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Sleep and Your Health

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Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. – Thomas Dekker

Sleep plays a vital role in our physical well-being, from weight loss to disease prevention to our complexion. It’s one of the most important things we can do for overall health. Considering we sleep on average 1/3 of our lives, it’s easy to understand what a difference a good night of sleep can make.

While we sleep, our bodies “recharge”. The body regulates chemicals and hormones in charge of metabolism, hunger, and blood sugar, repairs and heals the heart and blood vessels, keeps our immune system running strong, and even burns calories, all while we sleep.

If you’re getting plenty of sleep but still not feeling rested and recharged, keep in mind that not all sleep is created equal. You can ensure a more restful and better quality sleep by following a nighttime routine and making sure your sleep is as comfortable as possible.

Nighttime routine

Just as children need a nighttime routine to help them ease into a restful slumber, so do adults. As you prepare for bedtime, keep the following sleep hygiene tips in mind:

Put away or turn off electronic devices and opt for a bedtime story instead. Reading helps us turn off our thoughts of the day and enter a more relaxing state.

As much as possible, stick to a regular bedtime and wake time each day, even on weekends.

Limit or eliminate caffeine intake in the evenings and avoid eating late at night or several hours before bedtime.
Avoid late-afternoon naps, as this can make it much harder to fall asleep at bedtime and interrupt your sleep routines.

A soothing bath, lower lighting levels, and relaxing aromatherapy can help you relax before heading to bed.

Sleep comfortably

Now that you’ve perfected your nighttime routine and created a relaxing, rest-inducing sleep environment, what about your mattress and bedding?

Your mattress is the foundation for quality rest. If your current mattress is over 8 years old, it could be time for a replacement. When looking for a new mattress, consider it as an investment in your sleep and, therefore, your health. The right mattress can make a tremendous difference in the quality of sleep, especially if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort while sleeping. Mattress choices can be overwhelming, but when shopping for a new mattress remember to take your time and find the right feel for you. A mattress that’s too firm can aggravate pressure points, while one that is too soft won’t properly support your body, resulting in an achy morning. Seek out the most comfortable mattress possible. This will encourage deeper, more quality sleep.

Visit a sleep center with knowledgeable friendly staff, and take your time trying out the options. Don’t be afraid to bring your pillow from home and take 15-20 minutes trying out each potential new mattress. If you’re looking for a mattress to specifically fit your body and ideal comfort level, a customizable mattress may be a good option for you. Traditional mattresses may contain chemicals that aggravate sensitivities or allergies so, if this is a concern, there are natural and organic mattress options to consider.

Once you’ve addressed the “foundation” for a good night of sleep, don’t overlook your bedding. We may not immediately think of pillows and sheets impacting our health, but they can certainly affect how restful and regenerating our sleep is each night. When choosing a pillow, consider the material that’s in the pillow as well as your sleeping position. There are a multitude of material choices, including various down alternatives like shredded microfiber, natural kapok, or shredded latex, solid pillow choices made of memory foam or natural organic latex. There are even pillows with built-in cooling gel to keep you always sleeping on the cool side of the pillow! When considering a pillow for your sleeping position, back sleepers need medium support to cradle the natural curvature of the upper spine. Side sleepers will do best with a firm pillow that contours the head, neck, and shoulders to ensure spinal alignment. If you sleep on your stomach, choose a soft, plump pillow that cushions the head and neck without unnatural turning to either side.

If your sheets are hot or scratchy, it can certainly make for a restless night of sleep. Consider sheets that are made from natural materials such as Tencel (eucalyptus fiber) or bamboo for a cooler, softer sleep. If you’re concerned about exposure to residues, dyes, or chemicals, consider organic cotton sheets, which become softer with every wash.

If you suffer from allergies or sensitive skin, a mattress encasement, or protector can be an important part of your bedding. Not only will it protect your mattress from body oils and spills but it can help prevent dust mite and pet dander buildup, and protect you from some of the chemicals that may reside in traditional mattresses.
There are many small steps you can take to getting a better night’s sleep. When the quality of your sleep increases, you feel better and look better, but more importantly you are healthier.

Written by Rebekah Greer, owner of Top Drawer Furniture – local, family owned retailer of mattresses, bedding products, and natural sleep solutions. For a consultation, or more information about healthier mattress and bedding options, contact the sleep experts at Sleep Organics.