Sleep Environment Often Ignored
The survey responses come as no surprise to sleep psychologist Shelby Harris, PsyD, who directs the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Sleep-Wake Disorder Center in New York.
She tells WebMD that the sleep environment is an important, but largely ignored, component of a good night’s sleep.
While fluffed pillows and scented sheets are not likely to solve serious sleep problems, changing the bedroom environment to make it more comfortable can help occasional poor sleepers rest easier, Harris says.
She also recommends reserving the bed for just two things: sleep and sex.
“A lot of people watch TV in bed or pay their bills or even do their taxes, and then wonder why their minds continue to race when they want to go to sleep,” she says. “We encourage people to make their bedroom a sanctuary for sleep.”
Harris says people tend to wrongly think sleep is something they can turn on and off like a light switch.
“I encourage my patients to think of it more like a dimmer,” she says. “An hour or so before bed you should be psychologically turning down the mind and body to relax and prepare for sleep.”
- Turning down lights about an hour before bed to signal to the body that it’s time to relax.
- Unplug by staying away from the computer, iPad, and smart phone in the hour before you go to bed. In addition to being stimulating, the blue light emitted by these devices seems to trick the body into thinking its daytime.
- Eating meals at least three hours before bedtime and limiting liquids during the hours before sleep. Shortly before bedtime, though, a small snack that includes protein and carbohydrate can be beneficial, Harris says.