A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) revealed that almost half of the UK adult population struggles with sleep problems. A poor night’s rest means that we are prone to feeling irritable and lethargic the next day, and it can also worsen mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
Catherine Seymour, Head of Research at the MHF, said: “Our research has revealed evidence of the impact poor sleep is having on the nation’s mental health. Sleep is a vital way to protect our mental health and prevent mental health problems. But it is not always easy to achieve this.”
“There are many things we can do as individuals to improve our sleep. But it is essential that we take a whole-society approach if we want to tackle poor sleep in a comprehensive and effective way. That is why are asking the Government to make the prevention and treatment of sleep problems a key priority in their mental health and wellbeing strategies.”
One of the main things we can do to help achieve a calm and restful sleep is to pay careful attention to our bedroom environment. Experts often refer to this as ‘sleep hygiene’ and it’s all about creating the right ambience to help you feel relaxed and refreshed. Here are some of the main things to consider when designing the perfect sleep sanctuary.
Choose an appealing colour scheme
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to choosing a colour scheme; many people feel reassured by calm neutral shades, but others find this too unwelcoming. Muted dark shades of blue or dusky pink can help some people feel safe and cocooned, while others might find this too oppressive.
It’s a matter of personal taste, but softer tones rather than harsh primary colours are recommended by sleep psychologists. If your budget doesn’t stretch to redecorating an entire room, then you could change one or two things, such as the bedding or the rug.
Invest in blackout curtains
Light is one of the most disruptive elements to sleep, because it triggers the body’s biological clock which tells us when it’s time to wake up and go to sleep. If your room is exposed to exterior light sources from street lamps, traffic, and so on, or if you find that you wake up too early on summer mornings, then blackout curtains can make a big difference.
If you already have a pair of curtains that you like and don’t want to change, then you could consider inserting an interlining between the outer fabric and the lining. This is sometimes referred to as bump. It will have a blackout effect, and also provide greater heat and sound insulation.
Choose a comfortable mattress
This might sound like rather obvious advice, but if you have been sleeping on the same mattress for years, it might have become too hard or soggy to provide an optimum night’s rest. If your weight has changed since you bought it, or you need extra support for back or neck pain, it may be worth investing in a new one.
If you don’t have the budget for that at the moment, you could try using a mattress topper. Choose one made from natural fibres, such as cotton or flax, which will help to regulate your natural body temperature and promote a restful night’s sleep. Synthetic materials such as foam can lead to a hot uncomfortable night during the summer months.
Breathable fibres for bedding
The same applies to bedding as well; choose cotton, linen, or other natural fibres where possible, which will feel softer and cooler than acrylic fibres. Wash your bedding at least once a week to keep it feeling fresh, and minimise dust allergens which can cause you to wake up sneezing and coughing during the night.
A tidy environment can help to create a tidy mind. Consider if you could improve the storage in your bedroom with under-bed drawers or baskets, or even by installing a row of low cabinets at the foot of the bed. Built-in storage units above and around the headboard are a great way to make the most of space in a small room, Ideal Home explains.
Have a sort out of your wardrobe at the end of each season, and store clothes you won’t need for six months under the bed.
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