Last month we started to talk more seriously about sleep, its role in our Thriving lives and how important it was to get enough of it. While we look at some of the issues that keep us from getting an adequate amount of sleep one more issue to tackle before clinical problems is that of our sleep environment. Do you recall my suggestion to keep your bed reserved for “bed purposes only”? How about if we start there?

As we discussed last month if our brain’s begin to think our beds can be used for playing video games, watching TV or having an argument its very difficult to send the message that when the lights go out the time for actual sleep has arrived. Other triggers to tell our brains that it is time for sleep include what might be called a bed time routine; closing down our living space, switching off electronics, brushing our teeth and the such. As children you might have had the option of a bed time story or two, perhaps a set amount of time each night after you got into bed before you had to turn off the light. Those same routines can be used now!

Once you’ve established a routine it is important to keep it up, every day of the year, give or take a few variations for vacation, illness or an emergency. This may seem really unusual but in allowing our bodies to have such a routine we are taking every precaution we can to get enough sleep for a Thriving Life.

Let’s say you’ve done all of the above and yet sleep is still being elusive or you’re waking up each morning feeling uncomfortable. Could it be your bed? Mattresses do not and should not be used for 20 years between updates! Like us, they age. Rotating, if possible, helps extend their lives but ultimately, whatever kind of sleeping surface you have will need to be switched out.

As you undoubtedly know, there are any number of options for what to sleep on ranging from futons to foam to pillow top this and that. Water, memory foam, inner springs, mattresses with air bladders in them to pump up or down depending on your preference! Its enough to make your head spin! Here’s my only recommendation regarding what to sleep on ~ make sure it works for you. It only has to work for you and your sleep partner. Go to stores, actually lie down and stay down on a bed to make sure its comfortable for you. Twist, turn, curl to make sure it works for you; and stay on the bed for at least 10-15 minutes. Almost anything can feel tolerable for the first few minutes but after a few minutes we really get to see if it is going to work for us.

Some other considerations to take into account:

  • Is your room cool enough? We sleep better in cool rooms than in warm ones.
  • Is the room dark and quiet enough? Window shades, ear plugs or white noise machines help.
  • Are you being mindful not to drink caffeine after twelve noon? Not exercise within 4 hours of going to bed and not eating before bed?
  • Do you have a medical condition, which needs attention but is not directly related to sleep (such as apnea or RLS)? Thyroid issues, prostrate issues, gastrointestinal issues and other medical problems can all impact both the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
  • Are you anxious or worried about an issue which can’t be addressed at midnight? Remember, worrying about an issue never solved it!
  • Do you get middle of the night visitors in the form of your children or pets that should be sleeping in their own spaces?

Next month we’ll start to look at bigger and more complex problems which have the capacity to keep us from getting good quality sleep but for now these will start you off on your good night’s sleep. Wishing you pleasant dreams!