We all know that getting good quality sleep is crucial for our health. Not only can it improve our immune system and boost our mood, but it can also lead to a longer life. However, there’s a good chance that you’re not getting enough shuteye. While busy lifestyles and stress undoubtedly contribute to a lack of sleep, your bedtime habits and sleeping environment could also be to blame. Everything from your choice of mattress to your preferred sleeping position could be stopping you from getting a healthy amount of slumber and have a detrimental impact on your wellbeing. To help you stay in tiptop condition, here’s how your sleep setup could be compromising your health - along with some simple suggestions on how to improve it.
While everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to sleeping positions, some are healthier than others. If you wake up feeling stiff or sore, you probably need to change the way you sleep. Lying flat on your stomach is generally considered to be the worst position as it puts added pressure on your muscles and joints and can cause pain, numbness and aching. Many health experts believe sleeping on your back to a good option, as it can support the spine, neck and head and also prevents problems like acid reflux. It’s best to raise your knees slightly if you adopt this sleeping position, and using an adjustable bed can make this easier. Sleeping on your side with your knees curled up slightly is also a good posture to promote spine health and can reduce problems like snoring as it opens up your airways, allowing you to breathe more freely.
Although changing your position might be uncomfortable at first because your body has become accustomed to sleeping in a particular way, the long term health benefits will make it worthwhile.
It doesn’t matter how much sleep you get - if your mattress is not up to scratch, you’ll probably still wake up feeling sore and groggy. Sleeping on an unsupportive surface for a long period of time can cause all sorts of aches and pains in your back, neck, shoulders and hips. If your mattress is sagging, lumpy, too firm or too soft, or it is more than eight years old, it’s time for an upgrade.
While there is no one type of mattress that is suitable for everyone, many people now opt for memory foam or pocket sprung versions - and for good reason too. Memory foam mattresses mould to the shape of your body, alleviating pressure on vulnerable areas. Pocket sprung mattresses on the other hand offer firm support and are highly breathable, helping to prevent your body from overheating during the night.
When it comes to pillows, many people make the mistake of piling them up too high. If your head is too raised, it can cause your neck and spine to become unaligned and lead to tension and soreness, making it harder for you to nod off. To prevent these problems, make sure your pillows are the right size and thickness in order to support your neck and keep your spine in a neutral position.
Pillows can also be used to support your sleeping position and help you maintain a healthy posture while you sleep. For example, if you are a side sleeper, placing a pillow in between your legs can help to keep your back and neck straight and ease pressure on the pelvis.
As well as mattresses and pillows, the bedding you sleep in could be another reason why you’re not feeling refreshed during the day. Synthetic sheets and duvets tend to retain heat, while natural fibres like cotton are more breathable and soft and can make for a more comfortable sleeping experience. If you are prone to sweating during the night, moisture wicking fabrics can help you to stay cool and achieve a more peaceful slumber.
To boost your chances of getting a great night’s sleep year round, it’s also a good idea to swap your bedding as the seasons change. Using lighter, low tog duvets during the summer can keep you cool, while using thicker versions during the winter can help to keep the chills at bay.
If you find yourself waking up with a blocked nose or you have an itchy throat, you could be allergic to your bedding. If this is the case, opt for hypoallergenic duvets and sheets, as these products are specially designed for people with allergies and sensitive skin. It’s also important to regularly wash your bedding to get rid of irritants.
Your bedroom also plays an important role in the quality and quantity of your slumber. Environments that are too warm, bright or noisy can disrupt your sleep/wake cycle and trigger the development of sleep disorders such as insomnia. If you’re struggling to stay asleep through to the morning, you may need to reassess your bedroom setup.
If sunlight or street light from outside disturb you, consider using an eye mask or investing in blackout blinds or curtains to keep your room dark. Even the glow from electrical devices such as laptops, TVs and alarm clocks can disrupt your sleeping patterns and suppress melatonin - the sleep-inducing hormone. For that reason, you should try to remove any bright technology from your bedroom - or at least make sure it’s switched off before lights out. Your room should also be kept at a cool temperature to promote healthy slumber, and it may help to keep your windows open at least a little during the warmer months to encourage fresh air to circulate around the space.
If your bedroom is noisy at night, consider using earplugs or listening to a white noise machine to drown out disturbances. Using calming colour schemes and getting rid of any items that may cause stress can also help to bring about more restful nights.
So, if you want to boost your overall health and wellbeing, it might be worth paying more attention to your sleep setup. By bearing simple tips like these in mind next time you go to bed, you should stand a better chance of waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.