You can have the best health habits in the world but if you aren’t sleeping well you simply won’t ever be truly healthy. Sleep restores your brain and body. It recharges your batteries, helps you sort out and solve problems, replaces vital chemicals, and gives you the energy you need to meet the new day.
Quick & Easy Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep
If you are having sleep problems, whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake up too often, don’t feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning, or simply want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, there are many things you can do, including:
- Go to bed around the same time each night, ideally around 10 PM.
- Avoid snacking just before bedtime, particularly grains and sugars.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F (ideally between 60-68 degrees F.
- Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the amino acid L-tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin and serotonin.
- Avoid caffeine as much as possible, especially in the PM.
- Make sure you exercise regularly, but not near bedtime.
However, there’s another simple thing you can do that will set you up for sweet sleep: change your bedding. That’s right – the types of sheets, pillows and comforter on your bed can make a significant difference in how well you sleep.
Hot or Cold? Why Temperature Makes All the Difference
The ideal room temperature for the most effective sleep is generally agreed to be between 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Get much colder or hotter and your sleep will be impaired.
As for your body, it’s constantly regulating your temperature to keep you comfortable. This is called “thermo-regulation.” When your body has to work hard to keep you warm or cool (through perspiration) while you sleep, you gain less restorative benefits of sleep.
Think about it like this: If the room temperature is ideal, your body has to do very little to keep you at the optimal sleeping temperature.
However, if the room temperature is above 70 degrees, for example, your body needs to work hard to cool you down (through perspiration). Even though you might not be awake, this “cooling down” takes effort. And, that effort steals away energy you need to get the most from your sleep cycle.
So, as you can imagine, your room temperature and the bedding you choose will have a dramatic effect on your body’s temperature and thus the quality and quantity of sleep of you get every night.
This is why keeping your room temperature at between 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit AND reducing the amount of “thermal stress” on your body by selecting the appropriate bedding is so important if you want to get a great night’s sleep.
But, before you rush out to buy new comforters and pillows, it’s important for you to know that…
All Bedding Is NOT Created Equal
The Toxic Problem with Synthetics
Although bedding made and filled with synthetic materials such as polyester are some of the most readily available and inexpensive, I do not recommend them if you want to get the best night’s sleep.
Many synthetics fail to help your body thermo-regulate appropriately. For example, studies show polyester simply gets too hot to keep you within the comfortable range for optimal sleep.
But, synthetics can also pose a real health risk to you and your family.
That’s because many popular manmade fabrics used in creating sheets, comforter covers and pillow cases either were made of and/or contain harsh or dangerous chemicals.
- Many sheets labeled “wrinkle free” or “no iron” contain perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs.
- Chemicals added to bedding to make them softer, prevent shrinkage, and make them fire retardant can emit formaldehyde gas.
- The polyester stuffing found in many pillows and comforters is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is essentially plastic … and therefore presents its own slew of potential health issues, especially as it deteriorates over time.
- Many fabrics include other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach.
As you can see, using synthetics for your bedding can come with real risks. But, before you go searching for so-called “all-natural” bedding, like that made with goose or duck down, it’s important you…
Get the Real Lowdown on Down BEFORE You Buy
For decades, down bedding has traditionally been thought to provide superior comfort and health benefits. And, whereas, there are real benefits to using down over certain synthetics, there are real shortcomings, too.
When you get the real lowdown on down, you’ll begin to see it’s not always what it seems.
- Because down doesn’t insulate or breathe, it cannot regulate your body temperature … as a result, many people sweat under a down comforter.
- In a controlled study, subjects sleeping in a 64 degree Fahrenheit room reported that down tested outside of the comfortable range for optimal sleep. And, as you learned above, this “thermal stress” causes you to expend energy rather than restore it.
- Down creates “microclimates” – so where you may be perfectly warm under one section of a down comforter, you may be roasting in another.
Again, these microclimates cause your body to work hard to keep your body comfortable. Waking up with your head on a sweaty pillow or experiencing that clammy feeling under the comforter is never enjoyable.
- Plus, down is extremely flammable. The only way to reduce this flammability is through potentially harmful chemical saturation of the feathers. As with synthetics, these chemicals can present real problems.
- And, of course, in addition to the fire-retardant chemicals, many other chemicals are regularly used in the processing and cleaning of feathers … each with their own possible health risks, especially for people with asthma or any air sensitivities and allergies.
If that wasn’t all bad enough…
Down Makes a Great Home for Millions of Dirty Guests:
Dust Mites Are NOT Your Friends
Did you know that the beds in nearly one in four homes contain extremely high levels of dust mite allergen?
Add to that the fact that a shocking 20 million Americans, or 10 percent of the population, are seriously affected by dust mite allergies every year, and it’s easy to see we’re facing a real dust mite epidemic.
Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that your body naturally sloughs off every day.
That’s why your bed is one of the places dust mites thrive.
Dust mite feces and decaying bodies are responsible for our allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can range from very mild to severe. If you have existing air sensitivities, your reaction could be even more intense. When considering bedding choices, it’s important to note that dust mites thrive in warm, humid conditions.
Regretfully, because down dries very slowly and doesn’t wick away moisture like sweat, down creates the ideal humid habitat for dust mite infestation.
When you realize that a down pillow can accumulate up to two pounds of dust mite feces over two years, it becomes even more important than ever to find a real bedding solution – one that helps you get the optimal sleep AND reduces your chance of dust mite problems.
So, if synthetics AND so-called “all natural” materials can cause a whole host of problems, what do I recommend?
When it comes to treating yourself to the best bedding possible – and thus the most optimal sleep experience – I fully recommend wool.
- Wool provides the perfect four-season comfort no matter where you live. That’s because wool is naturally thermo-regulating – it’s insulating in the cold, and cool and breathable when it’s warm.
With wool, you’re assured that you’ll never be too hot or too cold.
- Wool breathes naturally. When compared to other natural fibers as well as synthetics such as polyester, you’ll discover that wool offers unmatched breathability and comfort.
- Wool is hypoallergenic, so when encased in all-natural cotton coverings, people with even the most sensitive skin, including those with fibromyalgia, can enjoy the soothing benefits.
- Wool is a sustainable, ecologically-friendly resource. Unlike the impact of harvesting other natural bedding materials such as down, sheep continue to live long healthy, happy lives.
- Plus, since wool is naturally flame-resistant, you can always feel safe knowing that you and your loved ones will always be safe. Even if you hold a match to wool, it will self extinguish in moments.
- In addition, wool has an unmatched natural resilience – holding its crimp and loft longer than any other filling.
- And, since wool regulates your body’s temperature, you never sweat AND since it wicks away moisture and dries extremely quickly, it naturally doesn’t provide an environment for dust mites to live in.