How to Sleep Comfortably?
Ensuring a comfortable sleep does have a lot to do with the sleep environment which relates to the bedroom, the silence in the room, absence of disturbing lights, TV, etc. besides the comfort provided by a comfortable mattress, pillows, down comforters, mattress padding and bed sheets. However, at the same time, it depends upon the person’s lifestyle, work routine, consumption of caffeine, tea, nicotine, alcohol, etc. as well as the individual’s medical health in both physical and mental terms.
Lifestyle and Work Routine
The biological clock in humans enables them to be active during the day and much less alert during the early morning hours. For this reason, normally people work during the day and sleep during the night. In the modern world, some people are forced to work in shifts, and a majority of them have a hard time going to sleep and even feel sleepy during their work shifts. Overly tired and fatigued workers have in part, at least, caused major accidents in the world of today and these include the nuclear accidents at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Three Mile Island. Exxon Valdez oil spill is another similar example. Similarly, people who travel by air a lot and cross time zones frequently have a hard time adjusting to the jet lag1. Thus, the personal work routine matters a lot for every individual when it comes to the need to sleep comfortably.
Some people have a lifestyle which willingly or unwillingly forces them to rely on caffeine a lot or some others might be used to taking alcohol every night before they go to sleep. While having a cup of coffee or tea might help in the short run to avoid sleep, in the long run, it does add to the sleep debt which is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. Caffeine is not just consumed in coffee; it is present in a lot of other food and beverages that are a part of the present-day lifestyle. These include the presence of caffeine-containing products like tea leaves, cacao pods, kola nuts, etc. in tea, chocolate, cocoa, and soft drinks, etc. Caffeine blocks sleep-inducing chemicals temporarily and increases the production of adrenaline. While 3 cups of coffee a day might be considered moderate, having 6 or more cups a day can land a person in trouble and make him/her unable to sleep comfortably during the night 2. People who travel around the world or through time zones frequently have trouble having a comfortable sleep as well. They often fall prey to insomnia at times when they want to go to sleep and have a hard time staying awake or alert when they need to be awake as a part of their work schedule 3.
Health Issues and Discomfort in Sleep
There are quite a lot of psychological as well as medical conditions which can have a bearing on the comfort of one’s sleep. Some of these conditions include gastroesophageal reflux disease, chronic pain in arthritis, pre-menstrual syndrome, etc. along with many others. Pain leads to discomfort in sleep, and it also directly affects the depth of sleep. Sometimes, the individual is only able to get a few episodes of sleep in the night before dawn breaks.
Similarly, people who experience stress in their lives or those who have to go through outright anxiety or depression find it hard to have a comfortable sleep. The human body tries to respond to potentially dangerous situations, and for this purpose, it tends to stay awake. Restful sleep becomes a difficult proposition in the presence of such stress-related arousal response of the body. On another note, certain medications and chemical substances can affect both the duration of sleep as well as its quality. Besides caffeine, these include alcohol, nicotine, antihistamines, etc. Many prescriptions drugs have a similar effect 3.
The Importance of Sleep Environment
The space in which a person sleeps is the sleep environment. It mostly refers to the bedroom however depending on one’s lifestyle or work routine; it could include a camping expedition, a prolonged flight, etc. and therefore might refer to an airplane, a tent or a hotel, etc. In general, the sleep environment needs to be noise-free. The reason is that the human body tends to respond to external stimuli, and in the presence of noise, it becomes difficult for the body to let go of its defenses and just relax. This could be a blessing at times when one needs to wake up upon hearing a disturbing noise, but for someone trying to fall asleep knowing that the neighbor is blasting on his/her radio, it could become a potential source of concern. Another factor that creates a comfortable sleep environment is the temperature. Most people would prefer to sleep in a cool environment. For anyone waking up either drenched in sweat or shivering with cold, the sleep temperature needs to be set right at first to ensure a comfortable sleep. The human body temperature tends to dip around 4 a.m. This occurs to preserve energy. It is noteworthy that taking a shower just before sleeping helps to keep the individual cool throughout night 4.
Another factor that affects the sleep environment is the lighting factor. The lighting in the bedroom is of utmost significance. It is n fact, best to sleep without any light at all. Darkness provides the best environment to sleep comfortably and well. However, some people for safety reasons, prefer to have a dim night light. This helps them to get up and go to the bathroom if the need arises. It must be noted, however, that the human body’s natural circadian rhythm tends to follow the darkness-light cycle naturally. The presence of sunlight or any light would stimulate an alert response from the body while darkness would tend to make it go to sleep. If there is too much exposure to light in the bedroom, the individual could well end up falling prey to insomnia. It is always good to turn off the lights when one is trying to go to sleep 4.
