Getting sustaining and plentiful sleep is among the top wellness lifestyle practices and guiding health principles. According to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 65% of Americans say they are more effective when they get enough sleep. If sleep is key to helping us be more effective, shouldn’t we put effort into making sure we get enough quality sleep?
There are many actions you can take to improve both your sleep quantity and quality. Your bedroom environment is a great place to start. Researchers and experts from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the National Sleep Foundation share the following advice to improve your sleep.
Routine and Consistency
Your body has an internal “clock” that regulates your sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help improve your sleep and waking hours. By doing relaxing things before bed like taking a bath or reading a book, you help cue your body to prepare for sleep. On the other hand, doing stressful activities before bed can increase your alertness and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Our body temperature naturally decreases as we begin to fall asleep and the air temperature in the room can affect sleep quality. If it’s too hot, our natural dip in body temperature can be affected, causing restlessness. While the most favorable temperature varies from person to person, research suggests that a temperature around 65 degrees is best for quality sleep.
As darkness settles, our bodies pro duce the hormone melatonin to help us prepare for sleep. Artificial light can hinder this process and trigger our brains to stay awake. Inspect your room for sources of light and consider using darkening curtains or shades to block out light. Make it a habit to keep light-producing electronics like cell phones, tablets, and TVs out of the bedroom.
Noise can disturb your sleep, even in subtle ways that you do not remember upon waking. It is important to create a quiet and constant bedroom environment to get quality sleep. White noise can help drown out sounds that disturb sleep like doors shutting or cars passing by. A fan, air purifier, or even a white noise app and speaker can provide a consistent background sound. Avoid using a TV as your noise filter since the sounds and light constantly change.
The air you breathe can positively or negatively affect your sleep. Studies suggest that the smell of lavender can have relaxing effects (even to the point of lowering blood pressure and heart rate). Using lavender essential oils or lavender scented candles before bed may help prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Conversely, allergens can prevent or interrupt a good night’s sleep. To reduce allergens in your environment, wash bed sheets in hot water once a week and blankets regularly. Also, use an air purifier that removes allergens, and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high.
Some research suggests that foods containing the amino acid tryptophan can make you drowsy, helping prepare you for sleep. Turkey, eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts are common sources. But remember: Eating big meals or foods that upset your stomach before your regular bedtime can cause you discom fort and make it hard for you to sleep. So can alcohol (which has both sedative and stimulant effects) and true stimulants like caffeine.
Sleep is essential to our health and productivity. Make a conscious effort to establish bedtime routines and create an environment that improves your sleep quality. Talk with household members and seek their support. For more sleep tips and research, visit the National Sleep Foundation website and the Healthy Sleep website from Harvard here:
Author Pete Arens, Medcor, Wellness Manager. Medcor helps employers reduce the costs of workers’ compensation and general health care by providing injury triage services and operating worksite health and wellness clinics. Medcor’s services are available 24/7 nationwide for worksites of any size in any industry. Headquartered in McHenry, Illinois, the company operates 174 clinics and provides triage services to over 90,000 worksites across all 50 states and US territories. Medcor’s triage methods are covered by U.S. & foreign patents, including U.S. No. 7,668,733; 7,716,070; & 7,720,692; other patents pending. Medcor is privately held. Learn more at www.medcor.com.