The Five Senses of Sleep

There are many techniques you can utilize to make your bedroom a sanctuary from the stress of everyday life. When you walk in, you should be able to focus on feeling relaxed and calm. By taking care of your sleep environment, the look and feel of the room can be an important component of a restful night.

Touch and Sleep

Temperature

Keep your bedroom cool, around 65 degrees, to get the best sleep. It’s recommended to keep your bedroom cool because as you sleep, your body temperature goes down. In the early morning, your body temperature reaches its lowest level and then gradually climbs as the morning starts. If the temperature in your room is too hot, it can interfere with you body’s natural dip and may result in restless sleep.

Research has shown that certain forms of insomnia are associated with faulty body temperature regulation. Experiment with what temperature makes you feel the most comfortable, as everyone’s body temperature is slightly different.

Bed Surface

The texture of your mattress, sheet, and pillows all affect your sleep quality. Your mattress should be appropriately firm so you wake up feeling rested and not in any discomfort. Mattress and pillow firmness is a matter of preference, it is not necessary to sleep on an extra firm or extra soft surface. The type of mattress you choose can greatly affect quality of sleep. For instance, some people prefer memory foam, while others say that it is uncomfortable due to the way it can trap heat.

You should replace your bed about every eight years, as mattresses can accumulate dust or other allergens over time. The same policy goes for pillows, which should be supportive. Pillows should be replaced about once every few years.

Pajamas

Choose cotton fabrics for your pajamas so you won’t overheat, especially if you are prone to night sweats. Make sure to routinely wash your pajamas, no less than once a week.

Sight and Sleep

Light

The body’s internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm, mirrors nature’s cycle of day and night. This natural progression is why you might wake up just minutes before your alarm goes off. Various light cues trigger different chemical events in the human body. For example, in the evening, when it becomes darker outside, the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin is produced. With the morning light, melatonin levels decrease, body temperature rises, and the hormone cortisol is produced which helps us feel alert and awake.

Exposure to sunlight early in the day can help alert the brain that it’s a new day and will set you in motion. Not only will it push you into gear, it can also promote better sleep later on in the day.

Making Your Bedroom Dark

Light and dark are powerful cues to the body about whether it’s time to get ready for a new day or settle down and rest. For that reason, it’s important that your bedroom is dark in order to fall asleep more easily. Artificial light, such as that coming from a computer or cell phone screen, can send “wake up” signals to the brain and suppress the production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. This makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Fortunately, you can use your body’s sensitivity to light to your advantage. Consider using low-wattage light bulbs by your bed to help you wind down before going to sleep. Also, consider purchasing black-out shades for your windows to block out any artificial light coming from outside your house such as streetlamps or porch lights. If you have to get up during the night, use a nightlight so you don’t have to disturb your sleep even further by turning on a stronger light. If light is still bothering you and keeping you from getting to sleep, consider using an eye mask in bed.

Electronics and Sleep

New research has shown that the light emitted from electronic gadgets can potentially disrupt sleep because of the ‘alert’ signals it sends to the brain. This can delay the response of melatonin and, in turn, causes it to take longer to fall asleep. For these reasons, it’s important to keep electronics out of the bedroom and be sure to turn them off at night. Consider charging your cell phone in another room at nighttime rather than keeping it on your nightstand. If you leave your cellphone in your room, it may be tempting you to look at it if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night.

Room Design

Your bedroom should be an area that makes you feel relaxed and peaceful. Keep your bedroom uncluttered and organized. Sleep experts say that simply making your bed can help you fall asleep better, as the look of an organized room is beneficial for sleep. Arrange the furniture in your room in a way that is visually pleasing. If possible, keep computers and TVs out of the room so that you will associate your bedroom with sleep, not with other potential distractions that can keep you from resting well.

Choose a color that is calming and warm. Pick colors, artwork, and bedding that you find soothing.

