Preparing your bedroom for sleep and only sleep rather than for other activities is as important as preparing yourself for sleep.
Most of us think of our bed as a place to sleep. But many people also use their bed for watching television, listening to the radio, talking on the telephone, eating, reading or playing cards. If you really want to do all you can to sleep better, however, you shouldn't do any of these nonsleep activities in bed. When you do, the bed and bedroom can become associated with these activities rather than with sleep.
Bedroom Clutter and Sleeplessness
Is your bedroom a sleep sanctuary that feels calm, looks clean, and invites you to relax? Or does it have a computer, desk, files, and magazines strewn around, clothes on the floor, and books haphazardly stacked on your nightstand? To transform your bedroom into a restful sanctuary, start by cleaning. If your bedroom doubles as an office, move the equipment and related stuff to another location or hide it behind a folding screen. While you're in the mood, pitch or move all items out of the bedroom that might distract you from sleep. Then add subtle artwork, bedding, wall coverings and window treatments that you find soothing.
If you're one of those folks who sets the timer on the television or radio and drifts off listening to it, you might want to break yourself of the habit. You may not realize it, but you may be fighting off sleep just to hear the end of that monologue or the last bars of that favorite song.
In addition, if you condition yourself to fall asleep only when you have that background noise, then if you wake up in the middle of the night, you may not be able to fall asleep without it. So you either struggle to fall back asleep without it or wake yourself up just to turn the device back on -- neither of which is likely to improve your sleep overall.
Some people even go so far as to do work in bed. While this practice may help you catch up on paperwork, it can seriously disrupt your sleep. When you do work in bed, all of the associated stress becomes related to the bed and bedroom. Just getting into bed at night may subsequently cause your heart rate to increase, your muscles to tighten, and your thoughts to race. Whether you consciously realize it, the sheets, blankets and pillows can become associated with your job, and their very sight and smell may cause thoughts of work to flood your mind as you try to fall asleep.
The single exception to this rule may be sex. We say "may be" because it depends on the effect that sex has on you and your bed partner. For some people, sexual activity is very relaxing and tiring and tends to make them sleepy. If that's the case for both partners, then having sex before rolling over to sleep may be just the ticket for a restful night.
However, some people find sexual activity actually refreshes and energizes them, making them more alert. And, for some folks, relationship problems, frustrations or negative feelings about sex can make it far from pleasant or relaxing.
For couples in which either partner finds sexual activity too stimulating or too fraught with negative emotions to be conducive to sleep, sex might best be left for another time and even a different room. It's important for couples to talk and determine what works best for both partners in terms of helping or harming their efforts at getting a good night's sleep.
If you do find yourself lying in bed and still not sleeping, check out the next page for tips on how to end all that tossing and turning.