Quality sleep is often one of the most overlooked aspects of overall physical and emotional health. And we get it. With busy day-to-day lives and the stressors that come with it, it can be challenging to make sleep a priority, especially when you don’t know exactly how to start. And since the cause of inadequate sleep can be so tough to figure out, we decided to ask real people: what exactly keeps you up at night?
And after surveying 450 adults around the U.S. about their sleep habits, we discovered some interesting trends.
- 57% get less than 8 hours of sleep most nights
- 47% have trouble sleeping on a weekly basis
- 35% worry about their sleep quality all the time
Let that last number sink in. Over one third of people surveyed worry about their sleep quality on a regular basis. That’s way too many if you ask us.
So exactly what kinds of disruptions are making good sleep so hard to come by? We asked. You answered.
Let’s take a closer look at some ways to alleviate these top offenders.
Start with good sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the combination of daily habits and environment that contribute to healthy sleep. And a majority of the sleep disturbances reported in our survey can be improved or eliminated when you use it properly. To improve your sleep hygiene, work on:
- Setting up an optimal sleep environment that’s cool, quiet, and dark
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
- Getting enough nighttime sleep
- Avoiding long or frequent naps
- Implementing a regular bedtime routine
- Cutting out use of electronics an hour before bedtime
- Being physically active during the day
A favorable sleep environment, especially, can work wonders on the way you sleep. Noise, temperature, and light were some of the top reported nightly disruptions in our survey. An optimal sleep environment should be cool, quiet, and dark. Human beings are biologically programmed to sleep best under these conditions (our earliest ancestors slept in caves, afterall). To structure your bedroom for successful rest, we recommend starting with these essential steps:
- Keep your room cool. Body temperature naturally decreases as you sleep, therefore, a room temperature between 60 - 67 degrees fahrenheit can help you wind down faster and stay asleep longer.
- Get the right bedding and mattress. Obviously you’ll want to have bedding appropriate for your climate and a comfortable mattress suited for your sleep position. But, consider also using your bed as an extra defense against hot sleeping. A cooling mattress or topper can be especially helpful for this.
- Eliminate excess light. Light directly affects your body’s production of the sleep chemical serotonin, meaning that you’ll have a tough time falling and staying asleep in a well lit room. Be sure to block out even less obvious sources, like lights from electronics or adjacent rooms.
- Eliminate disruptive noise. Whether they consciously wake you up or not, noises from things like street traffic, appliances, or creaky floors can prohibit your ability to get restorative sleep. If you can’t remove the source of the noise, consider drowning it out with white noise or relaxing music.
When it comes to getting your sleep environment set up just right for you, our best advice is to experiment, experiment, experiment! A number of different factors, like your internal thermostat, body clock, and comfort preferences, will influence the way you tweak your room for productive sleep.
Environmental sleep aids
We also asked participants to share what helps them sleep. And as you might guess, many of the top answers are scientifically proven to help improve sleep quality.
You’ll notice most of them contribute to creating the ideal sleep environment that we discussed earlier—one that’s cool, quiet, and dark.
Humidifiers and air filters, additionally, have a few benefits that help promote better sleep. Especially for sleepers impacted by allergies or asthma (15% and 8% of our survey group, respectively), dampening and purifying the air in the bedroom can encourage clearer breathing. Devices like this may also improve skin or eye irritation, increasing your comfort for more sound sleep.
Music and a regular bedtime routine were also reported in our survey as helpful tools to aid sleep. Our suggestion? Put these two together. Implementing gentle sleep music as part of your wind down ritual can help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep efficiency. Wondering how you can create a good bedtime routine? Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Keep a set bedtime
- Put electronics away to reduce blue light exposure
- Opt for a light snack or warm beverage instead of a heavy meal
- Play calming music or white noise
- Relax with stretches or meditation (but no intense exercise)
- Prep your cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable environment
Not only does a consistent bedtime routine help signal your body for sleep, but for adults, it helps reduce stress and anxiety by clearing the mind and separating the day from the night. For anxiety sufferers, this is our number one recommendation for better sleep. And it’s no surprise that 97% of those surveyed who follow a bedtime routine feel it has a positive impact on their sleep quality.
Sleep and other household members
By far the largest number of our survey participants told us that other people or pets in their home disrupt their sleep on a regular basis.
Nearly our entire survey group reported that they don’t sleep alone. Whether you sleep with your partner, kids, pets, or all of the above, there are a couple things you can do to make your cosleeping arrangement more peaceful.
- Consider a bigger bed size. A king or Cal king is often enough room for cosleeping families to stretch out without bumping into one another.
- Choose a mattress with motion isolation technology. A mattress with pocket springs that move independently of one another will ensure that movements caused by one sleeper won’t spread throughout the entire bed surface.
- Create a separate sleep space for pets. If your furry friend is taking up extra room, wiggling around, or making it hard to keep the bed clean, you might consider setting up a space just for them. Dogs, in particular, will instinctively sleep in an area that’s enclosed and cave-like.
- Try out separate covers. In nearly every relationship, there’s at least one blanket hog. Or, one who sleeps hotter than the other. Sometimes, simply having your own set of sheets or blankets on your side can make all the difference.
- Maintain your sleep hygiene. It bears repeating. If everyone in your bed maintains a good routine and stays active during the day, they’ll all sleep better at night.
- If you sleep with an infant, follow safe cosleeping guidelines.
Caffeine and sleep quality
Caffeine consumption was reported as a regular sleep disruptor by 9% of our survey group. Often, those who drink it in the late afternoon or evening will see it impact their nighttime sleep. Although the FDA recommends no more than 400 mg per day, caffeine may affect some more than others when it comes to sleep, so it’s important to understand your own tolerance level. A 2013 study found that participants who consumed caffeine even 6 hours prior to bedtime saw a reduction in overall nighttime sleep.
To sum up, make sure that your coffee, tea, or energy drinks total up to less than 400 mg of caffeine a day, and try not to drink them past the early afternoon. And if you find it hard to follow these limits, try swapping a cup or two for a 20-minute power nap instead.
It’s always a good time to start a healthy sleep habit
In the end, sleeping efficiently is something that humans learn over time. From the moment we’re born, we naturally begin to adapt habits and associations that help us sleep better. Adults who sleep well on a consistent basis have likely mastered some or many of the tips and tricks we’ve shared here. And if you identify with the 47% of people in our study that have trouble sleeping regularly, there are lots of healthy habits you can start incorporating today to experience better rest and all the benefits that come with it.