This Is Your Body on No Sleep

A missed night of sleep is a fairly common experience for young people, new parents, and all kinds of busy adults. And while sometimes it’s because you’re having fun (New Year’s Eve!) and other times it’s because you must (an infant in the house), the end result of a sleepless night is the same: Your body has been deprived of an essential component for good health and energy.

Most adults do best with between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, but nearly 30 percent get less than six, and some occasionally miss a night entirely, resulting in a slow accumulation of sleep debt that can affect your appearance, your immune system, and even the way your brain functions. Read on to discover a few of the ways a sleepless night affects your body.

Dark Circles

Puffy eyes and a pasty complexion aren’t what you want to see when you wake up in the morning, but your appearance can be affected when you get too little sleep. Missing a night’s sleep can cause fluid to accumulate below your eyes, leading to circles and swelling.

Hunger Pangs

Lack of sleep changes the way your body interprets hunger signals, leaving you with cravings that can be hard to control. In fact, women who sleep five hours or less a night are 15 percent more likely to become obese during the next decade.

Feeling Unfocused

Missing a night of sleep increases the likelihood that you will feel forgetful or experience slow reaction times, which can result in small mistakes (typos on a work presentation) or very big ones (impaired driving).

Common Cold

An itchy, drippy nose is another potential side effect of a missed night of sleep. Your immune system may also be affected, leaving you more susceptible to colds.

Less Sex

Fatigue is a big factor when it comes to being in the mood for sex. In National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, about a third of women say they put sexual activity with their partner on the back burner when they are sleep-deprived.

A single night without sleep isn’t usually a big deal, but over time, these occasional lapses can lead to more serious conditions. Longer term, too little sleep may contribute to heart disease,  high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and stroke.  The big takeaway here to a healthy life is to strive to practice good sleep habits, including getting to bed on time.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Memory Foam

If you’ve been in the market for mattresses lately, you’ve probably heard the term “memory foam.” Mattresses come in many different styles, using many different materials, and memory foam has become one of the most popular.

First designed in the 1960’s for use in NASA spaceship seats and seatbelts, shock-absorbing, pressure-relieving memory foam has also been used as cushioning in helmets and shoes, and use in prosthetics and wheelchair seating pads. However, it wasn’t until the 1990’s, when Fagerdella World Foams released their flagship TempurPedic Swedish mattress, that memory foam was introduced as a mattress material. Since then, memory foam mattresses have exploded onto the market, especially with the growth of bed-in-a-box brands.

But what exactly is memory foam? What is it made of, how does it work, and how do you know if it’s the right choice for you?

We’ve got you covered. In this guide to all things memory foam, we’ll break down the ins and outs of the material, how it’s used in mattresses, and what to look for as a smart mattress shopper.

Looking to find the best memory foam mattresses? Check out our guide here!

What is Memory Foam Made Of?

First thing’s first: what is memory foam, physically?

The main component of memory foam is a polymer (a substance with large molecules, consisting of many small, similar subunits bonded together) called polyurethane. Polyurethane is an incredibly common and versatile plastic polymer that can be used to produce a wide range of materials and products, including furniture like sofas and mattresses, but also products like insulation, liquid paints and primers, spray foam, elastic fibers, car parts, and even tough elastomers like roller blade wheels.

Memory foam is what is known as “viscoelastic” polyurethane foam, or low-resistance polyurethane foam (LRPu). It is created by adding various compounds and additives to polyurethane, which change depending on the type of foam being created.

Ultimately, these chemicals affect two of the main qualities of memory foam: viscosity and elasticity. In the context of memory foam, when we say that the material is “viscous”, we mean that it takes a long time to change shape under pressure, or to transfer energy from one place to another. When we say a material is “elastic”, it means it can stretch or contort but return to its original shape or size when the stretching force is taken away,

Different manufacturers have different “recipes” for the chemicals they add to the foam and the processes they use to create the foam. These recipes and processes affect the feel and function of each individual memory foam product, and are often proprietary secrets. However, as a general rule, the viscoelastic foam used in most memory foam mattresses contains at least some degree of a compound called polyether polyol, which helps give the foam both elasticity and viscosity.

How Does Memory Foam Work?

As we outlined above, memory foam mattresses are designed to slowly mold to the body in response to pressure, and therefore to evenly distribute body weight. They are also designed to be resilient, and to return to their original shape once body weight and pressure is removed.

Memory foam responds differently depending on how you apply pressure, or “force”. If you apply pressure quickly, the foam tends to change shape more slowly, or “reluctantly.” This means that memory foam is excellent at absorbing the force of an impact, which is why it was originally used in areas like space shuttle construction. When memory foam is used as a mattress material, this quality helps the mattress cushion the body evenly, and creates the slow contouring feeling as the mattress adapts to the impact of your body and re-forms around your curves.

