Sleep expert tips: keep your bedroom cool and dark, take a shower before bed

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The Today Show had a sleep expert on, Dr. Carol Ash, and she gave so many good tips that I wanted to talk about it! I’ve been having a hard time getting to sleep at night, partially because I’ve been eating junk before bed and it’s keeping me up, but also because I’m watching TV to fall asleep. I know a lot of you are having sleep issues in lockdown too. Dr. Ash gave so many helpful, simple things you can do to get better sleep and to fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. First of all, she said that even one night of poor sleep can lead to increased anxiety and that lack of sleep is tied to increased risk of heart disease. The good thing is that you can take measures to remedy this. Here’s some of what she said and the video is below:

The risks of getting less sleep
Less than five hours of sleep your risk for cardiac disease doubles. Just one sleepless night can trigger a 30% rise in anxiety.

Why sleep is critical
What happens when you sleep at night your brain is rewiring and forming new connections between neurons that are critical for thought and behavior and it’s clearing toxins so it’s helping you be more resilient in the day and helping with learning and memory so we know that sleep is critical.

How to set up the ideal conditions for sleep
A simple thing that you can do is make sure that you keep the room the right temperature. We are designed to sleep in cooler environments because it is cooler at night. 65 to 72 degrees is perfect range. The exact temperature is unique to you but keep the room cool.

Keep the room dark. You want to get room darkening shades or use an eye mask. It will keep you sleeping at night.

Taking a hot shower [before bed] warms you up and relaxes you. The temperature will drop helping you transition to sleep.

What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night
I tell folks to get a journal, write down the thoughts at night to deal with them during the daytime. If after 30 minutes you are still struggling, try a relaxation technique starting with the toes.

[From The Today Show on YouTube]

I go to bed at 9pm (although I usually don’t fall asleep until 9:30/10), wake up around 4:30 am and take a nap every day for at half an hour at around 1-2. I wish Dr. Ash would have mentioned the benefits of naps but she didn’t have much time. Plus she’s trying to get people to sleep more at night and I understand that naps aren’t always practical. I’ve noticed that I do sleep better if I take a shower before bed, but it didn’t occur to me to make this part of my routine! I’m so happy I saw this. I’ve also accidentally left the air conditioning at 73 and have woken up in the middle of the night because of it. 71 seems to be the ideal setting and I’m so grateful my new house has air conditioning. Oh and I wanted to recommend YouTube videos for relaxation and sleep. The Honest Guys have a lot of sleep talkdown videos that are so relaxing and helpful. This one is my favorite.

Here’s that interview:

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photos credit: Kate Stone Matheson, David Clode and Matthew Henry via Unsplash

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32 Responses to “Sleep expert tips: keep your bedroom cool and dark, take a shower before bed”

  1. KellyRyan says:

    Due to the high crime in our county in California I have lights on throughout the night. We do not have air conditioning because we live in a mountainous area and do not usually need it. However, with the fires present in our state our air quality is poor and our home remains at 95 degrees during the day. During the winter we keep the house at 68 degrees, cool is effective. I am a proponent of the power nap. I’m up early 3-4 am, need a quiet lunch, nap, ready to go. Also eating light in the evening, easy on the digestive tract has been good for me.

  2. WilliamJoelene says:

    Thank you for featuring this – love the shower before bed tip! Wishing everyone restful sleep

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      Even as a kid, we showered before bed. I thought everyone did! I remember sitting in a class in HS, and the teacher asked us to describe our daily routines; I was almost shocked to find how many showered in the morning! I couldn’t imagine (still can’t! lol) going to bed with the day’s “sweat/dirt” on me.

      Also, since I started menopause, sleep has become an issue, and Ambien has become my best friend, as has being cool enough. I used to have a tabletop fan set on my nightstand to blow on me, in ADDITION to a ceiling fan. Now, that I live with my dad (taking care of him), I can’t set the a/c as low as I’d find comfortable (as he feels cold easily). So I have a tower fan set up to blow on me lol

    • Barcelona says:

      Shower, a warm one before bedtime has been a MUST for me since I was a kid.

