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Sleep Stealers

There are many things that interfere with our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Some common examples are a room that is too hot, too cold or not dark enough; the sound of a faucet dripping; a frisky pet or a noisy fan. Here are some tips to help you make your bedroom more sleep-friendly so you can get enough sleep.

The slow drip of a faucet as well as your neighbor’s loud TV can disturb your sleep. However, studies show that the ticking of your bedroom clock or sirens and traffic noise from a street can actually be soothing to longtime city sleepers who can have trouble sleeping in a quiet location.

Try to block out unwanted sounds with earplugs or use “white noise” such as a fan or an air conditioner. Take your favorite clock with you when you travel in order to recreate familiar sounds that help you sleep.

In most cases, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep, but even sleep researchers fail to agree on the ideal temperature for sleep. The point at which sleep is interrupted due to temperature or climate conditions varies from person to person and can be affected by your bed and what you wear. Generally, a slightly cool room helps you sleep well because it mimics what occurs inside the body when the body’s internal temperature drops during the night to its lowest level.

Sleep scientists recommend keeping your room slightly cool; however if you share a room with someone, he or she may prefer a warmer room. Blankets and comforters can keep you warm without being too heavy or confining. Someone who prefers a warmer room could wear warmer bedclothes. Research suggests that a hot sleeping environment leads to more awakenings and lighter sleep at night. An air conditioner or fan can help, and a humidifier can provide relief if you’re suffering from a sore throat or dryness in your nose.

Sleep patterns are regulated by light and darkness. Light is the most powerful regulator of our biological clock which influences when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. As a result, finding the balance of light and darkness exposure is important. Bright light helps to keep you awake during the day, but during sleep, bright lights can be disturbing.

Make sure to expose yourself to enough bright light during the day. Find time for sunlight or purchase a lightbox or light visor to supplement your exposure to light. At bedtime, think dark - a dark bedroom contributes to better sleep. Try light-blocking curtains, drapes or an eye mask. Use a low illumination night light for times when you have to get up in the middle of the night.

Sleeping Surface
People usually sleep better when they have a lot of room to lie horizontally. Individual preferences vary, but most likely a lumpy mattress won’t provide enough support for your back or neck and can interfere with a good night’s sleep which would make you very sleepy and stiff the next day. For others, ultra-firm mattresses may not be as good as a more supple mattress. A pillow can also affect your posture and quality of sleep as well as your allergies or asthma and make it very difficult to get a good night’s rest.

Make sure you have enough room to sleep. If you share a bed with someone, make sure it is large enough to give both of you room to move around. Replace an old mattress with a new one, and choose a pillow and mattress that fits you best (soft, firm, thick, thin) and one that will be comfortable throughout the night. Consider encasing your pillow in a plastic cover under your pillowcase to keep dust mites from interfering with your sleep and allergy or asthma symptoms.

Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders such as snoring, restless movements and insomnia can negatively impact your sleep. If you or your sleeping partner has a sleep disorder, consult a physician.

Television, Computers and Work
Many people watch TV within an hour of going to bed several nights a week. Doing work, watching TV and using the computer close to bedtime and in your bedroom can interfere with getting adequate sleep. Avoid violent or dramatic TV shows or doing work close to bedtime.

Pets can interfere with your sleep because they can be disruptive and want to play. Get your pet its own bed in your bedroom. The more rest you have, the more energy you’ll have to play with your pets.

For more information about sleep and sleep disorders, talk with your physician. You can also contact Kuakini Medical Center’s Pulmonary Sleep Disorders Center at 547-9119 for more information.