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Sleep Hygiene And Your Bed

Your bed is the most important piece of furniture in your house. After all, you will spend a third of your life in it.

So it’s important to choose a good one, and to make it as comfortable as possible.

As a graduate student I slept on a futon that was so thin I could feel every slat in the futon frame. I always slept in one particular position so that my hip bone would fall between two slats.

Friends who sublet my apartment in the summer said it was “penitential”.

It wasn’t the only cause of my insomnia, but I’m sure it didn’t help. One of the fundamental principles of sleep hygiene is comfort!

When I finally did buy a new futon, I was amazed at how much better it felt. Some things are not worth economizing on.

Your Mattress and Sleep Hygiene

The choice of mattress is a very personal one and I won’t advocate one type over another.

However, if you wake up every morning with an aching back or a sore hip and feel better by the middle of the day, chances are, you need a new one.

In general, doctors specializing in back pain advise that we sleep on mattresses that are not too hard, not too soft, but just right.

This is so that the spine can find its natural alignment and that pressure points will not build over the course of a night.

Besides futons, the main types of mattress are innerspring, foam, and memory foam. It is crucial that you try a mattress before you pay for it, either at the store or at home on a trial basis.

Much will depend on what you are used to sleeping on. But other factors to consider are whether you sleep alone, what kind of climate you live in, and how much you move around at night.

For instance, I had a very petite friend who used to complain that every time her 200-pound husband turned over, his movements would translate through their spring mattress and she would find herself being tossed up and down as though on a trampoline.

Sleep Hygiene And Your Bed

If you sleep with a partner, you may want to choose a foam or a pocket spring mattress.

Memory foam mattresses cost a lot and are very much in vogue at the moment.

Some people swear by them, and for those with chronic back pain this may well be the ultimate solution.

I have read however that the “memory” function of the foam can make you feel as though you’re being swallowed up. It becomes difficult to move around and in the hot summer months the memory foam may feel stifling.

If you move around a lot at night or live in a hot climate without air conditioning, this isn’t likely the best choice.

Some people have complained of a chemical odor emanating from these mattresses when new. Also, the texture of the foam changes with the temperature, so these mattresses actually get harder in cold weather.

My personal preference is for a compressed foam mattress, though many people complain they are too hard.

My husband says that for the first few nights sleeping on our mattress he found it difficult to breathe as he felt his ribcage could not expand properly.

However, foam mattresses do not transmit movement, they are equally good in hot and cold weather, and are also relatively affordable.

Your Pillow and Sleep Hygiene

The choice of pillow is as personal as with mattresses. Indeed, it is a matter that varies with culture.

The Chinese (at least until fairly recently) preferred to sleep on hard boxes made of wood, ceramic, stone, or even metal. My grandfather had a servant who used a biscuit tin for a pillow and swore by it.

For most of us, however, something soft and fluffy is preferred. Your pillow should allow your neck to maintain its natural alignment.

Too thick a pillow may bend your neck too far forward (if you’re on your back) or to one side as you are sleeping. A pillow height of about four inches is best.

If you suffer from neck pain, you may want to try a contoured foam pillow such as the kind made by Obusforme. I have one and find it gives my neck great support.

If your insomnia is caused by a snoring spouse, you may want to try one of several anti-snoring pillows that are on the market. These help to keep the airway open — they don’t work for everyone (much to my mother’s sorrow), but they may help.

Try A Bolster or a Body Pillow

I grew up in Southeast Asia, where it is the custom to sleep hugging a bolster — a long, cylindrical body pillow.

I (and hundreds of millions of other people) find it a very soothing thing to hug a bolster between my knees and to my chest.

For those who suffer from low back pain, having a pillow between one’s knees can help reduce the torque in your lumbar spine if you sleep on your side.

Hugging a bolster to the chest also prevents the pectoral muscles from shortening and exacerbating the rounded shoulders posture that is the plague of the deskbound everywhere.

Good postural alignment in bed is a principle of sleep hygiene.

Your Linens

Choose breathable sheets. One hundred percent cotton is best.

Again, sleep hygiene is not just a metaphor when it comes to the cleanliness of your bed linens.

Launder your sheets once a week in fragrance-free detergent, as artificial scents are made of synthetic chemicals that irritate the nervous system.