The 5 Sleep Essentials
We spend about one third of our lifetime asleep. If you live, say, 80 years, that’s 27 years, or 9,733 days, or a whopping 233,600 hours spent asleep. It's therefore worth taking the time to think about how to design the perfect bedroom for achieving 27 years of good quality sleep.
There are 5 elements of your bedroom environment that can make or break your sleep.
At the Sleep School, we call them the 5 Sleep Essentials, and they are:
The golden rule is to keep these 5 Sleep Essentials as boring, or in neurological terms, as non-stimulating as possible.
This is because our brains have evolved to always be on the lookout for stimuli that suggest impending danger - even when we’re asleep! Considering how our ancestors didn’t have solid, safe houses to protect them from predators, this mechanism has been a godsend for our survival, but not so much for our sleep.
It is this exact survival mechanism that you should avoid triggering. In short, aim for a quiet, dark, and cool bedroom, where your brain will feel safe and allow you to relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
The good news is that even the smallest, simplest changes to your bedroom environment can have huge benefits on your sleep. It could be as simple as changing your pillow!
Below you will find a short outline of the 5 Sleep Essentials.
Being comfortable, both physically and mentally, is something we as humans are constantly striving to achieve. Comfort is also absolutely essential for good quality, deep sleep. Being uncomfortable during the night can cause you to shift between light and deep sleep. This massively reduces your overall sleep quality and can cause you to wake up feeling unrefreshed.
Fortunately, we sleep among a vast array of bedroom furniture and materials that can be optimised for our personal comfort. Whether it’s your pillow, your mattress, or even the scent of your candles at home, there are many ways in which you can personalise products so that they can help you get the most comfortable sleep possible. For more information on how to optimise your comfort for better sleep, please click here.
Humans are solar-powered. Light sensitive cells in our eyes detect the rise and fall of the sun, and proceed to instruct our brain and body to either be active and awake or resting and asleep. However, in today’s ‘lit-up’ world, with TVs glaring well into the night and eyes locked on light-emitting smartphone screens, we are constantly exposed to excessive artificial light at times when we should actually be in the dark. This confuses the brain, tricking it into thinking that the day has begun and that we need to be awake, when in fact the exact opposite is true.
This is why the use of phones and other light emitting devices are discouraged at night time, especially for those who have difficulty falling asleep. For more advice on how how to manage light for better sleep, please click here.
Our brains sleep with “one ear open”. Even though this makes sense from a survival perspective, continuously listening out for potential danger also means that even the lowest level of noise registers with our brain as we sleep, even if it doesn’t wake us up. The problem is that research has shown that exposure to low levels of noise at night increases blood pressure and can lead to further health problems down the line.
In fact, noise pollution has now become the second largest environmental cause of all health problems, second only to air pollution. Unfortunately, however, we can’t always control noise; snoring partners, noisy traffic, or the sound of construction drilling at 6am are all likely to disturb our sleep. For advice on how to manage noise for a peaceful night’s sleep, please click here.
Temperature plays an important role in the regulation of our sleep. A Dutch study released in the medical journal Brain, used thermosuits to briefly raise participants’ skin temperature by 0.4C. The body’s natural reaction to an increase in temperature is to release more heat in order to cool itself down. This cooling mechanism caused participants to achieve better quality, deeper sleep and fewer nighttime awakenings.
This explains the calming effect of a warm bath before bed, where coming out of warm waters into your cool bedroom helps your body temperature to drop. Research shows that your body temperature needs to drop by the 1°C (2-3 Fahrenheit) for the brain to understand that it’s time for bed, paving the way for a good night’s sleep. An equal rise in temperature is as important to wake us up in the morning. For more information on how temperature can affect your sleep, please click here.
We are constantly breathing in a mixture of many different gases, the combination of which has evolved over millions of years to provide the best conditions to maintain life. But did you know that 90% of the whole population today is breathing in contaminated, highly polluted air?
With an ever-increasing amount of tech gadgetry entering the bedroom, shut windows, and a lack of ventilation, air pollution inside our bedrooms has also been found to be increasingly high. It should therefore come as no surprise that this has had disastrous effects on our sleep quality whilst also contributing to the development of sleep disorders such as asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. For top tips on how to improve the air quality of your bedroom, please click here.