As the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced, whether in catastrophic weather events or noticeable effects on daily life, many of us are looking to do what we can to help the planet.
There are plenty of opportunities to improve habits and choices, and taking advantage of these can actually have a beneficial impact on sleep. From the products we use in our bedroom to our actual ability to sleep more easily, making incremental improvements to your green practices can elevate your sleep.
Here’s how to incorporate green practices and products into your bedtime routine.
The link between sleep and making greener choices
As Dr. Marie-Pierre St Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center, wrote a few years back, better sleep isn’t just good for our bodies and minds — it’s good for the environment, too.
When we’re better rested, St Onge notes, we tend to have the presence and the patience to make better decisions and to put in a little extra effort in ways that we might not if we’re running on fumes. “If you’re well rested, if you’re not sleepy, you make better choices. You have better restraint and are able to regulate your mood,” she says. For example, it takes effort to recycle rather than just throwing your trash away without separating out what’s recyclable from what isn’t. When you’re well rested, you’re more likely to take the time to do such things — things you might just skip if you’re exhausted.
Good sleep also enables us to expend energy in ways that can also help the planet. “If you’re well rested, perhaps you’ll be more inclined to walk, take the stairs, and just not drive as much,” St Onge says.
Dr. Nick Obradovich, a senior research scientist at the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin who researches the connection between climate change and sleep, adds that making choices like these might just help our sleep, too.
“If you’re taking steps in your life to be more regenerative and more sustainable … then that can provide a little peace of mind and maybe reduce stress and help people sleep better,” he says, although the observation is speculative. What we do know is this: The more that you feel comfortable and calm on average, the better sleep you’re likely to have. “[When] people [say they] sleep better [when they’re exposed to] less stress … that is true,” Obradovich says.
Opt for greener bedroom products
You spend much of your life in bed, so the pillowcases, sheets, and bedding you choose could affect your well-being. Instead of purchasing synthetic materials that feature microplastics, aim for natural fibers instead. Cotton, bamboo, and silk are greener options that are also great for temperature regulation and skin health.
“There’s a lot of things you can think about in your sleep environment and buy at once,” Obradovich says. “What you choose has a long-term impact on the exposures you have to the products in your sleep environment, and also to the ecological consequences.”
This extends to cleaning products in the bedroom, too. Be sure to use organic, green products whenever possible, to minimize introduction of chemicals into your sleep space.
Integrate eco-friendly habits into your bedtime routine
We all know that stashing devices and turning off the TV is better for our sleep, but there are environmental benefits, too. When we unplug our devices or use them less — and, thus, charge them less — we’re conserving electricity, even if it’s just a tiny amount.
Plan your night around sleep and overall health. At dinner, choose planet- and sleep-friendly foods. According to Johns Hopkins, meat can disrupt our sleep because it takes longer to digest than plants do. But regardless of what we have for dinner, a post-dinner walk can help with digestion and keep you off your blue-light devices. Avoid power walks and rigorous activities that can interfere with digestion. Instead, opt for a leisurely stroll that can help regulate blood sugar and, in this way, boost your sleep.
Making all of these changes might not be readily possible for everyone at this moment, but the goal isn’t necessarily to do a 360 on what you’re doing now. Instead, make small changes and adjustments where you can. Try walking after dinner just a couple of times a week. Take it slow, build progress over time, and soon, you’ll have a green bedtime routine without even realizing it!