The importance of an optimal sleep environment and my Origin Hybrid mattress review!
I was recently given the opportunity to trial and review an award winning new mattress, recently introduced to the UK market but already becoming very popular for many reasons - which will be outlined below! First of all though, there are many factors that can affect a good night’s sleep -including noise, temperature, lighting, food and of course, which mattress you opt to sleep on!
Everyone is different however, and what makes for a restful sleep can vary for us all. Our lifestyles and personal health can also dictate where or how we choose to sleep, and how much sleep we need in order to function well, but it’s important to try to create an optimal sleep environment in order to enhance our chances of a good night's rest.
Our lifestyles and vocations don’t always make this simple however - we may work shifts, experience interrupted sleep as parents, have partners we share a bed with who are restless in their sleep, or maybe we just struggle to sleep at night ourselves. In any case, there are things we can do, to enhance our sleep environment
Let’s look at a few sleep factors, which affect can affect us, both as adults and little ones.
Generally if we hear a loud, unexpected noise, especially during the lighter part of our sleep cycle, we will wake. This is human nature and our natural instinct, a way of keeping ourselves safe at our most vulnerable time, while we are defenceless and unprotected. A quiet sleeping environment (for most) is preferred, although many people find comfort in listening to constant low noise to sleep, perhaps to drown out street noise or traffic noise (or a snoring partner!) for example.
White or even better, pink noise - which has deeper tone and is less ‘harsh’ than white noise, and has been shown to enhance deeper sleep (Schade, M. M., Mathew, G. M., Roberts, D. M., Gartenberg, D., & Buxton, O. M. (2020), can be extremely beneficial for both adults and children. It can also help us to fall asleep faster (Kawada, T., & Suzuki, S. (1993). I also personally like to listen to brown noise, which has an even deeper sound hue, and is very relaxing.
Some people may prefer to listen to sleep meditations, music, ASMR, or nature sounds in order to calm their nervous system - and cover loud sudden noises. There’s no set ‘best’ option - whatever works best for you (or your little one) is fine.
Do you get too hot or too cold in bed? Finding a balance of temperature can be key to a restful night’s sleep. Keeping your room around 18 degrees at night is thought to be optimal for the best chance of good quality sleep.
You will need to consider the material used in the mattress and pillow you’re sleeping on (some can make you really hot!) and also those of the duvet/covers you use. A breathable mattress and a duvet suitable for the season you are in will all help to maintain the best temperature within the room and throughout the night. Using cool high quality 100% cotton bedding in the summer months, and warm (but not synthetic) brushed cotton sheets and bedding in the winter, enables you to regulate your body temperature too.
I always suggest a regular bedtime routine, for adults or children, and this can include a warm bath or shower to relax and wind down (try a few drops of lavender oil in your bath, for extra relaxation) as not only does it signal to our mind and body it is time to fall asleep, the drop in body temperature upon getting out, can also help us to start to become sleepy (Murphy & Campbell, 1997)
As adults, our body temperature starts to decrease around 2 hours before we fall asleep, around the time we start to produce the ‘sleepy’ hormone melatonin, and it can fluctuate by up to 2 degrees throughout the night (Harding, E. C., Franks, N. P., & Wisden, W. (2020). Being too hot can really affect the quality of sleep, and it is this drop in body temperature during the night that is thought to enhance sleep which leaves us feeling rested and restored in the morning.
DIM THE LIGHTS OR GO COMPLETELY DARK!
There are many similarities between adult and infant sleep and we can all benefit from a dark sleeping environment. It is the best way to get the most restful sleep, but this isn’t always preferred. You, or your little one, may want a dim nightlight of some sort. I have written a blog here about nightlights, especially focusing on summer nights when the light lasts longer so it can be much harder to fall asleep.
There are many ways you can block out light to help with sleep, including blackout blinds or curtains, or even using an eye mask (not for children however, due to safety risks) to block any light that does come in. We can naturally wake in the night, maybe for the toilet or because we have a bad dream, so a night light could be the best solution to prevent bumping into things trying to find where we are going when we are half asleep! Try to keep this as dim as possible, and go for an orange or red coloured light rather than white or blue - again for protection of that magic melatonin!
