27 Top Sleep Questions, Answered by the Experts

You asked the Sleep Experts™ in Mattress Firm stores across America for sleep advice, so we consulted sleep doctors and specialists for their best tips.

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Gone are the days when lack of sleep was a point of pride. We feel better and stay healthier after quality rest. So how do you ensure that you’re getting the best sleep possible? Well, it depends on your question.

  1. How important is a sleep schedule? A consistent one is very important. 
  2. What’s the best time to go to bed? Anywhere from 8 p.m. to midnight. 
  3. What’s a good bedtime routine? Quick answer: One that feels natural to you.  
  4. Can I have tea before bed? Yes, if you stick with herbal infusions like lavender, chamomile.  
  5. Does a hot bath work for sleep? Researchers believe so! Take it an hour before bedtime.  
  6. What is the best sleep position? Generally your back is the best way to start but if you have sleep apnea, sleeping on your side may be better.
  7. Should I change my sleep position? If you're a stomach sleeper, yes.
  8. Is a power nap right for me? It depends. Can you keep it under 30 minutes? 
  9. How much REM sleep do I need? At least 90 minutes. 
  10. Why do I wake up at 3 a.m.? Could be anxiety, blood sugar, noise, or something else!  
  11. Should I wake up a sleepwalker? It's a myth that you shouldn't.
  12. How do I fall back asleep? Get calm. 
  13. Is sleeping with my partner actually better for me? Yes! If you share the same bed time. If not, you may want to schedule cuddle time.
  14. What’s the best music for sleep? Weightless by Marconi Union. 
  15. Should I try sleep hypnosis? If you like meditation and mindfulness, yes!
  16. How do I get rid of jet lag? Maintain your original sleep schedule! Party tomorrow. 
  17. What's a good morning routine for better sleep? A phone-free ritual that includes journaling, reading, or scheduling.
  18. Will a sleep diary help me sleep? This old school method of tracking your habits and behaviors could give insight on what is disrupting your sleep quality.
  19. Is it time to replace my pillow? A standard pillow lasts about a year but there may be more signs of wear and tear to pay attention to!  
  20. And when should I change my mattress? 8-12 years is the average lifespan, but you’ll likely want a new one sooner than that.   
  21. How can I tackle night sweats? Phew, natural fabrics, supportive pillows, and cooling mattresses. 
  22. What’s the best mattress for me? We’ll need more info from you... keep reading. 
  23. Can an adjustable base bed help me sleep better? Probably! Snore? Have heartburn? Need to reduce strain on your back? Adjusting the position of your mattress could solve your problems. 
  24. Will blue-light-blocking glasses help me sleep? Some studies show that it’s easier to fall asleep if you wear them at night, so they could be worth a try. 
  25. How about a weighted blanket? Yes! Just be sure to choose one that equals 10% of your body weight. Heavier is not better. 
  26. Is an e-reader or a book better for bedtime? If you literally dose off mid-paragraph, a book is probably best. But there are blue-light-blocking options. It all depends on your budget. 
  27. I've bought all the gear but still need more tips for better sleep. You're in luck. Keep reading for lifestyle tips and answers to getting the best sleep of the night.

How Do I Know If I Need New Products or a New Routine?

Great question! It depends on a lot of factors that can be hard to pinpoint unless you're already tracking your sleep. We recommend using a sleep diary for at least two weeks to see what habits and factors may help you sleep better or worse.

Not sure what to track? Here are 17 morning to night tips for better sleep you should consider practicing. If you feel like you've got these under control, then you might want to start looking at your bedroom. Is the design sleep-friendly? Do you need to choose a new mattress or replace your pillows?

Why Does a Consistent Sleep Schedule Matter?

Call it a priority for the comfort life. A solid sleep schedule, which doesn’t have to be strict, can tell you a lot about how you’re handling your day to day. Consistent rest often leads to a slew of benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional states. That's a better immune system, which leads to a lower risk of diseases; boosted moods and increased emotional regulation; and heightened performance, especially in comparison to those who aren’t getting enough sleep.

