WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
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.”
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:
“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.
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.”
SOURCES:National Sleep Foundation, Sleep Poll, Jan. 25, 2011.David Cloud, CEO, National Sleep Foundation.Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, Montefiore Sleep-Wake Disorder Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York.News release, National Sleep Foundation.
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