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Happiness requires a few very simple, yet serious, things: being healthy, being loved, having freedom, and some money too. These are the basics. Then there’s all the little things that add sparkle to your life: good food, dear friends, warm hugs, inspiring moments, pleasant surprises, and – last but not least – a restful sleep.

While we are all pretty much aware of the benefits of a good night’s sleep to our health, balance and wellbeing, the ideal conditions for rest are still a mystery for many.

So, before you discover the pleasures of being in bed and slip into a deep, uninterrupted sleep, make sure you have everything under control in your surroundings, from temperature to light, from mattress to ambient sounds and even scents.

Suite dreams

Although what you do before bedtime directly impacts the quality of your sleep, simply preparing your body and mind to fall asleep fast, with a warm bath, a chamomile tea or some minutes of sleep-inducing meditation, might not be enough. Because, research shows, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, your bedroom is far more important than it may seem at first sight.

The secret to sleep better actually involves a lot of factors. In fact, sleep is a pretty active state, engaging all the senses, even when your body is super relaxed and your brain seems in off-mode. Accept that even though you’re sleeping, the place you’re in still plays a major role. With that in mind, surround yourself with the best possible stimuli. Here are a few tips:

1. Cool down. Quite literally. Research shows that a cool bedroom – around 19º degrees – helps you sleep better. This happens because your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, and at night, before you go to sleep, it drops a couple of degrees, continuing to cool down until the next morning. This is your body’s natural cycle and your surroundings should respect it. Of course, every person has an ideal temperature, so don’t be too strict, anything between 15º to 21º should be OK. Just remember to keep your feet warm (if you sleep by yourself, well don’t forget to wear comfortable socks or even placing a hot water bottle at your feet): research shows that cold feet keep your eyes open when you’re trying to fall asleep.

2. Turn off the lights. The darker, the better. Science shows that lowering the lights is like sending an instant message to your brain to start producing melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone which is activated at night. Falling into sleep should be a smooth process, so start by diming the lights one hour before you go to bed. Choose low-wattage light bulbs, with “warm” light and use a dimmer to gradually adjust the light. Don’t forget to keep apparently innocent gadgets, like the alarm clock, at a distance. A quick glimpse could prevent you from getting the sleep you deserve. So, keep them out of sight (inside a drawer might be a good idea). Of course, not many people use alarm clocks anymore, so think cell phones, digital watches, computers and televisions and keep them out of the bedroom. Blue light, more than any color, is melatonin’s most feared enemy. No need to say, notifications are really disruptive. Keep all your digital friends away for a few hours.

3. Listen to silence. Have you heard of white noise before? Well, if you want to sleep better at night, you should keep your ears open. White noise is a kind of sound that acoustically isolates the sleeper from external sounds. As opposed to TV sound that is constantly changing, even if it’s low-volume, white noise creates constant ambient sound that “masks” other sounds that might disrupt your sleep. This is why a fan, rhythmically moving at the same constant pace, can create a sound that’s like music to your ears. There are sound machines that produce this type of sounds for perfect relaxation.

4. Use fresh sheets. Nothing is better than getting into a freshly made bed! Especially if the sheets are scented with your favorite fragrance. Research shows that a bed made with freshly scented sheets helps you sleep better. The road that leads to sweet dreams starts at the laundry, so create a fragrant atmosphere to envelop you while you sleep, by washing sheets, pillowcases and covers with your favorite detergent. This applies to pajamas too.

5. Lovely lavender. Washing your sheet is wonderful, but the cherry on the cake for a restful night is lavender. This beautiful plant with the loveliest of scents is a natural tranquilizer, calming you down before you go to sleep. Place a little scented bag under your pillow, burn a lavender candle before you go to sleep, or some drops of lavender essential oil and you will fall into deep sleep in less than the blink of an eye. Other plants, like orchids, succulents and bromeliads, are great for increasing air quality at night. While most plants begin absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide as soon as the sun goes down, these botanical beauties do just the opposite, which is why they are great plants to keep the air fresh while you sleep.

6. Choose the right mattress. This is by far the most important factor in comfortable, restful sleep. Pick one that’s soft and supportive: an extra firm mattress is not necessarily the best option, contrary to the myth. Oh, and don’t forget a pillow or two.

7. Unclutter your room. This is a most-useful rule that should apply to your whole apartment, but if you have to start somewhere, then start by the place you spend the most time in: your bedroom. Keeping your bedroom clean and tidy is an excellent start for a restful night. No need to Feng-Shui the entire piece. Just keep it simple and smart, use colors and materials that resonate with you, and create an atmosphere that is both comfortable and visually pleasing. Less is definitely more, and this includes less random objects on the bedside table, less books on the floor, less piles of clothes on the invisible chair (no, it’s not an art installation) and, in general, less objects with no purpose around you. By the way, did you know that people who make their bed in the morning are 19% more likely to sleep better at night? That’s right, blame it on the insomnia.

Now that you’ve built your sleep sanctuary we bet you can’t wait to get into bed!


About Editorialista

Madalena Galamba is a writer and journalist. She learned how to write in 1981 and hasn't stopped since. She studied journalism in Lisbon and cinema in New York. She spent some years of her youth in Paris, and even though she didn’t have to live in an attic, the experience left an indelible mark. She was the founder and editor of Blue Design magazine and wrote for the newspapers Expresso, Público and Fora de Série. In 2017, she founded Editorialista, a copywriting and content studio based in Lisbon. She meditates regularly and her favorite idiomatic expression is probably Oh la la.

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