STRUGGLING to get to sleep? Or, do you spend all night tossing and turning, watching the hours tick by as you become increasingly frustrated at your fast-approaching alarm?
While sleep-friendly foods and a screen ban pre-bed can help, there are some other environmental factors which can play a part in your restlessness.
In fact, from the mess surrounding your bed to the street lights glaring through your window, your surroundings could be wrecking your sleep.
TEMPUR sleep specialist, Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, delves deep into some major sleep saboteurs…
Is your room too messy?
Are you a clutter king or queen?
“Preparing for bed by entering a messy and cluttered bedroom is far from relaxing, so by dedicating a little extra time to keeping your bedroom tidy, organised and clutter free, you’ll likely find that you feel less stressed and distracted come bedtime,” says Thomas.
In fact, a study by New York’s St Lawrence University found that those who had a tendency to hoard items, creating mess in the bedroom, actually took longer to fall asleep than those who kept their room neat and tidy.
“In order to ensure your bedroom is a sleep sanctuary, it’s always helpful to clear it of the unnecessary clutter to help to reduce mental and physical stressors – but don’t feel you have to throw everything away, simply investing in some storage baskets or moving into another room is fine,” adds Thomas.
Has your bedroom become multi-purpose?
Computers on tables, eating in bed and folders of work documents and life admin; all things that should be kept firmly away from the bedroom.
“Your bedroom is your sanctuary, and therefore should be a space that both mind and body only associate with sleep and sex,” says Thomas.
“For example, if you’re using your bedroom as a home office your brain will start to associate your room as a workplace along with all the emotions and stressors that come with a full work day, as opposed to the relaxing sleep-promoting haven it should be.
“In an ideal world, emailing, watching TV, eating and scrolling social media would all be banned from the bedroom.”
Try to keep your bedroom as somewhere you only really venture to in the evening, or when you need a nap and avoid using it as a dining room/office/work space.
Are street lights polluting your bedroom?
“The ideal environment for sleep is dark, cool and quiet, so in essence, your bedroom should mimic a cave,” says Thomas.
“While total darkness isn’t necessary for sleep, our bodies release melatonin in response to darkness, relaxing our muscles and helping us to drift off – which is why so many of us struggle to get out of bed early in the darker, winter months.”
If there’s light sneaking into your bedroom, it could make you feel more awake, so black out blinds or an eye mask can be helpful.
Even lit clock faces and digital radios can disrupt sleep so cover them up if you find you’re sensitive to their light.
Thomas adds: “Instead of relying on overhead lighting, which may trick your body into thinking it’s daytime, opt for lamps, which are much softer and will create a more calming atmosphere in which to wind down before bed.”
Do you keep tech nearby?
“Scale back on tech in the bedroom too – just the sight of your laptop or phone, even if they’re switched off, can increase stress levels,” reveals Thomas.
“Plus, you’ll be less tempted to check work emails or social media if it means moving to another room.”
Aim to pack technology away, or keep it out of the bedroom full stop.
If you charge items next to your bed at night, turn them over to stop the light from disrupting your sleep, and try to flick them onto sleep mode so no notifications can creep through in the night and wake you up!
Is your room a furnace?
Room temperature is another important consideration.
“The temperature of your bedroom can make a significant difference to your quality of sleep,” says Thomas.
“The body’s internal temperature drops a few degrees during sleep, so turning the thermostat down to around 18°C at night will help prepare your body for sleep.”
In the summer months, try a fan, lay ice packs in your bed or have a cold shower beforehand.
Is your bedding uncomfortable?
Considering that the total mean amount of sleep the UK gets a night is 7.6 hours, it makes sense that we keep things comfortable.
This amounts to around a third of our lives spent asleep.
“It’s vital we invest time and effort into having the best sleep tools to hand to ensure that when we are able to enjoy a good night’s sleep, we’re not hindered by aches and pains,” says Thomas.
“A mattress and pillow that keeps your head, neck and spine aligned is imperative.
“An unsupportive mattress or pillow can cause aches and pains, leading to a disrupted night’s sleep and leaving you more susceptible to bad dreams.
“Spend time ‘test-driving’ different mattresses before purchasing to make sure you find the perfect feel and fit.”
With pillows, flatter is better so that the spine is better supported.
Are your neighbours noisy?
Whether it’s neighbours, cars on the road or the chatter of flatmates, noise can significantly impact sleep.
“Using foam ear plugs or a white noise machine can help you block out noise – whether from inside or outside the house – allowing you to achieve quality and unbroken sleep,” says Thomas.
Plus, white noise, pink noise and brown noise can help too.
These are all slightly varying forms of hushed background sounds people use to aid sleep, according to Thomas.
“Unlike loud, sudden noises they are a continuous backtrack of a low pitch that may help people fall asleep more quickly according to studies and are non-disruptive so won’t impact the body’s descent into sleep.”
Search white noise on YouTube for some overnight sound videos.