Sleep is how we spend roughly one-third of our lives. By this logic, we'd say it's worth to commit a thought or two to the quality of sleep we’re getting.
Think of the times you’ve slept on a crooked couch at a friend’s place after a night out. Or in a cheap hotel room with a lousy bed.
Such conditions are quite obviously not doing wonders for your sleep quality.
Hopefully, you now spend most of your nights in the comfort of your own bedroom. But even if that’s the case, you may not have a sleeping environment and routine that’s worthy of your zzz’s.
Because we love everything about sleep and tend to be a little nerdy, (*cough* obsessed), when it comes to getting the best sleep possible. Let's take you on a journey of how you can create the sleep quality of your dreams.
Lean back, relax..but don't fall asleep yet!
Ask yourself, do you ever have trouble falling and staying asleep?
The US doesn't feel much better with only around 35% of adults saying they wake up feeling rested after a
good night's sleep.
That’s a downer you might wanna sleep on if you’re someone who often wakes up tired rather than ready to embrace the day.
Whichever the case, getting good quality sleep depends on several different things. From lifestyle choices and a regular sleeping schedule to how you, well...actually take on the activity of shut-eye.
Everyone is different and you may be a night owl or an early bird. But to make sure your sleep schedule fits your life no matter the situation, there simply are some things you shouldn’t ignore.
Assessing your sleep quality.
You're probably thinking; So, what is good sleep quality and what is bad sleep quality?
One way to check this is by something called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). This scientific method dates back to 1989 and gives you a score over one month of sleep based on 7 categories;
1. Subjective sleep quality. 2. sleep latency. 3. sleep duration. 4. habitual sleep efficiency. 5. sleep disturbances. 6. use of sleeping medication, and 7. daytime dysfunction. - Ugh, what does that even mean?
That’s the complicated science jargon but basically, the point is to find out whether or not you sleep like a baby and go about your day without feeling exhausted - or if your sleep is causing you problems.
The total score range is from 0-21, with scores higher than 5 starting to indicate sleep problems.
The higher the score the worse off you are.
When checking out the score results you’re either considered a ‘good’ or a ‘poor’ sleeper.
As the cherry on top, the recommended amount of sleep needed for an average adult is 7-9 hours.
Now, let's get real for a second here. You likely won't feel like conducting a scientific sleep study on yourself or your family in the coming months. (We think...)
But, if you do happen to have a Fitbit, Apple-watch, phone app or any other tech that measures your sleep - so you don't have to figure out how many minutes you lay awake prior to dozing off - then we’d say go for it. You might get surprised by how you actually score in your sleeping habits.
If you just want to know why being a ‘good’ sleeper impacts your life, scroll to the next section.
If you do feel like experimenting and get an idea of whether or not you’re a ‘good’ sleeper - minus the sleep tracking tech. The instructions to the PSQI are here.
What's great about this, is that Hamuq offers a 101-day free trial to try our mattresses. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to test out if you’re actually getting better quality sleep.
Anyway, research and studies aside, sleep quality itself is really not that complicated. A lot of it comes down to how you feel in your everyday life.
The real problem is, many of us think we’re completely on top of our sleep habits because we’ve been lulled into a pattern for a long time.
Here’s why that could be a tricky nightmare.
Why a disturbed sleep pattern is harmful.
We often blame a lack of sleep on a list of things such as a busy time at work, physical pain or problems in our personal lives;
“I didn’t really sleep last night because I’ve just been feeling so stressed lately.”
“I had this nagging back pain that I kept waking up from.”
“I was tossing and turning because I’m concerned about (insert problem here).”
Have you ever said something along those lines?
If you’re like most people you’ve probably experienced one or all of these scenarios.
So, how can you improve your sleep quality? The answer may be in your sleep pattern.
More precisely, a consistent sleep pattern - or lack thereof.
One thing that can really mess with your body’s internal clock and throw off the balance is an irregular sleep schedule.
For example, say you go to bed early Sunday evening and wake up at 5 am on Monday morning. But, you also stay up late for the rest of your working days even if you still need to get up early. Not to mention going out late and sleeping in on the weekends.
That lovely combination may seem to work for your work/life balance, but your body is a creature of habit.
That means the sudden changes in your sleep pattern will give your body a hard time figuring out when it’s time to doze off, and when to get going.
