Indulge Your Senses for Better Sleep
Our five senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch—help us to perceive and process the world around us. And it's not just when we're awake. Our senses are an important part of sleep, too. We can tap into our senses to work as natural sleep aids, boosting our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Visual cues—from the color on your bedrooms walls to light exposure—can set the stage for good sleep. Start gearing up for sleep by dimming the lights throughout your home an hour or two before bed. Keep off electronics during that time frame, too. Yes, even to read a book. Electronics emit blue wavelength light which interferes with our body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycle.
- Indulgence: Art books. Numerous studies have shown that viewing art can reduce stress by decreasing our body's levels of cortisol, a.k.a., the stress hormone. It can also produce feelings of pleasure, according to Mic.com. Many art museums are closed right now due to COVID-19, but you can purchase books of their artworks from their online gift shops.
Sounds plays a big role in helping us fall asleep. Ambient, or background, sounds, such as dogs barking or traffic noise, can keep us awake. For some people, achieving adequate silence to soundly slumber is as simple as closing our bedroom door and windows. Others need the TV on to fall asleep. Otherwise, their brains zero in on those ambient sounds, no matter how faint, and they can't doze off.
- Indulgence: Sound machine. If you can't fall sleep because of ambient sound, you may actually need a bit of white noise, from a sound machine. White noise helps you fall asleep by cancelling out ambient noise.
It's important to watch what we eat and drink before bed. To improve sleep quality, skip the chardonnay. Drinking alcohol before bed can disrupt sleep. Try tart cherry juice or malted milk instead. These were found to have a positive effective on sleep quality, according to a 2016 report published in Advances in Nutrition.
Tart cherries contain a high concentration of melatonin. Most research on hot milk's effect on sleep used a combination of Horlick's malted milk (the first malted milk product in the U.S.) and hot milk. This combination contains B vitamins, which play a role in sleep.
- Indulgence: Mocktails. Tart cherry juice can be too astringent on its own. You'll need to mix it with something, like some sparkling water or club soda. Clean Eating Kitchen offers a refreshing sparkling tart cherry mocktail. It's perfect for holiday parties. Or as an evening cool down during the hot summer months. When the weather cools down, try Food Network's Hot Vanilla Malted.
Your sense of smell is tied strongly to memories. How your bedroom smells can set up you up for pleasant dreams, too, according to the National Sleep Foundation. (NSF). Choose laundry detergent that has a gentle scent—or no scent at all. Something that can be invigorating during the day, such as a citrus fragrance, might keep you up at night, especially if it's on your bed linens. In NSF's Bedroom Poll, 78% of respondents said they are more excited to go to bed on sheets with a fresh scent, and 71% said they got a more comfortable night's sleep on sheets with a fresh scent.
When it comes to inducing sleep, lavender is the go-to scent. It reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, thereby relaxing you, according NSF. In one 2005 study, participants who took a sniff of lavender before bed reported more deeper sleep and felt more vigorous in the morning.
- Indulgence: Essential oil diffusers. Scented candles are great for when you're awake. But you should never fall asleep with a candle still lit. An aromatherapy, or essential oil, diffuser can safely permeate your room with your favorite scent while you sleep. These can be purchased online or at a home improvement retailer. Allure magazine ranks 20 of the best essential oil diffusers.
Our skin is our body's largest organ. If we get too hot or too cold, or our bed linens rub us the wrong way, chances are we're not going to sleep well. A comfortable mattress ranks as the top element important to a good night's sleep, with 92% of respondents saying it matters the most in NSF's Bedroom Poll. Comfortable pillows and bedding are close runners up (among 91% and 85%, respectively, of respondents).
- Indulgence: Programmable thermostat. If you toss and turn because you're either too sweaty or too cold, the issue is your room temperature. The temperature in your bedroom can change overnight. To keep it a steady temperature that you enjoy, use a programmable thermostat. It can lower or raise the temperature at certain times throughout the night so you can stay comfortable.