Tips For Healthier Sleep


Understanding Sleep: Are You Sleep Deprived?

Since everybody on earth sleeps at least once every twenty-four hours, we should all be sleep experts. Knowledge about sleep, just like knowledge about nutrition and exercise, is essential to your life for happiness, productivity and general well-being.

Everyone should know how much sleep he or she requires to feel awake, dynamic, and energetic all day long. Everyone should know the strategies and techniques for achieving quality performance. And everyone should know how to cope with sleep deprivation when it does occur.

Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. It determines the quality of our waking life. If you are getting less than the right amount of sleep for your mind and body to perform well during the day, you are sleep deprived. For most people, the right amount of sleep is eight hours per night.

According to experts 70% of the population suffers from insomnia or some sort of sleep disorder. Ailments like Insomnia, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are also on the increase. We're not spending enough quality time in the important stages of deep sleep. These stages are essential to heal and repair the human body, as well as the mind, for peak performance the next day. You need to stop depriving yourself of the quality sleep you need, and you'll wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.

You might not know if you're sleep deprived. Following is a sleep quiz. If you answer "yes" to 3 of these questions, you are sleep deprived:
  • Need an alarm clock to wake up?
  • Struggle to get out of bed in the morning?
  • Hit the snooze button weekday mornings?
  • Tired, irritable and stressed out at work?
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering?
  • Slow critical thinking, problem solving, creativity?
  • Often fall asleep watching TV?
  • Fall asleep in boring meetings, lectures, warm rooms?
  • Fall asleep after heavy meals or low doses of alcohol?
  • Often fall asleep when relaxing after dinner?
  • Fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed?
  • Often feel drowsy when driving?
  • Sleep extra hours on weekend mornings?
  • Often need a nap to get through the day?
Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can lead to cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. If you average less than 6 hours of sleep per night, your resistance to viral infection is lowered by about 50% over those getting 8 or more hours.* Expect more colds and flu and respiratory tract infections. Luckily, the process is quickly reversible. Even if you didn't get enough sleep on a given night, the immune system will be back in action as soon as you repay that sleep.

Your body goes through cycles of sleep every night. During each cycle, the time you spend in each of the 4 stages of sleep changes. This cycle repeats itself every 90 minutes until you wake up. Depending on the length of time you sleep, you will travel through four to five cycles during the night. Sleep becomes lighter as we approach morning and dreams become longer. During the last quarter of an 8-hour night, Stages 2 sleep and REM or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep occur, wherein most dreams predominate. These stages play a major role in organizing and reorganizing the mind, concentration, mood, productivity, creativity, critical problem solving and athletic ability.

When it comes to sleep, quantity and quality are important. Remember that you should spend 1/3 of your life asleep. It's vital you make the most of it. Sleep experts agree: Most people need 8 hours of sleep, but even 6 hours of continuous sleep is more restorative than 8 hours of interrupted sleep. So stop depriving yourself and get some rest. It's vital for your overall well-being.

*Sleep health and behavior statistics and sleep tips from Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance, by Dr. James B. Maas, Ph.D., Megan L. Wherry, David J. Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin, HarperPerennial-A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999.

Proper Back Support While Sleeping

Do you suffer from back pain or lower back pain when you wake up in the morning? If so, you need to know how proper back support impacts your quality of sleep.*

When you sleep, your spine should be properly aligned. In other words, it should be in the same position when lying down as when standing. This is critical for reducing stress and enhancing the quality of sleep. That's why you need to make sure your sleep system is designed with five zones of support to match the five zones of your body.

Traditional mattress designs firm up the center third of the mattress, ignoring the upper back and lower leg regions. Such designs can create pressure on the hips and may force the spine into an unnatural position. This may cause the lower back muscles to work all night long to try and correct a misalignment.

Simmons® BackCare® line is the first patented sleep system with five zones of comfort and support in each key component. Its unique design and construction help keep your spine in its natural alignment throughout the sleeping hours. This process reduces stress, while enhancing the recuperative value and quality of your sleep.

Choose Comfort And Support

You buy shoes that properly support your feet, shouldn't you buy bedding that properly supports your back? Good bedding helps you fall asleep, stay asleep and reduce stress on your back and neck while you sleep. And the proper sleep system should offer comfort and support. 

