According to a nationwide survey from the Better Sleep Council, one out of every four Americans are dissatisfied with the quality of their sleep. Fortunately, there are key things you can do to set yourself up for success. Experts call it good “sleep hygiene.” We call it a bedroom makeover! If you’re dreaming of a better night’s sleep, here are ten tips that could help.
Mattress. The Better Sleep Council suggests evaluating your mattress for comfort and support every seven years to make sure you have the best possible chance at a good night’s rest. Their experts advise that it’s probably time for a new mattress if you wake up with stiffness or pain, if your mattress shows signs of wear and tear, or if you find you sleep better on a hotel mattress or in a friend’s guest room.
Foam. Another consideration, look for a mattress made from foam certified by CertiPUR-US. That’s a nonprofit program that uses independent, accredited testing to make sure the polyurethane foam in mattresses (as well as pillows and bedding accessories) is made without chemicals of concern like formaldehyde and Tris flame retardants. If your mattress was made before 2010, it’s unlikely the foam inside is certified. CertiPUR-US maintains a constantly updated list of participating manufacturers and retailers on its website.
Pillow. Update your pillow so that your head and neck are well supported too. How can you tell if your pillow is past its prime? Test it by folding it in half. If it stays folded instead of bouncing back, it’s “dead” and it’s got to go. If it’s time for a new pillow, buying the right kind for your sleep style really makes a difference. Back sleepers usually enjoy a fluffy or contoured pillow that cradles their head. A side sleeper often does best with a thicker, firmer pillow that fills the gap between their head and shoulder. And typically stomach sleepers prefer flatter pillows that align their neck but also allow them to breathe easily.
Mattress pad. If you find that your sleep is disturbed because you get hot and sweaty at night, take a hard look at your mattress pad. Many of these contain non-breathable materials meant to protect your mattress from moisture. Unfortunately, these materials can often produce more moisture in the form of perspiration. If you want to keep things simple, look for a mattress pad with a sleep surface made from breathable material. If you love new technologies, check out innovative options like mattress pads that contain gels designed to keep you cool.
Sheets. Figure out if you sleep better between crisp, cool percale sheets or smooth, silky sateen sheets — and treat yourself accordingly. You don’t need to worry so much about thread count. The sweet spot is usually just 300 to 500 threads per square inch, according to the Good Housekeeping Institute. In fact, when blindfolded, testers often couldn’t tell the difference between sheets in this range and those with higher thread counts.
Window coverings. Invest in blackout blinds, shades or curtains that achieve total darkness. Blocking out light is crucial because darkness stimulates your body’s natural melatonin production and promotes healthy circadian rhythms. Blackout window treatments can vary widely in price, based on materials and customization. You might first see if the most basic blackout shade purchased at your local hardware store will work for you. The key is to measure properly to avoid light coming in at the edges. If your windows are a non-standard size or shape, then it may be worth it to spring for in-home measuring and professional installation. Worried about getting up in the dark in the middle of the night? Place a small flashlight on your bedside table.
Electronics. Because light is such a big barrier to sound sleep, you should remove all electronics that emit light from your bedroom — think televisions, modems, and cable boxes. If you must keep these items in your bedroom, then cover the light indicators on them with a small piece of black electrical tape so that they won’t disturb your sleep. If you use a night-light in your bedroom, consider purchasing one that emits red light instead of blue light. Studies have shown that red light does not interrupt your brain’s sleep patterns the way blue light does. In fact, red light may even help! Also consider installing a red night-light in your bathroom, if you regularly get up in the middle of the night, so that you won’t be jarred out of your drowsy state by a blue-light-emitting night-light or an overhead light. Finally, go back to the future with an old-fashioned alarm clock. You can either choose a really traditional one that does not light up at all or look for one that allows you to switch off the display while sleeping. So many of us now use our cell phone as alarm clocks, but it’s a bad idea because of the light – and noises – they emit.
Furnishings. What furniture you choose to put in your bedroom matters more than anywhere else in your house. After all, you spend at least eight hours a night there, so you want the best possible indoor air quality in your boudoir. The tiny-but-mighty nonprofit CertiPUR-US program also certifies the foam in upholstered furniture to make sure it is made without chemicals of concern.The list of participating manufacturers and retailers is constantly updated.
Temperature. The wrong room temperature is one of the biggest barriers to a good night’s sleep. For most people, the problem is that their bedroom is too hot rather than too cold. Our body temperatures are supposed to naturally drop while we are sleeping. To achieve this, it helps to have a cooler bedroom. The Cleveland Clinic suggests setting your thermostat for between 60 and 67 degrees overnight. Of course, we are all different, so you may have to play with the temperature to find what works best for you. Keeping a sleep journal is the best way to track this. Have different temperature needs than your sleep partner? It’s easier to warm up than cool down, so keep the thermostat cool, and then the person who likes to be warmer can experiment with heavier pajamas, more blankets, or even a twin-sized electric blanket on just their side of the bed.
Sound. It may seem counterintuitive but adding noise to your bedroom can help you sleep! If sounds from pets, neighbors or the street are keeping you up at night, a sound machine that masks the disruptive noises can be very effective. This white noise can block out loud sounds but may work just as well to block out distracting quiet noises, such as a ticking clock.
If you try all of the steps above and still suffer from poor quality sleep, the problem could be your partner. According to the Better Sleep Council, on average, one in three Americans say their partner’s sleep problems negatively impact their own quality of sleep. Of course, we are not suggesting a divorce or breakup! Rather, if one partner snores or has other disruptive overnight patterns, you may have to address the root cause. For example, snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous but treatable health problem. If all else fails, many couples have found that sleeping in separate beds or separate rooms is the solution. And while this may not sound romantic, exhaustion is no aphrodisiac. You may find that being well rested is the greatest makeover for your relationship.