March 4-11th is National Sleep Awareness Week which makes this week a great time to discuss some of the issues that compromise our precious restful hours. If you’re someone who has no difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep—that’s great. Keep doing what you’re doing! For others, the struggle of getting a good night’s sleep can cause stress and anxiety.
For those who have difficulty achieving a good night’s sleep, there are some easy room modifications that can be beneficial for promoting restfulness. A good environment is the first step towards achieving a good night’s rest. Try out some of these suggestions if you find yourself having difficulty sleeping.
Temperature: Research has shown that a cool room, around 65 degrees, creates the best sleeping environment1. Our body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the day and is tied to our sleep cycle. Our body temperature drops throughout the night until it begins rising again around 5:00 am. This drop in body temperature is linked to drowsiness. If our bedroom is too hot, it can interfere with our body’s natural temperature regulation and therefore disrupt our sleep. Try turning down your thermostat at night to promote better sleep.
Mattress and Pillows: Mattresses and pillows do not last forever, and if you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be a sign that it’s time for a new one. Mattresses generally have a lifespan of about 8 years and pillows about 2 years. Any older and they may not be providing you with the proper support during sleep. A good way to determine the health of your mattress is to do a quick evaluation. Does it have worn or sagging spots in the middle or the edges? Does your side of the mattress move whenever your partner moves? Do you wake up feeling stiff or sore? These may be indications that it’s time for a new mattress. Additionally, your pillow should be free from lumps and sags. It should support your head and neck in a neutral position without craning your neck.
Electronics: A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people use a computer, cell phone, or video game at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed2. Scientists have found that the specific type of light given off by electronics delays the release of melatonin (a sleep hormone) and may disrupt our ability to wind-down to sleep3. If you’re having difficulty falling asleep, try avoiding electronic use for at least an hour before bed. Instead, read a book, meditate or relax with family.
White Noise: Whether you live in the city or a busy neighborhood, outside noise may be contributing to poor sleep. Sudden or periodic noises can jostle us awake, cause a shift between stages of sleep or even cause a change in heart rate or blood pressure. Sleep interruptions, even if you don’t remember them the next morning, can lead to increased fatigue during the day. One solution is to mask the sound of these interrupting noises through the use of white noise. White noise provides a background of steady sound that reduces your risk of waking up to periodic louder noises. Try creating white noise with a sound machine, fan or air purifier. Another option is to try wearing earplugs at night to mute loud noises.
Give these suggestions a try and see how your sleep improves. Let National Sleep Awareness Week be a time to reflect on what changes you could make to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Dr. Anna Hagens
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Lymphedema Therapist
Live Your LifeTM
Bringing Physical Therapy & Wellness to You!
Dr. Anna Hagens is passionate about helping her clients reach their personal goals and improve their quality of life. Anna earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Olaf College in 2011 and then went on to receive her Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. Anna has experience working with a wide variety of diagnoses within home care settings, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
Anna loves motivating clients to regain independence and believes the home environment is an ideal setting for personalized treatment. Her areas of expertise include geriatrics, fall prevention, dementia management, neurological rehabilitation and lymphedema therapy. She has furthered interest in these areas by becoming a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and certified in the Otago Falls Prevention Program. Anna has also become certified in the LSVT Big Program to provide specialized treatment to clients with Parkinson’s Disease.
Anna is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association where she stays up to date on recent research through her participation in the Home Health and Geriatrics Sections. In her free time, Anna can be found spending time with her fiancé and friends, exploring the outdoors while hiking, skiing, and gardening or cooking and baking. She’s also a music lover and enjoys playing the harp and piano.
3Joshua J. Gooley, Kyle Chamberlain, Kurt A. Smith, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Shantha M. W. Rajaratnam, Eliza Van Reen, Jamie M. Zeitzer, Charles A. Czeisler, Steven W. Lockley; Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 96, Issue 3, 1 March 2011, Pages E463–E472.