It’s a stressful time in America today. The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on, prices are rising, and the invasion of Ukraine dominates headlines. When these burdens are placed on top of daily concerns, employees all over the country say they’re approaching burnout. 60% of American adults find themselves mentally tired, even when they haven’t been physically active. Close to half of respondents also report being too anxious to sleep some nights.
Sleeplessness and stress tie together in a vicious cycle. High stress levels lead to sleep problems and fatigue while lack of sleep makes the body more vulnerable to stressors. Sleep is not a luxury. It impacts our everyday ability to remember information, fight off disease, mediate emotional responses, and more. Sleep dramatically impacts our health; on average, 1 hour of lost sleep correlates with 0.42 units higher BMI. People who sleep fewer than 6 hours in a regular night have a 13% higher mortality rate and are twice as likely to end up in a car accident. Work is also harder on low levels of sleep. People who sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night are 29% more productive than those who sleep less.
Invest in better sleep today. One of the easiest places to start is with your bed itself. The physical environment is commonly overlooked when it comes to sleep advice. As Michael Breus, clinical psychologist, explains, “[w]hat touches our skin appears to have a significant effect on our sleep experience… so what we surround ourselves with during sleep is a big deal.”
Four potential areas of improvement for your sheets are thread count, fabrics, color palette, and wash frequency. The ideal range for durability and softness is 200 to 800 thread count. Within that area, choose a thread count that feels right for you. On the subject of fabric, choose cotton when possible. Cotton is a breathable fabric while synthetic fabrics trap heat. Most people sleep best when slightly cooler than daytime temperature. It is also worth having flannel sheets in winter months, then switching to cotton for summer. An ideal color palette for bedding uses neutrals and deeper tones, as these create a soothing and relaxing environment. If buying all new sheets is too expensive for you, consider just replacing your pillowcase instead. Whatever new bedding you do buy, remember to launder it before use to remove stiffening agents. Fresh linens are best for promoting sleep, so wash bedding frequently.
Beyond the bed, look for ways to reduce stress in your life. Self care doesn’t have to be expensive. Focus your investments on where they’ll see the most return. Spending on your health can feel expensive in the moment, but pays off when you avoid breakdowns, injuries, and setbacks. Some self care tips, like taking a day off, don’t have to cost anything at all. 55% of Americans have paid time off that they don’t use. Working from home can make it harder to step away, but the rejuvenation is worth it.