Creating The Perfect Sleep Environment In A Bedroom

When we go to sleep, we want to switch off our senses and zone out from the outside world as much as possible. We need to relax, let the day drift away and fall into calm, relaxing sleep. Creating the ideal sleep environment is essential for a good night’s sleep. The problem is that this is easier said than done in most cases. There isn’t a magic remote control that will allow us to shut out all of the external factors that keep us up all night and prevent us from falling asleep.

The right combination of environmental factors can create the perfect place for strong sleep routine. The trick comes in not only understanding those positive and negative external factors but also creating a consistent routine for sleep hygiene.

Why should we be so concerned with sleep hygiene as an aid for sleep disorders?

Sleep hygiene essentially refers to the habits and routines we create a natural, beneficial sleep pattern. Too many people that suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia, turn to medication and sleeping pills. This aids can help as temporary fixes or some relief for a chronic complaint. However, it is much more advantageous to create a natural routine of simple procedures to carry out on a nightly basis.

A comfortable, relaxing sleep environment is an important part of sleep hygiene. This is where we relax with our herbal tea, relaxing music and other tools. More importantly, this is where we eventually drift off. It has to be a comfortable, positive place.

(Source: The Good Sleep Expert)

The best approach to good sleep hygiene and a positive bedroom space is to manipulate external stimuli.

Two types of stimuli that can inhibit our sleeping patterns and cause sleep disorders.

1. Internal Stimuli

These are the hormones, mental disorders and physiological factors that stop us from creating a strong bedtime routine.

2. External Stimuli

These are the environmental factors in the room and local vicinity that stop us from falling asleep or wake us up.

One of the best ways to combat sleep disorders and create a sleep routine is to keep these external stimuli under control. Blocking them out may appear to be the obvious approach here.

If these negative factors cannot reach our sensory organs, they cannot create an impact on sleep. This is one approach. Removing negative external stimuli does make a positive difference. However, it is perhaps more beneficial to manipulate these sensory stimuli and work with positive ones as well.

The balance of positive and negative external stimuli can shape a new sleep routine and sleep environment.

This requires an understanding of the difference between the positive and the negative external factors. It is too simplistic to say that all sounds, feeling and smells are negative and we need to block everything out.

First of all, this would create quite a sterile, uninviting bedroom environment. Secondly, this would be very difficult to achieve. We should remove negative smells where possible. But, positive smells can help to relax the body and induce sleep. Sharp, unexpected noises and disturbances outside can cause distress and impede sleep. The right kind of aural stimuli can be comforting to many people. We cannot remove the light entirely, but there are ways to change the light levels and waves to help with sleep hygiene.

Many different tools can help with sleep hygiene and the promotion of a positive bedroom environment. These external factors are best separated into senses – sight, hearing, touch, and smell. Each category has negative factors to avoid, but also positive factors and tools that can help.

How can we adapt light levels to create a more appealing bedroom environment for sleep?

There are two light sources that we need to be aware of when creating the best sleep environment in our bedrooms. The first is the artificial light that pours in through the windows from the urban landscape outside. Streetlights, security lights, and other sources combine to increase the amount of light to an unhealthy amount. We can’t always decrease the amount of light emitted from these scenes.

Public streetlights are adaptable with the use of LED lighting to decrease light pollution. Still, this is out of the hands of residents. Also, these lights are still essential for the security of residents.

Bedroom LED Lighting

We can’t turn these light sources off, but we can block them out. Blackout curtains can make a big difference in controlling light levels in a room. Tourists that spend a night in a hotel with black out curtains installed are often surprised at the quality of their sleep.

One extra lining can make a surprising difference. This is fine for homeowners, yet some in rental accommodation may be stuck with the blinds installed by the building or landlords. A sleep mask could make all the difference in a room where the light is uncontrollable. It Is all about creating that barrier between the light and the eye by any method.

The other source of light to deal with in the room is the blue light emitted from tablets, phones and other devices. Developers use this light because it is pleasant and mimics natural light. However, this is a problem when the sun goes down. The phones trick our brain into believing it is much earlier in the day. This inhibits sleep and disrupts sleep patterns.

The most obvious solution here would be to remove the devices from the room entirely. When it is time for bed, we should switch off the laptops, tablets, and phones and leave them in another room. This is easier said than done for those that have a developed a habit of falling asleep to podcasts, music, TV or other media. It is also an issue for all those that use their phone as an alarm clock.

It is best to try and limit the devices used – relying entirely on the phone or tablet for the media, white noise, alarm or any other aid. Also, users should adjust the display to reduce the brightness as much as possible. There are also apps and programs that can change the quality of the light for a more natural feel. The light source switches from daylight to incandescent in time with the setting sun. This should help to maintain melanin levels and sleep patterns a little better.

