Posted on March 06 2019
Are you getting enough sleep? According to The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), 68% of the population do not get a good night’s sleep most of the week.
Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform daily, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities.
The NSF recommend that adults (18-65) get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, but it’s not so much about the duration as it is about the quality of your sleep. As REM sleep is the most important, the right conditions can make all the difference.
Understanding the factors contributing to the quality of your sleep is a great first step. Aging, stress and medical conditions that cause pain and discomfort are very common issues impacting the quality of sleep. External factors, such as what we eat and drink, medications consumed, and the environment that we sleep in all greatly influence how well and how long we sleep. All of these factors tend to increase how often we wake up and how deep or how much REM sleep we achieve.
Your sleeping environment is something you could easily influence. Aside from having a proper mattress and comfortable pillows, the environment where you sleep makes a substantial impact to the quality of sleep that you receive. Noise, Temperature and Complete Darkness are major factors in the optimal sleep environment.
1) Noise and Temperature
Noises at levels as low as 40 decibels or as high as 70 decibels have a higher propensity to keep us awake. Some noises cannot be avoided such as sounds from the outdoors or the creaking of older homes, but creating a “white noise maker” by running a fan for example can help drown out sounds that keep you awake or wake you in your sleep. Another noise keeping many awake, the snoring of a partner, can be lessened with the use of ear plugs.
The ideal sleeping temperature is between 18-20°C. A cool bedroom is better for sleep than a warm one. Generally, temperatures above 24°C and below 12°C will awaken people. Setting your thermostat accordingly will not only allow for better sleeping conditions but also save you heating and cooling costs.
Interesting to note and not often thought about, your window coverings can help with both noise and temperature concerns. Roller shades provide a secondary barrier on your windows reducing heat gains and losses and maintaining a steady consistent temperature.
2) Complete Darkness
According to NSF, “your bedroom should be free from any light”. Ensure all of your electronics are turned off and that you have the proper window coverings to manage your room darkening needs.
With the increase usage of smartphones and the need to be “connected” at all times, many people tend to leave their devices next to their sleeping areas. These devices are all outfitted with small blinking lights. Not just for incoming calls, texts, and alerts but just indicating the power is turned off. Leave these devices in another room or turn them off before you sleep. This would also hold true for other electronics such as TVs and alarm clocks. Ensure all devices are turned off and the alarm clock that you use does not light up when the lights are out
To control outside light whether it is street lights, moon light or sun light, Blackout shades are a great option that contributes to better sleep quality through deeper REM sleep cycles. Blackout shades are available in numerous opaque fabrics highly recommended by NSF, especially for Night Shift Workers, for example, according to the Canadian Sleep Society, it is important to avoid exposure to morning light in order to facilitate sleep and the partial adjustment of the biological clock. Blackout shades are most effective if configured with side and bottom channels to completely block out light.