Good Sleep: Can It Still Be Simple?
All's quiet, yet you still can't sleep. Do you really need a NASA-designed pillow or a computerized bed to fix your sleep problems?
Creating Your Comfort Zone continued...
A comfortable sleep environment is an important factor in getting a good night's sleep, Lorenzo adds. After all, we're such sensitive creatures: Our comfort is critical to whether we can sleep or not. The bedroom's temperature - if it's too warm or too cold - can make it difficult to sleep, she says. "Also, hunger is very activating and can make it difficult to sleep."
Indeed, what soothes you to sleep is very personal, says Michael Twery, MD, acting director of the NIH's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. "For children, a teddy bear may help; for adults, listening to relaxing music is a sedative. Part of being sleepy is not being alert. If you're very worried, if your sleep environment is hostile, your body will produce stress hormones that keep you awake."
That's why in a strange environment -- like a hotel -- we have trouble sleeping, he notes. "Certain smells can be bothersome for some people. Others are very sensitive to sound. Some will need white noise or a rhythmic sound to help them sleep, while another person finds those sounds annoying. We're all wired differently."
Sleep Products May Help
Eye masks have been used for decades by the sleep-challenged, Twery says. "Light on the eyes affects the biological clock in our brain, which drives wakefulness," he tells WebMD. "It's not to say we can't sleep in the presence of light, but it might make for disturbed sleep."
White-noise generators -- which typically produce "sea wave" or "waterfall" sounds -- are aimed at stimulus control, says Lorenzo. "They produce a constant level of low noise that masks other little noises that come onto your radar at night," she explains. "They don't allow the brain to pick up on little noises that can arouse you at night."
Science has investigated how smells and sounds are connected with brain circuitry, says Twery. "But how they control sleep and wakefulness is less understood," he tells WebMD. "That doesn't mean these products don't have merit. They've probably been tested to find if there's value. These products may actually help someone sleep. It's mostly about personal comfort."
As for mattresses, comfort certainly rules. "For people with chronic pain, a good mattress is important," Lorenzo notes. "But for an ordinary insomniac, an expensive mattress won't make that much difference."