Better Sleep – Part 2

?????nLast week we discussed a couple of techniques to prepare ourselves for better sleep. If you did read part 1 then check it out here. This week we’ll be looking at the second (of three) topic of better sleep, namely environment.


Life is a multi-sensory experience. It’s through our eyes, ears, nose and sense of touch that we understand the world. Sights, sounds, smells and feelings can act as triggers to our memories and thoughts. They can motivate us to action, they can lead us to despair or they can help us relax. By using the senses the mind is incredibly good at building a three dimensional map of the world- a map which it uses to put us in different mind-sets for different purposes (e.g. “you’re in the office, so we’re in work mode” or “we’re our favourite local, so it’s time to relax”).

By using what we know about our senses and the how the mental map affects us, we can continue to make improvements on the quality of sleep we get… and you may be surprised at how quickly your sleep can improve by making some minor changes.

Why make changes to the environment?

Preparing an environment for our sense and its purpose may, at first, seem like an odd proposal but in actuality we do it with every room of which we have control. If you think about a rooms purpose, what we tend to find is that the room is designed to facilitate that purpose. The living room has multiply seating options, a TV (for entertainment) and is often designed to be welcoming and relaxed. An office will, by contrast, have a desk and chair, a computer and will be (ideally) uncluttered and distraction free. Yet, for many, the bedroom has become a multi-purpose room.

In almost every house, the main bedroom contained a bed (for sleeping), a wardrobe (for dressing), a book shelve (filled with books, DVDs, CDs and ornaments) a television (for entertainment) and maybe even a computer (be it a laptop or small work station). The purpose of the bedroom has become lost.

Now I’m not going to suggest a full DIY SOS makeover but it’s worth removing things that are not about “bedroom activities”. The point being, when we walk into our bedroom, we want the map in our heads to say “we’re in the bedroom, this is for sleeping and the other thing we do in bed(ask your parents)”

So how do we achieve this?

The keys to a great sleeping environment are increasing comfort and reducing distraction. As such, what follows is a list of tips on how to do just that:

Get a comfy bed – We spend just over a third of our lives in bed so spend your money where you spend your time. Don’t be afraid to investigate what bed will be good for you. Having a quick lie down in the showroom may not cut it, so lie in your bed and figure out how long it takes for you to feel uncomfortable, then spend that much time testing each mattress (you might want to take a book). The sales people won’t thank you for it but your sleep patterns will.

Sleep in the dark – unless of course you’re afraid of the dark, you will get to sleep easier in complete darkness. The modern world seems intent on filling our nights with light, so make some time to remove any light sources from your bedroom. This can mean:

  • Covering LEDs with black electrical tape.
  • Turning off the LED on your phone
  • Removing any electrical equipment that has a light on it.
  • Making sure electrical equipment with lights are plugged into a timer plug socket that turns of their power supply at a pre-determined time.
  • Getting a blackout blind.
  • Buy yourself a good old fashioned sleeping mask.

Find a good temperature – Different people have different ‘comfortable temperatures’ and finding yours can be hugely beneficial.  Using fans or air conditioners to cool down or extra blankets to warm up is a nice quick change you can make to your sleeping regiment. As a side note, for couples this can be tricky. My other half, for example, runs quite hot (she’s like a radiator).  A simple fix here is having separate duvets. It cuts down on the “you stole the covers” argument and also helps insulate you from each other’s body heat when needed.

Get rid of lousy distractions – your crying new-born will wake you up and there’s nothing you can do about that. Other distractions are easily removed. If your alarm clock ticks then get a different one. If you phone buzzes with notification then stop them; there are a number of apps that will allow you to block notification on your phone for chosen time frames. If your partner snore… smother then with a pillow (only kidding)… help them find a way to stop (visiting your GP is a great place to start).

Smelly sleeping – There are those who say aromatherapy oils and incense can aid sleep. I can’t really comment here as I tried them but they made me sneeze.

As with part 1 the above is simply a list of suggestions. Try them and if they help, keep them. Sleep is personal so don’t be afraid to experiment.

I look forward to seeing you next week, when we’ll discuss timing.

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