Part 5 - Sleep Environment

Making small but important changes to the bedroom environment can help to improve the quality of your sleep.

Sleep in darkness
Exposure to light causes the eyes to send messages to the brain telling it to stay awake. By having too much light in the bedroom during sleep, the natural sleep cycle is disturbed and the quality of sleep suffers as a result.
Using thick curtains, black-out blinds or an eye mask to block out rays of light can play an important role in quality sleep.

 
Room temperature
It can be difficult to sleep when the room is too hot or cold. The ideal temperature for a good night’s rest is thought to be between 16–18°C as this encourages a small but significant drop in body temperature. As the body temperature lowers,
melatonin is released, which encourages sleep.


Décor and room use
Bright colours and busy wallpapers may be exciting and eye-catching, but that is not a recipe for a good night’s sleep. More muted, soothing colours are advisable in the bedroom.
Similarly, it is important to avoid clutter and ensure that the bedroom does not also double up as a home office or study.


The sleep system
The term sleep system refers to the base, mattress, pillows, duvet and sheets of a bed. Each element can have a significant impact on the quality of sleep and comfort.

 
The science of comfort
Of all the factors that affect the sleep environment, the sleep system is considered to be the most important. It is the comfort afforded by the sleep system, particularly the sleep surface (mattress and pillows), which enables an individual
to enter the sleep state.
A 2011 report commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation found that 92% of those surveyed felt a good mattress was important in getting a good night’s sleep. 91% also said the same of pillows.


Comfort is dictated by three main factors:
• Postural support
• Pressure relief
• Temperature


Posture and support
Mild discomfort can lead to regular ‘micro-awakenings’ that inhibit the restorative nature of sleep. Maintaining comfortable posture when lying down helps the
musculoskeletal system to remain in a relaxed position. A good mattress and pillows will help to maintain comfort and alignment during the hours you are not awake.


Pressure relief
It is the role of the mattress and pillow to evenly distribute the body’s weight and prevent undue pressure on problem areas such as the lower back, neck, pelvis shoulder, hips and ankles. Well-distributed pressure allows blood to flow around the body more easily.


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