Good sleep hygiene means creating a quiet, inviting haven that makes insomnia a thing of the past and falling asleep a lot easier. Learn some ways to control noise so you get some much needed shut-eye.
When you get serious about falling asleep and waking up rested, you’ll take on the task of practicing good sleep hygiene. It’s all about making sure your physical environment provides an inviting space conducive to falling and staying asleep.
Insomnia: Sound Off
First, prevent insomnia by restricting your bedroom to the two traditional activities for which it was intended: sleep and sex. That’s the advice of James A. Davis, supervisor of the Anderson Hospital Center for Sleep Medicine in Maryville, Ill. Resist the modern temptation to recast your bedroom into everything from an office to a gym.
In particular, banish the television from the bedroom. Watching television in the bedroom lowers the prospects for a good night’s sleep, says Davis. First and most obviously, you’re not sleeping if you’re paying attention to late-night television. Second, even if you fall into what you think is a restful slumber in front of the television, your brain knows otherwise. Rapid-fire changes in light and sound from the television interrupt the cycle of sleep stages that loops through our brains all night, which prevents us from falling asleep.
Even more insidious is the subtle conditioning induced by a television. “A TV should never be in a bedroom; it conditions your body to think, ‘This [room] is not for sleep; this is where I get my entertainment,’” Davis says.
Insomnia: White Noise Lullaby
What seems to help some people with falling asleep is the soft hum of white noise. (Davis himself falls asleep to a whirring fan.) Simple, soothing music and recorded nature sounds also are popular in warding off insomnia. If noise is an issue, double-pane windows might help or talk to your neighbors about any late-night noise complaints. Earplugs are a cheap and easy way to cut out extraneous sound.
Sheilagh Weymouth, DC, a chiropractor who provides holistic care in New York City, says she likes the abstract hum of a white noise generator to block out extraneous sound, compared to the more recognizable nature sounds, like crashing waves or chirping crickets.
“For many patients — and this is my experience as well — the white noise generator seems to be the least intrusive,” she says.
Insomnia: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
The ideal environment for falling asleep is quiet, cool, and dark, like a cave. Try to maintain a room temperature that requires at least a light blanket — 70 degrees Fahrenheit for most people. Davis recommends investing in some light-blocking shades or curtains to reduce insomnia. Adjustments may be necessary to prevent light from spilling out of the top and sides of the shades. An eye mask is a simpler, convenient light-blocking alternative. Some people swear by eye pillows — silk or cotton sacks weighted with flax or a similar grain and ideally enhanced with a calming herb, such as lavender. Eye pillows are easy to make, but if you’re not the crafty type, you can buy them in a variety of sizes, fabrics, fillings, and scents. Look for an eye pillow with enough heft to gently conform to your eyes and nose without feeling so heavy that you’ll be struck with a case of insomnia.
Finally, reject the inevitability of sleep problems with advancing age. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night, a requirement that does not change with age. American adults of any age rarely get the sleep they need, and poor sleep habits exacerbate the problem as we get older. A few simple changes in routine can go far in ensuring a good night’s sleep and preventing insomnia for all adults.
By Elizabeth Connor – Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH