Sleep is a key building block of health and happiness, yet it's often hard to get and stay there for one night, let alone a string of several nights at a time. Here are five common reasons your bedroom isn't working, and eight small changes to help you fall asleep, keep snoozing throughout the night, and ultimately function better the next day.
PROBLEM #1: ALLERGIES
Is your stuffy nose keeping you from getting shut eye? Seasonal allergies are one thing, but dust mites are with us all year round. Your bed is Disneyland for those little critters, who thrive on all the dead skin cells your body provides.
Fixes: Vacuum your room with a HEPA filter and clean your bedding as often as you can— including your pillows, which you can throw in the dryer for 15 minutes to kill off any existing bugs. Instead of scented detergent, use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your laundry. Put hypoallergenic protective covers on your mattress and pillows. And lastly, strip your mattress before you go out of town to give it time to air out. (I won't rile up pet owners by suggesting you ban furry loved ones from the bedroom, but it's worth thinking about.) Read more on bedroom allergies here.
PROBLEM #2: LIGHT
Your room is too bright at night. Whether it's coming from the outside, a nightlight, the television screen, or your blinking alarm clock, any light keeps your body fooled into thinking it's not sleeping time.
Fixes: Buy really dark curtains, or add liner, to block out street lamps. Also turn off electronic devices and remove anything else that emits brightness. (If you're worried about getting up in time, try covering your alarm clock instead.) Lastly, swap out higher watt lightbulbs in your bedside lamp for dimmer ones; these will aid the transition as you're winding down from the day by reading in bed at night.
PROBLEM #3: TEMPERATURE
Some nights you're too hot, and other times, it's too cold. Sleep is induced when you are at rest and your core body temperature lowers. If your heat is on too high (or too cold for that matter), your internal thermostat fluctuates which leads to restless sleep.
Fixes: Everyone is comfortable at different temps, so experiment to find the right one for you. There's no right answer but cooler is generally better - start in the 65 degree range. There are always fans and blankets to help you regulate, but know that bedding material makes a difference too; memory foam pillows and mattresses, for example, are hotter than more traditional ones. If you are still having trouble staying asleep, look into bedding and pads that keep you cooler at night.
PROBLEM #4: NOISE
There's the 5 am garbage truck variety that's impossible to ignore. But when it's too quiet, the slightest disruption can reach epic proportions and you find yourself focused on that weird hum or dripping faucet. Either way, you need a way to soundproof your sleep.
Fixes: If it's too loud, wear earplugs as a first resort. Or, try a white noise machine or app —or even a basic fan— to drown out any noises that violate your REM cycle. If it's really bad, get as far away from the offending noise as possible. Either move your bed to another wall to dampen neighbor noises, or, if you have the option, try swapping your current bedroom with another room entirely. Read more on bedroom noise here.
PROBLEM #5: MATTRESS
Having a healthy, comfortable, supportive mattress is critical to a good night's sleep.
Fixes: Flip your mattress with the seasons, alternating between end-over-end and side-over-side rotation. If it's time for a new one, check out Danny Seo's great tips on mattress shopping. A couple of years ago, Maxwell also experimented with different mattress brands for twelve months and wrote about it in his Year in Bed series.