Keep Your Back Strong And Flexible

All exercise is good for the entire body, not just the lower back. Exercise improves blood flow to spinal discs, joints, and muscles, relaxing painful spasms, providing pain relief and accelerating healing.

Here are some exercises that can help keep your back strong and flexible for any sport or activity:
  1. Press Up

    Lie face down. Using your arms, and keeping your hips on the ground, try to press your upper torso up and back as far as possible. Remember to relax your back as you press up. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat one to two times.

  2. Knees To Chest Hip Stretch

    Lie on your back, lift one knee, then the other, to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds. For a variation, try this exercise lifting only one leg at a time, leaving the other leg stretched out in front of you.

  3. Lumbar Rotation

    Lie on your back, shoulders flat, knees bent, feet on the floor. With your knees together, slowly let your knees drop to one side, hold for 10 seconds, and repeat to the opposite side. For a more advanced version, extend your top leg while leaving your bottom leg bent, and move your arms in the opposite direction.

  4. Rotation Curl

    Lie on your back with your knees bent and heels next to buttocks. Fold your arms across your chest. Slowly curl your right shoulder off the floor toward left knee until left shoulder leaves the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, breathing deeply.

  5. Spinal Extension

    Lie face down with elbows bent and fingers touching your ears. Exhale as you lift your upper body off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds.

*Statistics regarding back soreness, sleep tips and back care exercises from Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance, by Dr. James B. Maas, Ph.D., Megan L.Wherry, David J. Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin, Harper Perennial-A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 1999.

Causes of Interrupted Sleep

Sleep determines the quality of our waking life. According to sleep experts, 70% of the population is moderately to severely sleep deprived.* Medical conditions like Insomnia, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia are making headlines. Most adults need 8 hours of continuous sleep nightly to restore and repair the body and organize the mind so we may perform at our peak.

One of the most significant barriers to achieving quality sleep is interrupted sleep. 40% of the population has difficulty sleeping at least a few nights a week. Here are five major causes of fragmented sleep:
  • Poor sleep environment
  • Mental stress
  • Physical stress
  • Improper diet and lack of exercise
  • Tossing and turning
And here is what you can do to help overcome these causes and enjoy quality, uninterrupted sleep.

Poor Sleep Environment

Note: A condensed version of the copy below appears under Better Sleep Brochures.

The bedroom is your ultimate refuge. For fully restorative sleep, you must set the stage for a proper bedroom environment. It's one of the basic ways to look after your overall quality of life.

Keep you bedroom quiet. Distracting sounds such as dripping faucets, noisy radiators, ambulance, fire and police sirens, barking dogs, etc. will disturb your sleep. Noise should be kept low or at least masked by the use of fans, humidifiers or air conditioners. Or try a white noise machine. If you are on a limited budget, try tuning your FM radio between stations. The white noise will help you fall asleep. If you like the sound of nature, you can buy a machine with quiet soothing sounds that will also help to eliminate outside distracting noise.
  • Too much light in the bedroom can contribute to sleeplessness or awakenings. Using dark fabric to block light from windows or light-tight strips on the rims of hallway doors can keep bedrooms appropriately dark. If you are extra sensitive to light, try using an eye mask. This will block out any unwanted light that may come through the cracks in the door or windows.
  • The ideal temperature for sleeping is about 65 to 67 degrees. If it gets too hot or too cold your sleep time may be reduced. Your body temperature drops when you go to sleep. It is important then that you have sufficient blankets to keep warm during the night. But you also want to make sure that you are not too hot, both sides of the spectrum can debilitate sleep.
  • An ideal relative humidity level for the bedroom is between 60 and 70 percent.
  • Hide illuminated clocks from view to avoid clock-watching during the night, It can lead to anxiety over sleeplessness.
  • Eliminate TV, computer games, the internet and instant messaging from the bedroom. Condition yourself to use the bedroom only for sleep and sex.

