You spend more than 100 days a year sleeping and there’s nothing more refreshing than a good night’s sleep, right? Every night I relish climbing into bed and calling it a night but sadly I don’t always get the perfect ZZZZZZs and I often wake up not so much feeling tired, but not truly rested. Why? What gives? I’ve created a cozy, comfy bed but even that’s not 100 percent full proof. And that’s not good. Or healthy.
Research links sleep to a stronger immune system, improved concentration, and an overall better mood according to WW, formerly Weight Watchers. In contrast, getting less than six hours of sleep a night on a repeated basis has been linked to overeating and weight gain. In fact, a person who doesn’t regularly get the recommended amount of proper sleep may eat almost 380 more calories a day more than someone who does. It’s no secret that healthy people make healthier choices but a healthy choice even the healthiest of people often neglect is sleep, and it can cause real nightmares.
Most experts recommend seven-to-nine hours of sleep a day for adults but one in four Americans say they only get four or five hours. I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes falling asleep is hard. I start feeling tired but the minute I jump into my beloved bed my mind races. Of course I also often turn on the TV and check my phone, both of which are big time bedtime no-no’s. Instead, I should read my book and call it a night. Easier said than done, right?
In a recent WW meeting about sleep we talked about ways to set yourself up for wonderful slumber. A three step “cue, calming activity, and reward” system was suggested starting with a nightly cue that it’s time for bed. This could be an alarm, after packing lunch, or at the end of a favorite TV program. You can give yourself 30 minutes or so, but after that it’s time for a calming activity that you do every night before bed. Some people might take a hot bath or shower; others might read or start a meditation or relaxation app. A routine I recently started is eating cherries at night. I recently read that they contain melatonin and after eating such great ones in Seattle over the summer, I’m hooked. In the winter I enjoy a cup of hot chamomile or Sleepy Time tea and I also like to start my bedside diffuser that I fill with a lavender essential oil. Lastly, I like to end the day being grateful for three things that day. All of this is setting the stage for the reward: a good night’s sleep.
This is not a full-proof plan but one that if done regularly, might make a huge difference in your life. We are all stressed out and stress is a bad word when it comes to sleep. Our days are “go, go, go” and then we expect our bodies and minds to magically just shut off and fall deeply to sleep. Not gonna happen and the fact that nearly 60 percent of Americans have trouble sleeping proves this.
This lack of beauty rest is creating ugly results, including decreased job performance and that 55 percent of Americans say they feel more antisocial after a bad night of sleep. Even when we do nod off, we’re waking up an average of two times during the night.
Exercise could be one important piece of the sleep puzzle as it plays a key role in how well we rest. Think about it: more exercise usually results in more and better sleep and if you sleep well you are rested and energized, which means you’re more apt to want to exercise.
The Bed of Your Dreams
So now that you’re thinking about your bedtime routine, let’s look a bit at your physical bed and figure out what makes a one five-star hotel worthy and the bed of your dreams. Surprisingly, it’s not so much about the actual bed, but rather the bedding. And it’s all about the layers.
The perfect bed consists of sheets, a duvet or other topper, a coverlet or other throw blanket, mattress cover, mattress pad, and an abundance of fluffy pillows. Let’s start with the sheets.
I’m a bamboo sheets girl. I love them. I love their softness and their feel. Others, like you perhaps, prefer a crisper cotton sheet. There are also microfiber, flannel, sateen, and a host of other fabrics used for sheets. In this case, it’s important to know your weaves.
Sateen means silky, smooth bedding while a percale has a light, crisp feeling. Poly-cotton blends and polyester styles like rayon or Tencel will wrinkle less but they are less breathable than 100 percent cotton, which is the best choice if you tend to get hot at night. In this case, look for natural and soft premium cottons like Pima or Egyptian. For warmth, you might consider flannel sheets and if you want a stretchy knit that feels like you’re sleeping in your favorite T-shirt, jersey sheets have your name on them. Finally, is it true that satin pillowcases are better for your face and hair? Actually, yes.
Silk is made by silkworms and is woven into fabrics like satin, a fabric weave made of silk and other fibers like polyester. Satin doesn’t absorb a lot, so it won’t soak in your night creams or rob your hair and skin of their natural oils. On the other hand, silk and cotton are highly absorbent but both polyester satin silk pillowcases and natural silk pillowcases may provide reduced friction, meaning fewer split ends and diminished wrinkles as your skin is not being pulled and tugged at night. Lastly, satin feels cool to the touch while silk warms up with body heat.
