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Master Your Sleep Environment

What does it mean to “master your sleep environment”?

In this article we will talk about:

  • Making an honest assessment of your starting point. This is the first step in deciding how you’re going to adapt your space in a way that’s meaningful to you.

  • Making small changes that nudge you along the continuum towards better.

  • Noticing how those changes affect the way you feel, think, and act. How does a different sleep environment change you during the day? Can you make more little adjustments to move you towards feeling even better?


Why it matters

Sleep restores everything in our bodies.

It’s essential for proper functioning of immune, nervous, skeletal, hormonal, and muscular systems. It regulates metabolism and greatly affects cognitive functioning.

HOW we sleep is crucial to our wellbeing.

To get enough quality sleep, make it easier on yourself. Cultivate a sleep sanctuary: an environment that supports your sleep goals.


How to practice

There are a few things that make a big difference when it comes to our sleep space.

Let’s look at each in turn.


Temperature.

Start by understanding what temperature your bedroom currently is.

Place a thermometer in the center of the room, off the ground by about 2 feet (this will prevent walls and floors interfering with the reading).

Leave for 5 minutes, and check.

Current recommendations suggest keeping the thermostat set between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) for the most comfortable sleep.

If your room is above or below this, try notching up or down a couple of degrees and seeing how that feels.

To make sure your room stays between 60 and 67°F at night, use any tools that you have access to:

  • an automated thermostat

  • air conditioning and heat

  • open windows

  • fan

  • extra blankets nearby


Light.

Our bodies’ cycles run on timing directed by an internal clock, called our circadian rhythm. Internal clocks are driven by many external cues. One of the strongest external cues is exposure to light.

Daytime light wakes us up and regulates us. Exposure, especially early in the day, is critical to quality sleep. Research says just 5 minutes outside looking towards the general direction of the sun rising on the horizon in the morning strongly impacts the quality of our sleep sleep the following night.

  • If you struggle to rise when you wake, try a clock set on a timer which gradually lights up your bedroom as you wake up.

Nighttime light (especially artificial light overhead) messes with internal body clocks, making it harder to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. To optimize your sleep space, reduce or eliminate unnecessary light.

For example:

  • turn off your electronic screens. (If you absolutely must be on your computer late at night, dim the brightness or try this little app: F.Lux https://justgetflux.com/)

  • use a dim alarm clock, and/or cover it up.

  • set up thick curtains or blackout blinds.

Ideally the process of ramping down starts a couple of hours prior to bedtime. Think about your environment in that space, too.

Experiment with dimming the lights an hour or two before bed, keeping them only as bright as they need to be (without creating tripping hazards. Keep the sleep sanctuary safe, too!).


Noise.

How can you create more peace within your sleep environment?

If you're bothered by outside noise, try using a fan or humidifier in your bedroom to create "white noise", and dampen distracting sounds.

If your family rises earlier than you, ask them for support. They could quietly close your door before making noise in the house or be mindful of their noise level.


Electronics.

Electronic media are stimulating. They rev up our brain and body even if we don't realize it, and the light from screens can interfere with natural circadian rhythms.

Thinking about your sleep space, could you make that a gadget-free zone?

  • What reasons have you for keeping electronics in the bedroom?

  • Can that need be met in another, low-tech way? For instance, if you use your phone as an alarm, could you get an old-school alarm clock without a lit display?


Thinking about your pre-bed environment, how could you go gadget-free earlier in the evening?

  • Could you turn off all electronic screens (TV, computer, etc.) just 15 minutes earlier than usual?

  • What low tech activities could you try that would help you wind down?


Bedside items

A couple of well-chosen items on the bedside table can make a lot of difference.

  • The humble notebook and pen

Whether planning your next day, thinking through a problem, or ruminating over stuff that happened earlier, it’s easy to get caught in unwieldy streams of thought. Doing a brain dump is one way to get hyperactive thoughts under control.

Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down everything that's in your head

Write it down. The notebook holds on to that stuff for you, so your brain doesn't have to.

  • A story book for reading

Reading light fiction can get your attention off anxious thoughts and into the comfort of a story. Slowing down to reading pace is a way to regulate your breathing and signal your body that you’re “shutting down” for the evening.

Choosing the right book is important. If it’s too gripping, it can hold you back from switching the light off at your chosen time.

Explore the books that make a good bedtime companion and see what works for you.


Take it steady

You don’t have to make all these changes all at once.

Pick one area you’d like to experiment with over the next few days, test out a change or two and see what you notice.


What one small thing could you explore today to make your sleep environment a little better?


Want more pro tips or need coaching on this? Contact us!

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