If you struggle to sleep well you’re not alone. Most people deal with insomnia at some point in their life.
But if you have an autoimmune disorder, and you’re not sleeping well you may be hindering your body’s ability to heal.
If you’re not sleeping well you’re not healing well.
Your body does its best healing and detoxification at night. And good sleep is necessary to keep your hormones balanced and your immune system working optimally. Even your gut microbiome is influenced by your sleep quality. (And, as you know, gut health matters A LOT when you have an autoimmune disease). (1)
Getting a good night sleep is essential when you want to feel better and reverse your autoimmune disease. That’s why it’s one of the foundational pieces of The Anderson Approach.
There are many reasons you may not be sleeping well. Your hormones or your blood sugar may be out of whack. Your lifestyle may be to blame. Or, you may have deeper underlying root cause issues (like chronic infections or toxins) that are preventing you from getting your zzz’s.
You may need to work with a functional medicine healthcare provider that can help you figure out what’s keeping you up at night.
In the meantime, take a look and see if you can optimize your bedroom for sleep. Where you sleep matters and your environment may be filled with obstacles that are preventing you from getting good sleep.
These tips may not be enough to cure your sleep challenges but they can move things in the right direction.
Here’s how you can optimize your bedroom for sleep:
Tip #1: Turn Down the Thermostat
Your ability to sleep well may be influenced by the temperature in your bedroom. If you’re too hot or too cold your sleep may be affected.
Fun fact. In addition to your circadian rhythm (the one that’s influenced by daylight and darkness) your body goes through a temperature cycle throughout the day. Your body temperature naturally dips a degree or two at night in preparation for sleep and reaches its lowest temperature around 6am.
Research suggests that disruptions in this temperature rhythm may cause sleep problems. This is especially true if your body doesn’t dip into those lower temperatures at night. In other words, being too hot at night may lead to restless sleep. (2)
That’s why it’s recommended you sleep in a slightly cool environment. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal temperature of your bedroom for sleep is on the cooler side…around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. (3)
Tip #2: Reduce the Noise
If you’re a light sleeper, noises can wake you and make it harder for you to go back to sleep. It may be traffic passing by, a dog barking off in the distance, your heater or air conditioner cycling on and off, or even your partner who snores.
The kicker is this: the noises don’t have to wake you to negatively impact your sleep.
Research suggests that noise may reduce the amount of deep sleep you get. So, even if it seems like noises aren’t influencing your sleep they may be. Even if a sound isn’t loud enough to wake you it may be pulling you out of those deeper and more restful sleep stages. (4)
Do what you can to reduce noise in your bedroom. It may mean shutting your windows at night or even sleeping in another area of your home.
If you can’t control the noise there are several things you can do to help. Ear plugs can be a game changer if you’re able to sleep with them comfortably.
In addition, using ambient white noise has been shown to improve sleep.(5)
It works by creating a consistent quiet sound that can block out other noises. An air purifier can not only clean the air while you sleep but also block some of the noise. A ceiling fan or a white noise machine may do the trick.
Tip #3: Keep the Light Low
Light pollution while you sleep at night can negatively influence your sleep but so can exposure to blue lights (from electronics and light bulbs) BEFORE your head even hits the pillow.
Research suggests that nighttime exposure to blue light can impact your circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin (your sleep hormone). (6)
One study looked at the use of electronic readers (versus books) on sleep quality. Those who used devices before bed took longer to fall asleep, had shorter REM cycles, and reduced alertness the next morning. (7)
If you must use electronics before bed wear blue blocking glasses and turn on the “night shift” options on your devices which will reduce the amount of blue light emitted. You can also buy light bulbs that have low blue light that you can use to read before bed.
Additionally, research also suggests that exposure to light while you sleep will reduce sleep quality and cause your insulin levels to rise (another reason you may not sleep well). (8)
Remove any extra lights from your bedroom from alarm clocks or phone chargers. If you have light pollution while you sleep from outside lights (like traffic or street lights) use blackout curtains on your windows that block the outside light.
If you need a night light for safety or if you can’t completely remove all the light from your bedroom wear an eye mask. An eye mask is the #1 thing that turned my own sleep around. It always goes in my travel bag.
Tip #4: Reduce Your Exposure to EMF’s
EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, are a hot topic (and a controversial one). There are two types of EMFs or invisible energy fields: high frequency (from UV light and x-rays) and low frequency (from microwaves, electrical devices, wifi, wireless and bluetooth devices and cell phones).