Make sure to avoid natural sunlight, bright light or blue light (from screens and phones) for at least an hour before trying to go to sleep, and also during the night. As soon as light enters the retina, it signals to the brain to reduce melatonin production and increase cortisol levels to wake us up for the day, or keep us going at the end of the day (that second wind!) and this can affect both children and adults.
FOOD AND SLEEP
There are certain foods we can eat that can enhance our sleep experience - giving us a better chance of a decent night's sleep! I always recommend foods rich in tryptophan as these can help with natural melatonin production - as tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin, the essential sleepy hormone we produce when darkness falls.
These foods include white meats, pulses, seeds, nuts, warm milk, cheese and oats. Tart cherry juice (available from health food shops) is high in natural melatonin. Avoid caffeine at least 4 - 6 hours before bed, and try not to eat too late in the evening, as if your body is digesting food, it will struggle to rest and slow down and sleep can be negatively affected. (Crispim et al. 2011)
WHAT DOES YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT LOOK LIKE?
We can easily fall into the trap of using our bedroom not just for sleep but for other purposes. We might use it to watch TV, or to work from... but is this ideal? I would advise that it is best to separate your working environment from your bedroom if you can, and keep it a relaxed space free from any stress. However, some people may need to use their bedroom for additional work space or as a place to take some timeout, and that's ok - perhaps try to create a separate space that can be tidied away or screened off so that when it is time for bed, you can focus on sleep and relaxation and not work.
As mentioned previously, TVs and screens should ideally be off at least an hour before bed, so if you do have a TV or computer monitor in your room, it's best to bear this in mind if you’re planning to work late or watch something to wind down after a long day. Diffusing calming aromas such as lavender and chamomile in an oil diffuser, using dim low level lighting, ensuring your bed is warm and inviting (or cool in the summer!) and perhaps reading for a little while before bed, after a relaxing bath, is the ideal sleep environment to set up if you can!
Probably the most key part of any bedroom will be the bed, of course, and in turn - the mattress! Mattresses come in all shapes and sizes and have a multitude of features. The most common types of mattress available are sprung, memory foam, or a mixture of the two, hybrid.
We spend on average, about 26 years sleeping in our life. That means we spend about 9,490 days or 227,760 hours asleep! Around 7 years of our life are spent trying to nod off, so in total we spend 33 years or 12,045 days in bed. (Credit to the National Sleep Foundation for those statistics). So it’s definitely worth investing in a good mattress (and bedding to go with it!).
Whatever your personal preference, I have just tested the Origin Hybrid mattress. I can highly recommend it - it is great quality, solidly made, and features a fully coil sprung bottom with a latex gel and memory foam top layer, which I found supportive and firm but also very comfortable. I also loved their Coolmax latex pillows that are supportive and super comfortable too (great also for upright reading of a good book before bed!). My daughter, who also suffers with chronic pain also trialled the Origin mattress and has found the support to be much better than her previous orthapaedic mattress, which has certainly helped with the stiffness she feels in the morning.
Many people can be put off by memory foam, which historically has been found to get quite hot at night, which, as discussed previously, isn’t conducive to good sleep! However, this isn’t the case with the Origin mattress, we didn’t find it got hot at all, due to the way it is made - breathable and not fully memory foam, but also the layer of cooling latex gel helps hugely.
So far the Origin mattress has been a delight to sleep on, the perfect balance of comfort and support, and combined with the coolmax latex pillow, I've enjoyed getting a great night's sleep! The design of the mattress means that if one partner moves around a lot or gets in and out of the bed in the night, the other doesn’t feel it, which is really helpful for lighter sleepers, or those that like to go to bed at different times.
What I also love about Origin, is that they offer a 200 night trial, free shipping and a 15 year warranty, in the rare instance that you find it's not the mattress for you - and any returned mattresses in good condition are donated to The British Heart Foundation.
It is advised that mattresses should be replaced approximately every 8 years.
LASTLY - ALWAYS MAKE YOUR BED IN THE MORNING!
It’s an old - fashioned piece of advice - but making your bed really does set you up for the day and gives you a sense of accomplishment. It makes a bed, a warm inviting place to look forward to at the end of a long day, and there’s nothing better than fresh sheets to get into at night! Give these ideas a try and please do contact me if you need any further advice.
Lots of love and Sweet Dreams,