Your best-sleep bedroom makeover
We’re constantly consuming information to live our best healthy, active life — which means we’re much closer to knowing how to live with our eyes wide open. But how about when our eyes are closed shut?
Sleep is just as important as how we move and what we put in our bodies. And it takes more than just 300-thread-count sheets to give your body the best sleep it deserves — it takes an inviting, peaceful, comfortable bedroom. And if you think you can wake up after five hours of restless sleep, knock back an extra shot of espresso and go about your day, think again.
“Sleep is one-third of our lives, and if it’s not working well, the other two-thirds are likely to suffer,” said Patty Tucker, a California-based independent sleep coach and consultant.
HellaWella spoke with Tucker about the ins and outs of making your bedroom the setting of your best night’s sleep.
How did you get into this line of work?
I’m a physician assistant, and I practiced medicine for about 22 years. I found there is not enough time in a medical visit to take care of things like sleep. In the last 10 years, I became a specialist in sleep medicine.
There are so many people who aren’t giving sleep its respect. Creating a sanctuary for sleep is one of the first ways to get healthy sleep.
Your room should invite sleep in; it should be wonderful and beautiful; and you should love it. It should be cool, dark, quiet and safe. If any of those things are missing, sleep will be fragmented and elusive.
What temperature should your room be?
Wisdom says between 58 and 72 degrees, and that’s a big window. Some will be frozen at 58 and others sweating at 72 — whatever your comfortable temperature is within that range. It should be noticeably lower than the temperature you spend your day in. So if you spend your day in 72 degrees, your bedroom should be 66 or 67 degrees. [Bottom line], for sleep to occur, your body needs to be cooling down.
What type of sheets/blankets/pillow/mattresses are best?
It’s based on personal comfort. Anything that invites you in, and you say, “I can’t wait to hit my sheets.” It could be silk, satin, microfiber.
You should spend as much money on a mattress as you can afford to spend. How much time do you spend in your car (outside of a city)? It’s a lot, but not as much as we spend in our beds. But how much do you spend on your car? If you buy a $20,000 to $40,000 car and spend three hours in it, why are you spending so little money on a mattress and expecting it to last 10 years?
What’s the best material/pajamas to wear to bed?
It should be different than what you wear during the day. A lot of people just fall into bed in their yoga clothes, but there needs to be a clear delineation. For some, that means nothing at all, and that’s OK. Its personal, but it should be reserved for bed.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, it gets a lot more important to have these real strict demarcations. I think when you’re limited in space and you do all activities in a confined area, I think being in pajamas in your office is confusing. But if you come home and throw on your jammies and life is good and you have no difficulty going to sleep, don’t dwell on that.
Is it better to sleep on your back, side or stomach?
It’s by person, but it’s more about your physiology and architecture. If you snore or have difficulty breathing, sleeping on your back can make it worse — sleep on your side.
Different pillows can be more supportive for different kinds of sleeping positions. If you sleep on your side, you need a pillow that extends from your neck to your head. If you sleep on your stomach, the pillow should be low so your neck is not craned back.
How should you separate your sleeping area if you live in a small apartment or studio?
You need to get more clever and create visual barriers. For example, you can put tropical mosquito nets over your bed. [It should be a] clear signal that when you part the nets and go into bed, you’re in your sanctuary. If you have to multipurpose — such as a daybed that doubles as a bed and couch — make sure you always make your bed so you don’t have [confusing] cues during the day.
When you’re living in one room, you’ve got that computer there, TV, exercise equipment — it’s all in view. You don’t want to be able to see stuff that calls attention from your bed. A folding screen can block your view from that kind of thing.
How much time should you give between using electronics and going to bed?
An hour is minimum. The stimulation of information flow and light exposure that electronics give off prevent the brain from recognizing it’s night. You can’t just get right out of the thick of things and expect sleep to occur.
Never use electronics in bed. The bed is a sleep sanctuary. Your bed is not your office, coffee shop or movie theater. It’s for sleep and sex — that’s it.
How much sleep is really the best amount?
Grandma would say 7.5 hours to 8.5 hours, but there’s personal variation in there. You need enough sleep so you can wake up refreshed without an alarm and feel bright and alert and not sleepy during the day. If you sleep less than six hours or more than 10 on a regular basis, life is shortened statistically.
You should train your body so you get up at the same time every day. Waking up without an alarm is the ideal. If you’re waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, your body gets into a rhythm. You have a lot of chemicals released according to timing and an internal clock that works beautifully if you give it a chance.
When we wake up on our own (without an alarm), our brain is more alert. When we wake up to an alarm, we get a shot of adrenaline and we’re yanked into our day, which can make us foggy and shocked.
Do you wake up without an alarm?
When I structure my life the way it should be, I do. But if I have an early morning meeting, I need an alarm clock.
If you need an alarm clock, is it OK to hit snooze?
Not really because that’s wasted space and wasted time. You’re not getting any more sleep by doing that. Your body has already been shocked, even if your eyes close and your brain ignores what’s going on around you. The sleep you get in between hitting the snooze button is popcorn sleep. There’s no nutritional value to it, and it won’t make you feel better through the day. If you have time to hit snooze two or three times, you may as well set the alarm later.
If you’re a snooze junky, put the alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off. That, with some resolve, makes it easier to stay up. Move forward and don’t turn around.
What should people do if they can’t get to sleep?
It depends on why and how long and if it’s a long-term habit. If you’re in bed and can’t sleep, give it a little while but then get out of bed. This won’t help you get to sleep tonight, but it helps prevent a habit of laying in bed awake. Examine why — are you thinking, worrying, on the computer late, ate a big meal? You should be able to fall asleep before starting to worry you’re not falling asleep; 20 minutes is about average for what we call healthy sleepers.
If thinking is a habit, try the brain dump. Take an hour or more before bedtime, sit down with a piece of paper and begin to work your brain. What are you thinking about, worrying about? What’s going through your mind? Bring them up ahead of time and write them down. If you can think of one single answer or solution to any of them, then when you lay down, your brain has been there, done that. When a thought comes up, it’s old news. It sounds too good to be true, but it really works. The brain dump exercise is powerful.
What about using music to fall sleep? Is it hurtful in any way?
It’s OK if it’s part of your pre-bedtime routine, but it should be music without words. It should be quiet and soothing, and it should be on a timer, which should go off in 30 minutes (if you expect to fall asleep in 20 minutes).
What’s the verdict on naps — helpful or not?
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, taking naps on a regular basis may be borrowing against that coming night’s sleep. If your sleep is holding together well, then a 10- to 30-minute power nap can be a good tool for active people.
What other conditions make your bedroom a place for great sleep?
I think it’s really important that we respect sleep. One of the analogies I use is relationships with a significant other or very good friends. You have to give the relationship room and space and respect. You can’t expect it to be there whenever you want it. If you treat your room where you sleep as something really important to you, then your sleep will be more responsive to that. Respect your sleep, and your sleep will support you.
For more information, check out Tucker’s website, Sleepofchampions.com.