Sleep is a hot topic for every parent. Sleep training, sleep regression, safe sleep guidelines… these are terms we’re all familiar with. We do everything we can to ensure our kids sleep well, yet tend to neglect our own sleep health. Naturally, parenthood and lack of rest go pretty much hand-in-hand; in the early stages especially, we have very little control over how much sleep we get. However, sleep is not a luxury; it has a major impact on both mental and physical health, and should absolutely be made a priority.
What factors affect sleep?
There are countless things that affect sleep, from stress and hormones to environmental factors. Parenthood undoubtedly throws our sleep patterns out of whack, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, it often starts well before the kids have even arrived; 78% of women reported more disturbed sleep during pregnancy. The prospect of parenthood is both exciting and nerve-wracking, and there are a million and one things to think about, so it’s no surprise that it comes with sleepless nights. At the same time, poor sleep quality may also be down to external factors; too much caffeine, or the presence of distracting gadgets such as smartphones and tablets.
Improving Sleep Quality
If you have a baby or toddler, your sleep pattern is largely dictated by theirs. At this stage, it can be nigh on impossible to control how much sleep you get – never mind forty winks, sometimes you’re lucky to even get four. It is therefore important to focus on quality, and this means making sure your sleeping environment is optimal. A few seemingly simple changes can make all the difference, and the most important factors to consider are:
Colour: Believe it or not, the colour of your bedroom may impact how restful your slumber is. Research suggests that blue is most conducive to sleep; it’s all to do with receptors in the retina and how they respond to certain shades. By the same logic, other relaxing colours include yellows, greys and neutrals. If your bedroom isn’t as calm or cozy as it could be, consider a mini makeover with this in mind.
Temperature: Babies won’t sleep if it’s too hot or cold, and the same goes for adults. Temperature affects how well we sleep, and for how long, so it’s worth getting it right. There is no set number on this, and what’s comfortable for one person might not work for another – however, experts typically recommend keeping the room somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bed: It goes without saying that if your bed is uncomfortable, your sleep quality will be less than optimal. The most important element is without a doubt the mattress, and if yours isn’t giving you the right level of support, it stands to reason that your sleep will suffer. This mattress buying guide tells you how to check if your mattress is supporting you properly, and also compares ten of the best mattresses on the market should it be time for a new one.
Lighting: Considerable research has been done into the effect of different lights on our circadian rhythm, and it all points to one conclusion: when it comes to sleep, pitch black is best. Keep unwanted light out by installing blackout blinds, and get into the habit of turning off – or removing – all electronic devices that might emit distracting LED lights. Having a pitch black room should not only help you fall asleep quicker, but will also make it easier to get back to sleep if you’re woken up during the night.
Better sleep means more energy, mental clarity and generally feeling healthier. Restful slumber is just as important for our wellbeing as healthy eating and exercise, so make sure your sleep health gets the attention it deserves.