Over the centuries, and from place to place throughout the world, sleep environments have varied widely. I once attended a presentation on sleep environments in other cultures. The most striking was in a nomadic culture. The women sleep squatting down, with their skirts stretched tightly across their knees. Their babies sleep on their skirts so as to be safe from the many poisonous snakes in the area.

Fortunately we are able to organize our sleeping place to be the best it can be. We can usually minimize stimuli that interrupt sleep. Below are some tips you can use at home, with the reasoning behind each.

Doing most of these items will take 10 minutes or less – the result can be a more restful night!

- Move your clock from the head of your bed. Place it across the room where it cannot be seen from your pillow. Sleep comes easier if you are not thinking about the time, or how much time you have left to sleep!
- Find someplace else for your pets to sleep. Of all my recommendations this is sometimes the hardest for people to do because they love their pets. I love my pet too, but the fact is that the pets can be waking you up in the night, and leaving you less refreshed the next day.
- Sleep in the same bed each night. As we cycle through the five sleep stages each night we hit Stage 1 sleep every hour and a half or so. At that time people frequently sit up, adjust the covers, scan the room for anything that needs attention, then lie back down. If you are in an unusual room it may take longer to make sure the room is safe and return to sleep.
- Make the room as dark as possible. Even the light from a night-light or clock is enough to interfere with your natural melatonin rhythm.
- Wash your bedding regularly to minimize any allergic reaction to dust and dust mites. Sheets and pillowcases should be washed weekly; pillows, blankets and mattress covers washed at least every quarter; and pillows replaced every two years.
- Use a mattress that is comfortable for you. Your bedpartner may prefer a more hard or more soft bed. Place 'egg carton' foam under the sheet for the person who prefers a softer surface.
- Remove any workstations from your bedroom. This includes computers, TV, sewing or any other hobbies. Having these activities in your bedroom conditions you to be active and alert in the bedroom instead of relaxed and asleep.
- Keep your room cool because people sleep better at 65 degrees or cooler. If you are waking too hot then you know your room is too warm.
- Use a white noise machine or fan if noises in the neighborhood keep you awake.

All these factors can significantly impact the quality of your sleep, and it is worthwhile making these simple changes.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Catherine Darley is a naturopathic sleep specialist in Seattle, Washington. She provides expert patient care for a variety of sleep disorders, from insomnia and circadian phase delay to restless legs and insufficient sleep. Dr. Darley also provides sleep health education for corporations, PTAs, and other groups. You can find more about naturopathis sleep medicine at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.