How to tweak your bedroom AND bedtime habits for better rest
Summer. Vacations, backyard barbecues, sunshine, swims in the lake and warm temperatures are ours for the taking. It’s the season when many people kick their fun living into high gear.
To get the most out of all that summer offers, you’ll want to be well prepped with a sleep-optimized bedroom and nighttime habits functioning at peak performance. But can you improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep? Overnight? The good news is that a few simple tweaks to your bedtime routine – and your sleep space in general – will make a positive impact on the quality of your sleep.
Start by creating a sleep sanctuary
While your bedroom should be an oasis of peace in this busy world, it might also serve as an ad hoc home office or a family gathering place. It’s where we begin our days and end them. It’s where we dream, hope, plan – and hopefully find a good night’s sleep. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, “An organized and well-considered space can improve your mood when you need to get to sleep, and get your day off to a good start when you wake.”
Drew and Jonathan Scott, hosts of HGTV’s Property Brothers and founders of Scott Living Home advise beginning with making space. “At the start of each new season, I clean out my closet and drawers,” says Drew. “I donate anything I haven’t worn in at least year or, as Marie Kondo would say, items that don’t spark joy – no exceptions.”
Jonathan says the start of summer is a good time to rethink storage space in your bedroom. If your bedroom is cluttered, that means it could be dusty. Read allergens that can aggravate allergies and disturb sleep. Choose furniture that does double duty – like a platform bed with drawers under it for storage. “Multi-purpose furniture is not only functional, but incredibly practical,” says Jonathan.” A piece of furniture that looks sleek, stores items and saves space is a triple win.”
Next, make your bedroom dark
If sunshine earlier in the morning wakes you up early, you’re not dreaming. “Some individuals may be prone to insomnia due to the warmer weather and increased light stimulation,” says Dr. Ramiz Fargo, medical director, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Sleep Disorders Center in California. “Bright light into the early evening inhibits melatonin secretion resulting in a decreased tendency to stay asleep.”
He suggests installing blackout curtains in the bedroom and wearing sunglasses into the early evening to reduce the stimulation of the body clock, which prevent a shift in circadian rhythms.
Then, stay cool
If you find yourself without the luxury of air condition, you know how hard it is to fall asleep during a heatwave. “It doesn’t take huge increases in heat to affect your sleep,” explains Dr. Jonathan Greenburg, a sleep expert and founder of Zyppah Inc., an anti-snoring device. “Higher body temperatures alter the amount of time spent in varying sleep stages.”
Aim for your bedroom to be around 65F (18C). Consider installing a ceiling fan to get air moving or set your thermostat to maintain a constant temperature.
While those flannel sheets were wonderfully warm over the winter, now’s the time to make some swaps. The looser weave of linen sheets makes them the best choice to dress your bed, but they don’t feel as soft on the skin as other fabrics. Opt for cotton – or a cotton blend – instead.
“When shopping for sheets, look for ones that are a blend of cotton and tencel,” says Drew Scott. “Sheets with this combo are super soft and great for all seasons, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
“We love this blend so much that it inspired us to develop our Scott Living HygroCotton Tencel Sheet Set, available on qvc.com, says Jonathan Scott.
And remember, what you do for your sheets applies to your pajamas as well. Consider a pair made of a newer moisture-wicking material if you tend to sleep hot.
And freshen up your bed
In the realm of cooling pillows, the reigning champs seem to be those made of bamboo or gel, according to Dr. Greenburg. Pillows with bamboo fibers tend to be extremely breathable, soft, very light and will keep you comfortable. Try cooling gel pillows, which are designed to be porous and disperse heat away from your head.
And shower before bedtime
While you might be in the habit of showering in the morning, the Better Sleep Council (BSC) recommends doing it before you head to bed at night. Since warmer temperatures mean you’re likely to spend more time outdoor, pollen and dust may cling to hair and skin, inviting potential allergens into your bed. You’ll breathe easier after a good cleansing. It’s also a good way to bring down your body temperature, which helps with falling asleep faster.
The BSC also suggests regularly changing or cleaning the air filter on your central AC system to avoid recycling dust and other allergens throughout your home. Also, consider using a portable air purifier with a HEPA filter to improve the air quality right in your bedroom.
And finally, snack right and light before bed
While carb-heavy foods (think chips, toast, bagels and cookies) before bedtime may be comforting choices, they aren’t beneficial to sleep. “Sugary foods can cause agitation and alertness at night instead of relaxation,” explains Dr. Joelle Cafaro, a chiropractor and holistic medicine practitioner, based in Winchester, VA. “Carbohydrate-based snacks can cause blood sugar to rise initially but eventually fall in a few hours, leading to waking in the night.”
Instead, sip on a nutritious, antioxidant-rich smoothie. Here’s an easy recipe, courtesy of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America:
Wild blueberry coconut smoothie (Serves 4)
- 3 cups (750 ml) wild blueberries, frozen
- 1 ½ cup (375 ml) canned coconut milk, chilled
- 4 tbsp (60 ml) brown sugar, or less to taste
- 1 piece of fresh ginger (walnut sized)
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) roasted, grated coconut to garnish
Add ¾ cup (coconut milk and brown sugar to blender. Peel ginger and grate into coconut milk and sugar mixture. Partially defrost wild blueberries in microwave (60 seconds), add to blender and puree at highest speed.
Pour the remaining coconut milk into four glasses and add blended mixture carefully. Stir to create a marbled white and blue mixture. Garnish with roasted and grated coconut, if desired.
If you prefer a crunchy and crispy snack, try these kale chips, from New York-based registered dietician Megan Wolf of WeightZen.com:
Kale chips with sriracha & Greek yogurt dip
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt (to taste)
- 1 tsp (95 ml) garlic powder
- black pepper (to taste)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) sriracha
Preheat oven to 350.° Rinse kale and remove stems. Towel dry kale well. Any dampness will result in soggy chips. Rip into chip-sized pieces and place in large bowl. Massage 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil into kale.
Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the kale in a single layer. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder—or your favorite spices. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until kale is crispy and slightly browned on edges. Serve with a dip made with plain Greek yogurt and little sriracha.
Remember that story about Goldilocks and the three bears? Every sleeper can relate to her in some way when trying to create the perfect environment for a long, restorative snooze – especially in the heat of summer. As seasons change, take some time to reassess your bedroom and your bedtime habits. Your sleep will thank you!