Serena Cole is a sleep design expert. Serena is a Dux Bed retailer living and working in Texas. Below are excerpts from our interview about healthy sleeping habits.
How can we get more sleep?
- Don’t drink beverages containing caffeine after the middle of afternoon. Caffeine can make it hard to fall asleep.
- Avoid daytime napping, particularly an after dinner snooze. Daytime sleep can cut down on sleeping time at night.
- Exercise every day. Physical activity is conductive to longer, deeper sleep.
- Eat better. Stay away from big meals and alcohol before bed.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant that disrupts sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Establish a routine including a regular time to go to bed and to wake up. Once the body “programmed” into a daily sleep-wake cycle, sleep is easier to meet. Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep–wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep
- Establish a regular bedtime ritual for the hour or two before retiring such as taking a warm bath, reading in bed or anything else you find relaxing.
- Turn off the TV, computer, etc.
- If you’re not sleepy, get out of bed. Tossing and turning and worrying about falling asleep can only make our insomnia worse.
- Make your bedroom more sleep friendly and only use it for sleep and sex. (See #5)
5) Can you tell me a little about the importance of the sleep environment
A comfortable bed and inviting bedroom are effective sleep aids, and can make a difference in the quality of sleep experienced. The following can make for a restful environment:
Noises at levels as low as 40 decibels or as high as 70 decibels can keep us awake. That means that a dripping faucet can steal your sleep, as well as the next door neighbor’s blaring stereo. But the absence or presence of a familiar noise can have as great an impact on your sleep as out-of-the-ordinary noises. Studies show that sirens and traffic noise from a city street can actually become soothing to longtime city sleepers (they will cringe at the thought of sleeping in the serene desert or mountain climate) just as the absence of the tick, tick, tick of your favorite clock while you try to sleep at a hotel can become a sleep stealer.
What to do: Try to block out unwanted sounds with earplugs or use “white noise” such as a fan, air cleaner or sound conditioner. Take your favorite clock with you when you travel to recreate familiar sounds that help you sleep.
In most cases, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep, but even sleep researchers fail to agree on the ideal temperature for sleep. The point at which sleep is interrupted due to temperature or climate conditions varies from person to person and are affected by bed-clothes and bedding materials selected by the sleeper. In general, most sleep scientists believe that a slightly cool room contributes to good sleep. That’s because it mimics what occurs inside the body when the body’s internal temperature drops during the night to its lowest level. (For good sleepers, this occurs about four hours after they begin sleeping.)
What to do: In general, sleep scientists recommend keeping your room slightly cool — Turning the thermostat down at night in cold weather sets the stage for sleep and saves on fuel bills. Blankets, comforters or electric blankets can lock in heat without feeling too heavy or confining. Or the heat-seeking partner might dress in warmer bedclothes while the warmer partner might opt not to wear sleep clothes or bed covering. A room that’s too hot can also be disruptive. In fact, research suggests that a hot sleeping environment leads to more wake time and lighter sleep at night, while awakenings multiply. An air conditioner or fan can help, and a humidifier can give relief if you’re suffering from a sore throat or dryness in your nose.
Much of our sleep patterns – feeling sleepy at night and awake during the day – are regulated by light and darkness. Light – strong light, like bright outdoor light (which is brighter than indoor light even on cloudy days) – is the most powerful regulator of our biological clock. The biological clock influences when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. As a result, finding the balance of light and darkness exposure is important. Bright light helps to keep you awake during the day, but in the evening prior to sleep, bright lights is disturbing.
What to do: Make sure to expose yourself to enough bright light during the day. Find time for sunlight, or buy a light box or light visor to supplement your exposure to bright light. At bedtime, think dark: a dark bedroom contributes to better sleep. Try light-blocking curtains, drapes or an eye mask. If you find yourself waking earlier than you’d like, try increasing your exposure to bright light in the evening. It may delay sleep onset but as little as one to two hours of evening bright light exposure may help you sleep longer in the morning. Also, make sure to avoid light if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Minimize light by using a low illumination night-light.
Quality Sleep Surface
For the most part, we know people sleep better when horizontal and not cramped by space, and it is clear that the sleep surface plays a role in getting a good night’s sleep. Not much research has been done to understand the sleeping surface, but it is clear that it plays a role in getting a good night’s sleep. For example, tossing and turning on a lumpy 20-year-old mattress that doesn’t offer support for your back or neck can impede you from getting the sleep you need and make you very sleepy (and stiff) the next day. Mattress experts say that too often consumers believe that ultra-firm mattresses are good for them, but research on patients with back pain found this was not true and a more supple, comforting mattress may lead to better sleep.
What to do: Give yourself enough space to sleep. If you share a bed with a partner, make sure it is large enough to give both of you room to move around. Replace an old mattress with a new one, and choose a pillow and mattress that fits you best (soft, firm, thick, thin?) and will be comfortable throughout the night. Consumer Reports recently found that consumers who spent 15 minutes or more testing each mattress at the store were more likely to be happy with their purchase. When choosing pillows, find the shape and construction that supports your head and neck and that you find most comfortable. And change your pillows regularly. If you have allergies or asthma, you may also wish to buy hypoallergenic covers designed to protect from possible allergic triggers such as dust mites.
Avoid Distraction in the Bedroom
TVs, computers, and work in the bedroom are sleep stealing culprits. NSF’s 2005 Sleep in America poll found that 87% of respondents watched TV within an hour of going to bed at least a few nights a week. Doing work, watching TV and using the computer, both close to bedtime and especially in the bedroom, hinders quality sleep. Violent shows, news reports and stories before bedtime is agitating. The sleep environment should be used only for sleep and sex.