Your bedroom has a mattress, sheets, blankets and pillows — all of the necessities for a good night sleep, right? Maybe not.
When it comes to sleeping well, the “gear” in the bedroom can have a big impact.
“The wrong environment can trigger or exacerbate insomnia,” says Rachel E. Salas MD, board-certified sleep specialist and neurologist.
If you’re not sleeping well, one of these five culprits could be to blame:
Although there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for the perfect mattress, replacing an old mattress could help you sleep better.
A study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found significant improvements in sleep quality when participants slept on new mattresses compared with their own mattresses, which were an average of 9.5 years old. (The National Sleep Foundation estimates that mattresses have a life span of eight years.)
Whether you choose a pillow-top mattress or one made from memory foam is less important than sleeping on a mattress that is comfortable and in good condition, says Lara Kierlin, MD, a sleep medicine physician and psychiatrist in Portland, Oregon. “What is comfortable is different for everyone,” she says.
You should choose a pillow based on your preferred sleep position: A thicker pillow is best for side sleepers. Back sleepers need thinner pillows, and stomach sleepers should toss aside the pillow altogether.
Most manufacturers even label their pillows to let consumers know which styles are best for their favorite sleeping positions. Check the label before purchasing a new pillow.
Salas also recommends hypoallergenic pillows or pillow protectors to reduce overnight sniffling, sneezing and stuffiness from allergies that can keep you awake.
“Pillows can collect dander, sweat and dead skin cells that can negatively impact sleep,” Salas explains.
In addition to washing your pillow, she recommends replacing pillows at least once per year.
Research conducted by Consumer Reports found that sheets made from cotton-polyester blends may trap body heat, causing you to overheat at night. In contrast, percale sheets have a tighter weave that makes them feel crisp and starched — and keep you feeling cool.
You can also shop for sheets made from “performance” fabrics that wick moisture to help keep you from overheating.
Salas also suggests choosing bedding in colors like blue, lavender, green and grey instead of bolder shades. “More natural or relaxing colors are believed to be better in the bedroom to help relax and calm the person,” she says.
A bed piled high with blankets might look cozy, but all of those covers could keep you from falling into a deep sleep.
“Temperature is important,” says Kierlin. “We tend to fall into deep sleep best when there is a precipitous decline in body temperature.”
In other words, steer clear of blankets made from fabrics like wool or fleece, which could cause you to overheat, waking you up in the middle of the night. Electric blankets are also a no-go in the bedroom. Instead, your bed should be covered with blankets made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like linen, cotton and bamboo.
Forget the lightweight curtains, glowing alarm clock and MP3 docking station beside the bed. You’ll sleep best when the room is dark and quiet, which means blackout shades, no supplemental lighting and zero electronics in the bedroom.
Consider dressing up the nightstand with a diffuser instead. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the scent of lavender essential oil improved sleep quality.
“People need to consider that our sleep environment is crucial for sleep,” Salas says.
Before you go to bed tonight, assess the environment in your bedroom and consider making changes to the blankets, pillows, sheets and other essential gear that could be preventing you from falling into a deep, restful slumber.