The average person will sleep for nearly 230,000 hours over the course of their life (assuming they get 8 hours of rest each night). These hours amount to approximately ⅓ of your lifetime, so why not create the perfect sleep sanctuary to make your sleep as restful and relaxing as possible?
Not only is a cozy, comfortable sleep sanctuary something to look forward to at the end of the day, but since your body does most of its repair and regeneration while you’re asleep, it can also benefit your health in numerous ways (1).
From hormonal balance, reduced cravings for junk food, stress relief—and even natural weight loss—the benefits of restful sleep can be felt physically and emotionally (2). And improving the quality of your sleep by creating a sleep sanctuary may also help accelerate your health goals.
What Is a Sleep Sanctuary?
A sleep sanctuary is a comfortable environment that promotes restful sleep for better health. The purpose of creating a sleep sanctuary is to remove distractions from your bedroom that interfere with proper sleep, as well as to improve sleep quality with materials that produce a tranquil, “chillaxed” vibe.
A sleep sanctuary involves more than just good sleep hygiene. While it’s important to avoid factors that prevent you from falling asleep at night (such as scrolling through social media and being stimulated by the blue light from your iPhone), a sleep sanctuary should also be a place that allows you to decompress and feel at ease as you enter your slumber.
Here’s how to transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary in five easy steps. By optimizing your sleep environment, not only will you wake up feeling more energized and refreshed, but you’ll begin to notice the physical and mental benefits that naturally come with adequate sleep—such as increased mental focus, concentration, and a stronger immune system (3).
Here’s how to transform your bedroom into a DIY sleep sanctuary and reap the rewards of at-home R&R.
5 Ways to Create a DIY Sleep Sanctuary
1. Create White Noise
Falling asleep to Netflix or an audiobook may seem harmless, but even the slightest level of noise can prevent you from entering the two deepest stages of sleep: non-REM sleep and REM sleep (4). REM sleep (or rapid eye movement sleep) is known for being the deepest stage of sleep when we dream, but entering this state is also when our cells repair, regenerate, and restore the function of the mind and body. Our bodies also require adequate sleep for detoxification (5).
While some noises are easy to control and minimize, others are not. If you live in an area with barking dogs, the sound of sirens and traffic, or the snoring from a significant other, a fan or air conditioner is an easy and inexpensive way to create the white noise that can mask these sounds without disturbing your sleep.
Another way to easily drown out noise is with a white noise sleep machine or app, which can promote a longer, deeper sleep—even if you don’t have any noise to drown out. Most white noise machines allow you to fall asleep to the soothing sound of waterfalls and raindrops, making your bedroom instantly feel sanctuary-esque.
2. Dim The Lights
A sleep sanctuary should have minimal light exposure, which can be achieved by using blackout shades, thicker curtains, or even by wearing a sleep mask.
Light sends signals to your body that it’s daytime (aka time to stay awake), which can suppress melatonin production (6). Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle, and the less melatonin your body produces, the harder it can be for you to fall asleep at night.
Blackout shades can help prevent natural daylight from creeping in, but there may be other light sources impacting your sleep that you wouldn’t initially think of—such as the glow from your alarm clock or night light.
Studies have also shown the blue light from electronics such as tablets, laptops and smartphones suppresses melatonin production more than any other light source, so be sure to put those bad boys away at least 2 hours before bedtime (7). Which brings me to the next step…
3. “Coat Check” Electronics at the Door
Aside from being a source of melatonin-blocking blue light, electronics can also be a source of mental stimulation, and in some cases, unnecessary stress (I’m talking about you, social media). Reading about a distressing event in the news, or seeing something disturbing in your news feed before your head hits the pillow, isn’t exactly effective for winding down—neither is online shopping nor getting lost in the visual vortex that is Instagram.
Your sleep sanctuary should have an “electronics-check” policy at the door so you can focus on relaxing before bed without any distractions. If you can’t fall asleep right away, resist the urge to grab your phone. Try meditating, practice a few yoga poses, or skim through a magazine or paperback book instead.
4. Ramp Up the Comfort
I don’t know about you, but when I think of a sanctuary, I automatically think of comfort. Since we spend hundreds of thousands of hours sleeping, it’s worth investing in a little comfort to make our sleep as enjoyable and relaxing as possible.
A few ways to give your sleep sanctuary a “comfort” makeover include replacing your mattress (some believe Tempur-Pedic mattresses and memory foam can help alleviate back pain) and choosing a pillow that properly supports your neck and forms to your head (whether you prefer soft or firm is up to you). You may also want to switch your sheets and blankets to a different type of fabric. For example, bamboo fabric is not only soft and comfortable, but is said to have hypoallergenic, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties (8). Even adding a simple, soft rug next to your bed can bring a sense of comfort.
Lastly, don’t forget about temperature when it comes to creating a comfortable environment. Studies suggest heat interferes with REM sleep and may cause sleep disturbances, which is why cooler temperatures (with blankets, if needed) are recommended for restful sleep (9).
5. Create Your Own Oasis
As mentioned above, your sleep sanctuary should be a place you can enter and feel relaxed (which is why it should also be used only for the purpose of sleeping). For this reason, it’s important to remove anything in your sanctuary that may cause stress or make it feel like a multi-purpose room—for example, bills, loose papers or textbooks. If you have a desk in your room, it’s a good idea to move it to another area in your home to prevent these items from accumulating in your sleep space.
In fact, one of the best steps to start building a sleep sanctuary is to declutter your bedroom. Some research suggests physical clutter can cause feelings of being overwhelmed, which elevates stress hormones such as cortisol (10). Although it may sound extreme for clutter to have such an impact on your health, elevated cortisol levels are linked to anxiety and restlessness, which can prevent you from being able to fall asleep (which further increases stress levels) (11).
A few other ways to make your sleep sanctuary a relaxation haven include creating a yoga and meditation corner and lighting a few candles or incense before bed (just don’t forget to blow them out before you doze off). You may also want to experiment with essential oils and aromatherapy. Certain oils, such as lavender, may have stress relieving, sleep-inducing properties, while ylang ylang may help relieve insomnia (12)(13).
Changing the decor in your room to softer expressions, such as soothing paintings with pastels or watercolors (rather than dark, dramatic colors), can also make a big difference when it comes to creating a more relaxed vibe.
How you design your sleep sanctuary is entirely up to you, but most importantly: make sure it’s a space that’s your own and feels comfortable to you.
(Read This Next: 8 Tips for Better, More Effective Sleep)