A 2017 report by the British sleep council details that almost a third of us are getting a rough night's sleep.12% of Brits are having less than 5 hours sleep a night. 51% of women are kept up at night due to worry and stress. These stats are probably no surprise and maybe you're one of those 51%, but what can we do about it?
In this article we look to design for solutions. Setting up your environment and by extension, yourself, for good night's sleep is often half the battle in maximizing your sleep quality.
So how can you create a heavenly sleep zone that will lull you off to deliciously sweet dreams?
The basics - darkness, silence and room temperature
The three most important factors affecting sleep quality is that you have a dark, quiet and cool place to sleep. These will directly affect your biology and how deep you can sleep.
Block out curtains
The reason we sleep better in darkness is that light is a danger signal the brain is programmed to react to, even when asleep. It makes us want to wake up to deal with any potential dangers and problems. Even if you don't wake up completely, the slightest shards of light will keep you in the light sleep zone, ready to react, thereby preventing deep sleep.
The easy fix is block-out curtains or blinds - a must in especially summer months, to create that dark cocoon of solace you need for a good night's sleep.
It's important to note though, that any light source can affect sleep quality - even the standby light on a TV or other electronic devices including light from alarm clocks, so make sure to keep them out of the bedroom.
In the en-suite or toilet, consider installing a night-light to avoid switching on the light for middle-of-the-night calls of nature. Turning on the light on can make it more difficult to get back to sleep.
Worst case scenario, if it's impossible to remove all light sources from the room, then sleep with an eye-mask. Treat yourself to a comfy one - some have gel inserts, or go for a luxurious silk feel.
Put your phone away
Not only does exposure to light while we are sleeping disturb our sleep patterns, but screens in particular emit a blue light which you want to avoid leading up to bedtime.
If you must use your phone prior to bedtime, you can use a program like F.lux that will minimize the disturbing blue light. Another reason to avoid screens before bed is that they stimulate you, especially interactive screens such as phones and tablets.
Try watching TV in another room, moving to the bedroom only when you're ready to sleep. Charge your phone in another room and ideally, switch off the WIFI.
Of course it makes sense that noise disturbs our sleep - not all of us are lucky enough to be able to sleep through anything, and particularly if you are a light sleeper, take some measures to limit your exposure to disturbance.
Consider double glazing for windows out onto the street, if you don't already have it. Try insulate the room as best you can from noise from other rooms of the house.
Move the bed away from the wall if you share a wall to another noisy room.
If you live with others, maybe you can discuss implementing some rules like TV watching, gaming or playing music after a certain hour should be accompanied by headphones.
A lower room temperature signals to your body that it is time to sleep. This mirrors nature, where, in the UK at least, temperature drops after nightfall. A dip in temperature sets off some bodily processes which make it easier to fall asleep and enjoy deep layers of sleep.
Generally an ideal room temperature is 18-19 degrees. If the temperature drops below 12 degrees or is over 23 degrees, it can adversely affect your sleep quality. So set up your thermostat.
Or, take a bath two or three hours before bedtime. You can trigger a drop in core body temperature if you first raise it a few hours earlier with a warm bath. To boost the relaxation factor, add a couple of drops of essential oil or listen to some mediation audio.
Air quality goes hand in hand with room temperature.
Air quality is another good reason to keep your bedroom clutter free, minimize the dust collection points.
Open the windows and get some fresh air into the bedroom daily. Remember to clean under the bed, and don't forget the ceiling. Change your bed linen regularly and avoid hanging clothes racks as they can look messy and collect dust.
In the bedroom, you need to plan out a few different light sources.
In addition to the main, functional, often ceiling lamp, you need some cosy additional lighting, preferably that have a dimmer switch.
At night, a soft warm light around 2200 kelvin is ideal for getting you ready for sleep. Invest in some soft lamps, that are beautiful as well as cosy.
Turn off the main lamp and use the soft lamps or reading lamps to light your way, whether you're curling up with a good book or doing some gentle yoga stretches.
Be wary of storing things in your bedroom - especially stuff on its way out that you can't put anywhere else. This only creates a feeling of overwhelm, raises your cortisol levels and makes sleep more elusive!
Get clutter out of the way with ample, functional storage. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling solutions work well to maintain clean lines and maximize storage space.
