Experts Corner

Raise The Standards of Your Sleep Quality by Creating The Ideal Bedroom Environment

December 10, 2020   By Martin McPhilimey

Sleep plays an important role in our lives, and when that suffers, so does everything else from our emotions to energy levels. Have you ever thought about how your bedroom plays a role in your sleep? We’ve brought in Sleep Scientist Martin McPhilimey to teach us how to create the best bedroom environment for sleep.

The importance of getting a good night’s sleep has become increasingly popular in modern medicine. With treatable conditions such as sleep apnoea and insomnia on the uprise, there’s cause for concern. Most chronic health disease is due to unhealthy habits such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and now, the third tier of focus – Sleep. 

Research suggests a strong link between low sleep quality and an array of health conditions such as anxiety, depression and chronic disease [1]. Whilst most of these conditions may require clinical treatment, there are things we can put in place to ensure to make the most of your sleep setting. People sleep better when they have their bedroom set up to promote a relaxing and distraction-free atmosphere [2]. 

Good news for you is that creating this is cost-effective and straightforward. Below are five key factors you can alter that according to scientific literature can be tweaked to create the perfect sleeping environment.

Lighting

The human body clock is known as our circadian rhythm, with light heavily influencing this sleep- wake cycle. Naturally, as the sun rises, our eyes receive light, and a signal is sent to the brain to produce cortisol. This hormone excites the mind and body to feel alert. Whereas when darkness sets in, the brain produces Melatonin. This hormone is what leaves you feeling relaxed and able to drift off into a refreshing night’s sleep.

Exposure to artificial light in bedrooms such as lamps or electronic devices can delay the release of Melatonin. A shift in the sleep-wake cycle prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep [3]. Light levels as little as 10 lux cause disruptions throughout the night, reducing the amount stage 3 sleep achieved. This depth of sleep is vital for the restoration of the human body [4].

As a rule, dim your lights as low as possible or use natural light such as candles in the bedroom after sunset. Make this process a habit and it will help you fall asleep easily. Using an eye mask can be a cost-effective way of reducing awakenings from light pollution should you not have access to blackout curtains or blinds.

Temperature

The human body has evolved to adjust to variances in temperature over 24 hours. Your core body temperature has to drop by one-degree centigrade to initiate sleep [5]. This temperature change causes you to feel sleepy, with the ideal ambient conditions ranging between 15.6 and 22.0 degree C. 

In countries with a warmer climate, this may feel a little cold. However, to ensure you are getting the kind of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning, the body has to remain cool throughout the night. You can overcome the initial concern of a cold room by having a layer or two to add to your bedding for comfort.

Noise

It’s no surprise that loud noises cause sleep disruptions. However, it is less known that continual awakenings as a result of environmental noises that lead to ill health and decreased cognitive performance [6]. There’s evidence to suggest that even low-level noise (<50db) causes a shift from deep to light sleep, fragmenting our sleep architecture, reducing sleep quality [7].

The bedroom should be kept as quiet as possible, ensuring to block outside environmental noise. Not everyone is going to soundproof their bedroom, so if you’re looking to save your pennies and to reduce the impact that noise can have on your sleep quality, use a white noise machine, a small fan or play soothing music to alleviate night time disruptions.

Bedding

Getting a good night’s rest is largely about comfort. Studies suggest that a newer mattress will promote a higher quality of sleep and may even help with the aches and pains that keep you up at night [8]. The comfort of your bed is going to depend on individual factors such as body weight, sleeping position and whether you prefer a soft or firm surface. Therefore it is essential to get professional help when choosing bedding based on your circumstances.

Mobile Phones

Not only do mobile phones emit blue light, causing disturbed sleep [9]. They are also a psychological barrier to getting the most impactful sleep. It is not uncommon for people to wake in the night to check their phone multiple times. 

Leaving your mobile outside the bedroom can reduce the risk of unconscious behaviours and concerns surrounding emails, social media and SMS messages. Practising putting your phone away as a part of your evening routine will increase your quality of sleep and providing you with radiant energy the following day.

About the Author:

Martin McPhilimey is an accredited and experienced Respiratory and Sleep Scientist, as well as an Exercise Physiologist and Behavioural Science Practitioner, based in Perth, Western Australia. With his qualifications, passion and 15 years of experience in research, fitness, and training, Martin’s mission is to create a world of high performing individuals with healthy minds and bodies.

Martin launched Performance Through Health in 2019, an online sleep and health coaching clinic, as well as a podcast with the same name.

References

1. Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E. (2017). Short-and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and science of sleep, 9, 151.

2. Zhang, N., Cao, B., & Zhu, Y. (2018). Indoor environment and sleep quality: A research based on online survey and field study. Building and Environment, 137, 198-207.

3. Moderie, C., Van der Maren, S., & Dumont, M. (2017). Circadian phase, dynamics of subjective sleepiness and sensitivity to blue light in young adults complaining of a delayed sleep schedule. Sleep medicine, 34, 148-155.

 4. Stenvers, D. J., Van Dorp, R., Foppen, E., Mendoza, J., Opperhuizen, A. L., Fliers, E., … & Deboer, T. (2016). Dim light at night disturbs the daily sleep-wake cycle in the rat. Scientific reports, 6, 35662.

5. Campbell, S. S., & Broughton, R. J. (1994). Rapid decline in body temperature before sleep: fluffing the physiological pillow?. Chronobiology international, 11(2), 126-131.

6. Halperin, D. (2014). Environmental noise and sleep disturbances: A threat to health?. Sleep science, 7(4), 209-212.

7. Hume, K. I., Brink, M., & Basner, M. (2012). Effects of environmental noise on sleep. Noise and health, 14(61), 297.

8. Trahan, T., Durrant, S. J., Müllensiefen, D., & Williamson, V. J. (2018). The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports. PLoS One, 13(11), e0206531.

9. Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R. N., Bernstein, P. S., Carreras, J., Panda, S., … & Furukawa, T. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 3(1), 1-3.


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