Sleeplessness, insomnia and poor sleep may have many causes including the architecture and design of your sleep quarters. However, sleep architecture usually does not refer to the design of the sleep environment alone but to the building blocks for overall good sleep: nutrition, routine, exercise and the structure and design of the bedroom.
Sleep is fundamental and important for one’s well-being. It rejuvenates, reduces stress and rebalances holistically a person’s body, mind and soul. Someone who is sufficiently well-rested doesn’t waste resources to stay awake, doesn’t have to fight fatigue and battle other negative long-term health effects related to lack of sleep.
Modern lifestyles make enough and good-quality sleep more difficult and challenging. The average person needs seven and a half to eight hours of sleep each night to recover from a stressful, fast-paced day. If this is not achieved, it may lead to lasting health problems including but not limited to increased heart rates and muscle tension. Sleep deprivation is also linked to higher levels of cortisol, hence stress, that weakens the immune system.
Here are a few tips and ideas to avoid the negative effects of too little or poor-quality sleep. They can be applied even before entirely rearranging or renovating bedrooms.
A sleep-friendly diet following nutritional guidelines helps prepare the body for its much-needed sleep. Low-sugar, low-gluten and low-lactose meals may sound complicated to integrate into one’s nutritional routines but abstaining from caffeine-containing beverages after two o’clock in the afternoon and stopping alcohol consumption three hours before sleep time will do the trick for a deeper sleep. Enjoying sleep-inducing teas and having an optimal diet covering all key nutrients assists the body in managing stress.
Across the board, sleep experts such as Dr. Michael Breus, who advises and consults with the Six Senses Group, and Shawn Stevenson, the creator of The Model Health Show, emphasize that keeping a constant routine will improve sleep quality. Going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time, including weekends, helps the body know when rest time is coming. It loves consistency.
A specific before-sleep routine may also increase the chances of a deep and relaxing slumber. Dr. Breus recommends 20 minutes of preparing the things that really need to be done for the next day; 20 minutes for the nightly hygiene that includes bathroom rituals of brushing teeth, washing the face and taking a hot bath or shower; and, finally, 20 minutes of relaxation in bed. The last phase may include meditation, aromatherapy, prayer or other relaxation techniques.
Another helpful routine is to exercise daily to maintain a healthy body. Activities such as yoga lower the risk of a sleepless night. For optimal results in the sleep department, the workout sessions should be concluded at least four hours before sleep time.
As you may have noticed, there was no mention so far of keeping the cell phone or other electronic devices with you at all times. In fact, they should be banned from any places where you intend to sleep.
The intense blue lights and the level of engagement one has with the content prevents the body from powering down. The lights of the phone and tablets are much closer to the eyes and the face than, for example, a bedside lamp or the TV. These light rays cause adverse effects for catching a good shut-eye. Studies have shown that watching TV is much less engaging than reading emails or streaming movies on smart devices.
A 2019 study by Tuck on binge-watching Netflix, Hulu or Amazon revealed that 85 percent of the respondents watch movies on their smart devices in bed. Of the 1,300 American respondents, 18 percent self-reported that they stream for more than two hours each night and 70 percent regularly fall asleep while watching.
Although many may think that watching comedy, action and drama helps to relax after a long day at work or stressful meetings, another study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM) in 2017 proved the opposite. The study showed that a third of the people interviewed experienced poor sleep or symptoms of insomnia.
The electronic and technology devices act as “presleep arousal tools” signaling to the body to get ready for action. According to the JCSM researchers, phones and tablets are best banned from bedrooms whenever possible.
This is a perfect segue to the design and setup of the sleeping quarters.
Bedrooms have become the second living rooms or entertainment hubs in the house which often prevent ideal sleep conditions. Restoring the bedrooms to their original purpose—sleep and sex— requires a bit of decluttering and discipline.
The main piece of furniture in the bedroom is the bed. An important factor to improve sleep quality is the mattress. It should fit body size and the number of people sleeping in the bed, keeping in mind pets and stuffed animals that are taking up space. Bodyweight and sleeping style should also be factored in when purchasing a mattress.
Organic, handmade mattresses such as the Naturalmat mattresses in the Six Senses properties regulate temperatures year-round. There are many other brands that will do the same in the comfort of one’s home. Adding a well-fitting hypoallergenic mattress pad protects against stains, bacteria and dust mites and increases overall well-being.
According to Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese architecture philosophy on spatial arrangement of objects, the bed is best placed against a wall far away from the door, but with a view of the door and window. A wooden headboard helps to strengthen one’s head according to Feng Shui and has a practical application. Cushioned headboards tend to accumulate dust faster and are more challenging to keep clean, so the wood prevents gathering too much anti-sleep dirt.
Quality cotton and linen bedding keep moisture away from the body and inhibit the growth of bacteria that are naturally produced by the skin. Pillows with a natural core such as pure feathers provide good neck support. To optimize sleep hygiene, bedding needs to be washed once a week and pillows should be replaced at least every two years.
Nightstands on both sides of the bed often resemble to-do-lists. Books and clutter are piling up left and right. Ideally, the nightstands have a shelf and drawer where all items can be easily stored out of sight to leave the top uncluttered and clean.
For the best energy flow, there should be enough room around the bed to get in and out comfortably and safely in the middle of the night, especially because the room is as dark as possible.
Blackout curtains rather than stylish lightweight window coverings and the closed bedroom door help to keep disturbing lights out and the energy in. A study from Cornell University showed that eye masks are an alternative to blackout curtains but not as effective as the skin still picks up light and makes it more difficult to get into the deep sleep phases.
Everything in the ideal sleep sanctuary is designed to power down and to help the 30 special cells in the eye, called melanopsin, to send signals to the brain to produce melatonin. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is essential to induce a relaxing sleep. In addition to the blackout curtains, dimming lights one hour before bedtime and covering alarm clocks or any LED displays to lower light intensity help to set up the perfect sleep scenario.
Alternatively, new technology lighting solutions filter out the exact wavelength of the light that triggers the melatonin release.
The powering down applies to wall colors and decorations in the room, too. Loud, bright wall colors or lampshade colors and patterns may keep you up at night. Preferable colors are pastels, neutral earth tones or blue. The latter has proven to reduce blood pressure.
Another interpretation of dimming is decluttering. Reducing the stimulation of the brain by eliminating distracting objects that could trigger a new wave of alertness before turning in can help achieve a state of calm.
Coming back to the electronic devices and their high concentration of blue light or rather their potential ban from the bedroom, it is better to read a paper book and use lamps with telescoping necks to shine on the book rather than on the eyes and the room. If you are, however, unable to stay away from your phone and tablet, experts suggest using red-light filters and airplane/sleep mode.
The other deep-sleep disturbance is noise. While many new appliances such as air conditioners, fans and dehumidifier provide better, more comfortable bedroom temperature and air quality, they could prevent a restful sleep due to the noise emission. Steady, soothing ambient sound either from these appliances or through white noise provided by smartphone apps or YouTube can help restore the peace to let the body and mind relax.
Other noises may be produced by certain building materials. Concrete walls, hardwood floors, metals, mirrors or other hard surfaces in the room can amplify noises according to Julian Treasure, a sound expert who studies the negative effects of noise on the human body. Adding a soft area rug has the effect of absorbing noise and feels soft and comfortable to sleepy feet.
These measures may help induce the deep sleep that is craved. If sleepless, it is best to remain calm and try meditation. While this is not deep sleep, it can take the body and mind to alpha, theta and delta states and a certain level of relaxation. Should the symptoms of sleeplessness persist, it is best to consult a physician.
Read more about Julian Treasure.