The sunlight is streaming through the curtains –
Don’t you know that good sleep hygiene practice means that your curtains should be as opaque as possible? Why is sunlight streaming through your curtains? Is that not rather defeating the point of curtains?
Most humans find it very difficult to sleep when we’re surrounded by a lot of light, so when it comes to getting the perfect bed down routine, we’re encouraged to make things as dark as possible. Light-blocking curtains and sleep masks are considered beneficial.
Here’s the rub: that sunlight is beneficial to helping us wake up every morning. The process of dawn is one our bodies are finely tuned to, with the first signs of sunlight outside triggering the process of “wakeup” hormones from our body. The process of us waking up is ideally a gradual one, as we cycle through the phases of sleep until we wake gently. Sunlight is essential to allowing us to do that.
But… how do you square that with the fact that, at night, light is bad for your sleep?
This is a problem that occurs over and over again when it comes to getting your sleep habits just right. The competing theories have a tendency to contradict one another; what’s good for getting to sleep isn’t so great for waking up. Isn’t that a little bit frustrating? We’ve yet to figure out a way to teleport overnight from an all-dark, night friendly room into a wake-up right room – so what are our options?
Can You Improve Both?
Before we dig into the contradictions, maybe there’s a few changes you can make to your home and your behaviour that will be beneficial for both waking up and getting to sleep. The question of defeating the “is light good or bad?” question is set aside for the moment – let’s aim to hit the ground running with a few wins right at the start.
Make obtaining a hot drink as easy as possible.
A warm, hot drink late at night can be just what we need to help lull us into a blissful sleep – think cradling cocoa or leaning over a mug of hot chocolate to inhale its scent. Then on the flip side in the morning, a hot drink can be just what we need to wake our system up and get ready for the day. It therefore makes sense to ease both processes at once by figuring a way to make them simple. You could:
- Buy a pod machine that allows you to simply click and insert the requisite drink for the time of day – hot chocolate at night and coffee in the morning. These pod machines can be expensive to run, but at least will be unobtrusive on the kitchen counter if you find the right one for your style.
- Or, if you prefer a glass of hot lemon water to help wake you up (which you should try for many reasons), then you might find a boiling water tap to be more to your liking. Exactly as the name suggests, the tap produces boiling water without the need for fiddling around with a kettle when you’re half asleep. They can be brought into line with your decor too thanks to it being simple enough to find boiling water taps in lots of styles and finishes with a quick browse.
- If you’re feeling old school, then a simple tea machine in your bedroom can be tucked into a corner – so you can get your boost without even having to leave the room!
Keep clutter to a minimum.
The process of getting up and going to bed have a tendency to follow the same pattern, just in reverse of one another.
Morning: Kitchen › Bathroom › Bedroom
Night: Bedroom › Bathroom › Kitchen
It makes sense therefore to try and clear clutter and keep things areas as simple as possible. If you find yourself battling through mess, the kids discarded school projects, or clothes in need of a wash when the basket is full, then the process is not going to be as simple as you need it to be – at both times of day.
Bedding you love.
At night, good bedding that feels comfortable against your skin is like a hug in furniture form. Investing in your sheets – preferably cotton with a high thread count – may even help you feel so comfortable you drift off to sleep without a second thought.
In the morning, it’s nice to wake up as comfortable as possible. If you have to begin the day by rubbing moisturiser onto your skin where a rough bedsheet has caused friction during the night, it’s fair to say you’re not getting off to the best of starts.
With those measures in place, let’s try and move on to conquering the contradictions that can surround sleep.
Number 1: The Light Dilemma
As touched on before, the “light is good” and “light is bad” contradictions are an irritant. Thankfully, the solution is relatively simple.
Answer: Try a special “wake up” alarm clock. These clocks simulate the light patterns of sunrise, meaning that you’re more gently nudged awake than jerked out of a pleasant dream thanks to the blare of the alarm. This allows you to have the room as dark as possible at night, while still getting the benefits of waking up to (admittedly simulated but the effect is the same!) sunlight.
Number 2: Essential Oils – Good or Bad?
If you’ve ever had problems sleeping and done research to try and help combat the problem, then you probably know it’s only a few clicks before you hear about lavender. There’s no doubt that lavender essential oil can be very beneficial when it comes to getting to sleep; it’s a relaxant, and many people swear by it for tackling insomnia problems.
So if you decide to buy a diffuser and run lavender through it at night, you can reap those benefits. But if you do it in your bedroom, then isn’t that going to be a problem the next morning – when being relaxed and made to feel sleepy is the thing you want the least? The same goes for the lavender scented products you can buy, especially things like pillowcases.
Answer: While it might make sense to use lavender in your bedroom, it will have the same calming properties wherever you use it. If you like to curl up with a book before bed (because you know the devices from smartphones and TVs emit blue light, which can make it difficult to get to sleep – right…?), then do so somewhere else in your home besides the bedroom – and run your diffuser there. The impact will still be the same. You can then also use the diffuser the next morning with some peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils; both of which are known to increase alertness.
Try and steer clear of lavender pillows or pot pourri. Not only could they make getting up harder, but they tend to be made of cheaper lavender fragrance rather than the legitimate essential oil. It might smell the same, but it might not have the same aromatherapy benefits due to the different chemical structure. Wherever possible, try and use pure lavender essential oil.
Number 3: Temperature Tantrums
Any good sleep hygiene practice will talk about the need to keep your bedroom cool – not necessarily cold, but definitely not warm. Most of us struggle to sleep when it’s too warm; that’s why everyone is moaning in July about not being able to sleep.
So you keep your room cool, don’t run the heating, maybe even have a fan… and then you wake up the next morning. Sure, you got to sleep just fine, but now you’re facing a cold room – and you suddenly have absolutely no desire to get out of bed.
Answer: Depending on your system, you could try programming your heating to come on around half an hour before your alarm. This should make the process of getting up a little more pleasant.
Alternatively, all you need is to place a warm, thick, snuggly robe within arm’s reach of your bed. Not only will it feel like a touch of much-needed luxury as you begin to go about your day, but it’s also a heat source.
Finally, you could just keep things cool at night by keeping the covers off of you. So many of us snuggle under covers because we associate the feeling of having something draped over us as a signal to tell us to sleep. Going without can take some adjusting to, but if you manage it, then you have the best of both worlds. Nice and cool as you drift off, but with covers immediately to hand if you wake up too cold. The benefit here is simple: it doesn’t require you to change the actual temperature of the room, and potentially get it wrong to a detrimental effect. It’s worth a go, surely?