Create A Sleep Sanctuary

Outfit your bedroom for a better night’s rest and all those hours spent counting sheep will be a bad dream.
     You know the drill: You’re so tired, you literally fall into bed at the end of the night. But instead of nodding off, you lie there staring at the ceiling while your mind goes a mile a minute. Did you remember to put that report on your boss’s desk? Is that the third ambulance that’s gone by? Your body’s beat but your brain just won’t shut off. “There are so many factors—both internal and external—that can cause you to toss and turn,” says psychologist Michael J.Breus, Ph.D., the author of Beauty sleep: Look Younger; Lose Weight, and Feed Great Through Better Sleep. “Just like you need specific ingredients and utensils to
make your favorite recipe, stocking your bedroom with a few key essentials will make it easier to unwind and nod off.” So get ready to check your stress and other distractions at your bedroom door: Our expert suggestions will help you transform your room into a cozy haven for relaxation sleep, and rejuvenation.
  1. Test-drive a better foundation A saggy, lumpy mattress could be the cause of your missed zzz’s. “Most people think mattresses should last a lifetime, but they don’t—after all, we spend a third of our lives in bed,” says Max Hirshkowitz, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. “Although manufacturers may offer a 20-year warranty, mattresses are a lot like sneakers: They start to wear out long before they actually fall apart. Expect yours to last about eight to 10 years.”
         There’s no hard-and-fast rule about which type of mattress is right for your back, so use the time-tested trial and error method in the store: Lie down and roll around on every one. “It’s not a complicated science. You just don’t want one that’s too firm or too soft,” says Nadya Swedan, M.D., a physical rehabilitation specialist in New York City. “Look for a mattress that keeps your back supported so it’s not overarched or sagging into the padding.”
         Finally, because there’s a wide variety of comfort levels ranging from plush to pillow-top to cushion-firm—and the definitions vary by manufacturer-shop at a store with a large selection and test as many as you can.
  2. Luxuriate in your linens “Soft bedding helps create a soothing sleep environment,” says Andrew Suvalsky, an interior designer in New York City. His eco-friendly pick: the Company Store bamboo and cotton 300-thread-count bedding. The sheets feel silky smooth and the pastel colors are calming.
  3. Keep it dim “Your body needs to be in the dark to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall, and stay, asleep,” says Breus. Ease into it by lowering the light an hour before bed, if you can. Either replace your reading lamp bulb with one that’s 40 watts or install a dimmer switch. If you’re a read-till-you-nod-off type, check out the LightWedge Original book light. It illuminates pages without affecting melatonin production.
         If your window let in a Vegas Strip amount of light, Blackout shades, which have opaque backing, are the best way to create total darkness. Suvalsky recommends Smith + Noble customizable roller shades with blackout fabric because they come in more than 50 colors and patterns to work with any décor. (Prevent light from peeking out between the shade and window by choosing the reverse-roll option when you order.) A less expensive alternative is an eye mask. The Dream Essentials Escape Sleep mask above, blocks all light.
  4. Dress for bed While you may prefer to wear flannel pants and a sweatshirt—or nothing at all—to bed, your wardrobe can affect your slumber, especially if it’s making you uncomfortable. It’s hard to go wrong with silk, though. Besides feeling decadent, this practical fabric “keeps you warmer in winter and cooler in summer, plus it’s less likely to harbor pet dander and dust mites than cotton is,” says Hirshkowitz. We like the silk pajamas from Shanghai Tang, because they move with you as you toss and turn.
  5. Strike the right chord Sixty-seven percent of women say they have problems snoozing at least a few nights a week, according to results from a survey conducted last year by the National Sleep Foundation. And 39% blame their sleeplessness on noise. “The sounds that keep you awake are constantly changing in volume and have intermittent stops and starts, such as you snoring bedmate, street traffic, and loud neighbors,” says Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of the Kettering Medical Center in Kettering, Ohio. Mask the racket with the constant, steady rhythm of a white noise machine The HoMedics SoundSpa relaxation sound machine, recreates ocean waves, crickets on a summer night, and a waterfall to help you nod off. You can also try CD Bedtime Beats, inspired by a study conducted at case Western Reserve University. Researchers there found that participants who listened to tunes that contained 60 to 80 beats per minute drifted off quicker and stayed asleep longer. “If your partner’s snoring is keeping you up, earplugs work best.” says Hirshkowitz. Try the Got Ears? Snoring Relief Kit, which comes with 10 types of earplugs ranging from soft silicone to foam.
  6. Add some greenery “Plants improve air quality, and having a little bit of nature in your bedroom can improve relaxation,” says Arand. “But they can also grow mold. If you’re highly allergic to mold spores, place your plant near a sunny window, keep the soil a little dry, and be diligent about removing dead leaves.” Floras that top the clean-air list include English ivy, peace lilies, and bamboo palm.
  7. Lull with lavender
    You probably already know lavender acts as a natural tension tamer. But research done at Wesleyan University also found that when people inhale lavender oil before bed, they spend more time in the deep, more restorative phases of sleep and report felling more rested upon waking. Dab Naturopathica French Lavender Soothing Bath and Body Oil, on a tissue and tuck it under your pillow or apply it directly to your temples.

