An Environment for Rest
Rest is regeneration, and how you sleep affects every part of your life. Recently the National Sleep Foundation (I am a lifetime member) did a nationwide telephone interview of 1500 adults ages 25-55 to determine what kind of bed environment they liked. Since the study was funded by the makers of Downy, now embarked on a sleep advertising campaign (see note of 1/24/11 “Will fabric softener make you sleep better”) the study hewed to what a fabric softener maker might find interesting. The results still were significant for the rest of us.
What’s Best for the Bedroom
About 92% of the interviewees said their mattress was an important part of sleep, with 91% claiming pillows were also important. However, only 70% said pillows were an important component in getting a good night’s sleep most nights, with 69% saying a comfortable bed temperature was important.
For those concerned with romance, 78% thought a comfortable mattress and 73% thought comfortable sheets useful.
People frequently felt cleanliness aided their sleep. About 90% changed their sheets at least every two weeks, with 62% changing their sheets once a week or more.
Poor sleepers used more pillows. Perhaps most curious of all, people who made their beds every day slept considerably better than those who did not.
Quality of Sleep
How well did they sleep? Not terribly well. Only 42% said they slept well almost all or all the nights of the week, while 13% said they hardly ever slept well.
There was also a big difference between those who slept most nights and those who felt they did not – the amount of time slept. Good sleepers claimed a full hour more each night than poor sleepers.
And people caught up on sleep weekends or non-work days. The differences were over 40 minutes a night. About 38% percent said they needed 8 or more hours per night to feel well rested, but rather few got so much sleep time.
Correlation and Causality
Studies like this tell you quite a bit, though not as much as manufacturers suggest. That people who sleep well make their beds more often may mean that keeping a clean environment is useful in getting a good night’s sleep, a statement many would agree with. It may also mean that people sleeping better have better moods than people who do not, and are more prepared or less time pressed than those who sleep poorly.
About 85% of Americans die in bed. That doesn’t mean beds kill people. Americans are going to die somewhere, and it’s very doubtful our mattress and bedsheet manufacturers are to blame.
Yet beds matter – and so, particularly, does the bed environment. To make the environment work for you, I would suggest remembering three adjectives – comfortable, cool, and clean.
The 3 Cs
People have lots of trouble sleeping in America – especially in setting enough time. Yet an adequate, inviting bed environment can make a difference.
Comfort certainly counts. An old, creaky, dust mite infested mattress of 17 years is probably not the most conducive to sleep or romantic activity.
Certainly coolness matters. Sleep clinicians would probably put temperature comfort above the quality of pillows in assessing how well people sleep. Above 75 degrees, people tend to sleep poorly.
Cleanliness matters as well. When people sense they are going into a fine, fresh bed, not filled with bedbugs, it’s easier to welcome sleep.
Yet something else perhaps matters more.
Safety and Sleep
People want to feel safe when they go to bed. They want to know that robbers will not come in the middle of the night; that the loud noises they hear are not gunshots. Without physical safety, sleep is sometimes impossible.
But psychological safety is another matter. People want to feel that they look forward to the morning and the new day. That means their minds need be at ease.
They don’t want to be interrupted by phone calls or emergencies. They generally don’t want to have text interruptions, which does virtually no one’s night-time rest any good.
It’s also why people want to sleep with a significant other, someone they care about who cares for them. Despite recent articles on zoonoses brought by pets, people often feel very comfortable with an animal with them in bed.
Comfort, coolness, and cleanliness matter. Yet a sense of internal safety matters more.
Cognitive behavioral techniques and rest-relaxation techniques can help greatly to produce that sense of safety – ever more important in an uncertain world.
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