Importance of Bedroom Elements
In 2010, the National Sleep Foundation had commissioned a private market research firm to conduct a public opinion poll which explored how Americans thought about the various bedroom elements and their effect on their sleep. The poll was conducted among 1,500 Americans who were aged between 25 and 55, and the selection was done on a random basis. The results obtained were extrapolated to the entire US population within this age group. The results revealed that on an overall basis, the respondents of the poll were convinced that bedroom elements like matters, bedding, and others did affect their sleep. There was a particular emphasis on such bedroom elements as the mattress, sheets and bedding, pillows, and temperature. 92% of the respondents in the poll gave strong emphasis to the mattress while 91% considered mattress and pillows to be extremely important if one wants to have a comfortable sleep throughout the night. The sheets and the bedding were next in importance as 85% considered these two to be important. 70% of the respondents thought that willowware extremely important, while 69% considered temperature to be an important factor. The respondents were also asked if they thought to have the right bedroom elements contributed to creating a romantic environment; 78 % of the respondents rated the mattress to be of extreme importance in this regard. 73% rated the bedding and the sheets as important for this purpose. The respondent poll also revealed that they also considered having a fresh scent in the bedsheets had a positive impact. This was revealed as 78% of them agreed that going to bed in sheets with a fresh scent made then very excite to go to bed and 73% reported that it helped to make them sleep very comfortably 5. (NSF, NSF Bedroom Poll, 2010).
As far as the ownership of bedsheets was concerned, it was found that on an average, the respondents owned 3.4 sets of sheets for their bed and 71% of those polled had owned 3 or more. 81% of the respondents reported that they had washed their bedsheets before using them for the first time. 91% of the respondents reported changing their bed sheets every week with 62@ reporting that changed the sheets either once every week or even more often. 53% of the poll respondents revealed that sleeping on bed sheets, which had a fresh scent on them made a valuable contribution towards making their sleep experience extremely comfortable 5.
As far as the sleep behavior of the respondents was concerned, they typically slept more on weekends and less on working days. 50% of the respondents reported that were surficial meeting their sleep needs during the working days and the non-working days, while 70% reported that they met these needs on the weekend or non-working days. 77% of the respondents were confident that they were able to get a good night’s rest on at least a few nights per week. They also reported that they were able to get 6 hours and 30 minutes of sleep during the weekdays or working days while on the weekend, the average turned out to be 7 hours and 12 minutes. 46% of the respondents reported that they were able to get the same duration for sleep on both workdays/weekdays and the non-working/weekend days. Another 46% however, reported that they were able to get less sleep on the workdays/weekdays. The respondents also reported that they used on the average 2.2 pillows 5.
Importance of Mattress
A highly comfortable mattress is considered as an essential ingredient to a good night’s rest. A study carried out by Research Triangle Institute concluded that individuals are different in terms of their preference for the degree of firmness of the mattress they want to use. The best mattress, according to this study, is the one which minimizes the individual’s overnight awakenings as well as short-duration or minute awakes. It is also able to maximize sleep quality as reported by the person himself/herself. The person’s well-restedness is an important factor in this regard. The best mattress would, according to self-reporting by individuals, minimize the actigraphic motion (human rest/activity cycles) as well as morning pain severity. It also maximizes daytime energy. The test drives in the showrooms might or might not give the best idea for the long-term though they do help, This study suggested the need for better testing methods which could assist people in ascertaining the long-term suitability of the mattress for an individual’s needs 6. (Sean O. Hogan, 2011). High-quality mattresses provide comfort and support to the user. Many of these use memory foam for a high level of comfort and either coil spring or high-density foam to provide the required support. Hybrid mattresses are very popular these days as high-quality mattresses as they cater to both the requirement of comfort and support in an optimal way.
Another very important factor related to the mattresses, which lead to enhanced comfort during sleep is the breathability factor. The breathable mattresses which usually have a gel-infusion or plant extract or natural oil extract infusion in memory foam of the mattresses are ideal for a cool, dry, and fresh sleep throughout the night. Similarly, bamboo charcoal infusion makes the mattresses extremely plush and comfortable. As far as support is concerned, the best support is provided by coil spring mattress so a lot of new hybrid mattresses use coil spring as their support base.
Bedding, Pillows, Bed Sheets, Comforters, Mattress Toppers
These are the other bedroom elements which are used along with the mattress on the bed, which add to the comfort in sleep. The Comforters and mattress paddings add a luxury touch to the mattress and the bedding, and some even give the feel to the user as if he/she is sleeping on a cloud. The pillows are extremely important for comfort as well as shown by the results of the NSF Bedroom poll. They not only provide comfort but also support the user’s head and neck as well as shoulders to enable a perfect night’s sleep. Similarly, comforters also add to the plushness of the bedding and help the user to get to sleep faster while remaining comfortable, cool, fresh, and dry throughout the night.
1DoHHS. (2005, November). Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved from US Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf
2NSF. (2019). Caffeine and Sleep. Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/caffeine-and-sleep
3HS. (2007, December 18). External Factors that Influence Sleep. Retrieved from Healthy Sleep: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/external-factors
4Peters, B. (2018, August 31). The Importance of Your Bedroom Sleep Environment to Avoid Insomnia. Retrieved from Very Well: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-importance-of-your-sleep-environment-3014944
5NSF. (2010). NSF Bedroom Poll. Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf
6Sean O. Hogan, J. D. (2011, August). Choosing the Best Mattress:An Experiment in Testing Whether Individuals Choose a Bed That Leads to Improved Sleep. Retrieved from Research Testing Institute: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/27e2/de26589f2149230e551e959b6ca497af6e38.pdf