Memory foam also returns relatively slowly to its original shape when force is removed–on average, around 5-10 seconds. During this recovery period, energy from the impact is absorbed and dissipated. This time lag, a phenomenon known as “hysteresis”, also helps cushion sleepers, because it removes some of the pressure (or, impact energy) produced by the prone body.

Another important part of how memory foam works is that its viscosity decreases with temperature. This means that it becomes less stiff and more flexible the hotter it gets. This is the reason why memory foam mattresses feel softer or more pliable after you’ve been lying on them for a time, since your body heat increases the temperature of the sleep surface.

Different Types of Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and construction-styles. Beyond the proprietary differences in compounds and processes when it comes to each individual foam product, there are several basic types of memory foam.

Types of Memory Foam

By and large, there are three main types of memory foam:

Traditional

This is the original, “classic” memory foam. It was the first memory foam to enter the market for consumer use. Traditional memory foam is engineered to mold to your body and is constructed the way we have outlined above. One issue with traditional memory foam is that it has a tendency to retain heat, which can cause the sleeping surface of mattresses using that foam to become uncomfortably warm. The two other types of memory foam were created in part to address that issue.

Open-Cell

Open-cell memory foam has the same ingredients as traditional memory foam, but with a different internal structure. Open-cell memory foam mattresses have internal pockets (or, “open cells”) that allow for ventilation and air flow throughout the mattress, which helps disperse heat.

Originally, open-cell memory foam mattresses were far less dense, which sometimes affected the firmness of the mattress and made them feel less supportive. However, new production technologies have been developed to address that issue while also retaining the open-celled structure of the mattress (and therefore retaining the cooling effect).

Gel

Another type of memory foam incorporates gel in its construction. Gels are usually added to the mattress by pumping gel-based microbeads into the foam. These microbeads create pockets similar to those that exist in open-cell mattresses. Rather than simply letting air through the mattress, these gels are generally “phase-changing” materials, meaning they actively absorb and release heat from your body.

Some mattresses use foams that only fit one of these categories, but many modern memory foam mattresses incorporate several, if not all three.

In addition to these three basic types, some memory foam mattress developers now add other materials to their mattresses, often specifically for the purpose of cooling. One of those materials is copper. Copper is highly conductive, and helps with both heat-dispersal and moisture-wicking when used in memory foam mattresses. There are mattresses that fit the description of all three of the main types of memory foam that incorporate copper in their construction.

Another up-and-coming innovation in memory foam is the development of more eco-friendly foams. These eco-friendly memory foams (or, “greener memory foams”) incorporate more plant-based materials than the average memory foam mattress. For instance, they may replace some of the petroleum-based compounds and derivatives used in standard memory foam manufacturing with compounds and derivatives made from soy or corn oil. These manufacturing techniques are still relatively new, but they are becoming more common as the technology develops.

Mattress Construction

Memory foam is used in mattresses in several different ways. For one thing, different memory foam mattresses have different constructions designed to achieve specific qualities. However, there is a basic template that most memory foam mattresses follow, even if the unique components differ. That template has three components:

  1. Comfort Layer: This top section of the mattress is composed of one or more foam layers that are generally designed to provide contouring and cushioning, depending on the level of firmness of the mattress. Many mattress designs use more breathable foams in this section, in order to keep heat away from the sleeping surface.
  2. Transition Layer: This section of the mattress is composed of one or more foam layers meant to work between the comfort layers and the core. They tend to be slightly firmer than the foam in the comfort levels, and often help wick heat away from the comfort layer.
  3. Core: This is the base of the mattress. It is often composed of much firmer foam, and is the largest layer, usually by far. It provides stability and support to the mattress through the other foam layers. In some mattresses, called hybrid mattresses, the core is not foam, but rather is the same sort of core you would find on an innerspring mattress. This tends to provide additional support, bounce, and ventilation.

Qualities of Memory Foam

Now that we know what memory foam actually is, we can move on to how it feels, and what sleeping on a memory foam mattress is like. In general, there are three main characteristics describe memory foam mattresses as a whole, though different mattresses will offer varying levels of each of these qualities

  • Contouring: One of the hallmark characteristics of memory foam is right there in the name. When you lie down on a memory foam mattress, you can feel the sleep surface contour specifically to the curves and angles of your body.
  • Sink: In addition to contouring, memory foam tends to have a “sink” to it–that is, the feeling of being embraced by the mattress, and even of sinking down into it.
  • Palpable Response: As mentioned above, memory foam is extremely adaptive to pressure, and you can feel the material becoming more pliable and less viscous in response to the pressure and heat of your body when you lie down.