    Tip: What to keep out of the bedroom?
    “You want your room to be associated with just two activities: snoozing and sex,” says sleep expert Donna Arand, Ph.D. To create a stress-free sleep sanctum, relegate these anxiety inducers to another space.
    • Clutter “I’ve had clients complain that the piles all over their room keep them awake because they represent unfinished business,” says Houston researcher Max Hirshkowitz, Ph.D. Either tackle your stacks or move them to another room.
    • Your computer “Surfing the Web before bed not only keeps you from falling asleep, it also prevents you from staying asleep,” says psychologist Michael J.Breus, Ph.D. He speculates that exposure to light, interaction with other users, and stimulating content are all factors. If the bedroom is the only place you can log on, be sure the machine is off when you turn in so your screen saver doesn’t distract you.
    • Stressful conversations “Arguing before bed increases anxiety and stress levels and can keep you awake,” says Arand. Vow to save these conversations for a different time and place.
    • Your pets In a survey conducted at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center in Rochester, Minnesota, 53% of pet owner said their sleep is disrupted by their pets (21% of dogs and 7% of cats reportedly snore). If you can’t bear the thought of kicking Sparky out of the room, consider getting him a separate bed.

  8. Find your inner Steinbeck Journaling is one of the best ways to get in touch with your creative side, and research has shown that people who write down what they’re grateful for are happier. “Recording your thoughts before bed-time can help you drift off faster because you’re able to sort out and clarify your worries instead of ruminating on them while you’re trying to fall asleep,” says James K. Pennebaker, Ph.D., chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneering researcher in the field of writing therapy. Suffering from writer’s block? Identify your stressors (in-laws, a work project, money problems) and jot down several steps you can take to address them in the Dance Love Sing Live bound journal. Then put down the pen and tuck the journal out of sight.
  9. Breathe easier “A dry mouth and nasal passages can be irritating or make you cough, interrupting sleep,” says Arand. The Enviracaire EWM-220 warm-mist humidifier, has a 2-gallon capacity that lets it run for up to 24 hours. It includes adjustable settings and even turns off when your desired humidity level is reached.
  10. Clear the air Even if you don’t suffer from full-blown allergies, common irritants, like dust mites, pet dander, and particles from cooking smoke, can cause enough mild congestion to affect your slumber. “Protect yourself by vacuuming your mattress and washing your bedding in hot water once a week,” says Hirshkowitz. Critter-proof your pillows and mattress by encasing them in certified organic dust mite-barrier covers.
  11. Ease into the morning “We’re programmed to fall asleep in darkness and then wake up to sunlight,” says Breus. While the jarring sound of a screeching alarm clock may do the job quickly, why not help your body and mind gradually get used to the idea? The Philips Daybreak Duo sunrise-and sunset-stimulator alarm clock, gently wakes you by mimicking a steady sunrise.

Tip: Three ways to rest easier tonight Like mattresses and people, pillows come in many shapes and sizes. “To determine the best type for you, consider what position you sleep in most often and then buy one that’s customized to keep your body aligned correctly,” says Michael Fox, a physical therapist and co-founder of Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation in New York City. His suggestions will help you prevent aches so you can cog more zzz’s
  • If you sleep on your side or back
    Unlike down, the Tempur-Pedic Swedish neck pillow, supports both your head and neck to maintain proper spine alignment. Test out various sizes; your pillow should fill the space between your shoulder and your ear so your head doesn’t tilt up or down.
  • If you sleep on your belly
    Although this may feel comfy, lying with your head turned to the side can compress the joints in your neck, says Fox. To reduce strain, sleep with a large down pillow under your shoulders and chest on the side your head is turned toward. Then place a smaller one under your head so the rotation isn’t as severe.
  • If you’re pregnant
    Baby weight often strains the muscles and ligaments of the hips, pelvis, and lower back. Using a full-body pillow to support your top leg when you lie on your side relieves the tension. We like the Northern Naturals body pillow because it’s good for you and the environment: It’s made from organic cotton and filled with kapok, a natural tree seed fiber from the rain forests.


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