So, What Is the Best Time to Go to Bed?

Real talk: Making your own bedtime is, at the same time, freeing and exhausting. While the socially acceptable hours are anywhere from 8 p.m. to midnight, the other general recommendation is to get at least seven hours of sleep. That said, listen to your body, which has its own natural cycle. Oversleeping just to meet a criteria isn’t beneficial to your circadian rhythm and could leave you feeling more fatigued.

Pro-tip: Watch out for how often your sleep schedule shifts. Multiple hours, several times a week, could be a sign that there are other sleep disruptors going on. Research shows the best bedtime allows you to get your needed REM sleep, before midnight.

Will a Weighted Blanket or Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses Make It Easier to Sleep?

Finding gear that helps you sleep better is like having the perfect dream, but whether these products work depends on the person and the quality of the product. If you’re tossing and turning, new gear could be worth a try.

A weighted blanket can help with sleep, ease pain, and lessen anxiety. It should be 10% of your body weight, unless you are over 60 and/or have muscle weakness. In that case, our experts recommend five to eight pounds max. Snuggle under this and you may find the benefits of having a weighted blanket go beyond deep sleep.

As for blue-light-blocking glasses, studies vary about benefits. If you’re a healthy adult, putting your screens and e-readers away an hour or two before bedtime is recommended, but if you can’t quit pre-bed screen time, glasses or a blue-light-blocking screen protector could help, and if you deal with insomnia or other sleep disorders, wearing blue-light-blocking glasses may help you achieve the much-needed REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, sooner rather than later.

How Else Can I Get the Right Amount of REM Sleep?

What it takes for you to enter the REM stage requires a 360 approach to your sleep routine. This can include exercising in the day or investing in a comfortable mattress. As an adult, you’ll want 20-25% of your sleep hours in REM sleep. For newborns, the recommended time is 50%. How much REM sleep you need tends to decrease with age.

On average, if you sleep restfully for seven to eight hours a night, you should get about 90 minutes of REM sleep.

But What If I Wake Up at Night?

Waking up at night is common — and while the answer to that problem varies, you should know that as long as your alarm isn’t set to wake you up in 90 minutes, going back to bed can help you tap back into the restful stage of REM sleep.

However, you’ll still want to figure out the cause behind your sleep disruption. Reasons can be physical, such as your blood sugar dipping, or shifting sleep stages; mental, such as anxiety or stress; or — and this is more fixable — environmental.

For example, your mattress might be bad at regulating your temperature in the hot (or cold) room. If you can't replace your mattress, sleeping with sheets made of natural materials (more on that below!) may solve the problem behind waking up at 3 a.m.

I’m Awake. What Is the Best Way to Fall Back Asleep?

Get calm. Release the annoyance that your sleep was disturbed — because you can deal with that in the morning — and focus on reaching stillness in the now. If you need help to fall back asleep sooner, try getting out of bed, visualizing sheep, breathing through a relaxation exercise, or listening to soothing music.

Let’s Make It Easy: This Is the Best Music for Sleep

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The best music for sleep is, hands-down, “Weightless” by Marconi Union. Researchers found that this 8-minute song reduced anxiety by 65% and resting heart rates by 35%. If a song is all it takes for you to get more sleep, you should know that this could lead to other benefits like lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Heard this before and not a fan? There are about nine other songs, proven to help you sleep.

If music isn’t enough, you might need to take a step back and check your sleep hygiene, from routine to bedding.

Don’t Have Enough Time for REM Sleep? Try a Power Nap

Maybe you didn’t wake up at 3 a.m. Maybe it’s 5 a.m. and there’s not enough time for a REM cycle. Don’t force the shuteye. Your best bet is to set your alarm for a power nap — a quick snooze where you wake yourself up before you enter the REM stage of sleep.

A power nap should be anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Any longer and you may fall into a fatigue that ruins your sleep schedule and leaves you feeling groggy for the rest of the day.

