Sufficient (and high quality) sleep is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle.
It provides the platform to allow other aspects of your lifestyle to flourish - whether it's sticking to a workout regimen, controlling meal portions, keeping stressors at bay, and so on.
We tend to make a big effort to invest time and money in our fitness and nutrition.
From a time perspective, we regularly take several hours out a week to train, cook, track and reflect.
From a financial perspective, we may pay for a gym membership, kitchen gadgets, training accessories and so on.
We readily understand that the quality of our training, nutrition and physical fitness matters - so we invest in them.
But without a grip on your sleep, many of these investments will either be wasted or diluted in effectiveness. If it isn't already, sleep ought to be a day-to-day priority - one you look to improve quickly, if required.
Today, we'll look at some smart ways you can invest in the quality of your sleep. In some ways, these will help protect the time and money you invest in other areas.
Things To Consider
It's logical to look to optimise the very environments that make the biggest differences to our ability to progress and grow.
We wouldn't choose to have a perpetually untidy kitchen, with the things we use the most packed away in cupboards. We keep kitchens orderly and things accessible.
We wouldn't choose to train in a gym we weren't comfortable in, or that was too far out of the way - so we attend one that's well located, has all the kit we need and that we feel good being in.
We wouldn't meditate in a noisy environment where we'd be constantly disturbed - so we select a more peaceful, comfortable space where we can relax.
When it comes to your sleep environment, first think: 'is it set up in a way that helps me sleep well?''
Some basic things to consider:
Does your environment make you feel peaceful and calm?
How many distractions are within your environment?
It it a safe space, where you can truly relax?
Is the bed ultra-comfortable (including pillows, blanket, duvet and sheets)?
Does the lighting work for you, when it comes to winding down each bedtime?
Asking yourself some questions may identify some gaps that could (and should) be addressed.
We'll now look at some level-ups - some investments - when it comes to optimising your sleep.
Light plays a big role in your sleep-wake cycle (your circadian rhythm) and dark conditions are best.
Your environment needn't be pitch-black, but dark enough so as not to not disturb your cycle.
Curtains & Blinds | Do they let natural light in? If so, consider replacing them with ones that are more effective and keep gaps of light out. You might instead invest in an eye mask - especially in the spring/summer months or if your partner prefers light at bedtimes or the mornings (premium option from Blissy here; cost-effective version from Mavogel here).
Artificial Light Audit | Remove any LED or standby lights from your environment that are distracting. I've even had clients remove all electronics from their environments, but this would be your choice.
Set The Mood | Hygge aficionados would certainly say that, in order to promote instant cosiness, candles are key. Be careful with your choices, though: a study undertaken by the Danish Building Research Institute concluded that candles shed more particles indoors than cooking and smoking. If you light candles to set a calming mood, you'll need to air out your room afterwards.
Lamps & Bulbs | Well placed lamps, paired with the right bulbs, can create soothing environments that instantly change the tone of a room. Instead of super-bright, fluorescent light fixtures, shop around for a nice lamp or two - and experiment with different bulbs. Bulb colour temperatures of around 1800K (the 'K' stands for Kelvin) match the temperature of sunsets, wood and candle flames. For comparison, a camera flash is around 5500K, fluorescent light strips are 5000K and incandescent lamps are 3000K.
Sleep quality increases in cooler environments. If you're hot or sweaty when trying to sleep, it can cause disruption.
Regulate Temperature | If you're able to regulate your room temperature, set it around 17-19 degrees Celsius (63-66 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don't have the ability to programme a set temperature for your environment, consider a room temperature monitor, which will allow you to make changes (ie. open a window/door) if needed. This option from Oria has a bluetooth sensor that can be placed near your bed, and will feed data back to an app.
Warm Up | If your environment is often cooler than 17 degrees, then consider investing in an electric blanket or a cosy throw to help keep you warm enough to sleep well.
Cool Down | If your environment is often hotter than 19 degrees (particularly true in the summer months or in hot climates), then consider investing in an oscillating fan to help cool you down. I'll cover noise further down, so opt for as silent a product as your budget allows. A cool shower or a small towel soaked in cold water by your bedside can be particularly effective if you're feeling hot before bed, and I've even had clients invest in air-conditioning units to help keep sleep environment temperatures regulated! As with all the recommendations on this page, personal choice and budgets matter - so make the best calls here.
