health for your
sleep with simple
By Malia Jacobson
Sleep troubleS? You’re not alone: up to
40 percent of Americans have difficulty sleeping. If you’re stuck in the bleary haze of sleep
deprivation, your bedroom could be the
source of your problem.
According to Dr. roslinde Collins, medical director of the Sleep Center at rutland
regional Medical Center in Vermont, sleeping
in a space that’s too bright, too warm or too
stimulating can wreak havoc on healthy rest.
Happily, sleep science is pointing the way to a
better bedroom that’s a sanctuary for sleep.
Bedroom blunder: Too much light
exposure to artificial light has drastically
increased over the last 100 years, and the neg-
ative effect on people’s health and well-being
Why it’s critical: light exposure is one
of the strongest regulators of the biological
clock, says Costco member Dr. patrick
Wolcott, medical director of the Sleep Center
of Southern California. Nighttime light—
even the glow from a smartphone or alarm
clock—suppresses melatonin and disrupts
Quick fixes: Make the house as dark as
possible in the hours before bed by drawing
curtains and limiting television and video
games. tiny beams of light can affect sleep, so
black out the bedroom by installing light-blocking shades, shutting off electronics and
turning bright alarm clocks toward the wall.
All lights aren’t created equal—blue lights
(found on many modern gadgets) have an
especially strong impact. “Something about
the blue light spectrum affects sleep-wake
patterns more than regular white light,” says
psychologist Dr. Shelby Harris, director of the
behavioral Sleep Medicine program at
Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Bedroom blunder: Too warm
When people put up with a too-warm
bedroom, sleep suffers. Chilling out can
improve your chances of sleeping well.
Why it’s critical: bedroom temperature
is about more than comfort; it’s an important
physiological cue, says Harris. First, a drop in
body temperature triggers sleep. then the
body naturally cools over the course of the
night, reaching its lowest core temperature
two hours before waking.
While the ideal bedroom temperature is
largely a matter of personal preference,
“We spend a third of
our lives in bed, so our
bedroom should be a
—Dr. Shelby Harris
experts say cool rules. “between 60 to 68
degrees is ideal,” says Costco member Dr.
Martin Cohn, medical director of the Sleep
Disorders Center of Southwest Florida.
Quick fixes: If air conditioning is an
option, use it to cool the bedroom before turning in. otherwise, open windows and use fans
to help move warm air out of the bedroom.
blackout shades are also helpful, because a
room that stays darker will also stay cooler.
Bedroom blunder: Too stimulating
Modern bedrooms are home to a host of
electronics, stacks of unfinished work and an
unread book or two. It all adds up to a space
that sends your brain into overdrive, instead
of into restful sleep.
Why it’s critical: When it comes to
sleep, our bodies crave routine and repetition,
says Wolcott. So watching television, working
and surfing the Internet in bed programs the
brain to wake up and work when it should be
settling down for sleep.
Quick fixes: Make the bedroom a haven
for sleep by banning laptops, video games,
television and work. If reading in bed is a
cherished habit, switch to lighter reading
materials—flipping through a magazine is
less stimulating than a suspense thriller, and
less likely to keep your brain buzzing all night.
Bedroom blunder: Too messy
turns out Mom was right: A messy room
can be hazardous to your health. According to
the National Sleep Foundation, people who
make their beds daily are 19 percent more
likely to sleep well every night. And 71 per-
cent of Americans say they sleep better in a
Why it’s critical: “We spend a third of
our lives in bed, so our bedroom should be a
peaceful retreat,” says Harris. Climbing into a
clean, fresh bed will help you relax and set
aside your cares, while a messy, unkempt
room may provoke stress by reminding you of
Quick fixes: Find time to make your
bed daily, and adopt the feng shui–inspired
habit of closing closet and bedroom doors at
night. Creating a sense of calm and order in
the bedroom can help pave the way for
sweeter dreams, starting tonight. C
JULY 2011 The Costco Connection 35
Costco member Malia Jacobson is a freelance
writer specializing in sleep and health.