Memory Foam Pros and Cons

In addition to the unique feel of the foam, memory foam mattresses have many other specific qualities–some of which make people love them, and some of which can turn people off. There are definitely people out there who adore memory foam, and others who can’t stand it. In addition, there are people who love some qualities of memory foam, but could do without others. When talking about memory foam, it is therefore important to address both commonly reported benefits and commonly reported complaints.

Memory Foam Pros

Provides Pressure Relief: Memory foam contours to the body, using your own body heat and pressure to conform to your shape. This can provide relief in areas of the body we put the most pressure on during sleep, such as the hips, shoulders, and neck. Putting regular, disproportionate pressure on those parts of the body can cause pain upon waking, as well as trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.

For some people, especially those with joint pain or arthritis, memory foam’s contouring qualities can reduce pain and discomfort by evenly distributing weight and taking the stress off of common pressure points.

Promotes Spinal Alignment: Another plus of memory foam’s contouring qualities is that for many sleepers, it promotes good spinal alignment and provides lumbar support. When a surface responds to the natural curves of the body like memory foam does, it can be easier to find sleeping positions that keep your spine in neutral alignment. This can prevent tossing and turning at night, as well as back pain and soreness in the morning.

Hypoallergenic: For people with allergies, one major benefit of memory foam mattresses is that they tend to be hypoallergenic. Because of their dense structure, memory foam mattresses are less likely to attract and accumulate allergens, such as dust mites, mold, and other common irritants.

Reduces Motion Transfer: For co-sleepers and couples–especially those who are light sleepers–making sure you can’t feel it if your partner moves or gets up at night is very important when considering a mattress.

If preventing motion transfer is a priority for you, memory foam has a significant advantage. Because of the density of memory foam and the way it responds to and distributes pressure, it does a good job of keeping motion on one part of the bed from being felt on another part of the bed.

Quiet: Memory foam mattresses are also notable for being quiet. This is important for couples who don’t want to wake their significant others when getting out of bed, but also for anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered with the squeaking, groaning, or various other noises that can come from a particularly noisy bed.

Memory Foam Cons

Heat Retention: One of the main complaints about memory foam mattresses is that they tend to trap heat and become uncomfortably warm. Because they are designed to respond to body heat, and because of the density of the material, memory foam can, in fact, get quite warm, especially traditional memory foam.

Though there have been innovations in memory foam technology to address this issue (such as open cell and gel foams, and other cooling construction methods), they still generally retain heat more than other types of mattress. This can cause trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, especially if you’re already a hot sleeper.

Cost: Another issue with memory foam is the fact that they tend to be pricier than other mattresses. This is especially true if you get a particularly high-quality memory foam mattress: compared, for instance, to a similar-quality innerspring mattress, memory foam mattresses will usually have a higher price tag.

As memory foam mattresses become more widespread, and especially as bed-in-a-box companies are becoming more popular, the general cost of memory foam mattresses has gone down. However, it is still, by in large, the costlier option.

Not Waterproof: Memory foam mattresses (as well as memory foam toppers and pillows) can be damaged by water, and by moisture/liquid in general. Liquids can degrade the foam, and reduce the lifespan of a memory foam mattress. This is particularly inconvenient if you live in a high-humidity area, or if you have a young child or pet that is prone to spills or accidents. It also makes cleaning a memory foam mattress particularly difficult.

“Stuck” Feeling: Some people find that the memory foam feel can leave them feeling too sunk down into the mattress, such that they feel stuck or sucked up into the material. This can make it more difficult to move during the night, and some people just generally find it uncomfortable or off-putting. The sinkage of a memory foam mattress tends to increase as the mattress ages, so people who are particularly turned off by that feeling will only dislike it more with time.

Off-Gassing and Odors: When they are first produced, memory foam mattresses tend to have a distinct, chemical-like smell. This is referred to as “off-gassing.” Generally, the smell goes away within around 24 hours after unboxing, but sometimes it can stick around for weeks. Memory foam mattresses using cheaper materials have stronger and longer-lasting off-gassing.

Heavy/Difficult to Move: These days, many memory foam mattresses come as a “bed-in-a-box”, which gives off the illusion that they’re lightweight. However, this is not generally the case. Once a memory foam mattress is set up, it is, on average, quite a bit heavier than other types of mattresses.

