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Want to Sleep Better? Make Your Bed

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Updated: 1/25/2012 12:14 pm

Jan. 26, 2011 -- Spending too many nights tossing and turning? You may want to vacuum your bedroom, wash your sheets, and throw out that lumpy mattress before you reach for a sleeping pill.

Results from a survey commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggest that people sleep much better when their bedrooms are comfortable and clean.

The group’s first ever "bedroom poll" surveyed sound sleepers and poor sleepers about how the bedroom environment affected their ability to get a good night’s sleep.

“We’ve looked a lot at how medical and behavioral issues affect sleep, but we really hadn’t looked at the sleep environment in such depth,” NSF Chief Operating Officer David Cloud tells WebMD. “Frankly, we were surprised to see that senses like touch, feel, and smell were so important.”

Making Bed May Lead to Better Sleep

The survey included responses from 1,500 randomly selected adults in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 55.

Less than half (42%) identified themselves as being "great sleepers" who got a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night.

Among the other findings:

  • Seven out of 10 people said they made their bed every day or almost every day. The bed-makers were 19% more likely to report getting a good night’s sleep on most days.
  • Nine out of 10 rated having a comfortable mattress and comfortable pillows as important for getting a good night’s sleep, while slightly less rated comfortable sheets and bedding as important.
  • Between two-thirds and three-fourths of respondents rated a cool room temperature; fresh air; and a dark, quiet, and clean room as important for a good night’s sleep.
  • Six out of 10 said they changed their sheets weekly or more often and roughly 3 out of 4 people said they got a more comfortable night’s sleep when their sheets had a fresh scent.

“People reported sleeping longer hours and feeling better about going to bed when their bed was made, their sheets were fresh, and their bedroom was comfortable,” Cloud says.

Sleep Environment Often Ignored

The survey responses come as no surprise to sleep psychologist Shelby Harris, PsyD, who directs the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Sleep-Wake Disorder Center in New York.

She tells WebMD that the sleep environment is an important, but largely ignored, component of a good night’s sleep.

While fluffed pillows and scented sheets are not likely to solve serious sleep problems, changing the bedroom environment to make it more comfortable can help occasional poor sleepers rest easier, Harris says.

She also recommends reserving the bed for just two things: sleep and sex.

“A lot of people watch TV in bed or pay their bills or even do their taxes, and then wonder why their minds continue to race when they want to go to sleep,” she says. “We encourage people to make their bedroom a sanctuary for sleep.”

Harris says people tend to wrongly think sleep is something they can turn on and off like a light switch.

“I encourage my patients to think of it more like a dimmer,” she says. “An hour or so before bed you should be psychologically turning down the mind and body to relax and prepare for sleep.”

She recommends:

  • Turning down lights about an hour before bed to signal to the body that it’s time to relax.
  • Unplug by staying away from the computer, iPad, and smart phone in the hour before you go to bed. In addition to being stimulating, the blue light emitted by these devices seems to trick the body into thinking its daytime.
  • Eating meals at least three hours before bedtime and limiting liquids during the hours before sleep. Shortly before bedtime, though, a small snack that includes protein and carbohydrate can be beneficial, Harris says.

 

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