Can’t sleep? You probably need to make these changes.

Can’t sleep? You probably need to make these changes.
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A room with light sanded floors: Designed by Designer Ryan Korban says light floors lend themselves to a more serene sleeping environment. He used them in this New York City bedroom. Williams New York — The Washington Post
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By Eustacia Huen / Special to The Washington Post

Brain research has shown how relevant sleep is to health, so it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep. In the bedroom, that means not just decorating in calming colors but also minimizing stressors and optimizing conditions for a restful night. We asked some experts for advice and products to achieve that.

Minimize noise

A key obstacle to uninterrupted sleep is noise. To reduce it, Brooklyn-based architect and designer Adam Meshberg, founder of Meshberg Group, recommends soundproofing the walls — building an additional thin wall in front of the original, adding a layer of QuietRock sheetrock, or sealing any cracks or gaps within the walls. To a lesser extent, wallcoverings can also absorb sound, he says, though a padded wallcovering will do more than a simple wallpaper.

Cracks and gaps are also a problem when it comes to windows. Restoring or replacing drafty windows won’t just improve your heating and cooling bills; doing so can make a huge difference in the amount of noise seeping in. If renovation isn’t an option, some companies will install a thin window behind your existing window for extra soundproofing. CitiQuiet in New York says it can eliminate 95% of street noise.

For a simpler fix, getting an upholstered headboard (or a bed that comes with one) helps with acoustics, says Florida-based designer Adriana Hoyos. Go for fabrics at least one millimeter thick; suede, velvet, leather and leatherette are stylish options for absorbing excess noise.

Andrew Bowen, director of staging at ASH NYC, suggests a combination of loose items — a large area rug (he likes the Rug Company’s Deep Pile Merino Natural Rug, $137 per square foot), floor-to-ceiling window drapery and a fully upholstered bed (he recommends Cisco Brothers’ April Modern Classic White Linen Slipcovered Bed, $2,375-$3,000 at Kathy Kuo Home) — for a quiet, relaxing environment.

Andrew Bowen, director of staging at ASH NYC, likes the Rug Company’s Deep Pile Merino Natural Rug ($137 per square foot) for a luxe, cozy feel. Photo by The Rug Company — The Washington Post

Alternatively, try white noise. A fan might do the trick, but Julien Baeza, assistant project manager at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, suggests Spotify and soundscape machines.

Keep the lights out

Lights out is essential to bedtime. In particular, avoid exposure to the blue light from LED bulbs and electronic devices, says Pablo Castillo, sleep medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic. “The body reacts to this artificial light as if it [were] still daytime,” he said in an email, “and the pineal gland will stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in poor sleep quality.”

That’s why you should stay away from bright light for at least three hours before bedtime, reduce screen time, and set devices on night mode an hour or two before bed, plus use blue-light-blocking coating on screens or glasses if you “use computers and digital devices heavily,” Castillo wrote.

To lightproof the bedroom, “blackout window treatments are a must,” said Greg Roth, a designer at Home Front Build in Los Angeles, by email. “Installing a cornice box at the ceiling level can help prevent light from escaping upward from the windows and reflecting off the ceiling.” Meshberg recommends the Shade Store and Somfy for motorized shades.

Go soft and simple

Simplify your space for sleeping only. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a mansion or a studio, you can declutter for a calming effect, according to Meridith Baer, founder of staging company Meridith Baer Home.

A sleep-friendly bedroom is like a “good snuggle” — one that makes you “feel embraced and safe,” like a cocoon, Alex P. White, a furniture designer and decorator based in New York and Los Angeles, said in an email. So keep things “tonal and tactile with as many luxurious materials as your budget allows.”

A sleep-friendly bedroom is like a “good snuggle,” one that makes you “feel embraced and safe,” furniture designer and decorator Alex White says. Photo by Colin Miller — The Washington Post

As for decor, keep things light and uncomplicated, says New York designer Ryan Korban. He recommends using light-colored paints that are warm and not stark (he likes Lily White from Benjamin Moore) and light-wood floors.

For the most soothing tone, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, recommends sky blue, writing in an email that it’s a “positive color” with a sense of “dependability” that can help you fall asleep. You can create a “blue sky” by painting the ceiling, Eiseman suggests. Make it high-gloss for more definition.

Regulate your schedule

Not everyone needs eight hours of sleep, but to “avoid chaos in your circadian rhythms, it is suggested that you maintain the same schedule every day,” says Rachel Salas, sleep specialist and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“Lights in the bedroom should be dimmable or have the ability to adjust to a low setting,” Meshberg says. They can help your brain transition to slumber mode. Go for bedside sconces or lamps (he likes the Pennant Wall Lamp by Andrew Neyer, $200-$300 at Y Lighting, and the Convessi Sconce, $495 at Restoration Hardware).

For frequent travelers and those working night shifts, a circadian lighting system, which adjusts from a warm color spectrum to a cooler spectrum and back to mimic natural light cycles, can be especially useful. Such systems can “artificially create an ambiance that minimizes jet lag and allows for deep sleep,” Baeza wrote in an email. “Some sophisticated LED systems allow for automatic dimming and color changes over time.”

The brand Ketra sells lighting fixtures, bulbs and controls that can create such natural lighting and integrate with home automation systems.

Focus on the bed

No doubt, the most important component is the bed. That’s why selecting the right mattress, sheets and pillows can help you get a good slumber. Meshberg recommends 200- to 300-thread-count organic cotton sheets such as the Classic Starter Sheet Set (starting at $93, Brooklinen) and the Italian Vintage-Washed 464 Percale Sheet Set ($369-$429, Restoration Hardware). They “breathe well” and don’t get “too satiny and shiny” like sheets with higher thread counts.

Also, “the quality and proper weight of your duvet and down comforter are essential in regulating your temperature,” Meshberg wrote. Generally, 700-fill comforters are best for winter and 600-fill works well during summer. (Fill refers to down; synthetics might be labeled as heavyweight or lightweight.) He recommends the down comforters from Brooklinen ($199-$299) and the Organic Italian Vintage-Washed 464 Percale Duvet ($389-$449) from Restoration Hardware. (The National Sleep Foundation also recommends setting your thermostat at 60 to 67 degrees.)

For a mattress, he suggests Casper’s Original ($595-$1,195) or Wave ($1,345-$2,495) for those who prefer more support. The Beautyrest Recharge Dawson 121/2-inch hybrid firm mattress ($1,299-$1,999, works well for those sharing beds with restless sleepers because the memory foam won’t move around as much, Meshberg says.

As for pillows, “synthetic is the best” because you can wash it, he says.

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