Sleep Your Way to Better Health:
3 Little-Known Sleep Hacks for Deep Rejuvenation and Rest
BY MEGHAN MCDONALD
When it comes to fine-tuning and improving our health, most people focus on diet, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle habits like meditation and spending time in nature. However, something that is often overlooked or taken for granted that is equally important as any of these is the quality of our sleep.
The Unbelievable Amount of Time You Spend in Bed
This shouldn’t come as a surprise either. We spend one-third of our lives in bed: 229,961 hours on average to be exact. Anything that we spend that much time doing is going to have a major effect on our health. Compare the amount of time we sleep (229,961 hours) to how much time we spend eating (32,098 hours) and you can start to see just how influential it is.
People Who Sleep Better Are Healthier and Happier Than Those Who Don’t
People who get optimal amounts of quality sleep are happier, healthier, fitter, live-longer, have better psychological health, stronger immune systems and have lower incidence of disease and illness. People who don’t get optimal amounts of quality sleep for whatever reason have exponentially higher levels of psychological disorders, report higher levels of fatigue and depression and are more prone to illness and disease than their sleep-nourished counterparts.
Suffice it to say that getting consistent, deep, restful sleep is essential for radiant health and wellness in life. So what are the keys to better health through better sleep?
3 Little-Known Sleep Hacks for Better Health, Deep Rejuvenation and Rest
Below you’ll find some unconventional sleep improvement tips that are easy to implement and extremely effective in helping you get a better night’s sleep.
1. Sleeping on a Cloud: The Single Most Overlooked Thing For Getting Incredible Sleep
If you have read a lot about sleep, you’ll know that most suggestions for sleeping better have to do with taking herbs or supplements or adjusting your lifestyle, however, there is one thing that is often overlooked: the quality and comfort of your mattress.
For years we thought our mattress was incredibly comfy… but that all changed on a recent trip to see some friends this past summer.
Think your mattress is comfy? Think again…
During our stay in a close friend’s guest room, we had some of the best, deepest sleep of our lives, which is unusual, because their room did not have the ideal sleep conditions for us and we usually don’t sleep so well while traveling. Both of us prefer to sleep in total darkness and there was light coming in from the windows from the street lights outside and it was loud (they live in a city)—all stark contrasts to our dark, quiet hillside home back in California.
However, the mattress they had was so comfortable that we both fell asleep like a rock every night. It was then that we realized that our mattress was not as comfortable as we had previously thought. And that changed everything. We asked them what kind of mattress we had been sleeping on and vowed to order one for ourselves as soon as we got home.
It turns out it was a PlushBeds mattress, which turned out to be great for us since we are committed to only purchasing, recommending and supporting organic, eco- and health-friendly, natural mattresses. PlushBeds ticks all of those boxes and offers a huge range of mattress to support every sleeping type, we learned, and set off to order our own.
How to Choose a Mattress That Makes You Sleep Like a Baby
Since then we have consistently had truly incredible nights of sleep that have us waking up feeling deeply rested, rejuvenated and refreshed. It’s amazing.
However, before deciding to order from them we did a huge amount of research into choosing the right mattress for optimal sleep and here are our three key takeaways for choosing a mattress that feels like sleeping on a cloud and that get you excited to hop in bed every night because they are so damn comfortable:
1. Make sure it is tailored to your desired level softness or firmness
There are literally hundreds of different types of mattresses to choose from these days and you can dial in the comfort level to your exact preferences so that you literally feel borderline-orgasmic when you hop into bed because it’s so comfortable. Good mattress companies will have in-depth explanations of how their mattresses feel and accommodating return/exchange policies to let you switch out the one you ordered if you end up not liking it after a few weeks so you can give it a real world test to make sure it checks all the right boxes for you.
2. Seek organic, all-natural, eco-friendly mattress out so you are not breathing chemicals as you sleep
Unfortunately many popular companies in the mattress industry are known for using low quality materials that are made from synthetic chemicals and harmful flame retardants that off-gas harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) while you sleep, which means you can spend up to 229,961 hours breathing them in if you are one of these mattresses! Suffice it to say this can have a major negative effect on your health. Volatile Organic Compounds are extremely hazardous. According to the EPA, VOC’s cause eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system. They can also disrupt your hormonal system, which controls your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycles and levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone) and generally weaken your health which often leads to poor sleep. Double ouch.
