As we begin 2022 with a sense of hope, we’re also continuing to face challenges of every kind. But there are steps we can take to make this a year of less stress and more joy.
One key to a resilient and fulfilling 2022 is getting the restful sleep we need. Science shows that 7 to 9 hours of sleep is essential for our physical and mental health — including helping boost well-being.
“Sleep is the foundation of both our well-being and our resilience,” says Shelly Ibach, President and CEO of Sleep Number and Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large. “As we become more resilient, we will make a difference in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in the world. Sleep supports us in becoming kinder and more thoughtful. Being well-rested helps us to show up as the best version of ourselves.”
Here are six science-backed tips to help you get the sleep you need in 2022.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark
The right temperature is essential for restful, quality sleep, Dr. Peter Polos, a sleep medicine specialist and Sleep Number’s sleep expert, tells Thrive. “When it gets dark, there’s a natural tendency for the body’s core temperature to drop, which promotes sleep. Whatever time you go to bed, making sure your room is dark and cool is key.” It’s also important for the temperature to remain constant throughout the night.
Temperature is one of the most common sleep challenges, especially if you are sleeping with a partner. 83% of couples disagree on sleep temperatures. One person might have a tendency to throw off the covers while their partner prefers being cozily cocooned in the duvet.
Whatever your preference, keeping your room like a sauna is never conducive to restful sleep, says Dr. Polos, who recommends a night-time temperature between 65 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Studies have found that high bedroom temperatures can lead to elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) the following morning. If you’re trying to cool your room, air conditioning, a fan, and keeping a window open are all good options.
Invest in the right bed, bedding and nightwear
“Your bed can transform your sleep,” says Dr. Polos. “Often patients who come to my sleep clinic talk about how they have difficulty sleeping, but their bed has never been mentioned before. I ask them: are you sleeping on a lumpy bed that’s too soft or on a slab of concrete? Having an adjustable bed is a huge advantage, so you can have just the right level of firmness that’s good for you.”
Your pillow also matters. “If a patient tells me, ‘I’ve had my pillow since I was 12 years old,’ I’ll say, ‘maybe you need a new one,’” says Dr. Polos, who notes that pillows, like these, with removable inserts are a great option to help improve your sleep.
This may come as a surprise, but what you wear to bed can impact your sleep quality, too. While it may be tempting to wrap up in heavy flannel pajamas when the temperatures plummet, Dr. Polos advises steering clear of fabrics that trap the heat in. Instead, choose a fabric like cotton, that will help conduct heat away.
Go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day
Whether you’re a night owl or a morning lark, it’s important to have the same or similar bedtime and wake times every day — even on weekends, says Dr. Polos. A consistent routine will help sync your body’s sleep and wake cycles, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. And as Dr. Polos notes, it’s better not to stay in bed beyond your regular wake-up time.
Investing in a Sleep Number 360 smart bed helps you learn about your own circadian rhythm and what times are best for you to go to sleep and wake up. Want more consistent sleep? Sleepers who use Sleep Number 360 smart bed’s circadian rhythm feature improve their bedtime and wake time consistency by 35 minutes* for better quality sleep.
*Based on SleepIQ® data from 6/9/20 to 8/15/20 of sleepers who viewed the Circadian Rhythm feature vs. those who did not.
Set a device cut-off time
Disconnecting from your phone’s distractions is a huge factor in getting restful sleep.
“Putting away your devices is key so you aren’t tempted to check emails or send off another text,” adds Shelly Ibach. “Plus, the blue light emitted by our gadgets suppresses and delays the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, which starts to go up naturally in the evening.”
Instead of watching YouTube videos and scrolling through Instagram at bedtime, try reading a real book. Research shows that reading for enjoyment helps the mind relax and prepare for sleep.
Get regular exercise
It doesn’t need to be an intense workout, but science shows that moving your body during the day helps you sleep soundly at night.
Try this Microstep to help ensure you move regularly and get your blood flowing:
Take a one-minute stretch break whenever you can throughout the day. Simply stand up, change positions and stretch.
What about the best time to work out? Exercising in the morning, whether it’s outdoors or in a well-lit indoor space, helps to wake up your brain. But don’t worry if you can’t fit in an early workout, says Dr. Polos. “It’s fine to do exercise, even cardio, in the evening, up to a couple hours before bedtime, when you should start to wind down.”
Gentle yoga and stretching before bed can ease anxiety and also brings physical benefits such as easing back pain and strengthening your core. You can even enjoy a calming yoga session once you’re in bed!
Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology, help you to learn the best time to exercise that works in harmony with your own circadian rhythm. And Sleep Number’s SleepIQ® data shows that sleepers who do gentle exercise like yoga are the most restful.**
Create a wind-down routine
Having an enjoyable wind-down every night will set you up for the restorative sleep you need. Try meditation at the end of a busy day, or listen to soothing music you love. And once you are in bed, breathing exercises, like the simple expert-backed 4-7-8 breathing, can help you fall asleep faster and lower stress levels. Just close your mouth, breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight.
Another Microstep to try: Sip herbal tea to ease yourself into sleep mode. Drinking something warm and comforting will put you in a calm frame of mind.
End the day on a positive note with gratitude. “Our time spent in bed is an opportunity to look back on anything positive that happened during the day,” says Shelly Ibach. “Studies show that practicing gratitude, particularly at bedtime, improves quality of sleep. It’s just one way to send a signal to your brain that you are safe and secure, and can drift off peacefully.”
Finally, whatever steps you take to improve your sleep this year, remember, says Dr. Polos: “You know your body better than anybody, so educate yourself and listen to your body. You will know what works best for you.”
**Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/2/20 to 1/1/21 and self-reported responses of sleepers using SleepIQ® technology from 5/12/19 – 1/1/21Thrive Global and Sleep Number believe quality sleep has a profound impact on health and well-being. Today, this is more important than ever as we look to quality sleep to help boost immunity, increase energy, and improve recovery.Visit sleepnumber.com to find the best sleep solution for you so you can wake up to your greater purpose.