Bedding & Mattress
The comfort of your bed can play a huge role in sleep volumes, quality and time-to-sleep metrics.
Your Bed | If you share a bed, it's important that you have enough space to move around, as it'll reduce the chances of you being inadvertently woken by your partner and/or not feeling like you're perpetually on the edge of your bed. If this is an issue, then consider investing in a larger bed, so your sleeps are as interruption-free as possible.
Bedding | This may take some experimentation, but first consider if it's an issue in the first place. If your sheets feel abrasive or uncomfortable, then shop around for some alternatives. Sheets and covers last a long time with the correct care, so are worth investing in - but only if needed.
Pillow & Mattress | Again, this may take some experimentation, but if you're continually waking up achy, it might be time to upgrade. Personal preferences play a major role here, so shop around for what you feel would represent an upgrade from your current set up.
Sleep environments should be focused on their primary roles: sleep and sex.
Unfortunately, they've now easily become far more than simply a room with a bed in it. They've become TV rooms, dining rooms, reading rooms and so on.
Diversify Your Activity Locations | If you have more than one room, then make the conscious choice to migrate all activities that don't involve sleep or sex away from your bedroom, as far as you possibly can.
Remove Distractions | If you're prone to waking up earlier than planned (or struggle to fall asleep), the simple removal of all potential distractions from your sleep environment is high impact. This means, in most cases, the removal of all forms of electronic devices that we might otherwise use instead of getting to sleep. Laptops, TV's, consoles, phones and tablets are prime examples of the types of devices that push time-to-sleep metrics up, sleep volumes down, or both. Be honest and indiscriminate with this. Be prepared to go through some initial discomfort for far longer-term gain.
Alarm Clocks | Instead a digital alarm clock (with the artificial light), invest in a simple mechanical one.
What you choose to wear in bed can impact your sleep quality. Opt for loose-fitting and comfortable sleep wear - ones that allow for easy movement and breathability - every night.
Noise can both trigger and maintain sleeplessness. During your lighter sleep stages, it sometimes doesn't take much noise at all to wake you up or disrupt quality.
Noisy neighbours, unsupportive partners, beeping cars, planes overhead, sirens, snoring partners, crying babies and even chirping birds...the potential for noise to become an issue that impacts sleep is abundant.
Earplugs | This is the simplest solution. These can be picked up online or in most pharmacies and can make a big difference. Try not to become reliant on them - only using them when needed. It's easy for these to become a prop that you use nightly, but this can be counterproductive. If you invest in good quality plugs, it's normal to also become more attuned to 'internal' noises like your heartbeat or breathing. Bear this in mind, allowing some time to get used to them.
Conversations With Your Partner | If you have a partner who snores or plays music whilst you're trying to sleep, it's worth speaking to them about ways in which they can help you. Them seeing a professional for snoring, or choosing to listen to music via headphones can make a marked difference to your nights sleep.
Your Overall Environment
Clutter | Your sleep environment must respect its purpose. Too much clutter and mess can make it harder to relax and view your environment as one of rest. Set aside a half day to have a good clear up, if needed - moving things to other rooms and getting the entire space set up for sleep.
Smell | A sleep environment that smells of food, damp, pets, smoke, etc won't encourage relaxation nor restful sleep. If you don't have more than one room to siphon other activities out to, consider investing in an odour-reducer like this one from Neutradol. I'm not a fan of artificial smells like air freshening sprays, but if it makes you feel calmer, then you could also opt for one as a short-term measure (this would include products such as pillow sprays). Another option are plants and/or flowers in this environment. Lavender, velerian and aloe vera plants emit a soothing smell, as well as help regulate humidity and purify the air.
Maintenance | Schedule in time each week to ensure that your sleep environment is clean and aired - dusting, wiping down surfaces, ventilating and vacuuming regularly. You theoretically spend over a third of your entire day in this space, so ensuring you're breathing in good, clean air is a must.
A Final Word
When considering your sleep environment, acknowledge that it really is something that can be controlled - especially if you struggle with getting to sleep, achieving good volumes or quality.
You can make some choices to help you. You can control a lot of the variables when it comes to such an important daily environment. You can make a big difference to your outcomes here.
Please do share any changes or upgrades you choose to make in the comments below.
On The Fit Life Club (free forever) we even have a specific 'Sleep' topic you can follow, together with other growth-minded Members who share an interest in this area too. Any posts related to sleep will include you on the updates list, so it's well worth joining and following.