For many of us, a bedroom is more than just a space to sleep. This past year alone our bedrooms have become make-shift yoga studios, home offices, the place of endless Zoom hangouts. However, advice from sleep experts emphasizes the importance of creating a 'personal sanctuary' in your bedroom, and as its Sleep Awareness Week, the timing is perfect. This doesn't mean you need to overhaul the space massively, but a good part of sleep hygiene is ensuring your bedroom is clutter free.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a sleep expert for one of the best mattress companies in Britain, Silentnight, and here she shares some advice on how to transform your bedroom into a sanctuary. Research from Silentnight has revealed that sleep problems have risen by 52% during the pandemic, and that's despite some of us technically having more time on our hands to sleep. This rise is down to 'changed routines and health, money and job worries', and when the stresses of life impact your sleep, these things can snowball and affect your overall wellbeing too.
Unsurprisingly, sleep has a big impact on your mental health, so it’s something we all need to prioritize as much as we are able. “We’ve all had to get used to being at home much more, working less and maintaining social distancing. So, with more disruption to our routines, it was inevitable it would impact our sleep.” Dr Ramlakhan explains. “It is therefore important that our bedrooms become our safe place where we can relax and let go of the stresses of the day.”
On that note, here are sleep expert Dr Ramlakhan’s top five tips for creating a stress-free space for sleep:
1. Use relaxing essential oils
Tried and tested for generations, essential oils are some of the easiest tools to help you unwind and prepare for a good night's sleep. Candles, diffusers, or even just dropping some oils directly onto your pillow are all excellent ways of introducing the calming aromas of essential oils into your sleeping space.
"Relaxing scents such as lavender and eucalyptus can really help the body to relax after a stressful day," says Dr Ramlakhan. "Slow down your breathing and really take in the smell of the lavender, this will help you to fall into a deep sleep."
2. Create a personal sleep sanctuary
Experts are beginning to answer the question of why is sleep important with more authority, but still, not all of us prioritize it. Not everyone is able to set aside a specific room for sleeping, but there are steps we can all take to create a designated stress-free space. "It’s become very tempting to work in our bed in our pajamas, however, in order to achieve a good night’s rest it’s important to create a personal sanctuary", says Dr Ramlakhan.
If you're able, set up a space for work which isn't your bed. Even if that means moving to your dressing or kitchen table, creating some separation between work and relaxation zones can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
"Keep your bedroom clean, well-ventilated and free of clutter. Ideally, leave electronics out of the bedroom and use an old fashioned clock instead of your phone for time keeping."
3. Avoid bright lights during your bedtime routine
We're all guilty of scrolling through Instagram or giving our emails one last check before bed, but Dr Ramlakhan suggests that this could be disrupting your sleep pattern. It's not only the light from phones and laptops that could be keeping you up, though. Even if you've opted to read a book before bed, the bright light that is often needed for you to do so can also wake you up. "This can create quite a stressful environment that wakes up the brain - not ideal if you’re wanting a good night’s sleep."
Opting for a lamp which has a range of brightness options, or a cluster of candles for calming low-light, can change your atmosphere drastically. Some of the best alarm clocks have sunrise alarm settings which allow you adjust a level of warm, calming light. Alternatively, the best smart light bulbs can be dimmed to your desired level to help you switch off before you sleep.
4. Don’t strive for perfection
Your bedroom doesn't need to be an interior designer's dream space for it to work for you, so let go of any pressure you're putting on yourself to make it Insta-ready.
One way of adding some flair to your space without spending too much is with trinkets and sensible color choices. Dr Ramlakhan suggests adding "a few rustic ceramics on bedside tables and window sills - make sure the color themes are soft and relaxing, so think calming blues, clay pinks and soft greens."
DIY is a great trick you can use to add some new life to old or tired bedroom items. "If you have an old photo frame, instead of throwing it away and purchasing a new one, paint it in a calming blue and place it on your bedside table."
5. Use calming colors on walls and bedding
A change of color is a powerful way of mixing up your space. Color expert Karen Haller says "many of us don’t realise the impact the color of our room has on our mood. We don’t see color in isolation, we take in all the colors surrounding us and form an emotional connection - this then influences how we think, feel and behave."
Haller suggests green as an ideal color for bringing tranquility to your bedroom. "Soft green is a restful, restorative color and the hue requires very little adjustment of the eye to take in, reinforcing the messaging that the color rests the body, mind and spirit."