We call this internal rhythm of your body your, ‘circadian rhythm’. In short, it tells you when to start preparing for bed, and helps you wake up in the morning. The biology involved here is the hormone, melatonin.
Your body produces more melatonin as it gets darker, (aka you stop being exposed to light). This makes you feel drowsy and helps you fall asleep.
So, as the morning light starts peeking in through the bedroom windows, your body produces less melatonin to signal that it’s time to get out of bed.
Messing around with this balance can disturb your sleep pattern, and throw off your ability to regulate when you should be wide awake and when you should be sleeping peacefully in bed.
The effect is much like experiencing jet lag after traveling through several time zones.
Your internal clock gets confused and mixed up. You start feeling the consequences as you struggle through the next day, and have problems falling asleep the following night.
We all have those nights where you finally go to bed at the time you're ‘supposed to'. Thinking you’ll be well rested and ready to take on an important task the following day.
But then... you find yourself lying awake tossing and turning because your brain decided that you need to break down a detailed life plan at that exact moment.
When you can’t fall asleep it’s just, FRUSTRATING.
We bet you never thought it could have something to do with your habits disturbing your sleep pattern, rather than going through a stressful time in your life.
How do you get out of this vicious sleep-deprived cycle?
Luckily, everyone is different and there are some universal guidelines for how to create the best quality sleep. You can decide on a few easy steps at a time to find a sleep schedule that works for you.
Make it consistent.
What exactly is the best time to sleep?
It depends. The main thing you can do is pretty simple. Consistency.
You want to make sure you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day. Yes, this includes weekends too. Sorry.
It’s tempting to stay up late several times a week and then try and catch up on sleep later. Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult for you to get good quality sleep.
Of course, late nights are sometimes called for in the name of celebration or simply enjoying yourself - and that’s perfectly fine.
What usually follows is the sweet feeling of sleeping in. Ahh, yes. Just 5 more minutes...aka 2 hours.
The good news is that treating yourself after a rough week with a late morning in bed, likely won’t mess with your schedule.
In fact, if you’re someone who’s currently only getting around 6 hours every night, those extra couple hours may put you back in the 7-9 hours range - which can actually be good for you.
Especially if you have a cozy, comfortable bed.
The bad news is you might not want to overextend yourself here. Oversleeping on a regular basis will shift your pattern and actually propel you into a cycle of poor sleep quality. Your wakeup time is an important part of a consistent sleep schedule.
We know mornings can be tough. Your bed is hugging you and the snooze button is conveniently within reach.
Unfortunately, snoozing it every 10 minutes will likely make it even harder to get out of bed and leave you feeling more drowsy during the day. This happens because your body gets confused when it's interrupted in the middle of a sleep cycle. In short, when you snooze you lose.
Improve your pre-sleep rituals.
This revolves around everything you do around one hour before you actually lay down in bed and close your eyes.
You want the time getting ready for bed to be calm and soothing in a way that makes you wind down and gets your body ready for sleep.
That means keeping work tasks or any stressful activity, even exercise, out of sight from your pre-sleep rituals.
If you love relaxing by being on your phone while enjoying your favorite snack or nightcap before crawling in between the sheets, here’s how that can affect your sleep.
- Why skip caffeine?
If you’ve ever felt jittery after a cup of coffee, this one is pretty self-explanatory.
Taking caffeine as much as up to 6 hours before bed can make it much harder to fall asleep and also steal chunks of your sleepytime.
Even if you’re used to caffeine, it still affects your system and could mess with your sleep cycle without you realizing it.
- Why skip alcohol?
You’d think this is a great part of a pre-sleep routine, but contrary to popular beliefs, it’s actually not a great sleeping aid.
While it’s true that it can help you feel drowsy and drift to sleep more easily, it ‘cheats’ you into thinking you’re actually getting the rest you need.
In reality, you’re missing out on important stages of sleep, especially REM sleep, but more on that later. [skip to this part]
- Why skip food?
Don’t lose all hope. There’s really nothing wrong with a little bedtime snack.
On one side, experts claim it interferes with your sleep because your metabolism slows down. On the other, they say because your body burns a lot of energy at night, it may be beneficial to fuel up for a comfortable night’s rest.