Be wary cupboards over the bed - they can make you feel heavy and weighed down.
Simple colour scheme
Choose a muted, calm colour scheme. It doesn't have to be clinical or boring - you can always accent with deeper colour, a specific contrast or bold design element to enliven the space. The most important colour consideration is that overall, it is a calming rather than stimulating space.
If you're going to paint and wondering what tone to go for, studies show that most people experience blue as the most relaxing colour that contributes to a quality sleep environment.
Luxe it up
The antidote to unfolded laundry and the other daily debris of life clogging up your room, is ordered luxury.
Think glamorous hotel rooms.
There is a reason why hotel rooms are designed minimally and elegantly.
Luxury creates a feeling of control, that everything is in order in life. If everything is in order, then it's quite safe to let your eyes close and snooze.
Invest in quality bed linen that will entice you to sink into bed.
Make your bed soft, inviting and comfortable and, if possible, let it take centre stage in the middle of the room to clearly inform your subconscious that the space is all about the bed, and in turn, your sleep.
Style a sleep station
Your bedside is likely one of the last things you will see before drifting off, so make the most of styling it for sleep.
Cover the basics by ensuring your bedside table has a drawer to tuck away anything you might need, but don't necessarily want to see - medication, tissues, glasses, electronics, etc.
With a clear surface to work with, think of your bedside as a sleep aid station.
What design elements could you include to help ready you for sleep?
Pick something beautiful and calming to focus on, nothing that evokes strong emotions. For example, a photo of a loved one who has passed may not be best placed on your bedside, as much as you might miss them and want them close, a photo may evoke emotions which aren't helpful when trying to wind down.
Any object, artwork or text that make you feel safe is a fantastic option.
Or you could adorn your bedside with something beautiful and functional that could be part of a bedtime routine, like an indulgent bottle of luxurious hand cream or body lotion, or an oil diffuser with some relaxing scents.
Bedtime routines are not just for kids.
Routine helps the brain identify you are preparing for sleep. Like most of our neurophysiological systems, our sleep system likes predictability and consistency because its calm and safe.
The brain starts preparing for sleep about two hours prior to bedtime so you should start winding down activities, and definitely stop work by then.
If you’re hungry, eat a light snack like an apple or yoghurt.
Don’t get into bed until about 20 minutes before you want to sleep. If you spend too long in bed reading or watching TV, your body gets used to being awake in bed. Not good. Rather, you want to program your body to associate being in bed with being asleep.
If there’s a big discrepancy between bedtime on weekends and during the week, it will of course be harder for you to fall asleep early during the week, so try to keep a fairly regular bed time.
When considering relaxing activities to incorporate into your bedtime routine, a number of sleep benefits have been shown from relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, hypnosis, EFT and aromatherapy.
You know its good for you, but you don't need to beat yourself up about trying to fit in hour long classes during your busy week.
You can also reap the benefits of a short series of gentle stretches before bed. Good for your body and great sleep aid for your mind.
Counting sheep and other ways of talking yourself to sleep
You can actively address your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep by undertaking a relaxation activity such as deep breathing, counting breaths, positive affirmations or EFT.
EFT combines both breathing and self talk, connecting the mind and body through a series of accupressure points. Beginners can start with Brad Yates' videos.
More and more people are turning to podcasts, apps and other audio to get them to sleep at night. For some an audiobook might do the trick, or the sound of rain or the ocean.
Others like a guided meditation and the king of easing your body to sleep and putting your subconscious to good use is Michael Sealey whose free sleep meditations and hynopses have helped hundreds of insomniac listeners.
It's a big word for something very simple, it is the art of using essential oils to create different moods and there are a variety you can use.
Lavender is the oil best known for its relaxing and calming properties, but it can also be too strong for some people, in which case you might want to go for a blend. A lot of oil producers mix their own sleep blends, sniff out what's on the market to find a scent you like.
Diffuse the oils in a diffuser 30 mins before bedtime or during the night. Alternatively apply with a bit of coconut oil to the back of your neck and sweet dreams!
So there you have the ultimate guide for setting up your bedroom for sleep. With a combination of smart design choices, functional as well as aesthetic furniture and lighting, well considered styling details and some healthy habits, you too can achieve a better night's sleep every night.