      I can’t go ” DIRTY ” to my lovely, cozy and wonderful bed, I was raised that way and so was my husband.

      It sort of helps me wash the day off, literally and figuratively.

      After my nightly warm showers, I like to read for at least 1 hour or watch something relaxing that doesn’t involve news or our current TRUMP reality.

      I also can’t eat a heavy dinner, I only have a salad full of green veggies, so I can sleep.

      I eat most of my food of the day before 4 pm, because I can’t sleep with a full stomach.

      I never drink coffee or anything with caffeine, alcohol, sugar or smoke at all, it’s worth giving up many things for great skin and for goodnight sleep.

  3. Jordana says:

    I have sleep issues too. I will try these tips, and thanks for the link to Honest Guys, I will try that next time I can’t sleep.
    I’ve been using the sleepwithmepodcast to get back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. It’s a little different, but it’s been the only thing that works for me lately. I hope this link is ok (https://www.sleepwithmepodcast.com). I’m alone a lot, working from home and I avoid going out because of the pandemic. I like this podcast to fall asleep, because it helps me feel less alone, and it distracts me from intrusive thoughts. It takes a few tries to get use to it. The good thing about it is it’s an hour long, and it usually puts me to sleep after 15 or 30 minutes.

  4. kelleybelle says:

    Doesn’t a hot shower raise your body temperature? And don’t you want that DOWN so you CAN sleep better? Hot showers before bed are nonsense. I have a friend who does that before bed and then has to take sleeping pills to sleep. Can’t tell her otherwise.

    • Chanteloup says:

      It works for me – except I take a hot bath. [Learned this from the Japanese ofuro]. I’m clean, I wash away the cares of the day, and floating in the warmth completely relaxes me; I turn to jelly. I burrow in my soft bed and enjoy the cool air around me.
      Everybody’s different.

    • Léna says:

      I actually believe that taking a cold shower will raise your temperature afterwards (because your body will want to get warmer) while taking a hot shower will help. I don’t have any sources for now but I’ll look it up

    • ClaireB says:

      Taking a hot shower and then cooling down afterward when you get out is what signals your body that it’s time to sleep. The heat helps relax your muscles and the temperature change from hot to cooler (like day to night temp changes) helps you sleep.

  5. lucy2 says:

    My cats woke me up early all weekend, but today…nothing.
    Though I did get a lovely work related text at 7 am.

  6. Faithmobile says:

    I was having issues waking up at 2-3AM and not being able to fall back asleep. But in March my mother suggested taking Melatonin. I now sleep 8-9 hours straight. As a light sleeper, I also use: light blocking curtains and a fan for cooling and white noise. I recently found (bamboo) weighted blankets on Amazon which were designed for kids but now adults have discovered their benefits. Don’t forget to turn down the brightness on your screens iPhone has night mode. Sweet Dreams!

  7. aang says:

    Weighted blanket and white noise have been great for my sleep. 1/2 hour nap at 2 makes the afternoons much more productive.

  8. notasugarhere says:

    Some tips I’ve seen/used through the years.

    We aren’t born knowing how to regulate and schedule our sleep. You have to train your body there is a time and place for sleep.

    Don’t take a nap too close to bedtime, or that will destroy your biological ‘sleep drive’. If you want to nap, take a short one in the afternoon.

    If you aren’t falling asleep until 9:30/10, don’t get in bed until then. Once you’re consistently falling asleep soon after you get in bed, start moving the time back in increments. Same on the other end. If you wake up at 4:30, don’t fall back asleep until 10am to make up for lost sleep the night before. It only messes up your sleep further.

    Don’t get in your PJs until right before you get in bed. Try not to watch tv, play on your phone, or read in bed. If you want to read before bedtime, stay in your daytime clothes and read in a chair. When you’re ready for sleep, change into PJs, and get in bed.

    Try keeping the same schedule every night, seven days a week. It takes two days to knock you out of your sleeping schedule, but two-three days to get back to it. If you stay up late Fri and Sat, you might not get back to a good sleep schedule until Tuesday.

