Missing just a few hours of sleep for even one night can feel rough. But chronic sleep deprivation doesn’t just feel awful; it’s bad for your health, putting you at risk for a host of problems from obesity to early death. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute(opens in a new tab) says poor slumber also increases your risk of depression, lowers concentration, and even reduces your ability to judge others’ emotions.
If you’re wondering how to get better sleep, the good news is you can take steps that can help you: Keep a regular wake-sleep cycle, even on weekends. Exercise more (but not too close to bedtime). And set your bedroom up in a way that makes it conducive to sleepy time.
Here are five ways to turn your bedroom into a haven of rest.
When figuring out how to get better sleep, consider that research shows a correlation between clutter and stress levels. Disarray in the bedroom keeps our cortisol levels from dropping at night, which hampers sleep. Even if you’re the type who doesn’t mind a jumble of clothes, papers, and coffee cups lying about, your subconscious registers clutter as a task, a mess to be put away. The more clutter you have, the more likely you are to have a sleeping disorder.
So, put away the clothes piled on the exercise bike (and move the exercise bike itself out of the room, if you can). Get all the gadgets out (more on that later) and take the paperwork someplace else.
2. Darken the room
While you’re decluttering, make sure you remove your laptop, phone and any other electronic devices. (Yes, that means you should get a real alarm clock rather than using your phone to wake you.) Here’s why: According to sleep.org(opens in a new tab), the light that comes from your screen inhibits your melatonin, which is a hormone that should start naturally elevating in your body at around 9 p.m. When your melatonin is inhibited, you don’t get that less-alert, sleepy feeling, and you also have a restless night ahead.
Darkening the room isn’t just about removing the electronics; it also includes eliminating any natural or artificial lights. Darkness sends your body the signal that it’s time for rest, and any light sends wake-up messages to your body. So, invest in some light-blocking shades, and make sure you have curtain rods that will truly allow the shades to block the light.
And if you need to get up in the night and worry about navigating your darkened room, you can get a motion-activated night light — some even work under your bed.
3. Keep it cool
Research indicates your room should be between 60 and 67 degrees F for optimal sleep. That’s pretty cool! But there’s a scientific reason for it. At night, your body temperature decreases to help you get to sleep, and having the room cooler helps facilitate this. The key is to feel slightly cool, but not so cold that you’re uncomfortable. Try experimenting with the temperature until you’ve found your sweet spot.
Of course, heat rises, so if your bedroom is on a lower level of your home, that may help a lot. But if that’s not possible, there are other ways to get cool.
Lower the temp in your room with a fan or air conditioner. Fans come in a wide variety of styles and prices, from portable fans that run around $23 to modern towers that cost more than $500. A small window unit air conditioner costs between $100 and $500 and costs $40–$100 to run each year.
The Sleep Foundation suggests you have lightweight bedding and pajamas to stay cool. And opting for a smaller, firm pillow can keep you cooler than a fluffy pillow.
If you opt for one of the fans mentioned above, it may serve double duty as a white noise machine, which can also help you get a good night’s rest. White noise is steady, unobtrusive sound, such as a fan whirring. It works by giving you a constant, soothing background to sleep to, masking any sudden noises that may jar you awake, such as your neighbor slamming a door.
Your brain still processes sound while you sleep, and that affects your blood pressure and heart rate, which can, in turn, wake you up. That’s why it’s important to keep your bedroom as quiet as possible.
What if the noise isn’t coming from the outside world but from your snoring bedmate? If you’ve tried all the tricks to get them to stop snoring, try earplugs with a high noise reduction rating, or NRR (NoSleeplessNights.com(opens in a new tab) suggests looking for an NRR score of 33), or noise-canceling headphones (yes, they make them to sleep in) for anywhere from $20 to $400.
5. Color your world (or at least your bedroom)
Need another idea for how to get better sleep? The color of your bedroom walls can affect your rest as well, and the best color for sleep seems to be blue. A Travelodge UK study(opens in a new tab) showed that people with blue bedrooms slept an average of 7 hours and 52 minutes a night, while those with purple walls only averaged 5 hours and 56 minutes.
Color in the bedroom isn’t just a matter of personal preference. Perception experts say that different colors affect our moods differently and that we associate blue with nature and calmness. Also receptors in our eyes called ganglion cells are most sensitive to the color blue. These receptors feed the part of our brain that controls our circadian rhythms.
But what if blue just isn’t your color? Other nature colors like green or silver work well for sleep, too. Purple and red can leave you feeling restless, as red quickens the pulse and purple energizes the body. It’s even said that purple encourages nightmares.
Don’t lose sleep over these tips. Start with whatever idea seems easiest to you, whether that’s decluttering or getting white noise into your room. Figuring out how to get better sleep is a process. But soon you’ll have the ideal bedroom for deep, restorative rest.
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