Make Your Bedroom Like a Cave for Great Sleep

If you've read our blog for any amount of time, you'll know we are concerned about how many Americans have problems getting to sleep and staying there. Look at these statistics from the American Sleep Association:

37% of 20-39 year-olds report short sleep duration.
40% of 40-59 year-olds report short sleep duration.
35.3% adults report <7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period.
While some of reports stem from health issues, the problem the ASA sees most often is insomnia, with about 30 percent of all adults reporting at least some short-term issues.

How can this happen? We live in the 21st Century, with every possible advantage. We have ways to get exercise even when we can't comfortably go outside. We have access to amazing medical facilities and the best health technology seen in the history of the world. We aren't sleeping on the ground, worried about ear-snakes, with a stone for our pillow. Why can't we sleep well? More importantly, we are we dying from lack of sleep??

There is very likely no easy answer to that question. If there were, someone would have figured it out by now and would have turned that knowledge into a fortune. They'd be laughing at us right now from their palatial moon base mansion, surrounded by their super-intelligent robot monkey butlers.

We aren't rich, nor do we have a moonbase -- yet -- but we might have an idea. See, the trick is to turn your bedroom into a cave -- or make it as much like a cave as you can while keeping the comforts of climate control and lack of bats and spiders. Caves, which is where animals like to sleep if they can, tend to share three qualities. First, they are cool. Second, they are dark. Third, they are quiet. Let's take each of these in turn.
  1. Cool: The idea sleeping temperature for the average adult sits somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, your ideal temperature will vary, but you should not have your bedroom too cold nor too hot. Every person has a "set-point" -- a temperature their body tries to maintain -- and that point falls a bit at night. If the temperature in your bedroom is too far above or below that point, your body will continually fight to either heat or cool. You won't sleep well. As a rule, though, cooler is better. Remember that you can always put on pajamas, socks, or extra blankets. 
  2. Dark: We all know it's tougher to sleep with a bright light shining on you than if you were in a dark room, right? Okay. So we don't need to hammer this point into the ground, but there is a point worth noting. Your body begins to produce melatonin, the so-called "sleep drug", in the late evening and that melatonin stays in your bloodstream throughout the night, for roughly 12 hours. Except that melatonin is very sensitive to light. It hates light. If you keep your lights right before you relax to sleep or, worse, after you're asleep, your melatonin level falls off drastically. How drastically? More than half. Dark is good. Okay? Okay. 
  3. Quiet: A study in 2012 showed links between nighttime noise and increases in cardiovascular disease and stroke in elderly people. A 2018 study showed the louder environment of a pediatric unit may have had direct effects on the children's pain tolerance and recovery time. The short of it is this: quiet is good but absolute quiet isn't as good as you may think, especially if you're prone to worry. You need some noise, so make sure the noise in your bedroom is soft, regular, and soothing. 
You can sleep well. You don't have to worry about nodding off as you drive home from work. You can greet bedtime with joy and, yes, even some eager anticipation. You can do it! Just remember to make your bedroom like a cave -- cool, quiet,and dark -- and you'll be well on your way. Let us know how it goes, okay?