    There are lists of foods out there that can help regulate your blood sugar through the night, which can keep you sleeping once you’ve fallen asleep. Some I remember are oatmeal, bananas, almonds, sour cherry juice.

    • notasugarhere says:

      @CeleBitchy and @Hecate

      How about another Amazon shopping post with links to some great PJs and sound machines? I recommend Ralph Lauren cotton poplin and Twin Boat/Nobel Mount poplin and/or flannel PJs myself.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      You sound like the therapist I saw when I had sleep issues. Another tip- if you wake at night and it takes you more than 20 mins to fall asleep, get out of your bed and relocate to another room to read until tired. She also said your bed should only be for s*x and sleep.

  9. Case says:

    I’d always set my alarm for eight hours after trying to go to sleep, and would consistently wake up feeling groggy. I only recently realized we sleep in 90-minute increments, so I should aim for 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep. With that in mind, I’ve been feeling so much better in the morning. I constantly battle myself still — I can wake up naturally feeling great at 6 a.m. and think oh I don’t need to be up yet, I’ll go back to sleep! And then wake up an hour or two later feeling like crap the rest of the day. I’m working on it, though.

    I think nighttime showers are great. I grew up in a house where we took morning showers and that was just what we did, but nighttime showers make so much more sense to me. I feel clean, warm, and cozy and don’t feel like I’m making my sheets disgusting as soon as I get into bed.

  10. Other Renee says:

    When I have trouble falling asleep, I turn on an app on my iPhone called “White Noise.” (The color of the app icon is magenta with three white columns of lines.) There are many options for sounds; I have mine set to ocean waves. I preset for 30 or 15 minutes and usually within five minutes I’m sound asleep. Works for me 99% of the time. It was a lifesaver for me during a period of time that I had trouble falling asleep night after night. And it’s free!! 😴 💤

  11. Lightpurple says:

    My house has no air conditioning. I’ve been doing the shower trick before bed for years. But with a twist. I start with a quick hot shower, washing off all the perspiration so I feel nice and clean, then a blast of really cold water finishing up, and straight to bed. The cold blast on my head cools me right down.

  12. Kaye says:

    I’m desperate for sleep aids that work. CB, that sleep talkdown video seems soothing, but I can’t understand what the guy is saying – or is that maybe the point?

    • ClaireB says:

      I have had issues falling asleep for years and one supplement I have found that works is called Genius Sleep Aid. This stuff really helps me relax before bed and be ready for sleep. Now that the pandemic and the Orange Menace have increased my anxiety again, I’m back on half an Ambien every night, but if you want to stay “natural” and non-prescription, the Genius stuff seems to work.

      • Audrey says:

        I love the Genius products. I use Genius Joy and Genius Awareness every day at work. For sleep, I take a CBD gummy and that does the trick.

  13. Leah says:

    I keep my bedroom cool because of premenopausal symptoms which seem to be never ending. The recent heatwave did cause a strain on the AC system but when it’s very hot outside I try to put it up as high as I can stand it.

    Taking a bath before bed sounds smart.

  14. Porsha says:

    I got told sleeping in the nude helps to sleep, finally tried a while ago but just with my knickers and light singlet, it works, can’t sleep with pants on 😙

  15. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Ive always taken my showers at night. It’s relaxing. And your body is clean before you get into your bed. It definitely helps with sleep. And saves time in the morning!

  16. Marigold says:

    I have a terrible time sleeping. I think it is because my husband is a tosser/turner. As much as I adore him, I sleep better when he is out of town. That sounds terrible! I just sleep better alone. I don’t like to take showers at night because of my hair. I guess that I could just take another one in the morning.

  17. Megaladondon says:

    Watch the Ambien ladies. I had horrible sleep issues and was on it for years. I started sleepwalking and ended up taking a bath one night and breaking my tailbone. Woke up in excruciating pain. Took a long time to recover and I gained 15 pounds because I couldn’t work out and no longer cared about my diet. Meditation every day has helped my insomnia immensely. The cold, dark and quiet is also super important.

    • Joanna says:

      Wow! I’ve read some crazy stories about what people do after taking Ambien, yours is crazy too. Glad I’ve never used it

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