“Thread count” seems to be what everyone considers but what exactly does that mean? Generally speaking, fabrics with higher thread counts are made from finer threads, resulting in a softer, smoother feel. For most, 300-420 count is considered the best. Most experts say any higher thread count means thinner and weaker threads and higher doesn’t make a difference. What does make a difference is ironing cotton sheets. No, I don’t do so but yes, I’ve heard it makes the sheets crisper and enhanced. Just one more reason to stick to my bamboo babies.
Whatever sheets you choose, choose to invest in good ones. Yes, you can find sheets at bargain basement prices, but they aren’t going to hold up and will most likely (gasp!) ball and fray. Always wash your sheets in cool water, as hot water wears down the fibers faster.
What goes on top of those sheets is up to you. I love a good down comforter and pretty duvet as well as comforters, but others (like my mom) still like bedspreads and there are always quilts. If you suffer from allergies to goose or duck down there are alternatives but true down holds its shape better than polyester fiberfill, which tends to clump and stiffen up. Even during the heat of a Texas summer, I still want something on top of my sheets. It’s something about the weight of it all. I also like a fluffy down mattress pad on top of my memory foam mattress.
Now onto pillows. There is nothing like a comfy pile of pillows on a luxurious hotel bed. They always seem just right, fluffy but supportive, but duplicating the look is not always easy. For starters, consider four pillows, two of which could be square “Euro” pillows alongside two standard ones. There are lots of pillow choices, ranging from my preferred down filled ones to traditional foam versions and even “My Pillows.” Which, by the way we have. I like them, but I don’t love them. Sorry Mike Lindell.
Whatever pillow style you choose, consider how important they are to a good night’s rest and how much time you spend on them. Buy new ones regularly and don’t be afraid to spend money on the purchase. It’s money well-spent.
One last bedding tip: January is the best time to invest in new sheets, pillows, blankets, and the like, as annual “White Sales” offer deep discounts on most items.
Now for mattresses. Like bedding, there are many choices and options. If you don’t believe me, drive around and chances are you’ll pass multiple mattress stores. Why are there so many and why is entering one so blasted intimidating? Don’t be afraid, and instead keep these “Consumer Reports” tips in mind.
There are basically two major types of beds: foam and innerspring. Foam softens when you lie down and molds to your body. Sleep partners can move around without affecting the other one and once you get up, it springs back to its original shape. Think Temper-Pedic and other memory foam versions. Innerspring are what traditional “old school” mattresses are made of but the more coils does not necessarily mean a better mattress. More important are what those coils are made of and other manufacturing processes.
Unless you know exactly what you want, it’s always best to buy a mattress that you can see and actually lay down on. Yes, lay down on those mattresses…for at least five or 10 minutes…and do so on your side, back, and stomach. Wear lose clothes when mattress shopping as well as shoes you can easily slip off. Don’t be bullied into making a quick decision and don’t be bullied into buying a box spring. You may not need one (be sure to check warranty requirements) and keep in mind that many memory foam manufacturers recommend platform or slatted wood foundations. And rule of thumb: replace your bed if it feels lumpy, you wake up sore, and for sure once it’s more than 10 years old.
I can’t talk about beds without mentioning water beds, those odd but popular 1970s and 1980s beds. Silly as they may sound today, they were actually very comfortable and great for your joints. You just needed to hope they didn’t leak or bust and the weight of them required second thoughts of having them on anything but the first floor.
Today we instead have “adjustable air” beds like Select Comfort’s Sleep Number beds. Users can select firmness and elevation levels of their side of the bed, making them great for couples who have distinctly different sleep patterns and styles.
And speaking of sleep styles, studies show that your sleep habits say something about your personality. If you sleep on your back you’re probably an introvert and an early riser while side sleepers are often extroverts and night owls. (I’m a side sleeper and both of those are scary accurate!) Are you a stomach sleeper? Then you’re most likely a combo of both and something called an ambivert. Some studies report that sleeping on your back is healthiest for your spine, neck, shoulders and skin. In addition, what side of the bed you sleep on is also revealing. If you sleep on the left side of the bed you are more likely to prefer oldies music, drama films, and beer over wine. Those who sleep on the right side of the bed like rock music, action flicks, and wine.
Side sleeper or belly dozer, it’s all about making your bed and sleep area a special place. Your goal should be to make your entire bedroom a sanctuary of peace and comfort, complete with table lamps, live plants, and an overall sense of calm in hopes of a good night’s sleep and waking up rested and ready to take on the world.
Sweet dreams everyone!