Medical studies have linked a lack of sleep to everything from disruptions in the immune system to cognitive deficits to weight control. And, as days get shorter and the weather gets colder, I find myself getting into bed earlier and sleeping longer too. As green architect Carol Venolia reports, good sleep supports good health and productivity at work.
Here are four key steps you can take to turn your bedroom into a “sleep oasis:”
1. If you can see your hand after the lights are turned out, your bedroom is too light. According to Venolia, too much light in the evening disrupts the production of melatonin and interferes with sleep. One solution is to install dimmable CFLs in the bedroom. This will limit your light exposure just before bed, and you’ll rest easier knowing you’re saving energy. Outside lights can also interfere with your sleep. Consider designer Maggie Wood’s recommendations for green window coverings to shield your room from street lamps and other outdoor light sources.
2. Sleep as far as possible from the street and noisy equipment or appliances. Venolia recommends: “While some researchers suggest masking other sounds with a white noise generator or a fan, you might prefer something more natural, such as a recirculating fountain — with a quiet motor!”
3. Maintain an air temperature of 65 degrees year-round in the bedroom. Turning the thermostat up too high in the winter not only wastes energy; it can also disturb your sleep.
4. Your bed should be comfortable and good for your back, and it shouldn’t expose you to toxic fumes, dust mites, or mold. You wouldn’t lie down on a lawn doused with pesticides, so why sleep on a mattress made of pesticide-laden fabric? Debra Lynn Dadd’s “Buyer’s Guide to Healthy, Ecologically Sound Mattresses,” offers tips for finding a comfortable, nontoxic bed.
Sleep Facts and Tips
- Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the pineal gland at the base of the brain. It is important in regulating sleep, and may play a role in maintaining circadian rhythm, the body’s natural time clock. Natural melatonin production decreases with age, and the decrease is associated with some sleep disorders, particularly in the elderly.
- Preparation – Create a soft background sound environment after a hectic day, or mask annoying sounds during sleep. Listen to them on your PC or an MP3 player like an I-Pod. Or burn them onto a CD of your own. Mix and match the files to taste, or replicate them to fill a CD.
- Environment – Have a dark room with either quiet or white noise sound.
- Nighttime Routines – Ten minutes of personal grooming, meditation, stretch, read a few pages of a novel.
- Reserve Your Bed For Sleeping – Avoid working, paying bills, reading a lot or watching television.
- Moderate Eating – Avoid a big meal before bedtime, but also do not retire hungry.
- Cut Down On Caffeine – Avoid too much during day and especially in the evening. This is even more relevant for people over 50.
- Being Physically Tired – Exercise more, even an additional half hour a few times per week.
- Bright Sunshine – Expose yourself to sunshine via a walk or other activity during midday. This helps reset the body’s clock.
- A Cup of Mild Tea – Chamomile, valerian, kava, passionflower, skullcap, catnip or hops.
- 30-Minute Rule – If you toss and turn for longer than that, get up and do something relaxing, like listening to soothing music or flipping through a magazine.
- Quality Bed – A mattress that is as firm as you can tolerate but is still comfortable, and no more than 10 years old.