This can cause issues when trying to lift the mattress to change the sheets, or when trying to reposition the mattress. It can also be a major pain when moving, especially when it comes to a bed-in-a-box, as it is likely going to be much harder to get the mattress out of the room than it was to bring it in.

How to Pick The Right Memory Foam Mattress

If you’ve decided that memory foam sounds like the right choice for you, there’s still a good deal you should know when looking for your ideal memory foam mattress match. Here are some general pointers about what to look for in a memory foam mattress

Firmness

Mattresses come with many different levels of firmness. Mattress firmness is generally described on a scale between very soft and very firm, often broken down numerically between 1 (very soft) and 10 (very firm). Think of it as a more nuanced Goldilocks and the Three Bears scenario: some people like their mattresses very firm, some like them very soft, and some like them somewhere in the middle.

Most mattresses will be described in-store or online as landing somewhere on the soft-firm scale. However, if that info isn’t there or if it isn’t detailed enough, you can look for an Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) rating. This is basically a measure of firmness: the higher the ILD rating, the firmer you can expect the mattress to be. According to the way ILDs are scored, each layer of the mattress (ie, comfort, transition, support, etc.) has its own ILD score, and then the mattress as a whole has an overall ILD score. On the ILD scale, a mattress with an overall ILD of 10 would be very soft, while a mattress with an ILD of 50 would be very firm. If you want something in the middle, judge by those standards.

Density

The density of memory foam is the measure of how much actual foam is built into each layer of the mattress. Memory foam comes in a variety of different densities, which are measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). In general, the higher the density of the foam, the longer it will keep its shape, elasticity, and support structures. However, higher density foams also tend to sleep hotter.

 If you’re an average-temperature sleeper (ie, you don’t sleep particularly hot), a good density that cuts the difference between longevity and heat retention is around 3.0-5.0 PFC.

Thickness

When it comes to memory foam mattresses, thickness refers to how many inches the mattress measures from the side. This is different from density: for instance, three inches of foam could have an ILD score of 10 or 50. Memory foam mattresses range in thickness from around 6 inches to around 14 inches. As a rule, thicker mattresses are more supportive than thinner mattresses, and can also be softer, depending on the mattress.

In addition to the thickness of the mattress as a whole, you should also consider the thickness of each individual level. Memory foam mattresses work best if there are at least four inches of combined comfort and transition foam between the sleep surface and the mattress base. This helps ensure that you will get the benefits of the support core without the mattress becoming uncomfortable.

Standardized Testing Certifications

Lower quality memory foam mattresses can have additives that can degrade the material, lower the lifespan of the mattress, and even possibly cause irritation and/or give off fumes that are questionable health-wise. When choosing your mattress, you should look out for a Certipur-US certification. This is a seal of approval that ensures that the memory foam in the mattress is made without certain chemicals that can be harmful to the mattress and possibly to your health.

A mattress with Certipur-US certification is not made with any mercury, lead, heavy metals, or formaldehyde. They are also made without phthalates (plasticizers that may be harmful to reproductive health) and PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, a flame retardant that is banned in the US for negative health effects, but which is sometimes used in mattress manufacturing abroad). These certified mattresses also have a lower concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the main cause of the chemical smell that comes from off-gassing.

Choosing a mattress with certified foam gives you one less thing to worry about when it comes to the quality, lifespan, and safety of your mattress, so it’s worth it to check if a mattress is certified before committing.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Snoring and Sleep

Snoring is estimated to affect 57% of men and 40% of women1 in the United States. It even occurs in up to 27% of children2.

These statistics demonstrate snoring is widespread, but its severity and health implications can vary. Snoring can be light, occasional, and unconcerning, or it may be the sign of a serious underlying sleep-related breathing disorder.

Knowing the basics about snoring — what causes it, when it’s dangerous, how to treat it, and how to cope with it — can facilitate better health and eliminate a common cause of sleep complaints.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is caused by the rattling and vibration of tissues3 near the airway in the back of the throat. During sleep, the muscles loosen, narrowing the airway, and as we inhale and exhale, the moving air causes the tissue to flutter and make noise like a flag in a breeze.

Some people are more prone to snoring because of the size and shape of the muscle and tissues in their neck. In other cases, excess relaxing of the tissue or narrowing of the airway can lead to snoring. Examples of risk factors4 that contribute to a higher risk of snoring include:

Though people of any age, including children, can snore, it is more common in older people. Men snore more often than women.

What’s the Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder in which the airway gets blocked or collapsed during sleep, causing repeated lapses in breath.

Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of OSA6, but not all people who snore have OSA. OSA-related snoring tends to be loud and sound as if a person is choking, snorting, or gasping7.

