While a new mattress, fresh bedding, night-time meditation, and ambient lighting typically appear on most people’s list for a welcoming and relaxing bedroom, there’s one crucial element that most of us don’t think about, yet it’s the single most important thing that can have the greatest impact of all when it comes to a good night’s sleep; the quality of your air. More on that later but for now, a great night’s sleep is one of the things we most covet, yet it seems to be the most elusive for some people, whether you’re simply a light sleeper, you suffer from allergies or breathing issues, or you’re a genuine insomniac.
In fact, sleep is considered so critical to optimally functioning, that Arianna Huffington built an entire business around it called Thrive Global, that has a specific focus on sleep and its impacts, Dr. Oz is backing a new sleep app called SleepScore – designed to help track, monitor and deliver a great night’s sleep - and the CDC has declared it an under-recognized public health issue. Read on to find out what sleep actually is, why it’s so important, and what you can do to improve yours.
The question may seem silly at first glance, but can you accurately describe what sleep really is? According to Healthy Sleep, a resource from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School:
“We all have at least a vague notion of what sleep is, but that doesn't mean that defining this mysterious part of our lives is simple. After all, detailed analysis of our own sleep isn't really an option, given that we rarely know that we're sleeping when we're asleep. And even if we observe the sleep of others, so much of what they experience—changes in the functions of their brains and bodies—is not easily seen from the outside.”
From observing changes in behavior and responsiveness, scientists have noted the following characteristics that accompany, and in many ways define sleep:
“From observations of behavioral changes that accompany sleep and simultaneous physiological changes, scientists now define sleep in humans based on brain wave activity patterns and other physiological changes…”
The National Sleep Foundation, one of the leading groups studying sleep, utilizes a tool known as the Sleep Health Index, which “measures sleep health on three key scales: sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep disorders. The Index is fielded quarterly and has accumulated responses from over 12,000 American adults.” The good news is, “America is making gains in their sleep health, with sleep duration and sleep quality indicators showing that people are getting more and better sleep overall.”
However, while it’s generally recommended by most sleep experts that seven to nine hours of continuous sleep is ideal, how many of us know what our unique optimal night’s sleep is? Sleep trackers like the one SleepScore has created, " makes measuring sleep simple and reliable. Every morning, we provide you with an easy to understand SleepScore – a normalized 100-point sleep quality metric, based on proprietary algorithms."
Most of us are aware of what happens when we don’t get enough sleep, but did you know about the deeper, overall impacts of sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can have a host of negative side effects. From relatively mild grumpiness and discomfort to more serious impacts such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of heart disease. More examples of the impacts of sleep deprivation can be seen in the downloadable infographic below.
Sleep is critical to functioning optimally, but remember, it’s not about the quantity of sleep, it’s about quality. There are many ways that you can improve your bedroom, or any sleeping environment, to turn it into a sleep-inducing sanctuary, but there’s one must-have component that will have the biggest impact of all… an air purifier. And not just any air purifier (they’re not all created equal). You need something like the Alen BreatheSmart 45i model that can powerfully and ultra-quietly cleanse your air while emitting a pink noise frequency (proven to help you sleep up to 25% better). At 800 SqFt coverage area, this small and elegant unit has been specifically designed for bedrooms and is the single most important investment you can make in getting an amazing night’s sleep. And with a ‘Forever Guarantee’ and 60-day love it or return it policy, you get not just nighttime, but a lifetime peace of mind.
Second in line to air quality is unquestionably a good quality mattress. There are now many amazing mattress companies to choose from depending on the type of mattress you prefer (memory foam, innerspring, latex etc…). Casper (loyal following and great reviews), Leesa Mattress, (reasonably priced and they donate one mattress for every ten sold), Saatva (organic materials and nice quality), all have great options that won’t break your wallet. Companies like Casper also offer sleep with it for 100 days and if you don’t love it, they’ll pick it up for free, which takes the risk out of your purchase. We recommend you research your new mattress thoroughly to make sure you find the right option for you. Also worthy of investment is some luxurious, good quality bedding that’s both soft and comfortable. Quality sheets can make all the difference when it comes to providing just the right amount of insulation and helping maintain enjoyable body temperature through the night.
While it’s great to have a bright and cheery bedroom during the day, at night that’s the last thing you need. Blackout shades and curtains are perfect for keeping out external light, both while drifting off and during early morning sunrises. They’ll help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
There are other forms of light to consider too such as those found in electronics that may be in our rooms; from televisions to alarm clocks, and even your cell phone. Many electronics emanate “blue light”, which, according to sleep doctor Michael J Breus, Ph.D.:
“ suppresses melatonin production for more than twice as long as other light wavelengths, and alters circadian rhythms by twice the degree. The blue light kept body temperatures elevated to daytime levels, a sign of the degree to which nighttime blue light exposure can disrupt normal circadian rhythms. After nights of blue-light exposure, participants were more tired during the day, and experienced more negative moods.”
Alen purifiers, like the BreatheSmart 45i, have a convenient “Sleep Mode”, specifically to address these issues, allowing you to turn off the units display lights while keeping the unit running throughout the night.
Noise is one of the most common disruptors of sleep. Whether the sound comes from something or someone inside of the room itself such as a snoring partner or an alarm clock, in another room, or from a car driving down the street, noise can prevent you from getting to sleep, or even worse, can rudely rouse you from a deep slumber. Interestingly, it’s these unexpected sounds that not only prevent sleep but cause an inconsistency of sounds or silence which is significantly disruptive to sleep. Remember, we spoke earlier about quality over quantity? Examine your sleeping environment and identify if there will be noises that are outside of your control, and work to find ways to avoid or eliminate them.
Pink noise is a frequency of sound waves which has been found in recent scientific studies to aid in getting better sleep. Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, recently published her study on the subject in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and her findings suggest that pink noise can help to “get deeper sleep and stronger memories”. In an interview with Time Magazine, Dr. Zee went on to state that “After analyzing everyone’s sleep waves, the team found that people’s slow-wave oscillations increased on the nights punctuated by pink noise. Come morning, people who had listened to it performed three times better on memory tests than they had the other night. On the nights without the noise, memory recall did not improve as much.”
Additional studies, like “Pink noise: Effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation”, published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, showed amazing results, with findings indicating that “Each subject slept for two consecutive experimental periods, of which one is pink noise-exposed and the other is quiet. For both nocturnal sleep and nap tests, the results in the noise exposure group showed significant enhancement in the percentage of stable sleep time compared to the control group based on the analysis of electrocardiography (ECG) signal with cardiopulmonary coupling approach.”
Temperature is another factor which can impact the quality and quantity of sleep. H. Craig Heller, Ph.D., professor of biology at Stanford University, explains this fascinating aspect of sleep, saying, “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature -- the temperature your brain is trying to achieve -- goes down”. Think of it as your internal thermostat. “if you are in a cooler room, it is easier for that to happen.” However, it’s also stated by Heller and other sleep experts, that If it’s too cold in a room, or too hot, you are likely to toss and turn, degrading the quality of your sleep or keeping you from sleeping at all.
There are a number of ideas, in addition to those mentioned earlier, that you can incorporate into your sleeping environment to get even better sleep. From essential oils and scents, such as those made by our Sleep Awareness Week partner Scentered, to a great pillow, like the Perfect Pillow, or a high-quality sleep mask, like those from Swanwick, are all excellent ways you can make your room a sleep paradise. Take a warm shower, turn off the TV, and along with all the other sleep-inducing tips we’ve shared you’ll be catching high-quality Z’s in no time. Sweet dreams!
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