The secrets to getting a good night's sleep have long been known: a calm mind, a relaxed body, getting enough sunlight in the morning, getting enough exercise throughout the day, and avoiding caffeine for at least 6 hours before bedtime. There is just one problem - in our modern lifestyle, these are all luxuries. Instead, we have to make do with various stop-gap measures. One of the most important of these has to do with our sleeping environment - the bedroom and the furniture within it.

First, let us set the background. Getting our bodies relaxed is not really difficult - 15 to 30 minutes of stretching exercises about an hour or two before bedtime usually does the trick. The lucky ones among us will also find that this helps to calm the mind quite well. There is, however, one problem with doing stretching exercises. Those of us who are no longer young (especially those working inside the office) find that it hurts to stretch. Our joints have become stiff, our ligaments have shortened, we have become much less flexible. Sure, in the long run, it is good for our health to stretch our muscles. But what about today? What about next week and next month? In the short term, stretching does not relax our bodies or calm our minds much. It does not help us to sleep better.

Instead, we must rely more on making our bedrooms more conducive to sleep. Getting a more comfortable bed or mattress obviously helps a lot. A water bed or memory foam mattress can be two to three times more comfortable than a normal mattress. Those who cannot afford the expense find that memory foam topper pads also work quite well for a fraction of the cost. But this only helps with getting our bodies comfortable more quickly.

For many of us, getting our minds calmed down enough for bed is not so easy. Meditation, taichi and yoga are traditional practices that have proven effective in getting people mentally calm and free from stress. But they also take time to work - at least 30 minutes before bedtime is needed. Some people in more stressful jobs find that they may need two hours a day of meditation to get into the right frame of mind to sleep well. More modern techniques include Progressive Muscle Relaxation and autogenics. Unfortunately, while they are easier to learn, they also take a lot of time to work for those who work in mentally challenging environments.

Listening to music is yet another traditional means of calming ourselves down. It also has the advantage of being easy to do without needing any training or practice. But it has to be the right music. Jingles, jazz, heavy metal and hard rock are out. So are the classical symphonies - they are much too active overall. But the largo and adagio movements of Baroque music, set by formula to 60 beats a minute, is good. Ballads can be good as long as they do not make us cry or feel depressed. What is usually called New Age music also seems to be reasonably effective. The old-style bland elevator music also helps to calm the mind down quite well.

But even simpler and more permanent that all the above is to make sure our bedroom is spacious and uncluttered. This is quite easy to do if we live in an older and larger house. After all, how hard can it be for us to shove anything that is not immediately needed into temporary storage? Unfortunately, many of us now live in rather cluttered and cramped apartments. Even modern house designs tend to be cramped. Finding enough room for everything we own or need to use can be quite a challenge.

This is where having the right color scheme for our bedrooms comes in. Choosing a white base is good. If the permanent parts of our bedroom - the walls as well as our bed and wardrobe - are white in color, everything else is easy to co-ordinate. Need a dash of romance? Use pink satin sheets. Need a more feminine touch? Add pink curtains. Need more calm in our lives? Just add more cream or light blue or green pastels to our decor.

With white bedroom furniture as the base, the decor and theme of our bedroom becomes easy to put together. But that is not the most important part. A white-themed bedroom looks and feels more spacious. It seems less cluttered and messy. This is purely a psychological effect, but it is important in helping us sleep better at night.

This is especially important when our homes and bedrooms are small and cramped. A dark-colored theme would make things seem too stuffy. How can we sleep well inside a stuffy bedroom? Even if we leave the door and windows open, such a dark-themed bedroom would still feel depressing and gloomy, definitely not a state we want to be in when it is time to go to sleep.

Having more white in our bedrooms is important on yet another level. In the morning, it reflects more sunlight. It makes our bedroom brighter and helps us to get our daily morning dose of sunlight. This dose of sunlight helps to reset our daily biological clock so that our bodies know that we need to sleep when night comes. Office workers rarely have the chance to see the sun, so every little bit helps.

People who sleep in a white-themed bedroom also have a more positive outlook on life. Bad things that happen to us always seem less serious in the bright light of day. This is good because depressed people sleep badly. So a bright bedroom with white furniture which helps us to NOT be depressed is good for our sleep.

Now, some may wonder about the traditional remedies of warm milk, hot cocoa or alcohol. Both can potentially work. Drinking warm milk actually causes our brain to produce certain neurochemicals that make us calm down and feel drowzy. However, some of us are lactose intolerant and this can cause a stomachache or diarrhea later on in the night. Hot cocoa (and in fact, most hot drinks) help to calm us down by forcing us to slow down. Most of us cannot just gulp down a hot drink. We have to slowly sip it. This slow sipping action helps to calm most people down. The trouble with cocoa is that some brands that are sold contain caffeine. Unfortunately, while alcoholic drinks may make a person drunk, it also makes that person feel depressed. If the aim is to just get knocked out rather than get a restful night's sleep, then drinking a six-pack or two of beer before bed will work. Unfortunately, most people will not wake up feeling bright and cheery after this.

We have briefly touched on the ideal lifestyle that result in a person sleeping well. Unfortunately, most of us are not able to do that. We have commitments that cannot be shrugged off. This leaves us with the stopgap strategies explored above.