How to make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary

How to make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary

We’ve all had to embrace a new normal over the past few months and for many, that includes working from home. What was once considered a luxury for a lucky few, is now part of our collective lockdown lifestyle. Many of us don’t have homes equipped for working from home and only have the choice of a cramped dining table shared with kids/teenagers/partners/housemates or - often the only room with space that affords some semblance of peace and quiet - the bedroom. But what does this mean for our sleep quality?

Tempur Sleep Expert and chartered psychologist, Suzy Reading, says: “It won’t come as a surprise that the best sleep environment is one reserved solely for sleep, however, the reality is currently far from this.

“There are so many temptations at an arms distance that will keep us awake at night, such as streaming our favourite TV shows and movies, social media, messaging friends and family, checking or waiting on important emails, not to mention stress and anxiety disorders that are commonplace due to our busy, modern lifestyles and inevitably amplified by the current situation we all find ourselves in."

Location, location, location

To ensure quality and quantity of sleep, your bedroom should ideally be reserved for sleep and rest and relaxation only, so do take the time to consider if it’s really necessary to work there and look for other options. If you deem the dining table too crowded or noisy, consider alternating with other working household members. You could take it in turns to work outside in the sunshine (WiFi allowing) or in the living room. If you have children, consider using their bedroom as your office – so long as it isn’t where you’re planning on sleeping. Any room will be better than your own bedroom. You can always decamp to your bedroom for calls where you need your own headspace.

If your bedroom really is the only workspace option, set up a dedicated area – with a worktop and chair. You will find this helps your productivity as you have physically moved out of and away from your bed. This will also help ensure the best physiological response (calm and relaxation) when you return to bed at the end of the day.

Preparation is key

Avoid reaching for the laptop as soon as you open your eyes and, just as you would get ready for work, make sure you’re implementing a daily morning routine to help remove yourself from your ‘just woken up’ headspace in preparation for the working day.

  • Set an alarm to allow for reasonable and unhurried getting ready time, allowing for a shower, breakfast and personal admin or chores before settling down to work.
  • Changing out of your pyjamas is a must – not just to help get into the work mindset, but to help you switch off at the end of the day when you inevitably change back into comfortable sleepwear.
  • Make the bed in the morning to avoid the urge of climbing back into it at any point during the day and so it’s inviting again at bedtime.
  • If your desk is in the bedroom, it’s also important to eat all meals elsewhere, both to ensure you’re taking adequate breaks, and to prevent filling your sleep sanctuary with unpleasant odours come bedtime.

Enjoy some fresh air

If you’re working from home or your bedroom, it’s important to take a mid-morning break, preferably with a quick walk outside. A dose of sunshine helps to boost the body’s natural circadian rhythms in preparation for sleep and mediates the effects of screen time. Mark the end of your day with some fresh air too. Getting outside for just 15 minutes will help you wind down and mentally close the workday. A walk is a great way to decompress, relax and enjoy some light exercise.

You’ll not only feel brighter and more clear-headed, but you’ll also soak up a healthy dose of Vitamin D which is essential for many bodily functions, including supporting the immune system, strengthening bones and ensuring healthy muscles. You’ll notice the relaxation benefits of this post-work ritual almost immediately, boosting your mood generally, and your sleep quantity and quality come bedtime.

The right scent

Using a scent can help us delineate between time to be switched on and time to unwind, especially important if you’re working or studying from your bedroom. Citrus or pine scent is ideal to keep us alert and focused during the day. At bedtime, swap for lavender or rose scent as these are well known for their sleep-inducing qualities. Add a few drops of essential oil to your bedding or spritz onto your pillow before bed. Every night you can enjoy breathing in the calming scent – you’ll find that you start to associate the scent with sleep too, making it easier to drift off and enjoy sweet dreams.

Breathing exercises

If you’re finding it hard to unwind and switch off for sleep, try some breathing exercises designed to promote rest and relaxation. While in bed, feel the sensation of your breathing, allowing it to be as smooth as spacious as possible. Ideally, the exhalation will be longer than the inhalation. Try the ‘candle breath’ technique, which is when you breathe in slowly through the nose, breathe out slowly through gently pursed lips as if you are blowing out a candle. Repeat for five minutes.

If sleep is hard to come by, try the 4/7/8 exercise popularised by Dr Andrew Weil. This is useful whenever you are feeling overwhelmed. Repeat the process for a maximum four times. Inhale through the nose for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, then exhale through the mouth with the tip of the tongue behind the top two front teeth for a count of eight. Remember this is counts, not seconds, and a count is determined by how long you can comfortably hold the breath in. Keep it relaxed and don’t overdo it, the exercise should not feel like hard work.

Fine-tune your sanctuary

Try to resist the temptation to watch television or look at your phone or tablet when in bed as technology is designed to stimulate your mind and keep you engaged; neither of which are conducive to a good night’s sleep. There’s a reason the Netflix CEO labelled sleep the streaming giant’s number one competitor.

The ideal room temperature for sleep is around 16 degrees, however it really is personal preference and you should adjust the temperature to suit. You should also consider if your duvet is too thick, if you find yourself getting too warm and throwing it off in the middle of the night, it’s worth investing in a lighter, lower tog duvet.

Opt for loose-fitting cotton pyjamas which are lightweight and breathable, as this will keep you cool as we head into the warmer summer months. Nightwear made from man-made materials such as polyester contribute to increased body temperature.

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