Environmental factors which affect our sleep
Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, poor quality and duration of sleep poses a serious threat to ones' physical, mental, emotional and social health.
Research shows that without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories. Most adults require between seven and nine hours of nightly sleep, Children and teenagers need substantially more.
Work schedules, day to day stresses, medical conditions and having a disruptive bedroom environment can all prevent us from receiving enough sleep. In today's blog we take look at environmental factors which affect our sleep and provide tips for making your bedroom into a more relaxing environment.
If your bedroom is too hot, cold or draughty then it can have a serious impact on your sleep. Your body changes temperature during the day and night according to your circadian rhythm. Body heat peaks in the late afternoon and then starts to fall as bedtime approaches, paving the way for a good night’s sleep. That’s one of the reasons experts say you shouldn’t exercise close to bedtime: Exercise heats you up. We sleep better when we’re cooler.
An ideal bedroom temperature is around 16-18°C (60-65°F). You may find it difficult to get restful REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in warmer Temperatures over 24°C (71°F) which is likely to cause restlessness. A cold room of about 12°C (53°F) will make it difficult to drop off.
Young children and elderly people may require a slightly warmer environment, so it’s useful to have a room thermometer to keep track of temperatures. It’s also worth investing in a range of suitable bedding depending on the season - an extra layer of sheets or blankets will make you more comfortable when it’s cold, as will a hot water bottle or a good pair of bed socks for cold feet.
According to experts, the ideal room humidity level for better sleep is between 30% - 50%. This means being in an environment that is too dry, or has too much moisture can impact the quality of our sleep.
If the environment is too humid, the moisture within your body will be harder to evaporate. This will make you hot, and stuffy, making it harder for us to sleep comfortably. For those who have allergies, a humid environment will also accelerate mould growth. This might make your allergy worse and affect your sleep at night.
Then comes the problem of being too dry. When your skin and breathing system gets too dry, you might get itchy throats or catch a cold. When you feel itchy, sick and irritated, you are unlikely to find much restful sleep.
Facilitate optimal humidity in your bedroom by investing in the right air condition system, by using a dehumidifier, using quality cotton and rayon bed sheets, and use a breathable mattress.
Light and dark are strong cues in telling your body when it's time to wake up or go to sleep. When it's dark, we release melatonin which is the hormone that helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm. Melatonin relaxes the body and helps us to drift off. This is part of the reason that so many of us struggle to get sleep in the summer months.
When we see light, our bodies assume it’s time to be awake and alert which is why artificial light in an evening disrupts our circadian rhythms – making us feel less sleepy.
Even when sleeping, light can be detected through your eyelids, so we need darkness to stay fast asleep. Ideally you shouldn’t be able to see the other side of the bedroom.
To achieve a dark bedroom get yourself a pair of quality, well-lined curtains and a blackout blind to keep the early morning light, or street lights out. Invest in a quality sleep eye mask to further block out light, especially useful if you're a shift worker trying to sleep in daylight hours, or on the move travelling where you can't guarantee that you can block out the light around you.
If you need a nightlight buy a lamp with a low wattage bulk, or a dimmer light if you want to read in bed. Even small amounts of light from an alarm clock or tv standby button can have an impact on your sleep so either remove or cover them.
One major cause of bad sleep these days is that people are looking at their screens right up to turning out the lights at bed time. The blue light from the screens stops the body from producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to trouble falling asleep. An overload of information in general will keep the mind racing, elevating the body's system response and triggering insomnia.
Lighting also plays a part in the morning too. To feel alert, it’s important to have exposure to light in a morning. Open the curtains upon awakening and as soon as is practical, get out into natural light in the morning, preferably around the same time every day.
It won't be a surprise that having a quiet bedroom is better for sleep. Noise disturbances can cause sleep fragmentation and disruption, which in turn can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Noise disturbances, even at low levels can can cause you to shift to a lighter sleep stage, or wake up momentarily.
A study published by Noise and Health Journal found that noise-interrupted sleep can limit our motor skills, our creativity, impair our judgment, and even make it difficult to remember things. Another review in the journal suggests there’s a link between night-time environmental noise exposure and cardiovascular disease.
No one enjoys being woken up by a police siren, or seagull early in the morning, you should aim to keep your bedroom as quiet as possible by blocking outside noises. Noise-blocking curtains are widely available. Double glazing can help muffle sounds from outside. A fan or a soothing white noise machine can effectively mask other sounds and help you fall asleep. If you live in a busy household with hard floors, it might be worth adding soft rugs, or even swapping to carpet to help absorb sound. Some people enjoy listening to ambient sounds or soothing music, there are plenty of playlists available on music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. Earplugs might be useful to counter noise pollution while travelling.
Your bed is one of the most significant elements of a good night's sleep. It's almost impossible to get a deep, effective sleep on a bed which you find uncomfortable. If you're old mattress is lacking in comfort, space and support, you are likely going to wake up tired and achy. It may also have a significant impact on your partner's sleep too.
The National Bed Federation recommends replacing your mattress every 7-8 years. After this time a mattress has been subjected to over 20,000 hours of wear and tear. We lose half a pint of fluid each night and shed a pound of dead skin cells a year - yuck!
Everyone is made differently, which is why different beds suit different bodies. You should select the best mattress for you, offering the correct support and comfort for your weight and build, and if someone else is going to be sharing the bed, spend extra time finding a bed that’s mutually comfortable. When we’re asleep it’s recommended that we maintain a good posture; a mattress too soft will cause us to slouch, while one that’s too firm can apply pressure to our hips and shoulders. For more information on how to choose a bed visit Bed Advice UK.
Don't forget about your pillow either. Neck pain, stick necks and persistent headaches could be because of poor pillow support. A good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment with your spine and shoulders. It’s a good idea to invest in quality pillows and replace every two to three years.
Additional tips for improving your sleep environment
- Keep your sheets and pillowcases fresh.
- Make the bed before sleep.
- Fill the bedroom with soothing fragrances
Create a sanctuary
You want your bedroom to be a safe, calm haven devoted to sleep. You should adorn it with things you love such as family pictures, or your favourite artwork. Fresh plants or flowers can bring a comforting living energy into the room. Sleep sprays are perfect for encouraging your mind to wind down and settle into a restful sleep.
Research suggests that the parts of the brain do not go into “sleep mode” during the first night of sleep in a new environment. If you're travelling between hotels for work or holiday it can be useful to take items with you to make your stay more familiar. These might include your favourite sleep mask, pyjamas or sleep scent.
Do you think your bedroom is your optimal sleep sanctuary? If your bedroom doesn't completely entice you to crawl into bed then you might need to make some changes.