Hearing and Sleep

While asleep, the brain continues to process sounds on a basic level – this can cause you to awaken, move or shift between sleep phases or experience changes in blood pressure or heart rate that you probably won’t remember wake you wake up. Sound is most likely to wake you up in the lighter stage of sleep or during the second half of the night. Recent research found that “sound sleepers” have brain activity that makes them less likely to be disturbed by noise. Interestingly, sounds that can wake you up depend on whether they have personal meaning – researchers have found that people are more likely to wake up if, for instance, a baby cries but not when a partner snores. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Bedroom Poll, 74 percent of Americans rated a quiet bedroom as important to getting a good night’s sleep.

White Noise

This type of sound works by reducing the difference between a “peak” sound, such as a door slamming, giving you a higher likelihood of sleeping through a disturbance without waking up. A constant ambient sound can help a person who has difficulty falling or staying asleep by masking activity both from outside and inside the house. It can come from a sound machine, a fan, an air purifier, or anything that makes a consistent, soothing background noise through the night. Approximately 5 percent of Americans report using a sound conditioner in their rooms, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Bedroom Poll.

TV and Sleep

Whether or not it is apparent to you in the morning, sounds alert the brain and can disturb your sleep. It’s important to create a quiet bedroom in order to have a healthy night’s rest. TV can be especially bothersome if you need to get out of bed to turn it off. For better sleep, keep the TV out of your bedroom and turn it off within a few hours of starting your bedroom routine.

Noise Pollution

If you live in an urban area or busy neighborhood, outside noise is unavoidable. If it’s constant enough and has become part of your environment, you may even grow accustomed to it. For others, though, the sounds from airplanes, dogs, or birds chirping can have a negative effect on health as it disturbs your sleep. Some studies have suggested that long-term exposure to these kinds of sounds could be associated with higher blood pressure.

Masking these kinds of noise is important to get better quality sleep. One solution is to use white noise to block out unwanted outside noise or use earplugs at bedtime.

Smell and Sleep

What you breathe while you’re asleep can affect how you feel the next day. Some evidence suggests that certain smells can decrease heart rate and blood pressure and put you in a more relaxed state. For instance, one study shows that infants cried less and slept more deeply after having a bath with lavender scented oils. Smells can even influence your dreams. By keeping your room clean and using a laundry detergent with a pleasant smell, you can ease the process of drifting off to sleep.

Allergies and Sleep

Allergens such as dust, pollen, and mold can make you especially uncomfortable at night if you’re sniffling and sneezing constantly. If you have allergies, make sure to wash your sheet and blankets regularly in hot water about once a week. If you put your pillow in the dryer on high temperature, it can kill dust mites. It’s also important to keep your mattress, box spring, and pillows with covers that seal them completely and keep mites out. Covers can be made from a comfortable and breathable micro-weave fabric.

Keep your house vacuumed and consider using an air purifier to remove airborne allergens.

Taste and Sleep

What you eat and drink in the hours before bedtime can have an effect on your sleep. It is best to avoid foods which can upset the stomach or cause heartburn, such as high fat, fried, or spicy foods. Alcohol should also be avoided in the hours before bedtime as it can disrupt your sleep. Even though a “night cap” may help you get to sleep initially, it fragments your sleep as it metabolizes. Caffeine should also be avoided in the afternoon and evening as it can last many hours.

Learn more about Drugs, Alcohol and Sleep

Foods which can help you fall asleep include those which contain the amino acid tryptophan, such as turkey, which is notorious for the post-Thanksgiving Day dinner nap. Other foods which contain high amounts of tryptophan include eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, so a good light snack before bedtime could be something like whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or cereal with milk.

On the other hand, sleep also affects what you eat. If you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to crave fat-rich foods, simple carbs, and fewer vegetables. Sleep loss triggers chemical signals in the brain associated with metabolism and hunger. This may be part of the reason why the obesity rates continue to rise. Eating and sleeping well are two components of a healthy lifestyle.

Learn more about Diet and Sleep

If you are interested in finding out more about maintaining proper sleep hygiene, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions.