According to the American Sleep Association, insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder with 30% of adults reporting short-term insomnia and 10% reporting chronic insomnia. Terry Cralle, RN, is a certified Clinical Sleep Educator and certified in Clinical Sleep Health. She is also the co-author of Sleeping Your Way To The Top as well as children's book Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle. She says, "The quality of life you lead largely depends on how well you sleep at night."
There are many factors that can contribute to sleep issues. But no matter the diagnosis, Cralle believes our bedrooms can be part of the problem and that re-evaluating our sleeping spaces can be a drug-free way to treat insomnia.
1. Put Sleep First Cralle believes bedrooms should only have two purposes—sleep and sex. Anything else can potentially affect our health negatively.
The first step of auditing a bedroom for optimal rest is to remove anything we don't need because clutter can cause stress and anxiety. This even includes items we store under the bed. "Even though it's out of sight, it's still distracting. If you are short on storage space, only store sleep-related items there (bed sheets, linens, and pillows)," Cralle says.
Remove excessive books, electronics, unfolded laundry, exercise equipment, stacks of bills and other work. Neaten up any objects that must be left out.
Nightstands also tend to be used for storage. Cralle says to make sure your nightstands have cabinets or drawers to minimize visual clutter. "Limit the nightstand surface to a lamp, photo, book or journal and water carafe."
2. Hide Electronics It's also best to remove electronics from the bedroom. Not just because they're distracting, but also because their light can affect sleep. Cable boxes, digital alarm clocks and other devices should not be in the space. However, that isn't always realistic. So, Cralle suggests hiding televisions in an armoire or cabinet. Installing a custom pop-up or drop-down television lift is more ideal because it hides everything completely.
3. Choose Colors Conducive To Sleep Cralle says cool colors like light blue, gray, silver, green, and lavender as well as neutral shades are ideal for the bedroom. "Cool colors lower blood pressure and heart rate to help ensure a proper night's sleep."
Interior designer Alexis Rodgers of Home With Alexis likes using Farrow & Ball's Borrowed Light cut down to 75% of its original formula, as shown in the photo above. This light blue paint is her go-to color for bedroom walls.
A survey of 2,000 people found that those who had blue bedrooms averaged 7 hours and 52 minutes of sleep each night. Next in line were the colors moss green, pale yellow, and silver. Another survey found that purple bedroom walls were the least conducive to a good night's sleep.
Green is another good option because the color is also considered stress relieving, says Cralle, "A true green is considered a strong color, so pastel shades of green may be more calming than true green."
For a more minimalistic look, she suggests painting the walls white and using green accents.
Shades of red should most definitely be avoided. Cralle sites a 2003 Minnesota State University study, where the subjects in red rooms had higher rates of stress compared to those in green or white rooms. "This suggests that the color of a person's environment affects stress levels." Red is also known to increase blood pressure and heart rate.
As a general rule, it's simply best for most of us to avoid painting bedroom walls a dark color. However, says Cralle, dark walls make it easier to sleep during the day. So, shift workers like doctors and nurses may want to keep that in mind.
Don't forget about the finish. Cralle prefers using a flat paint finish as opposed to glossy because it keeps colors softer.
4. Sleep On A Good Mattress A good mattress can improve your sleep and thus improve your health. We also spend hours each day on our mattresses, so investing in a quality one should be the utmost priority.
A mattress must provide a balance of both comfort and support, explains Cralle. "Comfort is the ability of a mattress to spread body weight over the sleep surface to relieve pressure points. Pressure is measured in mmhg, and 32mmhg or lower is considered pressure relieving. Support is the ability of a mattress to maintain spinal alignment while you sleep."
Size also matters. "A mattress should be large enough for you and your bed partner to move easily," says Cralle. "Although Queen is the most popular bed size in America, a King size mattress will provide extra room and may be well worth the investment if it results in better sleep quality."
Another factor to take into consideration when choosing a mattress is age. As we age, skin becomes less elastic which increases sensitivity at pressure points. So softer, more "plush" mattresses may be more comfortable for older generations.
5. Blackout Shades Can Help You To Blackout Light is the enemy of sleep. So, bedrooms should be as dark as possible, ideally with blackout curtains. If that's not possible, a sleep mask may do the trick.
The Shade Store makes getting custom fitted blackout shades and other window treatments as simple as possible. Their measuring services are complimentary, so there is no need to worry about mistakes or paying professional fees for just a few windows. They also carry many exclusive collections including Nate Berkus, Chilewich, One King's Lane, and Aerin among others.
6. Keep It Quiet Rugs can help reduce noise, especially if one partner wakes up while the other is still sleeping and needs to get out of bed with hardwood floors below. Make sure to choose plush materials like faux fur, shag, wool, silk or chenille. "Bedroom area rugs are typically placed underneath the lower two-thirds of the bed. This is so you will have a soft area to get in and out of bed in the morning," says Cralle.
If reducing noise is a priority, upholstered furniture, especially beds are ideal. The Inside carries some of the chicest upholstered furniture and takes the guesswork completely out of mixing and matching solids and prints. Nearly every item they carry is upholstered including beds, ottomans, benches, and chairs, many of which are available in cool shades.
Cralle is also a proponent of ceiling fans. "The air movement and white noise they provide is relaxing and helps with sleep."
Fabric wall hangings and tapestries can also aid in noise reduction. Society6 has an entire line of these textiles designed by independent artists.
7. Choose Proper Bedding Bedding plays a big role in sleep. Cralle prefers all white bedding because she says it is often associated with luxury and cleanliness. "If the thought of crisp, clean white sheets makes you want to hit the hay on time, then it's worthwhile."
However, she admits that not all experts agree. "Dr. Oz has a sheet color chart and maintains that white sheets are sleep-wreckers because the whiteness reflects the light, which stops the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep."
While many of us are under the impression that the higher the thread count, the better, Cralle reveals that isn't necessarily true. "A thread count over 400 may trap body heat, which can be a problem if you are a hot sleeper."
Hot sleepers may want to consider bedding designed to stay cool such as the newly launched bamboo rayon line My Sheets Rock. These Oeko-Tex certified sheets are 50% less humid and three to four degrees cooler than most cotton sheets.
Cralle says most people should aim for a thread count between 280 and 450. But at the same time, she says it's a personal choice. We all know what feels the most comfortable to us.
Cralle also stresses that making the bed every single day can actually help us sleep better at night. This isn't just because our mothers nagged us or that a made bed creates a neater space visually. "Turning down a made bed at bedtime is one of several steps of an effective pre-sleep routine that serves as a cue to help us transition from wake to sleep. Crawling into a neatly made bed at bedtime can promote a pleasant feeling of comfort and relaxation."