The street I live on is extremely noisy and has a lot of light. And as much as I want to control this, 95% of it comes from the busy NY streets. Add in a noisy AC and heating unit, and my husband and I are left in a game of constant compromising.
After two years working on my sleep tech company, I learned that external factors - including those in the environment we sleep in- have a significant impact in the quantity and quality of our sleep, particularly limiting the depth of sleep. If you can get these factors under control, you can significantly improve your sleep.
We've been able to make differences in our home that have allowed us to finally sleep through the night and optimize our bedroom, and here's the seven steps to achieve the same in your own home.
A comfortable mattress
When it comes to your bedroom, most of it does come down to having the right bed setup - and it starts with the mattress.
You don't have to spend over $1,000 to have a comfortable mattress. But you do have to pick what's right for you, and that is not an easy feat. With hundreds of mattress models in the market, you should begin by filtering mattress types first (memory foam, innerspring, or adjustable air), and then narrow to your price range. Have no idea where to start? The Mattress Nerd offers a comprehensive mattress buying guide that you can consult here.
Regardless of your style, consider buying a mattress with a flexible return policy. Many young mattress companies offer trial periods of up to 100 days. This is a great perk, and will you give you a much better sense of how the surface will impact your back and sleep health than lying on a mattress in a store. A few nights in a row will be the real test!
A bed frame at the right height
If your bed is too low or too tall you might have difficulty getting in or out of it. Here's the test to find the right bed height for you: when you sit on the edge of your bed you should be able to touch the floor with the whole soles of your feet. This will determine what works best for your height and ergonomics.
Even feng shui teachings recommend you pay attention to the height of your bed, as you must allow the chi energy to flow all around it. The wrong height can block this flow and leave you vulnerable to energies that are too high (restless night) or too low (no restorative sleep).
The right sleep temperature
Temperature is one of the recurring reasons why we have trouble falling asleep or why we wake up during the night. A smart thermostat might be the answer to this problem, allowing you to schedule the right temperature for your night - which sleep researchers have pointed out as somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. A smart thermostat also has the ability to adjust throughout the night so that it's never too hot or too cold.
Your body also adjusts temperature throughout the night, so dress accordingly: the less the better so you can allow your body to do the work on its own.
Bed sheets for every season
When it comes to bed sheets, always keep different sets for each season. As mentioned, temperature is going to be a major factor on your sleep optimization, and having the best sheets for each season will help you in maintaining a cooler or warmer environment.
During the summer, opt for natural fibers which are more breathable than synthetic ones. These include cotton or cotton blends like jersey, percale and sateen. Thread count also makes a difference, as sheets with a very high thread count don't let air pass through as much as lower thread count sheets do. Opt for something in the middle like 300 to 400.
For the winter, go for a thicker variation of cotton such as flannel, or for a synthetic blend like fleece. Fleece is made from polyester, ideal for anyone with allergies caused by fabrics or dust.
A pillow for your sleeping position
The position you sleep on has a huge impact on the pillow you will perceive as comfortable.
If you sleep on your back, try a memory foam pillow which provides consistent support to your neck by keeping your head at the right angle.
If you sleep on your side, you should place a pillow between your knees to improve the alignment of your spine, while using a medium to firm pillow for your head.
If you sleep on your stomach (which is not an ideal position for your back and neck), you should try a body pillow. Using a giant body pillow can help you adapt your position overtime to sleep on your side, while still feeling as if you were on your stomach.
Remember to change your pillows every 4 to 5 years or as soon as you don't feel comfortable with them anymore.
Blackout curtains and noise-cancelling panels
It's easy to control the light inside your bedroom by not going to bed with lights or TVs on. For lights coming from the outside, I recommend you invest in blackout curtains. They are the best bet to minimize light disturbances which can easily interrupt your sleep.
Noise might be tougher to control, but there are solutions in the market that can make a difference. The first solution I suggest you try is noise-cancelling panels. A few months ago I purchased 8 panels from Audimute, and hanged them on my bedroom walls. Even though they are off-white in color - like the walls- they are not the prettiest solution, but they work. The panels have significantly reduced the echo from outside noises bouncing between my bedroom walls. There are different types of panels, so you can explore what works best for your room's setup.
A second recommendation is white noise machines, which can neutralize environmental sounds. You can test white noise solutions on mobile apps first, and see if this works for you before investing in more expensive noise generating machines.
Air that is humid-enough
Extreme weather conditions impact our mood, our health, and can even our sleep. When the air has a high humidity concentration, we feel hot and sweaty - which means uncomfortable sleep. When the air is too dry, on the other end, our skin, eye and nasal passages dry out which is also uncomfortable.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping the level of humidity in your bedroom to 50% year-round. This means you might have to invest in a dehumidifier in the summer, and a humidifier in the winter.
Do you have other tips for optimizing a bedroom to sleep better? Let me know on Twitter @a_zatarain.