When someone says, “I didn’t sleep well,” I think of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea. You may recall that once upon a time, there was a prince who searched near and far and unsuccessfully for a real princess. On a dark and stormy night, a sodden and bedraggled woman claiming to be a princess showed up at the royal gate. The prince’s mother, scenting a possible fraud, devised a secret low-tech DNA test.
“‘Well, we’ll soon find that out,’ thought the old queen. But she said nothing, went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses.”
Well, we non-fancy people can have trouble getting comfortable at night, too. Here are some modifications all of us can make to our bedrooms to promote blissful slumber, even if we don’t have a princely budget.
Mattress. If you can’t recall how old your mattress is, or if you wake up every morning feeling achy, it may be time for a new one. Experts recommend replacement every seven years or so as the cushion and/or springs wear out over time and become less supportive. Consider spending a little more on a high-quality and appropriately sized mattress for your needs; your body will thank you for the investment. When you consider the amount of your life spent in bed, this is money well spent.
Temperature. The recommended room temperature for sleep is 65 °F. If the room is too warm, or we have too many blankets piled on, we may be inhibiting good, deep sleep. There are many variables to this, such as pajama material, thickness of sheets and blankets, another warm body next to us, etc. Remember, if one of you doesn’t sleep well, both of you don’t, so adjust thermostat settings, pajamas, and blankets accordingly.
Noise. Most people find that having some ambient or white noise allows for better sleep than total silence. Noise machines, fans, air purifiers, or even a small water feature can create a sense of calm, drown out other sounds, and promote sound sleep. If your noise problem involves a snoring partner, consider nasal strips or even a sleep study to assess if the snoring is indicative of a more serious health problem.
Lighting. Some people love to get up with the sun while others need a cave-like setting for good sleep. Blackout curtains are an effective way to block light until you’re ready to face the world. Choose your window coverings based on your needs. Be mindful of electronics that light up during the night. Several research studies show that the blue light emitted by most electronics can decrease levels of melatonin in the body, which is our own natural sleep-aid. Consider dimmer switches to control lighting, or even simple changes in bulbs and lampshades.
Bedding. The right pillow is so crucial to good sleep that some of us even travel with our own. The pillow’s height or thickness, its material, and the way it hugs your head can affect the way you sleep. Side sleepers need different support than back sleepers, so test before you buy. Floor model beds and pillows work great for this. Check out thread counts for sheets and the warmth and fabric of blankets to find the perfect ones for you. Aromas can affect mood and some people report a better night’s rest on freshly washed sheets. Splurge on a soft rug to greet your feet each morning and guide you into bed every night.
Atmosphere/Appearance. As long as there have been beds, there have been arguments about whether or not they should be made each morning. You might enjoy the visual appeal of a neatly made bed and look forward to unwrapping your bed like a present each night. Someone else might prefer burrowing into a nest of blankets; to each their own. Try to keep clutter to a minimum by finding a place for both clean and dirty clothes, shoes, jackets, and any items that may end up living on the bed, a chair, or other part of the bedroom for days at a time. Be sure you have a clear path to safely enter and exit your bed in the dark. Experiment with colors; warm colors (red, orange, yellow) can make the room cozier, cool colors (green, blue, violet) can be very soothing. Shades of blue are reportedly the most sleep-inducing color.
Sleep experts suggest designating a place for everything in the bedroom, including items and activities. Interpreting that is up to you, but using your bed as a dining room table, desk, or anything other than what a bed is designed for can interfere with your sleep. Perhaps you’d benefit from a consistent nightly routine to sweet-talk your body into getting sleepy. You might try a relaxing cup of chamomile tea, a few chapters of a book, a warm bath, comfy clothes, or some deep thoughts by Jack Handey. Hey, this is your time … whatever works for you. The point is that we can actually train our bodies to wind down for the night through mindfulness exercises, breathing techniques, listening to music, and other soothing habits.
These suggestions do not take the place of appropriate medical advice. If you’re concerned that your lack of sleep has less to do with your environment and more to do with a physical or psychological condition, please seek professional help. If you have 20 mattresses piled up and still can’t sleep because of a pea-sized lump, congratulations, you’re a bonafide princess! For most of us, however, implementing a few of these ideas could be just enough to help us sleep as deeply as Brier-Rose. For more ideas on transforming your bedroom, check out BetterSleep.org or PsychCentral.com for mental exercises to promote sleep. Sleep tight and pleasant dreams to you all!