Most agree that the high frequency EMFs are harmful to our health. The controversy lies in the low frequency EMFs. Many believe these are harmless while others are deeply concerned about the potential long-term consequences to our health.
Regardless of the controversy there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests low frequency EMF exposure is harmful to your health and your sleep cycle. (9)
EMFs can reduce the production of melatonin (your sleep hormone) and exposure may lead to anxiety and depression (a further cause of sleep disruption). (10, 11)
To set yourself up for a good night sleep be proactive and reduce your exposure to EMFs at night.
Keep electronics out of your bedroom. Or, if you must use them keep them in airplane mode and don’t keep them plugged into chargers at night. If you use the alarm clock on your phone consider getting a cheap alarm clock that runs on battery.
Use a simple and inexpensive timer to turn off the wifi in your house at night to reduce your exposure to wifi while you sleep. Turn off bluetooth devices or unplug them from the wall while you sleep at night especially if they are in your bedroom.
Tip #5: Breathe in Essential Oils
Numerous studies show benefits to using aromatherapy, in the form of essential oils, to promote quality sleep. (12)
Research suggests that aromatherapy can increase the duration and quality of sleep and reduce stress and anxiety (a common reason people lay awake at night). (13, 14)
There are several ways you can use essential oils to promote sleep. You can place a drop or two next to your bed, you can use a diffuser which uses steam to deliver the oil, or you can put a few drops in a warm bath before bed. You can also put a drop in your hands and inhale deeply a few times (this works especially well if you wake up in the middle of the night).
If you’re one of those people who are chemically sensitive you can try just one drop on the opposite corner of your bedroom. Over time you may be able to tolerate more and at a higher dose.
The most commonly studied essential oils for sleep is lavender but others like vanilla, chamomile, valerian, or sandalwood have also been used. Many companies make essential oil blends that combine many different oils. Try different ones and see what you like. My two favorites are: Sleep and Parasympathetic Blend.
Quality matters. Buy organic whenever possible. Higher quality essential oils can cost more but you’ll find you can use less of them and often you’ll get better results.
Tip #6: Choose the Right Mattress
You spend about 30% of your life laying on your mattress so do whatever you can to be comfortable (& healthy) while you sleep.
According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90% of people polled said that the quality of their mattress was the single most important element of a good night sleep. (15)
However, many of my patients, colleagues, friends and family members report sleeping on an uncomfortable (or old) mattress. It can be a hassle (and a financial strain) to invest in a new mattress but I would argue that it’s worth it.
A poor quality mattress and/or an old mattress may not only be uncomfortable but it may be negatively influencing your health. It may cause the obvious body aches, back pain or headaches. But mattresses can be full of toxic chemicals, mold, and dust mites — all of which influence how well you sleep.
Buy the best mattress you can afford. You may be surprised at how affordable an organic, non-toxic and comfortable mattress can be. There are several to choose from (with a wide range of prices). I have an Avocado Mattress and I’ve never slept so well in my life…it was well worth the investment.
For more info on how to buy a healthy mattress, check out the Environmental Working Group’s mattress guide.
Tip #7: Make Your Bed in the Morning
Surprisingly, making your bed in the morning can help you get a good night sleep according to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. (16)
The poll results didn’t suggest why this is the case but those who made their bed daily were 20% more likely to report getting a good night sleep. Furthermore, 75% of participants reported better sleep when they slept on clean sheets that were washed at least once a week.
Although a poll doesn’t come backed with research I agree that sleeping on clean and comfortable sheets makes a difference. It certainly can’t hurt, right?
And, as a bonus, according to Gretchen Rubin, who wrote “The Happiness Project” making your bed in the morning was one of the most common changes that led to increased happiness. So making your bed may not only help you sleep better but it may boost your mood as well.
Let’s face it…getting good sleep can be a game-changer when it comes to your health (and how you feel everyday).
You owe it to yourself to do whatever you can so you can sleep well. Not only does it make you feel better — better moods and more energy — but it also improves your ability to heal.
There are many ways you can optimize your bedroom for sleep. You may find that with a few simple changes you start sleeping better right away.
What’s Your Take? Have you made some simple tweaks to your bedroom that have upped your sleep game? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.