OSA disturbs sleep and often disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. More mild snoring, often called primary snoring, occurs frequently but doesn’t provoke these other effects.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Whether snoring is dangerous depends on its type, severity, and frequency.

  • Light, infrequent snoring is normal and doesn’t require medical testing or treatment. Its main impact is on a bed partner or roommate who may be bothered by the occasional noise.
  • Primary snoring occurs more than three nights per week. Because of its frequency, it is more disruptive to bed partners; however, it is not usually seen as a health concern unless there are signs of sleep disruptions or sleep apnea, in which case diagnostic tests may be necessary.
  • OSA-associated snoring is more worrisome from a health perspective. If OSA goes without treatment, it can have major implications for a person’s sleep and overall health. Unchecked OSA is associated with dangerous daytime drowsiness, and serious health conditions including cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and depression.

When Should You See a Doctor About Snoring?

Many instances of snoring are benign, but it’s important to talk with a doctor if there are signs of potential sleep apnea:

  • Snoring that occurs three or more times per week
  • Very loud or bothersome snoring
  • Snoring with gasping, choking, or snorting sounds
  • Obesity or recent weight gain
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Lack of focus or mental sharpness
  • Morning headaches and congestion
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Frequent nighttime urination (nocturia)

If you have noticed any of these signs, it’s important to address the issue with a doctor who can determine if additional testing or treatment is necessary.

How Do I Know if I’m Snoring When I Sleep Alone?

Unless someone else tells them, most people who snore aren’t aware of it, and this is part of why sleep apnea is underdiagnosed8.

If you sleep alone, your best bet is to set up a recording device. It could be an old-school tape recorder or one of many smartphone apps, but the apps have the advantage of analyzing sound patterns for you to detect likely episodes of snoring. It’s best to record for multiple nights since snoring may not occur every night. That being said, apps do not aid in the diagnosis of OSA.

If recording isn’t in the cards, be on the lookout for other red flags related to disrupted sleep such as noticeable daytime sleepiness, fatigue, problems with attention or thinking, or unexplained mood changes.

What Treatments Can Help Stop Snoring?

Treatment depends on the nature of the snoring and the types of problems it causes.

For people with infrequent or primary snoring, treatment may not be necessary unless it is disturbing a person’s sleep or the sleep of someone they live with. In those cases, treatments tend to be simpler and less invasive. People with sleep apnea usually need more involved treatment.

Types of treatments include lifestyle changes, anti-snoring mouthpieces, mouth exercises, continuous, auto, or bi-level positive airway pressure (CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP) devices, and surgery. A person’s physician is in the best position to describe pros and cons of any treatment in their specific case.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help stop snoring, and in some cases, other treatments may not be necessary. Even when other treatments are prescribed, lifestyle changes are often still recommended. Examples of these changes include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese are critical risk factors for snoring and sleep apnea, so keeping a healthy weight can be an important step against snoring.
  • Limiting use of alcohol and sedatives: Alcohol is a frequent promoter of snoring, and sedative medications can trigger snoring as well.
  • Adjusting your sleeping position: Sleeping on your back makes it easier for your airway to become obstructed. It may take time to get used to a different position, but it can be a helpful change. Specialty devices may help9, or some experts recommend sewing a tennis ball into the back of a shirt so that you can’t revert to sleeping on your back.
  • Raising the head of your bed: Elevating the top part of your bed with risers, a wedge pillow, or an adjustable frame may reduce snoring. For this to work, it’s important to raise the whole mattress and not just use more pillows.
  • Reducing nasal congestion: Taking steps to eliminate allergies or other sources of nasal congestion can combat snoring. Breathing strips that go over the nose may help open your nasal passages during the night, as well as internal nasal expanders.

Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces

An anti-snoring mouthpiece helps hold your tongue or jaw in a stable position so that it can’t block your airway while you sleep. There are two main types of anti-snoring mouthpieces.

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices: These work by holding the lower jaw forward. Many are adjustable so that you can find a more comfortable and effective fit.
  • Tongue Retaining Devices: These mouthpieces help hold the tongue in place so that it doesn’t slide back toward your throat.

CPAP is still considered the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea. However, while some people can wear a CPAP comfortably, others find the apparatus bothersome, especially if the machine is loud, or if the mask fits poorly. Custom-fitted oral appliances are often a good alternative for OSA patients who cannot tolerate CPAP10. Mandibular advancement devices, specifically, have been shown to be effective with not only snoring, but in mild to moderate OSA as well.

Mouth Exercises

Slackening of the muscles around the airway makes it more likely for a person to snore. Exercises to strengthen the mouth, tongue, and throat can counteract this, building muscle tone to reduce snoring.

