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Your Guide to Sleeping Well

Studies have shown that purchasing a new mattress alone can lead to significant improvements in your sleep.

This is the perfect time to make sure you are doing everything possible to enjoy better sleep with a new mattress.

This guide has been independently developed by the National Sleep Foundation to help you develop the habits needed to get a better night's sleep. 

What is adequate sleep?

In our 24/7 world, it's tempting to cut corners on our sleep time to get more done, so how much sleep do you really need? Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and adolescents need 9 hours or more. The elderly need just as much sleep as other adults.

It's a pretty safe bet that if you wake up unrefreshed or feel tired during the day, you're not getting adequate sleep at night. Have you ever clocked 8 or 9 hours in bed but felt like you only had half that amount of sleep? That could be because physical or other factors prevented you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep. These deeper stages, along with dreaming, are needed to get the full benefits of sleep.

Sleep Benefits

You may see sleep as a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation, but certain bodily functions are actually more active while you are sleeping than while you are awake.

While you're asleep, your brain is hard at work forging the pathways necessary for solidifying memories and gaining new insights. People who have trouble learning new skills are often advised to "sleep on it" and that advice is well founded. People who are taught mentally challenging tasks do better after a good night's sleep. They remember better what they learned, pay better attention, make good decisions and respond quicker.

While you sleep, your body produces vital hormones. Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone, fueling growth in children, building muscle mass and repairing tissues after injury in both children and adults.

Another type of hormone helps your body fight infections. This might explain why a good night's sleep contributes to keeping you well and helping you recover when you get sick.

Even your diet and weight are influenced by the hormones produced while you sleep. These hormones influence how hungry you feel and whether you crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates. People who sleep an average of 5 hours or fewer a night are more likely to become obese than people who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night.

Chronically depriving your body of adequate sleep can alter blood sugar levels that boost your risk of developing diabetes.

Last, but not least, getting adequate sleep can also improve your mood. You tend to be less irritable after a good night's sleep and less prone to depression.

Children tend to behave better if they have adequate sleep and adults may have less troubled relationships if they get enough quality sleep.

So, how do you get a good night's sleep and reap all the benefits? Don't worry - your body has built-in systems to help you feel drowsy at night and alert in the morning. But for these systems to work properly, you need to help. Read on to find out more...

The DOs

  • Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use your bed for sleep only so you associate your bed with sleeping.
  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. Invest in a comfortable bed that gives you proper support and enough room. Invest in quality pillows that support your head and neck.
  • Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. This routine will help you program your body to feel sleepy when it's time for bed and allow you to wake refreshed in the morning.
  • Get exposure to bright sun in the morning and sleep in a dark room. Light and darkness are important environmental cues that help program your body clock. Try to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure during the day, especially first thing in the morning. This light will cue your body to induce sleep at the right time of night.
  • Be sure to dim the lights in the evening. This will tell your body that bedtime is approaching. When you do go to sleep, make sure it's in a dark room that will stay dark until you get enough sleep. If that's not possible, sleep with a mask over your eyes that blocks the light.
  • Use nightlights. Put nightlights in the bathroom and halls to avoid light from resetting your body clock when using the bathroom at night.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down before going to bed and avoid activities that might excite you.
  • Relax. Make a relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, a part of your bedtime ritual.
  • Take a hot bath or shower. This can help you relax and cause a change in body temperature that helps you feel drowsy.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom cooler at night than during the day.
  • Make your bedroom a noise-free zone. Remove distractions such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones and TVs. If noises you can't control wake you during the night, try a white noise machine or earplugs.
  • Turn your clock away from your bed. Don't become anxious about how much time has passed while trying to fall asleep and don't fret if it takes you a while to fall asleep. Such anxiety can, in itself, put sleep at bay.
  • Get out of bed if you aren't sleepy. If you find you aren't sleepy, get up and do something relaxing in dim light. When you are sleepy, go back to bed.

The DON'Ts

  • Avoid using tobacco or caffeine products at night, or even in the late afternoon. The stimulating effects of caffeine or nicotine often vary from person to person, but may last more than 8 hours. It's best to completely avoid tobacco use because it causes users to sleep lightly and wake up too early in the morning because of withdrawal.
  • Do not eat a large meal close to bedtime. Your body cannot rest while digesting a large meal. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent awakenings to urinate, which can prevent you from sleeping deeply or long enough.
  • Don't use alcoholic beverages at bedtime. Alcohol can rob you of the deep sleep and the dreaming you need to get the full benefits of sleep. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of alcohol have worn off.
  • Avoid medications that can disrupt your sleep. Some commonly prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, as well as herbal remedies, can make it hard to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor of pharmacist to see if any medicines you're taking might be contributing to the problem.
  • Avoid late naps. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you must nap, keep it under an hour and before 3:00 p.m.

When to Seek Help

If you continually find yourself feeling tired or not well-rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you may have a sleep disorder that can be treated. Some of the most common sleep disorders and their signs include:

Insomnia, which causes you to consistently have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.

Sleep apnea, which is frequent breathing pauses that cause you to snore loudly, snort, or gasp during sleep.

Narcolepsy, which causes you to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times during the day.

Restless Leg Syndrome: creeping, tingling or crawling feelings in your legs or arms that interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.

Parasomnias, which include sleepwalking, and being temporarily paralyzed or having frequent vivid nightmares.

If you think you may have a sleep disorder, please visit the National Sleep Foundation website at www.sleepfoundation.org for more information as well as a directory of sleep care centers and sleep professionals in your area.

Sleep well, my friend...