Do you toss and turn at night? Do you often wake up feeling groggy and not quite ready to start your day. It could be your sleep environment; everything from the noise — or lack thereof — to décor, room temperature and the quality of your mattress could be disrupting your precious sleep time.
Many people don’t think much about adjusting sleep habits or their sleep space to get a better night’s sleep, but they should. Paying attention to how much sleep, and the quality of it, that one gets is just as vital to health as fitness and eating habits.
A lack of sleep can lead to more than just an afternoon slump and under-eye circles. Research shows that not enough sleep wreaks havoc on mental health by impairing judgment and contributing to depression. It can also cause weight gain and even shorten life span.
If you can’t get enough sleep, at least get quality sleep. Whether it’s incorporating the soothing sound of music, painting the walls the right color or setting the thermostat around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure the bedroom environment is primed for helping improve the potential to get a solid night’s sleep.
A mattress is like the foundation of a house; if it isn’t solid, everything else is on shaky ground. Whether you prefer a mattress firm or soft, it’s important to go for quality because you’re going to spend about 3,000 hours a year on it, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
There are a number of mattress types to choose from, including memory foam. These mattresses use polyurethane foam that contours closely to the sleeper’s shape. This is usually a good choice for people with chronic fatigue or muscle pain.
Air beds have an adjustable mechanical air chamber that lets sleepers set their preferred level of firmness. This could be your best option if your partner likes a firm mattress, but you like to sink into it.
Innerspring mattresses are the most common types of mattresses. These can be firm or soft, depending on the thickness of the wire used in the coils and the cushioning used.
When testing out the right mattress, sleep on it a bit. Well, not literally, but to get a good feel for it, plan to lie down for 10 to 15 minutes on the mattress you’re considering.
A mattress will last roughly seven years if taken care of. Skin particles and dust settle into mattresses so clean it twice a year by sprinkling it with baking soda, letting it sit 15 to 20 minutes, then vacuuming it.
Know your linens
The rules are simple: When buying bedding, look at the thread count and type of fabric. A thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. A sheet with a 180-thread count has 90 threads in each direction. For some, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet and the longer the sheets will last. Some manufacturers even double-, triple- and sometimes quadruple-ply thinner threads so they can claim a higher thread count. However, more isn’t necessarily better, it’s just more expensive. In fact, in one “Consumer Reports” sheet test, the top-scoring sheet had a thread count of only 280.
High-quality cotton with the right thread count equals durability. Egyptian and Supima cottons typically get the best results per square inch. Cotton percale sheets, the type commonly used by hotels, have a crisp feel and are cooler because of the weave. Sateen sheets feel silky and warm.
Many consumers are also choosing bedding made of certified organic or natural materials such as linen, bamboo rayon or cotton. These are eco-friendly and free of pesticides and dyes, and important consideration for people concerned about skin allergies or other reactions to chemicals and detergents.
Choosing the wrong pillow can be a pain in the neck. Sleeping position and pillow fill are the factors that determine where someone rests their head.
Back sleepers, or those who shift from back to side, need a medium firm pillow. Stomach sleepers need something soft. If you only sleep on your side, look for a pillow that’s firm.
The most common types of pillows are natural fill, synthetic fill and foam, according to National Sleep Foundation. Natural fill pillows use down, feathers or a combination of the two. The amount of filling a pillow has will affect its durability and fluffiness. Natural fill pillows shift to fit the shape of the sleeper’s head and neck.
People with allergies might want to consider down, which is hypoallergenic. Synthetic fill pillows contain polyester fibers or rayon. They’re more affordable and hypoallergenic, but don’t last as long as natural fill.
Foam pillows, like foam mattresses, give the most support because they conform to your head and neck.
Like a mattress, a pillow lasts only so long before it loses its effectiveness due to compression of the fill. Sonfield recommends getting a new pillow every 18 months to two-and-a-half years, and more frequently for sweaty sleepers.
Clean air quotient
Pet dander, pollen, dust mites and plant spores are common indoor pollutants that can cause sniffling and wheezing. Keeping the bedroom off limits to pets helps, but owners who can’t bear to lock Fido out should consider getting an air purifier, preferably one with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. These remove at least 99.97% of all particles as small as .3 microns — a unit of measurement of dust — according to the Medical University of South Carolina.
Plants are also good bedroom companions. They help beautify the room while absorbing harmful gases through their leaves and roots.
Another thing: Skip the furniture spray. It’s unnecessary and releases volatile organic compounds into the air.
Turn off the lights
Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland. It’s a key component of humans’ natural sleep/wake rhythm, which is influenced by daylight and darkness. When the sun goes down, melatonin levels rise, causing drowsiness. Exposure to bright sunlight — or even artificial indoor lighting — can prevent the release of the proper amount of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
“As we get closer to sleep, melatonin peaks. It’s used to regulate our biological clock,” says Gregory Carnevale, a doctor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. “Shift work can disrupt our sleep cycle, as can electronics.”
Electronic devices such as computers, tablets and phones can also have an effect on the sleep cycle because they emit large amounts of blue light, which negatively affects melatonin levels more than any other wavelength. Many sleep experts and scientists recommend turning off electronic readers, computers and televisions an hour before going to sleep to facilitate raising melatonin levels.
Ambient light — any natural light or artificial light coming through windows or filtering in from other areas of the house — can also contribute to a lack of quality sleep. Try installing blackout curtains or wearing a sleep mask.
According to the National Sleep Foundations, the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees. Body temperature drops to initiate sleep, and the temperatures within the recommended range help facilitate the process. Anything much warmer or cooler could make us restless and affect REM sleep, the stage of sleep during which we dream.
If 60 to 67 degrees is too cool, keep the room cool and wear socks. This will help dilate blood vessels faster and push the body’s internal thermostat to a more ideal setting.
Light sleepers can be can jolt you from your slumber. This is because the sleeping brain continues to register sound. Noise from traffic, children, and electronics with buzzers and alerts can all disrupt our sleep by altering heart rate and other biometrics.
It sounds counterintuitive, but white noise — a combination of all noise frequencies usually associated with static — can help mask outside noises. Nature sounds such as rolling ocean waves or a soft rain can be calming, as can Or try classical music. These all lower our blood pressure and induce feelings of relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.
Smell to relax
If there’s an odor in the bedroom, make sure it’s pleasant. Essential oils, scented candles and sprays help the body relax. So consider burning a candle before bed or investing in scented pillows or bedding.
Lavendar, vanilla, valerian and jasmine are well known for their relaxation properties and are great for creating a soothing environment, according to the National Sleep Foundation; but any appealing scent can help. The olfactory system is directly linked to the brain’s emotional center, so a smell that brings back a good memory or instigates excitement or anticipation causes the body to release feel-good relaxing chemicals that can set the stage for great sleep.