Managing Your Sleep Environment: Temperature, Light and Noise
For some people, pain itself keeps them awake. For others, with chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, unrefreshing sleep is part of their diagnosis — research suggests that stages of deep sleep are frequently interrupted.
It is important to minimize disturbances by making sure your sleep environment is conducive to good sleep. I have become really sensitive to light and noise since the onset of my fibromyalgia, and with all the accessories I use, like a sleeping mask, ear plugs, or head phones, I joke that I am the 'sleep cyborg'!
Research shows that many people sleep better in cooler temperatures, usually between 60-67 F. It is helpful to have breathable bed linens and blankets.
Good materials include natural fabrics that wick moisture away, like cotton, bamboo or linen. A higher thread count actually equals less breathable sheets, so if you tend to overheat, this could be an important factor.
I sleep best in absolute darkness, and I'm not alone. Experts say you produce optimal levels of the sleep hormone melatonin in darkness.
This means turning off all electronics, facing your backlit alarm clock away from you, and using heavy window coverings to block out streetlights. I love my blackout blind from Ikea, which blocks all light from coming in through my window.
I also use a sleep mask for those stray beams that come in under the door or through the crack between the blind and the window.
If your partner snores, or the dog next-door barks all night, or the birds start chirping at an ungodly hour, you may want to consider taking steps to prevent these sounds from disrupting your sleep. Earplugs are the first line of defense for most people.
I use silicone earplugs that cover your ear canal instead of being inserted — I find them more effective and I also worry about ear problems from regular plugs. Alternatively, you can play white noise.
White noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a "peak" sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed. White noise includes the sound of static, a fan, or heavy rainfall.
There are many apps that play types of white noise though your phone or tablet using regular speakers connected to your phone or you can also buy 'sleep phones' — headband headphones that can be comfortably worn while sleeping.
Alternatively, you can buy a sound machine that plays pre-programmed white noise. I regularly play white noise rain sounds and it helps me sleep, especially through the early morning hours.