As the winter solstice approaches here in the northern
hemisphere, we’re seeing fewer hours of daylight – with the darkness arriving
earlier each day.
These months are nature’s way of taking a rest. Trees slow
down and lose their leaves. Mammals go into hibernation.
We, too, are mammals. And our ancient ancestors, who woke
and slept with the rise and fall of the sun, used these months for deep rest
My family abides by these natural rhythms as well, and we’ve
come to love the winter … largely because we love our bedrooms, and feel like
they love us back.
It didn’t just happen that way. I had to make friends with
my bedroom (and sleep in general). But first, I had to understand a basic fact
or two about my body and brain.
Did you know that your body has a built-in circadian
rhythm or “internal clock” that cycles you through periods of rest and
wakefulness? Though everyone’s circadian rhythms are slightly different, we are
all pretty much “synced up” with daylight and darkness, and our bodies know
instinctively when it’s time to rest. If we try to ignore our circadian rhythms
or override them with stimulants and excessive activity, we run the grave risk
of getting less sleep than we need.
Why is getting too little sleep a grave risk? There are so
many reasons, but here’s a big one. When you don’t get enough sleep, your
body’s fight-or-flight response to things around you becomes activated much
more easily, which leads to more stress. This, in turn, makes it even harder
for you to sleep, which creates even more stress, and so on… a difficult cycle
to break once you’re in its grip.
So, to fully enjoy your downtime and optimize your health…
Here are 4 secrets that will turn your bedroom into a
personal sanctuary of deep rest, relaxation and intimacy!
#1 Getting Your Light Right
To optimize my sleep, one of the biggest things I needed to
learn about was how different types of light affect your body. For example,
bright artificial light tends to intensify emotions, whereas low or muted light
generally helps to keep us on an even keel.
Exposure to blue wavelengths of artificial light at night is
the enemy of sleep. Blue light reduces the body’s production of melatonin, the
hormone that gets you feeling sleepy. And that is one of many reasons why a
cell phone in the bedroom does not a sanctuary make!
According to a Harvard research study, looking at your cell
phone in bed (or at any time during the hour or two before you turn in for the
night) will not only make it harder for you to fall asleep, it will interfere
with the type of sleep you get after you drift away. Specifically, nighttime
exposure to cell phones has been shown to decrease REM (rapid eye movement)
sleep, which is your deepest dreaming state. The result of losing REM sleep is
that you feel more fatigued and your thinking is a little foggier all day long.
Cell phone light at night also messes with your circadian
rhythm, which can lead to a variety of health issues.
So my first principle for creating my bedroom sanctuary
is: Keep it easy on the eyes. Remove all screens from the
room, including cell phone, TV, and computer. And no harsh bright lights; keep
the lighting soft and muted.
Though my bedroom has an overhead light, I never use it. I
prefer to just use my bedside lamp and occasionally the one on the dresser.
These lights are unobtrusive; and calming.
#2 The Feng Shui of Zzzzz
Simplifying the space is another principle that
goes hand in hand with “easy on the eyes.” I keep the floor of my bedroom clear
and I don’t pile stuff on the dresser either, not even papers or books. When I
see stuff piled up, it subtly (or not so subtly) reminds me of things I have to
do, or intend to do, during the day. It quickens my pulse ever so slightly.
In her book, The Magic Art of Tidying Up, Marie
Kondo advises us to clear our houses of any objects that do not “spark joy.” I
think this is particularly good guidance for the bedroom. Remove anything that
doesn’t afford you some measure of comfort or joy when you look at it.
Make sure your bedroom walls are painted a pleasing color.
Keep electrical cords and wires tucked away out of your line of sight. Don’t
let clothes pile up on a chair in a corner.
From the vantage point of your pillow, keep things simple
and grand and nourishing to your eyeballs! Your view should only land on
items that please your heart, such as photographs of people you love, or
artwork that uplifts you.
The bedside table is key. It’s the trickiest area for me
because in addition to what I call the “maintenance principles” above, an
essential component of creating my bedroom sanctuary is…
#3 Making it a zone of pleasurable sensations
Some say the bedroom should be strictly for sleep and for
making love (and, presumably, for getting dressed). I respectfully disagree. I
want my bedroom to be a place that welcomes me in a myriad of ways – not
overstimulating me, but gently nourishing me in a way that enriches and
For example, I like the room to smell good, so I usually
keep lavender essential oil by my bedside. Sometimes I want to hear meditative
music before I drift off, so I have a little mp3 player that lives atop my
In addition to my go-to sleep potions, you’ll also find a
book or two on my nightstand. (I love to read in bed. To me, it’s one of
life’s greatest pleasures.)
Not everyone favors reading at night. Some feel that it can
be overstimulating and might even hinder you from falling asleep. For myself,
I’ve found it to have the exact opposite effect.
Reading a book is not like looking at a cell phone. The cell
phone screen does indeed keep me awake. Reading a book, on the other hand, when
I’m sleepy, makes me even sleepier. It quickly shows me just how ready for bed
I really am.
Scientific research bears this out too: Studies show that
reading a real paper book at night reduces stress, improves the quality of your
sleep, and can even help you fall asleep faster. Reading (paper books) has
other amazing benefits too according to the research, like lowering your
cortisol levels, sharpening your cognitive functioning, and even expanding your
ability to empathize with others.
But I do find it’s important to rotate the books on my night
table so that they don’t gather dust, and this brings me to my fourth and final
principle for making a bedroom into a sanctuary. This one is the bottom line,
the prime factor, the one before the zeroes, the most commonsensical of all,
and the one principle that is absolutely necessary for all the others to
#4 Keep it clean
Make sure the floor is swept or vacuumed. Wipe all surfaces
free of dust on a daily basis. Don’t let dirt or dust (or, worse yet, objects)
accumulate under the bed.
Wash your sheets before they get sweaty and uncomfortable.
Wash your blankets too.
You won’t find deep pleasure in your bedroom if it isn’t
clean. It won’t be easy on your eyes or simple on your soul. Cleanliness will
calm you and support you. Cleanliness is the best way to honor your bedroom
sanctuary, and yourself.
Off the cuff, it may seem like a daunting project, but it
really doesn’t take that much effort to create a sanctuary out of your bedroom.
And the payoffs are tremendous: You will reap more energy, clarity, and overall
health. AND it feels really REALLY good!
Sanctifying your bedroom could be the best time investment
you make all year. It could change your life.