We spend a quarter to a third of our lives doing it. Yet many of us don’t really focus on how to do it well. The activity? Sleeping!
Some folks absolutely love to sleep. Actress Mindy Kaling quipped, “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” Others view it as a necessary evil, a distraction from the adventure that is life. Of course, it is anything but. Truly restful sleep promotes both physical and mental well-being.
However, the stress of the pandemic cost many individuals a serious amount of sleep. Prof. Angela Drake of UC-Davis observed, “It’s a problem everywhere, across all age groups.” She refers to pandemic-induced insomnia as “coronasomnia.” The condition is very real. Canadian researchers Charles M. Morin and Julie Carrier looked at the effects of the pandemic on residents of China’s Hubei Province. They identified a 37% increase in clinical insomnia compared to pre-COVID levels
We are well into our second year dealing with the virus. Now more than ever, it is useful to find ways to get the restful, restorative sleep we need. The trouble is, the more we seek it, the more elusive it becomes. As the author Gillian Flynn wrote in her novel Gone Girl, “Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.” While that may be true, you can still make your bedroom environment more conducive to sleep. Here are some ideas for tilting the odds in favor of a great night’s sleep.
1. Cooler, Drier Air
One study found that heat and humidity impaired highly restorative REM sleep. By contrast, cooler, drier conditions facilitated it. The New York Times cites research asserting that insomniacs have higher core temperatures right before bed. For these so-called “hot sleepers,” the right conditions were even more important.
Bedroom temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees F are often ideal. Slightly higher temperatures are often appropriate for older or more slender individuals.
Consider a well-placed electric fan to whisk away moisture from the surface of your skin. Consider bedding that breathes enough to keep skin temperatures down. Buckwheat hull pillows and eucalyptus-infused comforters can help keep you cool all night long.
2. White Noise
What exactly is white noise? People often think of TV or radio static as white noise. More specifically, it consists of all audible frequencies played in random order at the same amplitude. That is, volumes do not rise and fall. White noise promotes sleep by masking distracting sounds. Considering using a white noise sound machine in your bedroom. Some such devices also offer other calming sounds like waves on a beach or rain falling.
3. Blackout Shades
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates numerous body processes. The term “circadian” comes from the Latin “circa diem,” meaning “around a day.” This sleep-wake cycle governs alertness during the day and the ability to sleep at night. Nighttime production of melatonin promotes restful sleep. The presence or absence of light is a key factor in optimizing your circadian rhythm.
Blackout shades, curtains, and blinds can improve sleep. The absence of light allows the pineal gland to optimize melatonin production. Another way to eliminate unwanted light is with a sleep mask. A weighted mask can help reduce tension, whereas masks infused with lavender can help to relax you with aromatherapy.
4. Mattress and Bedding
If you are a “hot sleeper,” consider a mattress with gel-infused memory foam. Or, find a mattress that combines coil support with good airflow to keep you from overheating. A cooling mattress pad, which uses electricity to circulate water or air through the mattress, is another option.
A Good Housekeeping article highlights the pros and cons of different bedding options. Pure cotton sheets are a soft, comfortable option. Percale sheets are another possibility, as the weave makes them feel light and crisp. And although they can be on the pricier side, many sleep experts recommend linen sheets, which are lighter and more breathable than other fabrics like cotton.
5. Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets have become very popular among those seeking a better night’s rest. For many individuals, the pressure from weighted blankets calms their breathing and heart rate. According to Penn Medicine, such blankets help people with sleep disorders and anxiety. They deliver a form of pressure therapy that simulates the feeling of being held or hugged.
Such blankets are usually weighted with glass or plastic beads. Weighted yarn is another option. Although they come in different sizes, four feet by six feet is quite common. They weigh between five and 35 pounds.
6. Reduce Blue Lights
Smartphone use may disrupt sleep for several reasons. Reading news stories or exchanging messages keeps your mind too active and engaged before bed. Additionally, the blue light emitted by the screen may suppress melatonin production. That’s why it’s important to reduce your exposure to blue light sources before bedtime
For a better night’s rest, keep your phone away from your bed. If you must be on your computer or phone close to bedtime, consider blue light glasses. They help to reduce the adverse effects of blue light. Researchers found that glasses minimizing blue light transmission maintained melatonin levels in adolescents.
A sleep-friendly bedroom will work for you to the extent that you arrive ready to sleep. Meditation can help calm an active mind before bed, making it possible to let go of the day’s challenges and help alleviate worrying about getting to sleep.
Diet is another factor. One study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medication found that “low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep.” Proper hydration also promotes sleep, so avoid alcohol and caffeine in the hours before bedtime. They both have a diuretic, dehydrating effect.
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