Mental Stress

Good sleep at night is strongly influenced by what happens during the day. One of the most common reasons for insomnia is stress. Try this exercise before you go to bed:
  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes, first tense and then relax, all your muscles beginning with your toes and progressing to your head. Stay relaxed. This should take about 15 minutes.
  • Breathe in easily through your nose. As you exhale, silently say a word, like "one." Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
  • When finished, sit quietly with your eyes closed for a few minutes. Then open your eyes for a few minutes before standing up. Practice once or twice daily.
  • Avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime since digestion of food might interfere with relaxation.
  • You might also want to try classic yoga or meditation during the day. Even if it is only for a few minutes the time will help relieve your mind.
  • Another exercise to help ease you into bed involves jotting down a "laundry list" of your daytime worries. By capturing your thoughts on paper, they'll be there to attend to in morning. That way, your brain can relax for the rest of the night.

Physical Stress

  • 80% of the adult population will see a doctor for back pain. This can be caused by not properly supporting your spine while you sleep. Sleeping with your spine properly aligned is critical for reducing stress and enhancing rejuvenating sleep. Simmons® BackCare® line is designed to help maintain the spine's natural alignment.

Improper Diet And Lack Of Exercise

  • Exercise increases heart and lung fitness and reduces stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It also raises your endorphin level, which reduces pain, relaxes muscles, suppresses your appetite, and produces feelings of general health and well being. As a result, sleep will be deeper, more efficient, and more restful.
  • The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon or at noontime. Morning exercise has little effect on your quality of sleep that night. If you must exercise in the morning, do not do so at the expense of needed sleep.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads, rice, pasta, fish, and poultry. Limit your intake of fat.
  • You should eat a basic healthy breakfast, a substantial lunch, and a light dinner.
  • Eating proteins at dinner, such as fish, chicken, or certain vegetables will prevent hunger pains at night.
  • If you are hungry at bedtime, a light snack high in carbohydrates and low in protein will settle your stomach and help you sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 PM, all tobacco, and any alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime if you want uninterrupted sleep at night.
  • Having a warm glass of milk before bed will help cue your body that it is time to sleep. Another added benefit is that milk contains a sleep-inducing element.

Tossing And Turning

  • The average person changes position 40 to 60 times a night, which can cause your partner to move too. Make sure you are sleeping on a mattress designed to minimize movement from one sleeping partner to the other, and large enough to provide comfort and support for two if you sleep with a partner.*

    A Simmons® Beautyrest® mattress meets all of these requirements, beautifully.
*Sleep tips from Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance, by Dr. James B. Maas, Ph.D., Megan L.Wherry, David J.Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin, HarperPerennial-A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999. Sleep behavior statistics from the Tylenol PM 2004 National Sleep Survey conducted by the Harris Poll.

The House Dust Mite

The house dust mite Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is about half the size of a period on a newspaper. It has no sight, no respiratory system and is unable to drink, but lives by absorbing moisture and oxygen from the atmosphere.

Dust Mite Allergy

Mite droppings, which contain digestive enzymes, are a major cause of allergy worldwide.

When people with a family history of allergy are repeatedly exposed to house dust mite droppings, they can develop a specific allergy to mites. Once allergy is diagnosed and allergic reactions become frequent, then allergic disease can develop. Continued exposure to the mite allergens can then become a trigger for chronic symptoms.


What you can do to reduce dust mites?

  • Use an impervious cover on your mattress.
  • Avoid heavy drapes and carpeting; hard surfaces are best as they don't trap debris and allergens.
  • Vacuum floors, drapes and upholstery regularly to reduce dust mite presence. Use a HEPA filter to avoid spread of salmonella and other bacteria through blowing air.
  • Reduce dust mites by washing sheets once per week in hot water and bleach.
  • Sanitize stuffed animals by vacuuming them weekly or putting them in a hot dryer can help control dust mites.

Share Your Bed With a Pet?

One third of all dog owners sleep with their pets. Are you one of them?
There is historical evidence that sleeping with pets is not necessarily aberrant behavior. According to The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, the xoloitzquintli, or Mexican hairless, was used in pre-Aztec Mexico as both pet and bed warmer. An account from a 19th - century explorer in Australia, as quoted in The Domestic Dog, describes how Aborigines were so devoted to their dingoes that the dogs were treated as members of the family and allowed to sleep in the hut.

But here's the good news. My unscientific survey of veterinary behaviorists concluded that as long as your pets are good at sleeping with you, it's just fine to sleep with them. Pets are not going to get any uppity ideas just because you're all snoring together, they say.

If you do share your bed with your pet, you are probably aware of some of the challenges that this brings. Pet hair, dirt, odorsand germs can all contaminate your mattress.