Recently I was texting with a good friend and she mentioned my previous post about sleep. She very rightly pointed out that for her to follow the outline of what I had laid out, she would have no time in her evenings to do anything other than get ready for bed. She lives in a metro area, has a pretty normal commute to work, and a demanding job that often has her working into the evenings well beyond regular 9-5 hours. How in the world could someone like her take my post seriously? She’s right.
Following the schedule I laid out would be nearly impossible for her, and the millions of other people who have similarly hectic lives. Not all of us are lucky enough to work from home, or have a quick and easy commute. Lots of us are single parents, maybe we’re holding down multiple jobs, or balancing work and school. For any number of reasons it might not be possible to get that magical eight hours of sleep a night. However, there are still plenty of steps you can take to increase the quality of your sleep, even if you can’t increase the quantity. Six hours of deep, sound sleep will do more to rejuvenate your mind and body than eight hours of fitful tossing and turning.
If you’re in the group who needs to maximize the quality of your sleep but can’t increase the quantity, this post is for you.
Today I’m going to give you some steps you can take to fall asleep faster, get better sleep, and wake up more refreshed. Combine these tips with whatever you can implement from my first sleep post, and you should feel the difference pretty quickly.
Let’s start with the bedroom itself. I know too many people who use their bedroom for everything EXCEPT sleeping. Look around, what do you see? Is your room a soothing, peaceful place that invites you to relax and rest, or is it a jumble of laundry, electronics, craft projects in various stages of completion, or worst of all—work you’ve brought home? If you’ve fallen into the habit of using your bedroom as a multi-purpose room, STOP! Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex. Clear that extra stuff out of there, and make your room a place of peace and refuge. While you’re at it, change your bed linens, and wash your pillows. What’s better than nice fresh sheets and a pretty bed? If you’re really feeling motivated, diffuse a relaxing essential oil in the bedroom. Lavender is the classic choice, but use whatever you find works for you. I love sandalwood and bergamot with ylang ylang.
TVs in bedrooms are pretty standard, but they don’t serve to improve our sleep. If you can’t or don’t want to move yours out of the bedroom, then try to develop the habit of covering the screen at bedtime. That little glowing ‘eye’ on the front produces enough light to disturb your sleep cycle. By covering the screen with a scarf, or small blanket, you’ll block the light and also be less likely to flip through channels if you do wake up during the night. In fact, look around and try to identify and eliminate any unnecessary lights in your bedroom. Light pollution is a key reason why our sleep is less deep and restful.
On the subject of light pollution, I highly recommend light blocking window curtains or shades if you are bothered by street lights and outside ambient light. While waking up to the sun softly filtering through your windows is ideal, if the lights in your neighborhood are shining through those same windows all night, you are going to have trouble getting quality sleep. I seem to have spent my entire adult life with a street lamp just outside my window, and know first hand how annoying that light is. Sleep masks can be a great alternative if installing new shades or curtains isn’t possible. I use one, especially when traveling, and find I sleep much better and fall asleep more quickly when I wear it. Just remember to take it off if you have to get up in the night for a bathroom run!
Now that we’ve tackled light and general peacefulness, let’s move onto sound. Some sounds are great at helping us sleep, others not so much. I mentioned in my previous sleep post that I use an App on my phone to produce ambient noise that masks the annoying noises which would otherwise keep me up. I can’t recommend this enough! If you are sensitive to extraneous noise (cars, cats, neighbors, etc) get an App or a white noise generator. The App I use (Alarm Clock Sleep Sounds by Ipnos Soft*) allows me to custom blend different sounds, choose the length of time to play and can be used as an alarm clock as well. I set mine up to run the entire time I’m in bed, shifting from my sleep sounds (ocean waves and light rain), into wake-up sounds (birdsong is my preference) about thirty minutes before I need to be awake. Works like a charm, and I can use it anywhere I go. Just make sure you plug your phone in while you’re using it or it will drain your battery.
One last piece to add to your arsenal of sleep enhancing weaponry is temperature. There is nothing worse than trying to sleep in a hot room, am I right? This is a constant battle in my house, and I totally get it if you have to compromise, but try to keep your nighttime bedroom temperature at a maximum of 74. If you are woman of a certain age, you may want to go even cooler. I’d prefer to sleep in a 68-70 degree environment, but that would kill my partner. We’ve settled on 74, although I’ve been known to try to sneak the thermostat down in the middle of the night. If all else fails try setting up a small fan to move cooler air over you during the night. This will keep your body temperature lower longer, allowing you to sleep more soundly. You can always put another blanket on the bed to counteract being too chilly.
Hopefully, at least a few of these suggestions will appeal to you and be workable for your life and space. Even if we can’t add more hours, we can make the most of the ones we do have. Let me know in the comments if you try implementing any of this, and how it’s working for you.
Now, I’m going to go clear some clutter off of my nightstand!
* I am not affiliated with nor do I receive any compensation from Ipnos Soft or anyone connected with the Alarm/Sleep App