Won't Naps Ruin My Bedtime Routine?

Not if it’s a power nap and you have a solid bedtime routine to keep your sleep schedule consistent and your sleep hygiene on track.

Sleep hygiene refers to both your bedtime routine and bedroom environment and how they contribute to your sleep quality. Habits like keeping the same bedtime and making sure your bed is only for sex and sleeping are tentpole practices for training your brain and body to know it’s time to wind down.

Fun fact: Regulating body temperature is a necessary part of sleep hygiene as well. Which brings us to the next question...

What’s the Best Way to Stay Cool at Night?

Outside of medical intervention, tackling hot flashes, night sweats, and general overheating takes investing in your sleep gear. If temperature is an environment issue, experts recommend turning down your heater to 65 degrees or bringing a fan into the room. If it’s about internal body temperature, build your night-sweats tool kit with sleep gear designed to cool you down.

Pajamas made of quick-dry fibers, cotton, and even wool are great. Sheets made of natural materials, such as cotton, bamboo, and linen, help regulate body heat. For a nighttime upgrade, you might want to splurge on Tempur-Pedic pillows — we’ve all flipped for the cool side before! — or, if you want to go big, consider a mattress specifically fitted with cooling technology, such as this Serta iSeries Hybrid 3000.

Besides Cooling Factors, What Makes a Mattress Great for Me?

Pressure relief, isolating motion, being resistant to mold, mildew, and dust mites — it’s your call and your choice when it comes to choosing a mattress right for you. Different mattress types have different goals, but there are certain materials that are better at ticking all the boxes. For example, a memory foam mattress is better for pressure relief and motion isolation, for those with fidgety sleep partners, while a latex mattress is ideal for allergy-prone sleepers.

Discovering the best mattress for you is like the experience of ordering omakase (chef’s choice). Go in with a fixed price point, tell the store associates what your problems are (so they know what to avoid), and proactively order the recommendation that ends up feeling right to you.

OK, And Should My Sleep Position Determine My Mattress Choice at All?

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Yes — but not always! First on the yes, there are three primary sleeping positions for most people: back, side, and stomach. Getting a mattress that supports your ideal sleep position can benefit instances of chronic pain and sleep quality.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Back sleepers should get a firm or hybrid mattress to support their spine alignment.  
  • Side sleepers will benefit from a soft memory foam that helps relieve pressure on their shoulders and hips.  
  • Stomach sleepers should ideally learn how to change their sleep position, however if this is the only position that works for you, you’ll want a firm mattress that can support your spine.  
  • Multi-position sleepers, aka those who roll around at night, will likely want a medium-firm mattress or foam that isolates movement but not one that contours to your body since lumps and bumps could disrupt your sleep.  

Now comes the “not always” — when it comes to choosing the best mattress, you’ll want to consider other important factors like chronic pain, allergies, price point, and even your partner. The good news is a well-stocked store will have a variety of answers to all your problems. The hard part will be deciding which mattress goes home with you.

We Talked Mattress, But What About Beds?

In general, you'll want a bed frame that provides airflow and support, but if you’re going all-in on your sleep gear, consider an adjustable base bed, which allows you to elevate your head and foot area. This small but powerful ability to change and support your sleep position can help tackle snoring, heart burn, and other symptoms, not to mention make it easier to read or sip coffee in bed, complementing all the other sleep benefits your mattress provides.

Bonus: The Top Tip for Jet Lag

Nothing ruins a consistent sleep schedule like traveling and switching time zones. Most of us can attest to the effects of daylight saving — and one of the best tips for anticipating daylight saving also works for jet lag. Adjust your sleep schedule prior to the change so that you can drift into your new time zone with ease.

And if you can’t? Try not to stress about it. It’s natural for your circadian rhythm to be thrown off — it will adjust. In the meantime, you can focus on making your sleep environment as comfortable as possible so that catching Z’s comes with ease.

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