Anti-snoring mouth exercises have shown most effectiveness in people with mild snoring and usually must be completed daily over a period of two or three months.

Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea in adults. They pump air through a hose and a mask and into the airway, preventing it from being obstructed. Bi-PAP machines are similar but have different pressure levels for inhaling and exhaling. APAP machines are “smart” machines that vary the pressure as needed.

CPAP, BiPAP and APAP machines are often effective in resolving sleep apnea and associated snoring. You need a prescription to get these devices, and they must be calibrated to suit your breathing. For that reason, it is important to work with a sleep technician to get started with a PAP device.

Wearing a PAP mask may be uncomfortable at first, but most people get used to it and find that using the device noticeably reduces snoring and improves sleep.

Surgery

In adults, surgery is rarely the first-line treatment for snoring or sleep apnea, but it may be an option if other approaches are not effective.

One type of surgery, called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, widens the airway by removing nearby tissue. Surgery can also address nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or other blockages of the nasal passages.

Other types of less-invasive surgeries have been developed, but to date there is limited evidence from clinical trials regarding their benefits and downsides.

How To Share a Bed or Bedroom With Someone Who Snores

One of the biggest impacts of snoring is on another person who shares a bed or bedroom with the snorer. Chronic snoring may interrupt their sleep and potentially create tension in the household.

Stopping snoring is obviously the most immediate solution, but it’s not always easily achieved. In that case, using earplugs may help a bed partner cope with snoring. A white noise machine, white noise app, or even a fan may help drown out the sound of mild snoring.

References

+10 Sources

  1. 1. Schwab, R. J. (2020, June). Merck Manual Professional Version: Snoring. Retrieved July 24, 2020.https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/snoring
  2. 2. Zhang, G., Spickett, J., Rumchev, K., Lee, A. H., & Stick, S. (2004). Snoring in primary school children and domestic environment: a Perth school based study. Respiratory research, 5(1), 19.https://doi.org/10.1186/1465-9921-5-19
  3. 3. Schwab, R. J. (2020, June). Merck Manual Consumer Version: Snoring. Retrieved July 24, 2020.https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/sleep-disorders/snoring
  4. 4. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M., Inc.; c1997-2019. Snoring – adults. Updated July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000720.htm
  5. 5. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. (2018, August). Deviated Septum. Retrieved July 21, 2020.https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/deviated-septum/
  6. 6. Strohl, K. P. (2019, March). Merck Manual Consumer Version: Sleep Apnea. Retrieved July 24, 2020.https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/lung-and-airway-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea
  7. 7. Myers, K. A., Mrkobrada, M., & Simel, D. L. (2013). Does this patient have obstructive sleep apnea?: The Rational Clinical Examination systematic review. JAMA, 310(7), 731–741.https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.276185
  8. 8. Rundo J. V. (2019). Obstructive sleep apnea basics. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 86(9 Suppl 1), 2–9.https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.86.s1.02
  9. 9. Benoist, L., Beelen, A., Torensma, B., & de Vries, N. (2018). Subjective effects of the sleep position trainer on snoring outcomes in position-dependent non-apneic snorers. European archives of oto-rhino-laryngology : official journal of the European Federation of Oto-Rhino-Laryngological Societies (EUFOS) : affiliated with the German Society for Oto-Rhino-Laryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, 275(8), 2169–2176.https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-018-5036-y
  10. 10. Ramar, K., Dort, L. C., Katz, S. G., Lettieri, C. J., Harrod, C. G., Thomas, S. M., & Chervin, R. D. (2015). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring with Oral Appliance Therapy: An Update for 2015. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 11(7), 773–827.https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.4858

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.


This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

This content was created by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is White Noise?

White noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a “peak” sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, creating a constant ambient sound could help mask activity from inside and outside the house.

In your bedroom, white noise can be created by a sound conditioner, a fan or an air purifier, anything that is a consistent and soothing backdrop throughout the night. You might want to experiment with the volume and type to find the white noise that works best for you, or if you have a sleeping partner, the sound that works for both of you.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Stages of Sleep

When thinking about getting the sleep you need, it’s normal to focus on how many hours of sleep you get. While sleep duration is undoubtedly important, it’s not the only part of the equation.

It’s also critical to think about sleep quality and whether the time spent sleeping is actually restorative. Progressing smoothly multiple times through the sleep cycle, composed of four separate sleep stages, is a vital part of getting truly high-quality rest.

Each sleep stage plays a part in allowing your mind and body to wake up refreshed. Understanding the sleep cycle also helps explain how certain sleep disorders, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea can impact a person’s sleep and health.

