Your bed is your safe space, the place where you can relax, dream and have a little fun. It’s probably also the place where you watch TV, scroll through social media on your phone, read your favorite book and get some remote work done.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, that may be the problem — you should only use your bed for sleep. If your bed has become the control center of your home, there’s a good chance it’s interfering with your sleep. Read on to find out why you should only use your bed for sleep.
Only Use Your Bed for Sleep (and Sex)
Sure, your bed is the most comfortable place to work from home, with plenty of room to spread documents and electronics about. But when you work from your bed, your brain starts to associate your bedroom with work. That means that when you try to fall asleep at night, your brain won’t cooperate. Because it now considers the bed a workplace, your brain will go into work mode — and there goes your sleep.
Establishing clear lines between where you work (or do other activities) and where you sleep is crucial to sleep hygiene. According to The Harvard Business Guide to Being More Productive, “Unless you are careful to maintain boundaries, you may start to feel like you’re always at work and losing a place to come home to.”
Setting those boundaries goes beyond just keeping your work life out of the bedroom. You also need to keep all screens, including computers, mobile devices and TVs, away from your bed to help your mind associate sleep with your bed.
One of the major issues with bringing all those screens into your bedroom is the blue light put forth from them. That blue-wavelength light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that lets your body and brain know it’s time for sleep. Melatonin is delayed by environmental light, so having all those screens going at night messes up your ability to sleep. Yes, you can switch your devices from blue light to a more amber tone by using apps, such as Apple’s Night Shift — but you’ll sleep better if you remove all those screens from your bedroom altogether.
The bottom line: You should only use your bed for sleeping — and yes, for sex as well (as long as no blue-wavelength devices are involved, of course).
Things to Avoid in Bed
So if you’re using your bed solely for sleep and sex, what are some of the activities you should avoid? Take a look.
You may think that watching your favorite late-night comedian or one more episode of the latest binge-worthy show is relaxing you before you go to bed. Sadly, this isn’t the case. All the artificial light beaming out of your bedroom TV is affecting your melatonin production. It’s shifting your circadian rhythms, so you don’t go to sleep when your body knows it’s bedtime, and it’s enhancing your alertness just as you want to shut your brain and body down. Keep the TV watching — even the late-night shows — to the living room.
No, the food you eat in bed doesn’t emit melatonin-disturbing light waves. But it leaves crumbs behind, and those crumbs can attract ants, cockroaches, and flies. That’s plenty of reason not to eat in bed. Plus, late-night eating can interfere with digestion and aggravate GERDS.
Your work deserves its own space, even when you’re working remotely. When you set up a home office — even if it’s just a corner of the dining table — you establish a mental association that tells your brain this is the place to go into work mode. It also helps to eliminate any mental connection between your work and bed. Keep your reading, your email and your work projects all out of your bed.
Texting/Scrolling Through Your Phone
Your smartphone and tablet radiate that problematic blue light, so keeping them away from your bed is crucial to protecting your sleep. Studies show that people using their computers or smartphones right before going to bed average one hour less sleep than those who avoid the devices. Besides, if you keep your phone by your bed at night, you’re likely to be awakened by random texts in the wee hours, which can throw your sleep schedule off further.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Choosing to only use your bed for sleep is the first important step in creating a sleep-friendly environment in your bedroom. Take a look at some other small changes you can make to your bedroom to encourage sleep.
- Turn down the noise. If you live in a noisy environment, bring a white noise machine into your bedroom to drown out the interruptions that sound can cause. Wearing earplugs as you sleep also helps keep noise from affecting your rest.
- Turn down the temperature. Even in the wintertime, rely on your bedding to keep you warm rather than the ambient temperature in the room. If your thermostat is set between 60 and 70 degrees, you’re likely to sleep better.
- Surround yourself with comfort. Pillows that suit your style of sleep and a mattress that you love will help you sleep better. Replace your mattress every 10 years or so, and add a mattress topper for extra comfort.
- Tell your pet “no.” Your dog or cat may love sleeping at the foot of your bed, but when they jump on or off at night, it’s likely to wake you up. If you find that happening, regretfully shoo your pet away to sleep elsewhere.
- Turn your clock away. Counting the minutes that you’re not sleeping by staring at your clock can make it harder to get back to sleep. Try turning your clock away so it doesn’t face you to decrease nighttime stress.
- Get up if you can’t sleep. It’s normal to go through cycles of sleeping and waking at night — but if you stay awake for more than 20 minutes, it’s time to get up. Keep the lights low, but get out of bed and listen to music or read a calming book until you feel sleepy again. (Stay away from those screens, though!)
How else have you changed your habits to get better sleep? Leave a comment below!