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Sleep Environment

Improving sleep environment

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If you want to be able to fall asleep peacefully again, stay asleep through most of the night, and wake up the next morning feeling rejuvenated, you need to make positive changes in five different areas of your life.

Not necessarily big changes. But you need to make changes.

I call these areas of your life the 5 Pillars of Sleep. And I promised that I would share some specific and actionable advice with you. Starting right now.

So, today, let’s talk about your sleep environment.

It’s one of the five pillars, and I chose this one first because, for most folks, it’s the easiest – and fastest – pillar to fix. So, it’s a great place for us to start.

When I say “sleep environment”, we’re obviously talking about your bedroom. But if you get up in the night, it can also include your hallway or bathroom.

Why is your sleep environment important?

It directly affects your physical comfort and your metal state, both of which are vital to falling and staying asleep. If your bedroom isn’t comfortable – or, if it doesn’t have the right “vibe” – your body and mind can’t relax.

Deep inside our brains, in the hypothalamus, there is small region called the “suprachiasmatic nucleus”. (That’s quite a mouthful, so I’m going to call it our “SCN” for short.) Its “day job”, if you’ll excuse the pun, is to listen for signals from our senses, use them to figure out what time it is, and keep our body synchronized to the outside world. It regulates our circadian rhythm.

How does it do this?

It looks for specific cues, like blue light, sound, and temperature.

Over millions of years, we have evolved to sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet cave — a place where we naturally feel safe and at peace.

The more you can adapt your sleeping environment to resemble a sleep cave, the more your body will work with you to help you to feel drowsy and fall asleep with ease rather than against you.

Here are six things you can do:

  • Replace your lightbulbs with dimmer bulbs. As you’re getting ready for bed, before the lights go out, avoid exposure to bright light. (Bright light can trick your SCN into thinking it’s still the middle of the day!)
  • Get some red night lights. Install them in your bedroom, hallway, bathroom, and anywhere else you walk through when you need to get up in the night. Before you go to bed, turn them on. Don’t turn on your main lights for any reason until morning. (See above.)
  • Cover up any blinking lights on your electronics. You could use scotch tape. Or, order some LightDims. They block out light from your TV set, laptop, charging cable, etc. without making them look ugly.
  • Install blackout blinds. They’re not cheap, but they make a world of difference during the summer when the sun rises at 6 am — especially if you live in the north and your bedroom window faces east.
  • Turn down the thermostat. The ideal temperature for sleeping is 68°F/20°C. (Interesting aside: research shows that insomniacs tend to have a higher body temperate than others. It’s one of the reasons they struggle to fall asleep.) Set your thermostat so that it kicks in an hour before bedtime. That way, when you’re ready to get between the sheets, your sleep cave is already at its optimal temperature.
  • Get rid of clutter. Your bedroom should be a clean, peaceful, and relaxing space. It should be a place where you can breathe and not feel overwhelmed. (Unconsciously, we see clutter as “unfinished tasks”.)

Follow these tips, and your bedroom will become your sleep cave.

Now, as I’m sure you probably realize, taking control of your sleep environment will not, by itself, make all your sleep problems go away.

However, it will go a long way to helping you fall asleep easier, stay asleep for longer, and wake up in the morning feeling like a million dollars.

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