Fortunately there are companies like PlushBeds that are aware of the dangers these synthetic materials pose to our health and have worked hard to develop mattresses that do not off gas, are 100% free from VOC’s and use organic, natural materials whenever possible. They carry a range of independent, third-party certifications and have a range of different mattress for all comfort levels and sleep types.
3. Make sure it is roomy enough for you to truly stretch out and relax—even with a partner in bed
When it comes to mattresses, bigger is almost always better, especially if you sleep with a partner. Bigger mattresses are more comfortable because they accommodate a greater range of sleeping positions and out stretching, which generally leads to more comfort. Humans are funny creatures in that we tend to adjust to and conform to our environment, meaning that if we have always slept in a bed that is too small, we get used to it and learn to live with it instead of seeking out something that truly makes us feel maximum comfort. The truth is that we move a lot during sleep and sleep issues like low back pain, sore joints and muscles are often due to cramped sleeping positions due to lack of proper space to stretch out and orient ourselves on a mattress.
A fidgety partner with a different sleep schedule than us can also cause disturbances in our sleep and comfort. Bigger beds tend to absorb and isolate movement from partners better which means you are less likely to notice or be bothered by what they are up to, leading to deeper, more restful sleep.
2. Get Your Hormones in Balance
Perhaps more than anything else, our delicate hormonal balance is responsible for the quality of our sleep. After all, Melatonin, which regulates our sleep-wake cycles is a potent neurohormone. The way our hormonal system works is that imbalances in one area tend to affect all others because of the cascading nature of hormonal interactions. This is why women in Menopause often have sleep issues—changes in Estrogen levels lead to imbalances in other hormones and general body function, which can and does affect things like cortisol and melatonin levels, both of which dramatically affect our ability to fall and stay asleep. As such, maintaining a healthy hormonal balance is key to getting quality sleep.
While balancing hormones can be a complex topic, there are some fairly easy things you can do to help things along:
+ Get regular light-moderate amounts of exercise 3 to 4 times per week and daily if possible
+ Eat a wide spectrum of foods from all food groups with abundant healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, ghee/butter and other unrefined oils) ideally organic and unprocessed
+ Make sure to get plenty of sun during the day on your bare skin and/or supplement with vitamin D in areas with low sunshine (vitamin D is important for proper hormone levels and balance)
3. Meditate, Meditate, Meditate
Practicing meditation regularly is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve the quality and length of sleep you enjoy. It’s widely known that one of meditation’s main benefits is a reduction in stress, which is one of the biggest contributing factors in lack of sleep and poor quality sleep. Moreover, meditation also activates parts of the brain associated with relaxation and rest and deactivates areas associated with stress. For instance, one study on meditation and stress showed that the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and the flight-or-fight reflex, shrunk after just eight weeks. In this particular study, participants took part in a weekly Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and meditated at home for an average of about 30 minutes a day.
In one study on mindfulness and sleep, researchers split adults into two groups—one that received sleep-education training and one that received training on mindfulness practices. After two hours of training a day for six weeks, those in the mindfulness group experienced better quality of sleep than those in the sleep education group. Various forms of mindfulness meditation, from MBSR to loving kindness meditation to simple mindfulness exercises, have shown effective results in promoting restful sleep, reducing fatigue and insomnia, and even lowering symptoms of depression. However, one important thing to keep in mind is that the key to seeing results with a meditation or mindfulness practice is to practice consistently. Even as little as 5 minutes a day can have noticeable and lasting benefits on your sleep patterns.
About The Author
Meghan McDonald is the Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in social psychology from San Diego State University where she conducted award-winning research into the nature of human social behavior. She is an advocate for many environmental and social justice causes and a champion of social impact-focused brands and products that adhere to high sustainability and ethical standards. As a regular travel and lifestyle contributor to Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, Meghan funnels her extensive knowledge of natural products, organic living, and consumer behavior into researching and reviewing brands and products that promote health, wellbeing, sustainability, equality, and positive social change. She has traveled to over 25 countries and loves exploring diverse destinations worldwide while documenting the local artisans and businesses offering conscious, healthy alternatives.