If you are among the millions of Americans who are sleepless in Seattle or one of thousands of other U.S. cities, it’s time to get serious about getting a good night's sleep. According to the Institute of Medicine, between 50 and 70 million people in America suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation. The problem has grown over the years. Today as many as 9 million people in this country take prescription sleeping pills.
No one knows for sure how much shut-eye is best, but experts generally agree adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. For some people 6 hours may be enough, while others may need up to 10 hours. An indicator of sleep deprivation is a regular period of drowsiness during the daytime.
Lack of sleep can cause a host of health issues, such as a weakened immune system, depression, memory problems, increased pain perception and even obesity. See “Why You Need Sleep,” below.
How can you enjoy a restful night’s slumber when you’re counting sheep ’til the cows come home? Consider your physical surroundings, your bedtime routine and your faith. Read on to discover that getting enough ZZZs is easier than you think.
Creating the Oasis
The bedroom is intended to be a peaceful retreat, a place to rebuild body, mind and spirit. Design a sanctuary that nurtures the whole person and offers escape from the world.
Ideally, the bedrooms in your home are set apart from the public rooms—especially if you are an early bird living with night owls. If there is no separation, you may need strict quiet hour rules and solid doors to shut off sound. The size of a bedroom is less important than the color, the furniture and placement. Generally, peaceful colors of nature or muted colors in matte finishes encourage calm and rest. Keep clutter under control with good storage and clothing organization.
A sturdy bed with a quality mattress should allow ample room for those sleeping on it. When shopping for a mattress, Consumer Reports recommends testing each mattress for 15 minutes or more so you will notice subtle details.
It is helpful for each person to have a bedside lamp, even if the nightstands don’t match. Keep the room design clean, making sure that walkways and exit paths are clear.
Eliminate potential risks by securely attaching your bed's headboard. Never place large or breakable items on shelves above the bed. Also, create the sense that your bedroom is a haven of quiet rest by keeping out televisions, workspaces and exercise equipment.
With the presence of lights, televisions and laptops in our bedrooms, we are exposed to more light than our ancestors, which impacts our melatonin levels and sleep-wake cycle.
“This relatively new pattern of light exposure is almost certain to have affected our patterns of sleep,” according to Harvard Medical School’s Healthy Sleep website. “Exposure to light in the late evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and lead us to prefer later sleep times.”
To get good rest, use light-blocking drapes, shades or, if needed, a mask. Select an alarm clock with a light that turns off automatically after a few minutes. Getting enough sunlight during the day also helps regulate sleep patterns.
Noise levels as low as 40 decibels (a person whispering) can keep some people awake. If noise bothers you, white noise—the sound of a fan or an air purifier—may help you get to sleep. Sound therapy machines provide a selection of nature sounds and white noise. Or download an app for sleep and noise sounds, including a newcomer—pink noise.
Air pollution increases the risk of sleep apnea and poor sleep, according to an American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine study. Even if you don’t live in a polluted city, air quality can be impacted by other contaminants, such as animal odors, dust, fumes, off-gassing, smoke, cooking smells, perfumes and cleaning products. Reduce exposure to the cause and if needed, use an air purifier. Humidifiers also help.
The research jury is still out on what the best sleeping temperature is, but it’s presumed to be between about 55 and 75°F. Temperatures above or below this range typically begin causing some sleep disturbances.
A blanket’s primary purpose is to provide warmth for the sleeper. Good blankets come in a variety of materials and weights, from light to heavy. They can also provide a sense of safety. Weighted blankets, with fillings to equal about one-tenth of the user’s body weight, have been reported to help those with sensory issues, restless leg syndrome, autism and other issues.
Mattress pad & protector
The mattress pad provides protection for your mattress from stains, such as perspiration. Because it can be washed, it keeps your bed fresher than sleeping directly on a sheet-covered mattress. A full-zipper encasement protector reduces risk from allergens and other irritants that can hinder sleep, such as dust mites, bed bugs, mold and sluffed-off skin.
Take a sleep tip from the pros at one of the world's finest hotel chains, The Ritz-Carlton, and top your mattress with a feather bed. The feather bed above, or a down alternative, promises to provide an extra cushion for your body’s pressure points. Toppers are also available in memory foam. Most are placed over the mattress pad, under the sheets.
The most comfortable, luxuriously soft and lightweight sheets are made from Egyptian cotton. These long fibers contrast with shorter-fiber coarse cotton, such as pima. Thread count can play into comfort but this depends on several factors; typically the higher the thread count, the higher the quality.
Sleep is not impacted by the dressy coverings on the bed such as satin, silk or other fine fabric comforters or bedspreads. Remove these covers prior to getting into bed. So what purpose do they serve? The inviting appearance of decorative covers makes the idea of going to bed more pleasing.
More than decoration
A light and fluffy comforter filled with down or a synthetic material is warm and comfy, and enhances sleep. Some may be used year-round. The best comforters are premium goose down sterilized to be hypoallergenic or a high-quality synthetic. To protect comforters and reduce the need for routine washings, use duvet covers.
For a good night’s sleep, pick the perfect pillow. Consider your sleep position—side, back or stomach—and pillow filling. Quick tip: For a soft cloud feel, choose down; medium-soft cloud, choose synthetic; or firm cloud, choose foam. Here are your pillow choices:
- Micro-air bead pillow. Beads contour to head and neck. May be chilled in the freezer to help with headaches and spasms.
- Contour memory foam pillow. Designed to improve back alignment.
- Memory foam pillow with cooling technology. Relieves pressure and provides support.
- Queen-size gusseted memory foam pillow with cooling tech. Relieves pressure and provides good support.
- Down back- and stomach-sleeper pillow. Cradles head.
- Synthetic down with memory foam liner back- and stomach-sleeper pillow. Firm inside, soft outside.
- Side sleeper dual surface pillow. Can be flipped to adjust comfort.
- Another synthetic-down foam-liner back- and stomach-sleeper pillow.
- Down side-sleeper pillow.
- Latex pillow with high tech features and cool air flow.
Why You Need Sleep
Written by Maria Gifford
Every night we leave wakefulness and go to sleep. Although this is an everyday occurrence, few of us can actually define what sleep is and why we need it.
When you drift off to sleep, you enter a state of reduced consciousness during which your brain remains highly active. Key body functions are reduced, including our breathing, temperature, blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate.
Benefits of Sleep
Here are ways a good sleep helps to restore your mind and body:
- When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert. Sleep affects how we function each day and can have a major impact on our mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety.
- Sleep helps the brain form new pathways to learn and remember information. It refreshes your ability to pay attention, make decisions and be creative.
- Giving hearts a rest from the demands of waking life is a critical task.
- Restful sleep helps control metabolism and weight by affecting the way the body processes and stores carbohydrates. It also plays a role in how hormones affect appetite. Sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of obesity and diabetes.
- Loss of sleep can affect mood and cause irritability, impatience and the inability to concentrate. Lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of depression.
- Sleep helps repair cells and tissues, and boosts muscle mass. The immune system's ability to fight infections is improved. Lack of sleep may increase the risk of cancer.
Scripture about Rest
Your need for rest and sleep is a topic addressed repeatedly throughout the Bible. Here are at few encouraging words, all from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Taking a break to rest is so important that a day of rest is included in the Ten Commandments.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” Exodus 20:8–10.
There’s no need to have your sleep interrupted by anxiety. Trust in God for a restful sleep.
“Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep” Psalm 127:1–2.
While sleep is commended, rising to pursue the day is blessed.
“Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” Proverbs 20:13.
Even Jesus needed time to eat, rest and recover.
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” Mark 6:30-31.