How Sleep-Friendly Is Your Bedroom?

As much as we may appreciate our bedrooms as a retreat and a haven, the poll shows we're still not actually getting enough sleep there.
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There's no room in our homes we spend more time in than the bedroom. You can say I'm biased, but I think it's the most important room in the house. The National Sleep Foundation has just released the results of its first-ever "Bedroom Poll," which is full of information about how aspects of our bedrooms affect sleep life. The survey covered many aspects of bedroom life, from how much and how well we're sleeping, to romance and intimacy, to how often we change our sheets. The survey found Americans feeling pretty good about their bedrooms -- a majority said they prefer their own bedrooms to a nice hotel. As much as we may appreciate our bedrooms as a retreat and a haven, the poll shows we're still not actually get enough sleep there.

Let's take a look at some of the details. The survey, which included 1,500 adults ages 25-55 interviewed by telephone, gathered basic information about how well Americans think they are sleeping. Many people report sleeping well sometimes, but fewer than half say they sleep well most nights:

•77 percent of respondents said they get a good night's sleep on at least a few nights per week
•42 percent said they experience a good night's sleep every night or almost every night
•13 percent reported rarely or never getting a good night of sleep

Overall, people report sleeping more on weekends than during the week. The average nightly sleep for weeknights was 6 hours, 30 minutes, at the low end of the recommended 6-8 hours per night. The weekend average rose to 7 hours, 12 minutes. Those with the strongest sleep habits -- people who reported sleeping well every night or almost every night -- also reported sleeping more on both weeknights and weekends, averaging almost one hour of additional sleep compared to the rest of respondents.

How much sleep do we think we need to function at our best? The survey found:
The average amount of sleep respondents think they need per night was 7 hours, 25 minutes.

•37 percent said they needed at least eight hours per night to function at their best during the day
•13 percent said they needed less than six hours per night to function at their peak

I'm suspicious of this last figure: There are super sleepers out there, but they are rare. The rest of us need somewhere in the range of 6-8 hours of sleep per night to feel good during the day.

We may not be sleeping enough, but Americans are pretty upbeat about their bedrooms. Not surprisingly, most people reported that a clean, fresh bedroom environment made them feel better about hitting the sheets:

•78 percent reported feeling more excited about going to bed when they have clean sheets
•71 percent reported sleeping better on clean sheets
•29 percent reported going to bed earlier when they have clean sheets on the bed
•88 percent said they make their bed at least a few days a week
•71 percent reported making their bed every day or almost every day

These responses echo something I've said for a long time: A clean bedroom and a welcoming bed (which includes not just clean sheets, but also well-made mattress and pillows) can have a significant effect on how we approach our nightly sleep, and how well we sleep once we're in bed. It's worth noting that the people in the survey who reported making their bed every day or almost every day were more likely to also say they slept well every night or almost every night.

When asked to rate the environmental factors in the bedroom that contributed to a good night's sleep, a majority of respondents rated a clean bedroom as important -- but it wasn't the No. 1 factor. According to the poll, a cool temperature was most often cited as the most important factor in creating a sleep-friendly bedroom environment, followed by:

•Fresh, allergen free air
•A dark room
•A quiet room
•A clean bedroom

This list looked a little different when it came to creating a romance-friendly environment. When asked to name the most important factors for romance in the bedroom, respondents chose:

•A comfortable mattress
•Comfortable sheets and bedding
•A clean room
•A cool temperature in the bedroom
•Comfortable pillows
•A quiet environment

The results of this survey confirm what I and other sleep experts have been saying for years: The condition of your bedroom really matters, for the quality of your sleep as well as your intimate life and your health. Here are my tips for keeping your bedroom in good shape -- or shaping it up, if it's been neglected:

Invest in your sleep equipment. A good mattress and quality pillows are important investments in your sleep and health. Replace your pillows every year, and invest in a new mattress at least every seven years -- or whenever your body tells you it's time.

Go cool and dark. Your bedroom climate is important. Most of us sleep better in a cool room. And we all benefit from darkness for sleep. Try an electronic curfew about an hour before bed. Disengage from email, phone, and texting. There's plenty of research that shows how disruptive these devices are for sleep. Better yet, keep them out of the bedroom altogether. If you fall asleep to the TV, use your TV timer so it turns off after you have fallen asleep.

Fresh sheets are an easy indulgence. Keep fresh sheets on your bed, wash them often, and invest in an extra set so you can change them frequently. As this survey indicates, fresh sheets are a big draw -- they can entice you to bed earlier and help you sleep better once you're there.

Pamper. Give yourself a sleep vacation at home! Those sleep spa getaways are increasingly popular, but you don't have to leave home to reap the benefits of some sleep-focused down time. Unplug from your regular responsibilities -- and your PDA. Sign up for a yoga class or a local spa visit. Follow up these relaxing activities with an afternoon nap and a quiet evening before bed. And think about adding some of these "indulgences" into your regular routine!

Sweet Dreams,
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™

Everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep™
twitter: @thesleepdoctor

For more by Dr. Michael J. Breus, click here.

For more on sleep, click here.

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