There are a lot of factors that can contribute to poor sleep, from the endless whizzing of your brain through deadlines and plans, to a big, heavy meal right before bed. But often, sleep discomfort can be attributed to the room around you. No, not the pile of dirty laundry on the floor, but the environmental qualities – air, temperature, light, noise and moisture.
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try changing some of those environmental factors and see if you can rest, breathe – and sleep – better at night.
1. Adjust the Temperature
Too hot, too cold… does it always seem like it’s one or the other? Whatever happened to “just right?” Strangely enough, indoor comfort seems to be the inverse of outdoor temperatures in many places. The hotter it gets outside, the lower the air conditioner goes, until you can’t feel the tips of your toes anymore. The colder outside, the higher the thermostat gets set, until you’re tugging at your shirt collar and wishing for a breath of fresh air.
While you may not be able to control that in your office or the local grocery store, you certainly can in your home.
The ideal temperature for sleep is around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. That range has been consistently shown to produce the best sleep with the least disruptions.
Creating a comfortable temperature environment can be as easy programming your thermostat to, say, a cool 65 degrees at night. Or as complicated as dealing with a house full of people who like it warmer, like it cooler, go to sleep earlier or stay up much later. If that sounds more like you, then it may be worth getting creative with your HVAC system.
In a multi-story home, two or more zones can go a long way to making different people comfortable in different rooms. If your bedroom is upstairs, for example, you may want a zone that you can control separately from the downstairs living room where the kids hangs out long after you’ve gone to bed. Set your zone to a temperature conducive to sleep, and let the rest of the family choose their own temperature.
If you’re really struggling to get a room comfortable – whether it’s a master bedroom above the garage that always seems to be either too hot or too cold depending on the time of year, or a room addition that was never properly connected to your heating and cooling system – then a ductless system may be the way to go.
Ductless heating and cooling gives you an extra level of control beyond a zoned system. Just like the name implies, these systems are not connected to your home’s ducts. They are independent units mounted on a wall or ceiling and controlled with their own thermostats. That makes them ideal for additions and rooms that are tough to keep comfortable without making someone else in the house very uncomfortable.
A single unit provides both heating and cooling. So if you find yourself fighting for control of the thermostat so you can sleep at night, ductless heating and cooling just might be a dream come true.
2. Adjust the Humidity
Temperature isn’t the only factor that affects the quality of sleep. Humidity can be just as significant, and is impacted by seasonal changes as well as by where you live. A New Jersey shore home is going to be a lot more humid than one in the Arizona desert!
You can’t control the weather, but you can take measures to keep indoor humidity in a stable range. The ideal humidity range for sleep, at 30-50%, is a lot wider than the ideal temperature range. Tinker with your levels to find what works best for you.
During the winter here in New Jersey, indoor humidity tends to drop dramatically. Humidity is lower in general during colder months, and our central heating systems suck up whatever is left, leaving everything from our hardwood floors to our skin parched.
When the air is too dry, it can lead to snoring, coughing, muscle stiffness and even bloody noses. Dry nasal passages can make you more susceptible to colds, too. Combine discomfort with potential illness and you aren’t going to be getting a very restful night’s sleep.
On the other hand, humidity can go way up during the summer, until everything feels damp, from our clothes to our bed sheets. High humidity prevents water from evaporating, which makes you feel sweaty and hot. The same lack of evaporation happens in your nose, so you can end up feeling more congested, too. Hot, sweaty and congested means tossing and turning until you finally doze off.
What’s an uncomfortable person to do?
Central heating and cooling systems are not designed to manage humidity, so consider installing a whole house humidifier – or dehumidifier, depending on which problem you want to control. You can also consider a portable unit for some circumstances, but if you want to combat humidity at the core, get the whole house involved!
3. Adjust the Airflow
During summer, a fan can help whisk excess moisture off your skin so you can feel and sleep better. Even during winter months when the last thing you may want is excess air blowing on you, a fan can actually help regulate temperature better. Warm air tends to rise as cool air sinks, so proper circulation will ensure that the heat isn’t just keeping the ceiling company.
The good news is that your HVAC system probably already has a fan built in – one that won’t fall over when the dog walks by or even blow chilly air into your face all night. You won’t have to clean dust off the blades – a good, professional seasonal maintenance will do – and you may also appreciate the soothing benefits of the white noise.
4. Improve Air Quality
Air quality can affect everything from your comfort to your health. And considering that indoor air pollution can often be worse than it is outdoors, it could be time to consider what you’re breathing for six or eight hours every night.
Winter or summer, spring or fall, when our windows and doors are locked tight, pollutants can accumulate and affect our health and quality of life. Airborne pollutants and particulates come from cleaning products, hair and beauty products, paint, furniture, carpets, glues and adhesives for school projects and hobbies, pets, and even that burnt grilled cheese you made for dinner. Basically, just about everything that makes up modern life!
Germs love close quarters, too. With nowhere to go, they happily multiply and spread, from backpacks and countertops to kids and you.
So how does this affect sleep? Poor air quality can contribute to breathing problems and even sleep apnea, disrupting sleep and impacting health. If you’ve ever woken with a stuffy nose or scratchy throat, you’ve probably experienced the consequences of poor air quality.
Excess pollutants, in the form of pet dander, dust, or chemicals emitted from disinfectants and perfume, lead to a decrease in your oxygen intake. That can cause problems from the minor, like discomfort and restless sleep, to the traumatic, like cardiac arrest.
Air quality can have an especially unforgiving impact on the sleep of those who are ill or suffering from allergies. And if you love to have Spot or Little Meow curled up on your feet all night, then the air quality in your bedroom is already compromised.
Since you’re not going to give up grilled cheese, hairspray or Little Meow, take some smart steps to improve your home’s air quality. Changing the filters on your HVAC system is a good place to start. Follow a regular schedule and do have your system professionally maintained and cleaned.
If you’ve recently had construction work done or have reason to believe your ducts may be to blame for some of your problems, getting your ducts cleaned can prevent some of those pollutants from being constantly recirculated throughout your home.
And consider an air purification system that is installed right in your ducts. It can kill up to 99% of bacteria, allergens, mold and viruses, and eliminate 85% of harmful chemicals and odors from the air. Some systems even go so far as to eliminate germs on surfaces, like countertops and doorknobs. That’s great news if you’ve got kids.
There are lots of things that can disrupt your sleep, from unpaid bills to the neighbor’s loud music. But poor environmental conditions in your bedroom don’t have to be on the list. You can take control of your comfort and health, and get a better night’s sleep by improving the quality of the air, temperature and humidity around you.
If you’d like to learn more about how to sleep better under better conditions, get in touch with us for a free consultation and estimate. We can clean, repair, maintain, install or replace everything from your heating and cooling system to humidification systems, air purifiers and more.