Creating the right, restful environment is almost half the battle to getting the perfect slumber.
11 March 2020
Text by Chiquit Torrente
Good quality sleep – the type from which we wake up feeling refreshed and recharged – is important. We know by now, from countless scientific studies, that a deep, restorative sleep is a factor, as equally important as a healthy diet and regular exercise, to optimum physical and mental health. Dr Lim Li Ling, Medical Director of the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centre, confirms this too in her paper, How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep. Most adults require at least six hours of sleep each night, she says (the range is six to 10 hours), for optimum functioning.
Dr Lim lists several rules to follow in order to get a good sleep – several of these are behavioral, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time, taking caffeine or exercising close to bedtime, and bringing your digital device to bed.
Some of the rules, which Dr Lim indicates as conditioning (training your body’s internal clock to sleep), relate to the environment in which you sleep: activities that you do in the bedroom, for example, can be controlled by the design of the room.
Renowned designer Isabelle Miaja of the Singapore-based Miaja Design Group – she designed the interiors of the celebrated So Sofitel, among other hotels and resorts – says that she doesn’t encourage putting a TV in residential bedrooms (except when the homeowner requests for it) so that the bedroom is exclusively for sleep and sexual activity, which Dr Lim also recommends.
Here are other factors, say Isabelle and other experts, to watch for so that you can create the right, restful bedroom.
Whether it’s simply mattresses, or the entire bedroom, what you consider comfortable will allow you to sleep faster, says Ben How of SleepLab by OM. In terms of mattresses, comfort means it conforms better to your body, and your body lies in a neutral position, Ben explains. In terms of bedroom, studies indicate that comfort also comes from room temperature, noise and light levels.
Depending on your preferences and body chemistry, set your room temperature from 18-23 degrees C. This helps to lower your own body temperature, prompting your internal clock to sleep mode. Just make sure it’s not too cold for you, so that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night shivering.
Hotel walls and windows are usually designed to keep out external noise (and keep in internal noise), says Isabelle. These walls are thicker than typical internal partition walls in residences, and the windows are usually double-glazed. They’ve also undergone a soundproofing test. Install acoustic panels as an extra wall layer, or padding on the wall, she advises, if you want to soundproof your bedroom.
In Scandinavian countries, the sun can remain up till 9pm at springtime, and midnight during summer. So they use blackout curtains. Fortunately for us, sunrise and sunset timing doesn’t vary as much. Still, it’s a good idea to have blackout curtains, especially for HDB bedrooms that look out to the brightly lit corridors.
Essential oils such as lavender, blue or roman chamomile and bergamot help to relax and ease restlessness. Ylang ylang (the chief ingredient of Chanel No.5) is also a calming fragrance. Isabelle advises a light touch as we are more sensitive to smells when we’re tired. A reed diffuser is effective at gently spreading the fragrance throughout the room.
If you subscribe to colour psychology, then you know that blue is a calming, restful hue, while yellow is energising. That’s not always the case, however, as some people find their favourite hue comforting. Isabelle suggests that you take your personal colour and use it in a monochromatic, tone-on-tone treatment throughout your bedroom. For example, use a deeper shade of plum on the headboard, echoed by lighter tones on patterned wallpaper.
A cluttered room isn’t restful; likewise, an inefficient furniture layout will also affect how relaxing your bedroom can be. Isabelle says that a triangular configuration allows you to move freely from bathroom to closet to bed. Make sure that you don’t have little furniture, such as an ottoman, impending this flow of movement too, so that you don’t stumble on something if you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.
Ultimately, it all boils down to personal preferences. As a guide, use these factors as a checklist so that you see your bedroom as a place of rest. As Dr Lim says, “You need to develop the conditioning whereby you associate the bedroom with sleepiness and sleep, so that you will fall asleep readily when you go to bed”.
This article has been adapted from Lookbox Living Issue #42
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