Sleep and our Surroundings

August 27, 2021

Sleep is fundamental to our health and is as vital as eating, drinking and breathing. Sleeping helps us to recover from our daily mental and physical exertion. We need to sleep approximately a third of our lives to get the rest and rejuvenation our bodies require.

Studies have shown that people with disabilities are more likely to have sleeping problems than people without them. If you have symptoms of a diagnosable sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless leg or sleep deprivation/insomnia, consult your doctor. If you have the more common sleep issues, such as trouble falling asleep, waking up multiple times in the night, or waking up too early, it's possible that environmental changes can make a difference to your sleep quality.

Common environmental factors that impact our sleep

Our sleep environment/bedroom plays a significant role in our ability to get proper sleep. The three key factors that impact our sleep are temperature, light and noise.

Our core body temperature is guided by our Circadian rhythm which is a complex 24-clock that coordinates a wide range of processes in the body. One of these processes is the rise and fall of our body temperature to influence the sleep/wake cycle. The physiology of this process is quite complex but simply put; our core body temperature will fall to promote sleep and begin to rise when its time to wake. Any fluctuation in external temperatures can impact our core body temperature which can impact or sleep. So not only is it uncomfortable to be too hot or too cold, you need your core body temperature to be just right to have a good sleep.

The second key factor is light. Exposure to light is so important because light induces the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Darkness prompts the production of melatonin while light prompts the production to stop. And why this is important is because melatonin production can alter our Circadian clock. So, your exposure to light, will directly impact your bodies internal alarm clock. Basically, if the brain detects light, it wants to be awake.

The third and most overlooked factor is environmental noise. Most of us become desensitized to the intermittent sounds in our environments. Whether it's an alert from your device, neighbors outside or a plane flying overhead, these sounds cause interruptions to your sleep even if you don't remember it happening.

Ways to mitigate sleep disturbances

Studies have shown that the optimal temperature in the bedroom should be around 16-18° C. To maintain this temperature, you must first determine if you have temperature variations in your room. If your bedroom is cold or drafty, it may be time for new windows. Consult a professional contractor to determine if you need new windows, your contractor may find that its only a matter of caulking gaps or replacing worn out weather stripping. You can also add a programable thermostat to ensure your bedroom is always set to the desired temperature day and night. Another option is installing a ceiling fan, it is recommended that you consult a professional contractor to install your fan to ensure they are structurally sound.

When it comes to light, keep your bedroom light levels to a minimum by installing a dimmer or low wattage bulbs. If you like to read in bed, try using lamps as opposed to overhead lighting. If you do use overhead lighting, install a three-way switch to easily turn the light off without getting out of bed. You will also want to strategically place devices with artificial blue light such as televisions, Smartphones, and other pad devices so that they are not visible during bedtime. It is widely known that artificial blue light can disrupt your sleep, even if you use nightitme screen settings. And lastly invest in black out blinds, they provide peaceful darkness to any room.

There are several ways to decrease the noise conditions that hinder quality sleep. The first step is to tell any night owls is your family to turn the volume down. If you are blocking noise from outside your home, look at your windows and doors. Not only do well sealed windows control temperature, they also control sound. Heavy curtains and carpet are great sound absorbers as well. You can also drown out sounds with other sounds, research white noise devices to see if they will work for you. And never forget that it is time well spent to consult with a professional contractor, they may have sound proofing ideas that are easy to install and won't break the bank.

After mitigating these key environmental factors, create a relaxing bedroom that promotes healthy sleep by:

  • Keeping your sheets and pillowcases fresh, the majority of sleepers are more excited to go to bed when they have freshly scented sheets
  • Make the bed before sleep. A fresh made bed is more inviting than a rumpled one and will allow you to fall asleep quicker
  • Fill the bedroom with soothing fragrances such as lavender or peppermint to relax the mind

Sweet dreams...


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