The main things to avoid are eating heavily or consuming sugar-rich foods right before bedtime. Otherwise, you’ll likely be alright.
- Why skip your phone?
This is the latest big challenge for our sleeping rituals.
Your phone is probably with you everywhere you go, so we’re not even gonna try and pretend it doesn’t snuggle up in bed with you.
It’s a somewhat strange bed-fellow though.
Even if you love checking the feed on your social media one last time, blue light from our electronics trips out our melatonin balance.
This circles back to our circadian rhythms and keeping our inner clock on the right schedule. When you’re ready to go to sleep your body may be thinking, “but it only just got dark.”
One of the reasons you may want to take your sleep habits seriously, aside from sleeplessness issues and getting less than 7 hours, is the long term consequences.
An irregular sleep schedule may actually prevent you from slipping into the stages of sleep that are crucial for your brain and body to restore.
Types of sleep and what they mean for you.
When we sleep, we sleep in cycles. Basically there are two sides to your sleep cycle. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM.
- Stage 1 [non-REM].
Here you go from being awake to slowly drifting away. Everything in your body is slowing down and you start feeling increasingly relaxed. This usually lasts around 10 minutes.
- Stage 2 [non-REM].
This is the stage before deeper sleep and is where you’ll hang around for the majority of your sleep cycle. It’s a form of light sleep where your body temperature is dropping and your eyes stop moving.
- Stage 3 [non-REM].
This is a deep sleep stage that you need in order to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. At this stage, there’s very little action in your body and brain, actually the lowest in your sleep cycle.
So if someone wakes you up from this one we’d say you have a solid case for a noise complaint.
- Stage REM.
It’s called rapid eye movement because this is exactly what is happening. Your eyes are moving around rapidly behind your eyelids.
While your body drifts deeper into relaxation stages and lowers brain wave activity in the other 3 stages of sleep, in the REM-stage, your brain activity spikes to levels near those of your wakeful hours.
Your breathing increases, your heart rate rises...you’re dreaming.
Most of your dreaming occurs here. Much like a computer, your brain processes information, declutters, and resets.
Then you cycle back to stage 2 and start over. Each cycle is roughly 90 minutes long.
Setting up the bedroom of your dreams.
While changing or maintaining good sleeping habits is important, it can be difficult to figure out how to start getting more satisfying sleep today.
Since you now know about the different stages of sleep, how to test your sleep quality, and how your environment affects your sleep - an ideal place to start improving your sleeping habits would be by optimizing a sleeping environment that you love... your bedroom.
“I just can’t wait to go sleep in my own bed.”
How often have you felt this way after a weekend trip or vacation?
The familiar environment, from the sounds you hear to the smell of your house and the feeling of snuggling up in your very own sheets and mattress. That's when you know you’re home.
You could probably pick out your own bedroom while blindfolded, at a game show based on all these sensory experiences.
All of your senses have an impact on how you sleep and how you feel about your bedroom matters.
Sleep comfort and sleep environment.
- The right amount of light.
As we talked about earlier, light is a huge factor in letting your body know whether it’s time to sleep or to wake up.
You can actually this to your advantage by keeping lighting before bedtime to a minimum.
Consider using blackout curtains in your bedroom or an eye mask to keep it as dark as possible.
Combining this with keeping your phone and TV time to a minimum will help signal your brain it’s time to get ready to turn off.
- A comfortable scent.
Smell has a strong connection to how we feel.
Does smelling your mother's cooking on the holidays ever bring a sense of joy and comfort?
Why not bring a similar comfortable feeling to your sleep by having a specific pleasant smell for the bedroom.
Whether you love scented candles, essential oils or just keeping your bedroom aired out and fresh, having an inviting scent that makes you feel relaxed when hugging your sheets, can add to a better sleep environment.
Our body temperature fluctuates during sleep, lowering as much as 1-2 degrees to help us fall asleep. That’s why many experts promote a cooler sleeping environment as a lower temperature is associated with your body readying itself for sleep.
The problem is, we’re all different. Whether you prefer a warmer or cooler environment, having a temperature that’s right for you can make a lot of difference in falling and staying asleep.
There’s no one-size-fits-all temperature range to get the best possible sleep quality. But it has been shown that extreme temperatures in either direction are likely to disturb your sleep cycle and prevent you from entering some of the deeper stages of sleep.
