There are two important components for a good night’s sleep, and they go hand-in-hand. They are a restful sleep environment and development of good sleep habits. Calvin Gardner, RPSGT, RST, director of the Mission Health Sleep Center, offers tips on how to develop these essential keys to sleep.
It doesn’t matter how luxurious and restful your sleep environment is, if you don’t have healthy sleep habits — also known as “sleep hygiene” — you’ll still struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep.
Most sleep habits are common sense, but they can’t be emphasized enough, said Gardner:
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoid consuming caffeine too close to bedtime
- Exercise during the day, but avoid it close to bedtime
- Maintain a regular bedtime and wake time — even on weekends
- Avoid reading before bed (the light, or even the book’s subject matter, can keep you too alert)
- Minimize stress, high emotions and disruptive activities before bedtime
If you have difficulty falling asleep, try taking a warm bath or shower before bed. When you get out, it will decrease your core body temperature, which will help initiate sleep.
If you have your healthy sleep habits down pat, all that’s left for a restful night is a relaxing, sleep-inducing environment. Here’s how you set the stage:
- Eliminate background sounds and illumination. This means turning off the TV, radio, computer, tablet, phone and MP3 player. If you need to have the TV on to wind down, set a timer so that it shuts off after a short time. If you must have music, make sure it’s something relaxing.
- Keep your room dark. Remove nightlights from your bedroom, unless necessary. And if you have a streetlight outside your window, invest in light-blocking window shades.
- Make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. It doesn’t matter if your mattress is soft or firm, or if your bedding is silk or flannel—just choose what feels best to you.
- Set the temperature in your room between 65-68 degrees. Research has shown that this is the best temperature range for sleeping comfortably under covers.
- Avoid propping up with too many pillows. Forcing your neck and head into an unnatural sleep position can narrow your airway.
- Do whatever you need to make your environment less stressful. This can include cleaning out the clutter, adding aroma or painting the room a calming color.
“Your bed partner is part of your sleep environment,” said Gardner. “Make sure both you and your partner are practicing good sleep habits and are comfortable in the sleep environment. This way, you’ll disrupt one another less.”
Calvin Gardner, RPSGT, RST, is director of the Mission Health Sleep Center. (828) 213-4670