A Clean Bedroom Can Help You Sleep Better
That’s because our environment not only affects how fast we fall asleep, but how soundly we sleep, says Ilene Rosen, M.D., a physician at Penn Medicine board-certified in sleep medicine, internal medicine, and pulmonary medicine.
“All of us have arousals or little, micro-awakenings when we wake up multiple times not just a night but an hour,” she says. “Most us don’t remember those, but you can imagine how the wrong environment for sleep might influence individuals who are in light stages of sleep or waking up that much.”
How Clutter Can Keep You Up
The first step in spring cleaning for better sleep is clearing out any anxiety-inducing clutter, especially if you already have trouble falling asleep.
“If every time you get into bed, you look across the way at a bunch of boxes that are making you crazy, and that’s the last thought you have before you turn off the light, that’s not good,” Dr. Rosen says. “The bed should be a place where you sleep and have sex and nothing else. All of the distractors in your room and certainly in your bed should be cleared out.”
The first thing to put away: that enormous pile of throw pillows. You only need the ones that support your head and body, she says. Next come the electronics. TVs, tablets, and phones specifically mess with your sense of sleepiness.
“They actually emit a wavelength of blue light that is the same as the one that our brains are reading and interpreting from the sun during the day,” Dr. Rosen explains. “The biggest cue to our internal clock is this wavelength of blue light. It was one thing when it was outside, but now we have it inside and, oh, by the way, now we’re putting our tablets near our bed so close to our face.”
Clean Sheets Impact Sleep Too
Zoom in on a microscopic level and going too long without cleaning your bedroom can impact the quality of your ZZZ’s as well. Common allergens like dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander may linger in your bedding and prevent you from sleeping as deeply.
“An allergy can trigger a release of chemicals in the body that causes you to have nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes, and those symptoms can lead to poor sleep,” Dr. Rosen says. “Sometimes you can’t get into deep sleep because it’s harder to breathe, and other times you can actually be at risk for sleep apnea if you have enough nasal congestion and obstruction.”
Using mattress and pillow protectors like the ones from GH Seal Holder Allerease will also help cut down on potential allergens, according to Lexie Sachs, Associate Director of Textiles, Paper & Plastic Lab at the Institute.
“Usually the fabric is so tightly woven that the allergens can’t fit through and get into your pillows and bed, which are harder to clean than the coverings themselves,” she says. You’ll want to wash a mattress pad a couple times a year and then give your mattress a once over with the vacuum annually — i.e., during spring cleaning!
Just don’t start vacuuming up a storm or Kondo-ing your closet late at night. Even if you don’t technically think of it as “exercise,” working up sweat within three hours of bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, not to mention getting your mind super revved up and engaged.
“If I’m going through this closet, and now I get into bed and I’m thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow, that’s going to affect your sleep,” Dr. Rosen says. “Doing all of that earlier in the day is a good idea.”
If you’re still having trouble sleeping after giving your bedroom a refresh, consult your healthcare provider or board-certified sleep physician. Sometimes insomnia indicates a larger problem, like sleep apnea or a circadian rhythm disorder, but a freshly washed set of sheets certainly never hurts.