Use these steps to create the optimum sleeping environment. There are many elements that you have control over that influence your ability to sleep. This includes things such as the amount of light both natural and artificial, the bedroom temperature, the quality and type of mattress you sleep on, the amount of noise, who you sleep with, what you eat before bedtime and whether or not you or your spouse snore. You obviously can’t control all the causes of insomnia but you can increase your chances for sleep success by taking positive action in creating the best sleeping environment.
1. Darkness matters. Sleep in complete darkness or with as little light as possible. If you get up to use the bathroom in the night and switch on the light, you are actually messing up your sleep cycle since melatonin production is switched off when exposed to light. To prevent this sleep interruption, sleep experts recommend using a very dim nightlight for night time trips to the bathroom. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your production of melatonin and serotonin (necessary for deep and restful sleep). The simple small glow from your clock radio could also be interfering with your sleep. Close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights (except the dim one in the bathroom for those middle of the night trips). Consider covering up your clock radio and at least turn it away so you don’t watch the time. This can lead to anxiety over how late it is and why aren’t I asleep, etc. Consider installing blackout shades or heavy drapes. If you can’t make your room completely dark, consider using a comfortable blackout eye mask.
2. Temperature. Experts have determined the temperature of your bedroom does affect how well and how long you sleep. “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature, the temperature your brain is trying to achieve goes down,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, who wrote a chapter on temperature and sleep for a medical textbook. “Think of it as the internal thermostat.” So a slightly cooler room may help you fall asleep faster. However, if it is too hot or too cold, the body struggles to achieve this set point. The slight drop in body temperature induces sleep. But if the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up. The bedroom temperature affects the quality of REM sleep. Recommending a specific range is difficult because what is comfortable for one person isn’t for another. Studies show the optimal temperature for sleep is between 62 and 68 degrees, but it does depend on what is comfortable to the person sleeping.
3. Mattress matters. “A mattress can impact a person’s sleep,” says Michael Decker, PhD, RN, associate professor at Georgia State University and spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The most expensive mattress isn’t necessarily the best one for a good night’s sleep. The right mattress should be firm enough to provide support to your back, neck, and legs, but should also have good cushion and recoil for sleeping comfort. Make sure the mattress is large enough to accommodate both of you if you are not sleeping alone. The recommendation is to replace a mattress after 7 years to ensure continued quality.
4. Noise reduction strategies. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from traffic, barking dogs, loud neighbors or people in your house that are night owls, you need to take positive action to reduce the amount of noise you are exposed to. You can try masking it with a loud box fan, use your iPhone or mp3 player to play recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. There are even sound machines that can give you many options to help with this issue. Earplugs may also be a viable solution.
5. Noises and Disruptions. If your spouse snores or tosses a lot, your sleep will be significantly impacted. If bed partners are constantly interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom (for sleeping at least!). Remember how important a good night’s sleep is for your health and well-being. If your inability to sleep is due to your own snoring or nasal issues, you may find a simple nasal strip solves the problem. My husband has a very boisterous snore, he found a perfect and cheap solution. He stops snoring when he wears a soft, surgical collar (think whiplash). However, if you have had the feeling of breathing difficulties or have felt like you stop breathing during your deep snoring, you should consult a sleep specialist to rule out the possibility of Sleep Apnea.
6. Bedtime Intake. You should avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime. If you are highly sensitive to caffeine, avoid caffeine after 2pm. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and should not be consumed within two hours of bedtime. Many people have the misconception that eating a big meal right before bed will help you sleep. Eating a large meal increases the body’s activity level in order to digest the food and works against the process of trying to relax. There is also a connection between late night meals and weight gain since our body can’t convert the food into energy and instead stores it as fat while you sleep. The digestive organs need to rest during the sleep cycle to prevent digestive problems. So it is best to avoid eating a large meal within three hours of bedtime. Light snacking should be done at least one hour before bedtime.
7. Exercise daily. You should get at least 30 minutes of any type of exercise daily to maximize your body’s ability to fall into a deeper sleep. Studies show that there is a correlation in the ability to fall asleep and/or to stay asleep with those individuals that exercise regularly.
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