Over the last couple of decades, the conclusion that good sleep hygiene is incredibly important for health has become more and more inescapable. Sleep deprivation can be seriously problematic – not just because drowsiness causes accidents, impairs judgement and affects the ability to concentrate, but also because disrupted circadian rhythms can contribute to a cascade of health issues like heart attacks, strokes and diabetes; not getting enough sleep can also cause skin ageing, depression, and increase weight gain.

It’s crucial then that the place where you sleep – your bedroom – is as optimized toward getting high quality rest as possible. There are various ways to achieve this, from the temperature and lighting to the furniture surrounding you. We’ll explore a few of them here.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

The fact that it’s easier to sleep when it’s dark is hardly novel; millions of years of evolution has hardwired into us the tendency to get drowsy when light levels begin to fall, and to wake up when it gets light, mainly based on melatonin production. So, the first step is to make sure that your bedroom is lit appropriately – or not lit at all. Try dimming the lights as you get ready for bed, or use a soft, bedside lamp instead of bright overhead lights.

When you shut them off for the night, hide digital clocks and glowing electronics from view, and if you have to get up for a call of nature, leave a night light in the hallway rather than turning on the overhead lights; this will disrupt melatonin levels. Also, consider blackout blinds or wearing a sleep mask if there are street lights or moonlight shining in from outside. Ideally, you want a bedroom that is as dark as possible without tripping over things.

Environmental Control

Light is important, but it is by no means everything.     For example, the temperature you keep your room at is crucial for ensuring uninterrupted, healthy sleep. We all know how difficult it is to drop off when you’re too hot or too cold, so getting the ambient temperature right is important. As you start to drop off to sleep, your body temperature lowers, so help it along by keeping your room 5–10° cooler than the rest of the house. You might also consider having a bath before bed – your body temperature will drop once you get out.

Ensuring that your environment is quiet enough is also an important factor. Try a thick rug and heavy blinds to muffle street noises, or if that’s not enough, consider a white noise machine or CD to drown out disruptions. You might even want to try earplugs to cut out the sound altogether. If you do use a CD, use one that has a sleep function and shuts off after 30–60 minutes. Experiment with this though: as you move through different sleep stages, unexpected noises might still wake you during shallower sleep cycles.

Furniture and Objects

Making sure that your room doesn’t contain unnecessary distractions will go a long way toward making sure that you get better sleep. Remove TVs and computers, take out the treadmill, and ensure that there are no reminders of anything stressful. You want to be in the right frame of mind and put the pressures of the day behind you before you attempt to doze off.

Your bedroom furniture is also a factor in how well you are able to get to sleep. Pick chairs and end tables that are functional and modest so they do their job but don’t stand out too much. And of course, bedding that keeps you warm and comfortable is a must. Consider soothing colours and lots of pillows – including a wedge for your back and a roll for your neck if necessary. Try to ensure that everything is hypoallergenic for maximum effect, and pick a high-quality mattress that lets you wake up in the morning without aches and pains, and your sleep will improve dramatically.

Following these tips will allow you both to fall asleep more easily and have a better time of it once sleep arrives. And sleep hygiene is not only good for your health, but feeling more awake will certainly improve your mood as well!