How can we manipulate the sounds in the room to create a more relaxing bedroom environment?

Then there are noises that we have to deal with each night. Visual stimuli are one thing, but aural stimuli can be even more annoying. There is nothing worse than a dripping tap, a noisy neighbor or a strange sound that you cannot identity. The brain becomes preoccupied in trying to block it out, figure out the source or becomes increasingly frustrated. It is not a good start for anyone trying to relax and forget about the day so they can get a good night’s sleep.

The first solution for external noises outside the home should be simple – close the windows. However, this can cause problems when dealing with temperature, as we will see below. A double glazed window should block out the worst of the noise. Those that cannot keep the window closed, such as during the height of summer, can invest in an app that uses white noise to mask external noises. The constant sound of the white noise, or similar audio file, gives users something to focus on that isn’t disruptive.

The pleasant noises drown out the unpleasant ones and help with relaxation. There are different approaches here. Some like the white noise like the static of the TV as these seems to place our minds on the right brainwave for relaxation. Others use comforting nature sounds or the sound of rain. It all comes down to personal preferences.

The alternative solution to masking any noises created by external sources is to block them out entirely with earplugs. Our ears are always on alert for sounds, even as we sleep, and this can be a problem in noisy neighborhoods.

Earplugs provide that physical barrier to minimize the noise that gets through. The problem with this option is that they can be uncomfortable and some users don’t like the idea of blocking out all sound. There is the concern of blocking out an alarm clock as well as the traffic.

Earplugs - Environment for Sleep

The main theme here is to create a comfortable sleep environment through different sensory factors. This means we also have to consider the sense of touch.

Creating the ideal bedroom environment for sleep is to consider the bed and the comfort provided there.

An uncomfortable bed can be the key issue with poor sleep. A mattress that is too soft, a spring digging into the wrong place or a rough sheet can make a big difference.

It is important to have a comfortable, supportive mattress that holds the body in the right position. Memory foam mattresses or a simple topper can make a big difference. A breathable mattress and cotton sheets also help with breathability and temperature control.

An overheated room can disrupt a sleeping pattern, so it helps to keep the bed and the room as cool as possible. Air conditioning can help here, especially in the summer months, with a consistent, programmed cycle of cool, fresh air in the room. Some will prefer to open the window for a fresh breeze, but this can be an issue in the noisy neighborhood. An electric fan is a great short-term solution in the summer months for those that don’t want to invest in air conditioning.  There is also the option of a portable A/C unit to add to a room or window units in multiple rooms.

The final sense to consider is smell and the way that different scents can improve the bedroom environment.

This fresh new sleeping space, with the fresh air and a cool bed, can also benefit from a nice smell. Unpleasant smells are quite distracting in a stuffy environment. Clean bedding and nightwear with a pleasant smell of the laundry is a good start. Others than want to go further with the use of scents in a bedtime routine can work with aromatherapy in some ways.

Essential oils applied to a bath or a pillow release a pleasing scent during a bedtime routine. Lavender is a common choice for relaxation, but a beloved perfume may evoke the right sense memory for relaxation and reduced anxiety. Herbal teas are a must for anyone trying to relax before bed, and the scent of the tea is as influential here as the taste.

Essential oils - sleep environment

The importance of a strong routine of sleep hygiene that combines all of these factors.

The tools and approaches above provide individual ideas that help with negative environmental factors in a sleeping space. Each approach has its worth in minimizing the effect of that negative influence and improving sleep.

Those that struggle with noisy neighborhoods can focus on noise cancellation and white noise apps. Those on a well-lit street can start with new curtains. Those with a poor mattress will want to make this their top priority. There will be elements that are most important. However, it pays to bring all of these elements together for a broader, more effective sleep hygiene routine. Anyone that works with all four senses has a better chance of a more refreshing, healthy sleep pattern.

We cannot underestimate the impact of a comfortable, relaxing sleep environment on sleep disorders.

Each negative external stimuli and aggravating factor can seem small on its own. Others are one of the consequences of living in that neighborhood. We don’t pay much attention to the blue-lit screens that light a room as the traffic rolls by and the temperature is just a little too high. Those that add a filter to the screen listening to some white noise and switch to cotton sheets can notice a big difference.

In the end, a whole series of small changes can transform a dysfunctional sleeping space into the perfect bedroom environment. Consistent effort and dedication to this sleep hygiene route can transform a sleep pattern and reduce the risk of sleep disorders.

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