What is the Sleep Cycle?

Sleep is not uniform. Instead, over the course of the night, your total sleep is made up of several rounds of the sleep cycle, which is composed of four individual stages. In a typical night, a person goes through four to six sleep cycles1. Not all sleep cycles are the same length, but on average they last about 90 minutes each.

Are All Sleep Cycles the Same?

It is normal for sleep cycles to change2 as you progress through your nightly sleep. The first sleep cycle is often the shortest, ranging from 70-100 minutes, while later cycles tend to fall between 90 and 120 minutes. In addition, the composition of each cycle — how much time is spent in each sleep stage — changes as the night goes along.

Sleep cycles can vary from person to person and from night to night based on a wide range of factors such as age, recent sleep patterns, and alcohol consumption.

What Are the Sleep Stages?

There are four sleep stages3; one for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and three that form non-REM (NREM) sleep. These stages are determined based on an analysis of brain activity during sleep, which shows distinct patterns that characterize each stage.

Sleep StagesType of SleepOther NamesNormal Length
Stage 1NREMN11-5 minutes
Stage 2NREMN210-60 minutes
Stage 3NREMN3, Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS), Delta Sleep, Deep Sleep20-40 minutes
Stage 4REMREM Sleep10-60 minutes

The breakdown of a person’s sleep into various cycles and stages is commonly referred to as sleep architecture. If someone has a sleep study, this sleep architecture can be represented visually in a hypnogram.

The classification of sleep stages was updated in 20074 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Before that, most experts referred to five sleep stages, but today, the AASM definitions of the four stages represent the consensus understanding of the sleep cycle.

NREM Sleep

NREM sleep is composed of three different stages. The higher the stage of NREM sleep, the harder it is to wake a person up from their slumber.

Stage 1 / N1

Stage 1 is essentially the “dozing off” stage, and it normally lasts just one to five minutes.

During N1 sleep, the body hasn’t fully relaxed, though the body and brain activities start to slow with periods of brief movements (twitches). There are light changes in brain activity associated with falling asleep in this stage.

It’s easy to wake someone up during this sleep stage, but if a person isn’t disturbed, they can move quickly into stage 2. As the night unfolds, an uninterrupted sleeper may not spend much more time in stage 1 as they move through further sleep cycles.

Stage 2 / N2

During stage 2, the body enters a more subdued state including a drop in temperature, relaxed muscles, and slowed breathing and heart rate. At the same time, brain waves show a new pattern and eye movement stops. On the whole, brain activity slows, but there are short bursts of activity5 that actually help resist being woken up by external stimuli.

Stage 2 sleep can last for 10-25 minutes during the first sleep cycle, and each N2 stage can become longer during the night. Collectively, a person typically spends about half their sleep time in N2 sleep.

Stage 3 / N3

Stage 3 sleep is also known as deep sleep, and it is harder to wake someone up if they are in this phase. Muscle tone, pulse, and breathing rate decrease in N3 sleep as the body relaxes even further.

The brain activity during this period has an identifiable pattern of what are known as delta waves. For this reason, stage 3 may also be called delta sleep or short-wave sleep (SWS).

Experts believe that this stage is critical to restorative sleep, allowing for bodily recovery and growth. It may also bolster the immune system and other key bodily processes. Even though brain activity is reduced, there is evidence that deep sleep contributes to insightful thinking6creativity7, and memory.

We spend the most time in deep sleep during the first half of the night. During the early sleep cycles, N3 stages commonly last for 20-40 minutes. As you continue sleeping, these stages get shorter, and more time gets spent in REM sleep instead.

REM Sleep

During REM sleep, brain activity picks up, nearing levels seen when you’re awake. At the same time, the body experiences atonia, which is a temporary paralysis of the muscles, with two exceptions: the eyes and the muscles that control breathing. Even though the eyes are closed, they can be seen moving quickly, which is how this stage gets its name.

REM sleep is believed to be essential to cognitive functions8 like memory, learning, and creativity9. REM sleep is known for the most vivid dreams, which is explained by the significant uptick in brain activity. Dreams can occur in any sleep stage, but they are less common and intense in the NREM periods.

Under normal circumstances, you don’t enter a REM sleep stage until you’ve been asleep for about 90 minutes. As the night goes on, REM stages get longer, especially in the second half of the night. While the first REM stage may last only a few minutes, later stages can last for around an hour. In total, REM stages make up around 25% of sleep in adults.

Why Do the Sleep Stages Matter?

Sleep stages are important because they allow the brain and body to recuperate and develop. Failure to obtain enough of both deep sleep and REM sleep8 may explain some of the profound consequences of insufficient sleep on thinking10emotions, and physical health.

