How to Design your Bedroom for Better Sleep
Hey there everyone! Spring is in full swing and the nice weather always re-energizes my mind and body, and gives me motivation to set new goals! When you’re working on something that excites you, it’s hard to go to sleep early (and make sure you stay asleep) for a solid 8 hours.
Over the years I’ve noticed how sleep can really have an effect on my productivity, energy, and creativity throughout the day. The nights where I don’t get 7-8 hours I feel unmotivated and getting things done is definitely a struggle.
Today, I’m excited to introduce Christina Parker, a PhD candidate, who has graciously given us her scientifically-proven tips on how to set your bedroom up to be the perfect sleep sanctuary. Coming from someone who is basically the “princess and the pea” when I go to bed, I have to say that learning a few more ways to have a perfect night’s sleep made me extremely happy!
Meet Christina, PhD candidate
Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, PhD candidate of clinical psychology, specializes in behavioral medicine. Her academic and clinical interests explore the intersection of psychological and physical health in adults, focusing on health optimization and chronic illness management. She works in various clinical settings, including integrated primary care, weight loss, and behavioral sleep medicine clinics to help adults achieve their health goals. Through Eng(aging), her blog for Psychology Today, she translates her research for broader audiences and. In doing so, she has landed interviews with thought leaders like Esther Perel, podcast features, and keynote presentation invitations addressing integrative, whole-person health.
How Sleep Affects Your Energy, Health, and Beauty
Until recently, health psychologists and physicians underestimated the power of sleep. Decades of research later, we know (unequivocally) that few things rival its benefits— and that sleep provides the foundation on which we build long, healthy lives.
Want to live longer? Sleep more. Because sleeping less shortens your life!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 secure seven to nine hours of the stuff nightly; anything less constitutes sleep deprivation and anything more appears counterproductive, though people vary. Just some of the well-established costs of impaired sleep include:
Impaired memory + thinking
Mood dysregulation (e.g. anxiety, depression)
Inflammatory dermatological conditions (e.g. acne, psoriasis)
Oh…and premature mortality
The mechanisms implicated in these outcomes get murky and complicated, so I won’t bore you. Just know that they involve combinations of physiology, hormones, psychology, and behavior. During sleep, for example, our bodies ‘take out the trash’—flushing out cellular debris from the brain, including sticky beta-amyloid plaque involved in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Overnight, neural systems in our brain also (re)process and consolidate recent emotional content to “reset” us affectively and cognitively.
Sleep also affects our body. Several well-established mechanisms explain the relationship between the number of Z’s we get and inches around our waistline. The heavy-hitters?
The less you sleep, the more time you have to eat
Hunger-stimulating hormones— including cortisol and ghrelin—spike when we get less than our recommended daily dose of sleep. And leptin, which curbs appetite, gets suppressed. Elevated cortisol levels contribute to acne and other dermatological conditions, including psoriasis. They call it beauty sleep for a reason!
The energy we don’t get from sleep, we seek it out in food—particularly calorically dense, carb-y treats. Carbs give us convenient but fleeting boosts of energy that add inches to our waistline and spike blood sugar—setting us up for rapid weight gain and metabolic conditions like diabetes.
Finally, excessive daytime fatigue can strip of us of our motivation to exercise or cook. When we feel tired, the likelihood that we’ll opt out of exercise and in for fast, processed food increases.
A bit of evidence-based, scientific info can go a long way in helping you make some solid health choices. Anti-aging creams, boutique cosmetics, keto-diets, or hour slogs on the treadmill will never outrun the powers of good or (or bad) sleep. My prescription for health, beauty, and longevity? The best and cheapest tool you have: 8 hours of the stuff we call sleep.
Behavioral changes solve only part of the problem, though. Supplement behavior change with stimulus control, which involves changing your environment to change your behavior. My go-to clinical recommendations? Read on!
how to Make your space more sleep-friendly
Use your bed for sleep and Snuggles only
Read, eat, worry, cry, laugh, watch TV… cure cancer OUTSIDE the bedroom. Associating the bedroom with stimulation and/or anxiety can perpetuate insomnia symptoms. We call this phenomenon “conditioned arousal”—when the bed becomes a cue for wakefulness rather than sleepiness. To re-associate the bed with sleep, outsource all other activities to another room and get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Think about sleep like love—something you mustn't force.
2. Make your bedroom a soothing, safe, and sacred space
Beyond protecting the space as one for sleep exclusively, make your bedroom a sanctuary of sorts—a place that immediately induces relaxation upon entry. Keep it clean, open, and airy. Outfit your bed with soft, comfortable sheets; they don’t need to cost a boatload, they just need to feel good. Some evidence also suggests that neutral, blue, and gray hues—and lavender scents— have soporific effects. Play with paint and consider experimenting with a lovely lavender oil diffuser.
3. The darker, the better.
Remember what I said earlier about melatonin? Light signals arousal cues to your brain, so try to keep your bedroom as dark as possible. If you can afford them, I highly recommend blackout curtains. If you can’t, using a solid eye-mask does the trick, too. I love this one . Consider buying a couple—some for home and some for travel.
5. Light sleeper? Consider a white noise machine
People vary in their sensitivity to stimuli. Tried and true sensory addition (e.g. white noise machine) and deprivation (e.g. earplugs) techniques can work great for “light sleepers” or those who have noisy bed partners with different sleep and wake patterns.
Night night, sleeping beauty!
Christina, thank you SO much for these science-proven tips for a better nights sleep! As is true with most things, a bit of scientific knowledge is extremely helpful in making the best decisions about how to stay healthy, happy, and beautiful! If a full night of sleep isn’t part of your routine, you could be offsetting most – if not all – of you other attempts to stay youthful, live longer, and accomplishing your goals.
Hopefully this information gives you the knowledge and motivation to start getting sleep you need. And on that note… I think it’s about time we hit the hay!