In an age of relentless, pinging phone notifications, and busier than ever schedules, a restorative night's sleep has arguably never been more important.
During a deep sleep, your body takes the opportunity to look after itself in ways it can’t during the day.
According to Sleep.org, sleeping is a chance for things like tissue repair and muscle growth to take place; things which can only happen during your daily snooze.
The National Sleep Foundation also notes that memory consolidation takes place at night, as does your bodies ability to regulate your appetite – explaining why you might feel unable to think, or ravenous, if you didn’t get enough shut-eye.
There’s no doubting then that your body needs a full night of quality rest to function properly and be at it’s best the next day. But could some of the things in your bedroom be hindering that?
While we all know we should be creating a zen, feng shui environment to sleep in, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
But actually, if you’ve ever wondered, ‘Why can’t I sleep?’, it seems that the way we organise our bedrooms and the things we have in them could be having a big impact on the quality of the sleep we get each night.
Why can’t I sleep?
These are the items we should we never have in our bedrooms:
This one is pretty self-explanatory. We all know that scrolling through our smartphones until the early hours can keep us awake even when we’re desperate to get some sleep.
But it turns out that there’s some scientific reasoning behind our phones keeping us up. According to Joy Richards, a sleep expert at Happy Beds, “Mobile phones use LED displays which glow with blue light. This will suppress melatonin”. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle, and so suppressing it means that we’ll disrupt our natural sleeping patterns – making it harder to drift off when we really need to.
Samantha Briscoe, Lead Clinical Physiologist for London Bridge Sleep Centre at London Bridge Hospital, explained, “The blue light produced by phones interrupts our circadian rhythm as it suppresses melatonin stimulating wakefulness, and makes it harder to stay in touch with our natural body clock.”
Joy has a handy tip however if you feel like you need your phone to kick-start the day. She suggested, “Mobile phones are an absolute no-no. I encourage my clients to purchase an alarm clock, so that they can keep their mobiles outside of the bedroom overnight, and not worry about not hearing their alarm.”
If you’re used to (and love) having your furry friend snuggle up to you in bed, we have some bad news. Apparently, your pet cat or dog might be interrupting your sleep in a multitude of ways that you hadn’t even considered.
Sleep expert Samantha Briscoe said, “Whether you’re allergic or not, pet fur can trigger the onset of respiratory problems, such as asthma, making it more difficult for you to sleep easily through the night.
“Pets are also more fidgety than humans, and so their movement throughout the night is also incredibly unsettling.”
If you’re truly committed to having your pet pup or cat in your room at night, perhaps consider setting up a bed for them on the floor beside your bed. If not however, it may be time to consider keeping them away – for the sake of your sleep…
A bedtime snack or drink
We all love a cup of tea before heading to bed, or for some of us, a before-bed snack of chocolate, toast or cereal. However, this may not be the best option if you’re hoping for a full eight-hours kip.
Samantha made the point that caffeine can linger in your system long after you’ve had your tea or coffee – for hours, in fact.
She said, “Keep in mind that caffeine stays in the system for up to six hours, so it’s important to make sure that your last cup is at least six hours before you go to bed. It’s also important to remember not to drink too much in general before going to sleep, as this can cause you to need to use the bathroom during the night.
“Similarly, don’t eat too close to bedtime. If you want a good night’s sleep, your body shouldn’t be having to digest food while you’re sleeping.”
Sorry – it looks like your favourite cup of camomile is out of the question…
A fan or an electric heater
Shamir Patel, director and chemist at Chemist4U, explained that even things that you think are assisting your sleep could actually be hindering it.
So when summer and the warm weather rolls around again, it’ll probably be frustrating for some to hear that popping a fan on in your bedroom might be one of the worst things you could do for a good night’s sleep.
He revealed, “It can be tempting to leave your fan plugged in overnight when the weather gets warmer, but actually, it’s not a good idea. A fan can circulate dust and pollen around your room, which can affect your respiratory system. And also, it can dry out your skin, as well as your nasal passages – all of which can cause a poor nights sleep.” So if you’ve ever woken up feeling slightly under the weather after leaving a fan on all night, that could well be the reason why.
The same goes for keeping warm in the cold weather too. Shamir said, “Plug in heaters and radiators can dry out your skin while you sleep and can cause discomfort, meaning you’re more likely to break a sleep cycle.”
Chairs piled full of clothing that is still yet to be put away, bags dropped on the floor after a long day – we’ve likely all got clutter in our bedrooms that shouldn’t be there.
But a study conducted by St Lawrence University in New York revealed that excess mess in what should be a relaxing sanctuary can be the cause of a terrible night’s sleep.
Researchers found that of the people surveyed, those with neat and tidy rooms fell asleep much faster than those who have theirs piled up with junk. Then, the tired ‘hoarders’ were left even less likely to tidy up the next day, exacerbating the problem.
Psychologist at the university Dr Pamela Thacher, told Metro.co.uk, “Hoarders typically have problems with decision making and executive function; poor sleep is known to compromise cognition generally.
“So if hoarders have cluttered or unusable bedrooms, and less comfortable, functional beds, any existing risk for cognitive dysfunction, depression and stress may increase as sleep quality worsens.”
So before you question again, ‘Why can’t I sleep?’, make a point of tidying your space before bed. And as a bonus, organising your items should help you to feel better prepared for the next day too.
So what should we have in our bedrooms to help aid a good night’s sleep?
Most obviously, a decent bed and mattress is vital for ensuring you sleep well at night. Which qualities should our beds have then?
According to Samantha Briscoe, a sturdy frame with a natural fibre mattress is key. She said, “A sturdy bed frame is key to ensuring you’re getting a decent night’s sleep, as creaks when we turn over in our sleep can be disruptive.
“Investing in a mattress with natural fibres can help to regulate your body temperature, and in turn, contribute to you getting an undisturbed sleep.”
Sleep expert Joy recommends a memory foam mattress, which you can buy from all good bedding outlets. Why? “A mattress that is too firm may cause too much pressure on the body, while one that is too soft may cause you to sink down, putting force on your head and shoulders. This comes down to weight and your sleeping position.
“Mattresses such as memory-foam are perfect options for those that are often awakened by their partners tossing and turning, as the springs ensure that the movement doesn’t affect your side of the bed.”
Pillow choice should be down to personal preference. Samantha said, “If you like to sleep on your stomach, a flat pillow will prevent your neck from angling upwards causing aches and pains, whilst if you prefer to sleep on your side, a thicker pillow ensures the gap between your mattress and head is filled.” Choose the best pillow for you here.
Low lighting and even black-out blinds can also help assist you in your quest for the perfect night’s sleep too.
Joy said, “I think that black-out blinds are a must in a bedroom. Our bodies think it is time to wake up when they see light, and coming up to summer, the light will come in earlier than normal, giving you a false alarm on when you should be waking up. Plus, our bodies produce melatonin in darkness, which is what we need to help us relax and drift off.”
Equally, bright lights can give us a false sense of timing, making our bodies think that it’s time to wake up when we should actually be winding down.
Samantha also advises taking a book with you to bed, as reading “slows down your breathing and relaxes your muscles” – perfect for helping you to drift off.
So, happy sleeping!