How to Sleep Better at Night – Healthy Home, Better Sleep! - 24/06/2015
According the wise Dalai Lama, “sleep is the best meditation.” We’ve all had a bad night’s sleep and we know just how much a night like that can affect work, play and even our personal relationships. There are of course, the usual suspects that disrupt our sleep: too much alcohol, too much stress, and small children. But did you know that the homes we live in can impact how we sleep? There’s a real link between the health of your house and your sleep. No amount of chamomile tea is going to solve your sleep problems: It’s time to do something about your house.
The Best Temperature for Sleeping
It’s hard to say exactly what temperature your house should be at for the best sleep because we’re all unique and we like a different range of sleeping conditions. 22C is a typical recommendation to keep your bedroom, but sleep professionals advise setting the temperature to a comfortable level for you. How you do this, of course, will greatly depend on how you heat your home. You need a system that helps regulate the air temperature instead of a gas heater or an open fire.
Besides heating, there are many other strategies to create the ideal sleeping conditions in your home. Some experts advise thinking of your bedroom as a cave: you want it to be cool, quiet, and dark. How you dress your bed counts too. Memory foam pillows have a tendency to overheat the head, which will lead to a disrupted sleep. Electric blankets are fine, as long as you turn them off. The quality of your mattress is a big factor, as well as the heaviness of your blankets. But nothing is more important than air quality and temperature.
Fact: Air Temperature Affects Your Sleep
The temperature of your sleeping area and how comfortable you feel in it affects how well and how long you stay asleep. But how? When we go to sleep our set body temperature, which is the temperature our brains are trying to achieve, goes down. It’s like our internal thermostat, and if our bodies get too cold or too hot, the brain struggles to achieve this temperature. It’s actually this mild drop in body temperature that induces sleep – but if our bedrooms get too hot or too cold, we’re more likely to wake up. This comfort level in our bedrooms affects the quality of REM sleep, the deepest part of our sleep where we dream and fully rest.
Dry Lullabye - Environment and Sleep
Sometimes our sleep problems are less stress related and more to do with our environment. For instance, if you have itchy skin at night or difficulty breathing, you’re not going to get a proper sleep. These aggravations could be the result of a sleep allergy due to the quality of air in your home. And if you’re being affected, think of what your children will go through. Sleep allergies are common in New Zealand because of the problems we have with poorly insulated houses that are damp and cold.
Dust mites, bed bugs, and fungus and moulds are common problems too, and they can aggravate your family’s pre-existing health conditions like asthma, eczema and chronic rhinitis. Cold, damp houses can be the cause of these illnesses.
Dust mite and mould allergies cause symptoms that are similar to hay fever or a bad cold, including an itchy or stuffy nose, watering eyes, sneezing, coughing and other breathing problems like wheezing. With the proper ventilation system, these symptoms can be alleviated.
Sleeping with the Enemy
Mould is a particularly key element in a bad night’s sleep. While it’s been making the headlines more frequently over the last several years, largely as a result of New Zealand’s leaky homes and the low quality housing options for lower-income families, mould has been a problem for poorly ventilated houses for ages. Found in common areas such as showers, basements and closets, mould can be lurking in many areas of your home. If you've had plumbing problems or leaks in your roof, mould could be growing and releasing its many spores in your walls, ceilings, window frames, under the carpet and in the frames of your house. If your house has mould you can guarantee that the air quality is poor and you won’t sleep well as a result of this. A bad night’s sleep is the least of your worries if your house is cold and mouldy.
Unhealthy Homes in New Zealand
While mould is a common problem in New Zealand homes, many people don't realize is that it can make you extremely sick, or even kill you. The severity of your symptoms depends on the types of mould present in your home, the extent of your exposure, your age and how healthy you are. If you have any existing sensitivities or allergies, you’ll be at a higher risk for severe illness, or death.
People suffering from mould exposure are at risk of experiencing the following major medical problems:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Headache, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and visual disturbances
- Immune system disturbances and fatigue
The first sign of a household mould problem is a musty, damp odour. You’re no doubt familiar with the smell of mildew which is simply a variety of mould. Perhaps you’ve noticed bowed floorboards, discoloured carpet, water stains on your walls—all signs you could be developing a mould problem. Remember, your health is at stake. The only way to control indoor mould growth is to control the moisture level in your house.
While lack of sleep can make you grumpy and foggy, there are many more serious effects of sleep loss. According to some sleep experts, 90% of people with insomnia, the common sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep, also have other serious health conditions.
Sleep deprivation can lead to the following serious health problems:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
No Sleep, No Brains
Sleep loss also makes us, well, dumber. Lack of sleep hurts our cognitive processes in many ways. One, it impairs our attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving, making it harder for us sleepyheads to learn efficiently. Also, if you don’t get enough sleep at night, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.
Sleep Loss Equals Weight Gain
When we don’t get enough sleep, our hunger and appetites increase, sometimes to the point of obesity. According to recent studies, people who sleep less than six hours a day are 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. There’s a clear link between lack of sleep and the peptides in the stomach that regulate the appetite. Shortened sleep times result in higher levels of Ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. No only do we feel hungrier, but when we’re suffering from sleep loss we tend to hunger for the wrong foods. Lack of sleep stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. If you’re looking to lose a few pounds, it’s less a case of going to the gym, but rather hitting the hay!
Sleepiness Makes You Sad
Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to depression. People who are diagnosed with depression or anxiety are more likely to sleep less than six hours at night. Insomnia in particular has a strong link to depression. Sleep is the only way to give your mind a rest. When we’re well rested, we’re happier. Sleep loss can aggravate depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep: it’s a vicious cycle. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.
At HRV we have the proper heating and ventilation to remedy any house, no matter how unhealthy it is. A healthy body and mind starts with a healthy home. Give us ring today to talk to our team of professionals who will guide you step-by-step on getting your home’s health back on track.