnia is the direct result of another cause. This sleep disorder can come from illness, medication, drugs or alcohol. Addressing the underlying cause of secondary insomnia often gives the sufferer relief. For example, if arthritis pain keeps you from sleeping, then treating the arthritis is the best way to cope with the sleep disorder.
Insomnia is not a single disorder. It is a general symptom and could have many potential causes. In order to qualify as a sleep disorder, insomnia has to meet three specific requirements. First, the person has to experience poor sleep in general, or have a problem falling or staying asleep. Second, if given the proper sleep environment and an adequate opportunity to sleep, the problem still occurs. Third, the result of poor sleep causes some type of impairment while awake. Examples of impairment are; fatigue, body aches, and pains, inability to concentrate, mood changes, lack of energy, poor concentration, or developing an unnatural amount of worry about sleep.
Often insomnia is treated with medication, such as sleeping pills. These can be prescription medication or bought over the counter.
However, there are several other methods of treatment for this sleep disorder. Behavioral treatments include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, biofeedback, sleep hygiene, cognitive behavioral therapy and reconditioning sleep restriction. These methods are often very successful.
Some sufferers of this sleep disorder choose holistic, or alternative, treatment. This method involves the use of herbal supplements which are not usually FDA approved. Others seek acupuncture as a way to relieve their insomnia. Passive body heating, which is the use of hot baths, is another method used.
Understanding this sleep disorder is the first step to breaking the cycle of insomnia.
How to Get to Sleep Faster
No one likes to get into the bed and then spend the next few hours struggling to fall asleep. It can be so frustrating to know you need to sleep – and yet each time you look at the clock, another hour or two has gone by. Don’t you hate it when you dread the night and it’s actually a relief to get out of bed because it means the bad night is over?
You can stop dreading the process of trying so hard to sleep and start falling asleep fast by checking your bedtime ritual to see if you’re doing anything that’s causing you to miss out on that all-important Zzzs.
Could you be setting yourself up for sleep failure? If you’re camped out in front of the computer right before bed, you’re stimulating your brain by reading the news, chatting with others, checking out your social media sites or playing your favorite game.
Shut off the computer a couple of hours before you go to bed and the same thing with the television. Don’t watch anything that upsets or frightens you before bed. Stay away from the family gossip that might bug you when you’re planning to try to get to sleep.
You can’t do anything about your cousin/sister’s/brother’s/uncle/aunt’s actions anyway. Avoid drinking anything alcoholic before bed because it will keep you awake – and the same goes for caffeine.
Get your room dark – and if you don’t have a way to get the room completely dark, then put on a sleep mask. It’s the same situation with noise. Get rid of the noise – and if you can’t, use a white machine or soothing music to drown out the annoying intrusion.
If you have a habit of sleeping with a pet, boot them out of the room. Pets wake us repeatedly during the night by jumping on the bed, by growling or kicking in their sleep or by waking up and turning around.
If you have a cat, you know how much fun it can be to wake up in the middle of the night to a cat digging claws into your blankets. Don’t make it a habit to sleep with kids in the bed, either. You need your rest and so do they.
Because your mind is going to run ninety miles an hour over what you have to take care of the next day, write it down on a list to look at in the morning. This frees your mind from worries.
Set up a bedtime ritual. Make these simple steps that you do to prepare for bed. For example, an hour before bed, take a warm bath and then dress in comfortable pajamas. Half an hour before bed, have some warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea.
Read a chapter in a soothing book with a soft light then head off to bed. There’s also something to be said for counting sheep. The repetitive, boring counting is what quiets your mind and lulls you to sleep.
Some people have alarm anxiety – they toss and turn when they know they have to get up early. If you’re one of those people, stop placing the clock where you can see what time it is.