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10 Steps to a More Relaxing Sleep Environment

Is your sleep environment helping or hurting your sleep? This is the place—most likely your bedroom--where you sleep--or try to. It’s not just the physical space, though. It also includes all of your bedtime habits and routines. And it includes your internal state. Is your stomach over-full? Is your mind wired? Are your emotions stirred up? You are a key part of your sleep environment. And you can take steps to create one that fosters better sleep. 

Step 1: Turn off bright lights 

Your brain uses light to set your sleep-wake cycle. So, at night, bright light can both make it hard to fall asleep and disrupt your natural sleep cycle. This is especially true of blue light. Blue light comes from electronic screens and energy efficient lighting. It has a stimulating effect, which can be helpful during the day when you want to be alert. But if you’re reading emails or browsing online at night, the blue light can keep you awake.   

To set lighting that promotes sound sleep:  

  • Make sure your room is dark. 
  • Avoid bright lights and bright screens.
  • Avoid electronic devices 1 hour before sleep. 
  • Read a book before bed instead of watching TV. 

Step 2: Keep the room cool 

If you can, turn down the thermostat in the room where you sleep. You may find you sleep better if your room is cool. Your body temperature naturally dips slightly at night and rises slightly in the morning. If your room is too warm at night, it may get in the way of this process.  

Step 3: Turn down your internal thermostat 

You can also help turn down your body’s temperature. Have you ever felt drowsy after a hot bath or sauna? That’s because your body temperature naturally drops after getting out of the warmth, which helps you feel sleepy. Try taking a warm bath 30 minutes before bed.  

Step 4: Foster a sense of calm before bed 

It’s vital to find ways to calm your mind and body before you go to bed. This can make sleep easier. In the hour before bedtime, try to avoid:   

  • Loud sounds  
  • Upbeat music  
  • Bright lights 
  • Stressful activities (like paying bills) 

Instead, try quieter activities like: 

  • Reading a book 
  • Doing gentle stretches 
  • Taking a warm bath 
  • Doing some deep breathing 
  • Listening to soft music 

Step 5: Use your bed for sleep only  

Condition your body to expect to sleep when you’re in bed. How? Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Avoid working, reading, watching TV, or lounging in bed. Doing these in your bed can teach your body to be alert and awake in bed. It’s vital to associate your bed with sleep.  

Step 6: Workout at least 3 hours before bedtime 

Regular exercise is a key part of a healthy life and has been shown to help improve sleep. Just make sure you avoid heavy exercise 3 hours before bedtime. It may be too stimulating. Calmer types of exercise such as yoga and tai chi are fine before bed.  

Step 7: Avoid stimulants later in the day 

Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that can keep you awake. It’s best to avoid these before bedtime:   

  • Coffee 
  • Many teas (black, green, and white) 
  • Chocolate 
  • Energy drinks 
  • Some headache medications 

Step 8: Avoid alcohol before bed 

Drinking alcohol shortly before bed can interfere with a good night’s sleep. One reason is it can keep you in the lighter stages of sleep. This means you don’t get as much deep, restorative sleep. And it means you don’t get as much REM sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Drinking alcohol before bed can also mean waking up during the night for extra trips to the bathroom.  

Step 9: Watch your food and drink 

Food and drink can sometimes interfere with a good night’s sleep, too. Avoid heavy meals and rich or spicy foods 1 hour before bed. These can cause indigestion, which may keep you up. Also, try not to drink too many fluids 1 hour before bed. You may find yourself waking up repeatedly to go to the bathroom.   

Step 10: Give yourself time 

Finally, give yourself enough time to wind down before bed. It may take you longer to set up your sleep environment. Give yourself extra time to do things like closing window shades, relaxing, or taking a warm bath. Keep in mind that sleep is a key part of your health and wellbeing. So make it a priority. 

View Credits
Primary Author: Amanda Cavallari, MA
Clinical Reviewer: Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RD
Final Review and Approval by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RD
--> Date of Annual Review:03/29/2023
Healthyroads' Editorial Staff follow a quality assurance process to help promote each article’s accuracy:
  • A health expert provides input on topic.
  • Scientific evidence from widely accepted health texts, peer-reviewed journals, and other reliable sources is consulted.
  • Final article is reviewed and approved by a health professional.
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