What it boils down to is creating an environment that makes you feel the most comfortable.
- Sleep disruptions.
This one is pretty straight forward. Some people like the ambient sounds of a city while others prefer utter silence. Light noise can be okay, but too much can cause interruptions in your sleep cycle that keep you from drifting into all the required sleep stages.
An easy fix to avoid interrupted sleep is limiting the noise level where you sleep. Yes, this includes snoozing your alarm repeatedly.
In addition, you may have a lovely four-legged family member that is a great companion during the day but wants attention in the middle of the night. If you have attention-seeking pets that wake you up multiple times throughout the night, you might want to reconsider their access to your sleep cave.
Your Bed and Mattress.
This is THE most important part of setting up your bedroom for better sleep.
Aside from one-third of your day being spent resting up in dream city, you also spend time in bed when you’re not sleeping. At least we do!
Ever take a lazy breakfast in bed? Binge your favorite Netflix and chill? Or well...just the chill part?
Add all these hours in your life together and we’ll let you do the math of how important your bed is.
It’s easily the best choice you can make for your sleep quality that doesn’t involve making big changes to your habits.
Once you realize this, it becomes clear that choosing a mattress is a very personal experience that needs to be just right for 'you'.
For some, a soft bed makes you feel like the bed is swallowing you whole. If it’s too firm you may start thinking that going to the floor might be a better option.
Everyone feels differently about their bed. With 20% of American adults reporting pain problems or discomfort during sleep, it’s possible that we need to be less compromising when it comes to having a bed that improves our sleep quality.
Consider asking yourself how you feel about your current mattress?
Depending on your sleeping position, whether you’re a back-sleeper, front sleeper, side sleeper or move positions during the night, your mattress needs to fit your sleep style.
Is your mattress worn thin or starting to sag? Maybe it’s noisy and squeaky every time you switch sleep positions?
Some lower quality mattresses may even need flipping every couple of months to keep them from sagging. You’ll also want to look at the fabric quality and it’s wear over time depending on how long you like to go between mattresses changes.
If you’re prone to allergies, this condition can interfere with your sleep for a long period of time before you even notice. Figure out if the materials of your mattress are sourced naturally for allergen control. Or if there’s a high concentration of chemical components.
In any case, make sure it provides the comfort and support you deserve.
For example, if you have a partner who moves around a lot in their sleep, consider a mattress with motion isolation. Plus, make sure you have a sturdy bed frame that fits perfectly so their tossing and turning doesn’t disturb your sleep.
If you’re often too hot, or wake up feeling sore and exhausted with annoying back pain, you might want to consider an option with gel cooling technology or memory foam.
Bonus Ideas for a Dreamy Bed.
Get sheets with a high thread count that feels soft against your skin instead of giving a rough scratch. And if you have any allergies you’d also want to consider hypoallergenic materials that won’t irritate your body.
Neck pain is as annoying as any other discomfort caused by the wrong type of bed.
Get a pillow that maintains its shape and size and that fits with your preferred sleeping position. Be aware of how well it filters out smells and absorbs sweat during sleep.
If you’re a big fan of convenience, duvet covers are easy to clean, and can give your room a fresh look when you switch designs and prints. Of course, make sure whatever you choose feels great against your skin but also helps keep your sleeping temperature comfortable.
This is a good option if you want to make sure your new mattress doesn’t get damaged by an accident.
It’s a great idea for those who tend to do a lot of snacking or drinking in bed, and need something that makes stains and spilling no-big-deal.
If you’re planning on keeping your mattress for many years, a mattress protector will go far in aiding you here. It protects against the natural oils and sweats your body produces that get absorbed into your mattress over time. It also adds an extra layer of comfort that is easy to clean and maintain compared to the mattress itself.
Just make sure your mattress protector has the right breathability and fits your mattress dimensions.
What will you do about your sleep quality?
Often we keep the same unconscious habits and setup in our bedrooms for many years.
We may not even realize we’re having problems with poor sleeping quality until we try something better.
Still, caring a little for how you sleep can make all the difference in your waking hours and drastically improve your life.
Maybe you want to try out a new sleeping schedule, or stopping your snooze habit.
Start by finding the right life-changing mattress for the way you sleep.
In the end, it’s your bed and your rules, so make it the best it can possibly be.