Sleepers who are frequently awoken during earlier stages, such as people with sleep apnea, may struggle to properly cycle into these deeper sleep stages. People with insomnia may not get enough total sleep to accumulate the needed time in each stage.

What Affects Sleep Stages?

While there is a typical pattern for sleep stages, there can be substantial individual variation based on a number of factors:

  • Age: Time in each stage changes dramatically over a person’s life. Newborns spend far more time (around 50%) in REM sleep and may enter a REM stage as soon as they fall asleep. As they get older, their sleep becomes similar to that of adults, normally reaching a comparable sleep architecture by the age of 511. On the other hand, elderly people tend to spend less time in REM sleep.
  • Recent sleep patterns: If a person gets irregular or insufficient sleep over a period of days or more, it can cause an abnormal sleep cycle.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol and some other drugs can alter sleep architecture. For example, alcohol decreases REM sleep early in the night, but as the alcohol wears off, there is a REM sleep rebound, with prolonged REM stages.
  • Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), and other conditions that cause multiple awakenings may interrupt a healthy sleep cycle.

How Do You Have a Healthier Sleep Cycle?

While you don’t have full control of your sleep cycle, you can take steps to improve your chances of having a healthy progression through each sleep stage.

A key step is to focus on improving your sleep hygiene, which refers to your sleep environment and sleep-related habits. Achieving a more consistent sleep schedule, getting natural daylight exposure, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, and eliminating noise and light disruptions can help you get uninterrupted sleep and promote proper alignment of your circadian rhythm.

If you find that you have excessive daytime sleepiness or otherwise suspect that you might have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, it’s important to talk with a doctor who can most appropriately guide your care. Addressing underlying issues may pave the way for more complete and restorative sleep cycles.

  • References

+11 Sources

  1. 1. Patel, A. K., Reddy, V., & Araujo, J. F. (2020, April). Physiology, Sleep Stages. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526132/
    1. 2. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007, December 18). Natural Patterns of Sleep. Retrieved July 28, 2020, fromhttp://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/sleep-patterns-rem-nrem
    1. 3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). (2019b, August 13). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved July 28, 2020, fromhttps://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep
    1. 4. Moser, D., Anderer, P., Gruber, G., Parapatics, S., Loretz, E., Boeck, M., Kloesch, G., Heller, E., Schmidt, A., Danker-Hopfe, H., Saletu, B., Zeitlhofer, J., & Dorffner, G. (2009). Sleep classification according to AASM and Rechtschaffen & Kales: effects on sleep scoring parameters. Sleep, 32(2), 139–149.https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/32.2.139
    1. 5. Schönauer, M., & Pöhlchen, D. (2018). Sleep spindles. Current biology : CB, 28(19), R1129–R1130.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.035
    1. 6. Yordanova, J., Kolev, V., Wagner, U., & Verleger, R. (2010). Differential associations of early- and late-night sleep with functional brain states promoting insight to abstract task regularity. PloS one, 5(2), e9442.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009442
    1. 7. Drago, V., Foster, P. S., Heilman, K. M., Aricò, D., Williamson, J., Montagna, P., & Ferri, R. (2011). Cyclic alternating pattern in sleep and its relationship to creativity. Sleep medicine, 12(4), 361–366.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2010.11.009
    1. 8. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007, December 18). Sleep, Learning, and Memory. Retrieved July 28, 2020, fromhttp://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
    1. 9. Cai, D. J., Mednick, S. A., Harrison, E. M., Kanady, J. C., & Mednick, S. C. (2009). REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(25), 10130–10134.https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0900271106
    1. 10. Maquet P. (2000). Sleep on it!. Nature neuroscience, 3(12), 1235–1236.https://doi.org/10.1038/81750
    1. 11. Crosby, B., LeBourgeois, M. K., & Harsh, J. (2005). Racial differences in reported napping and nocturnal sleep in 2- to 8-year-old children. Pediatrics, 115(1 Suppl), 225–232.https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2004-0815D

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

How Meditation Can Treat Insomnia

If insomnia is at the root of your sleepless nights, it may be worth trying meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.These are some key facts about the practice that may help you get over any hesitation about trying it.

  • It’s safe. Meditation can be a great tool for those looking who are for an all-natural, medication-free way to treat insomnia. In fact, meditation has even been shown to help reduce the use of sleeping pills. The practice likely improves insomnia symptoms by reducing measures of arousal in the brain. And there are no associated risks or side effects to trying meditation.
  • It can be used with other sleep techniques. Combining cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia(CBT-I) with mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep better than CBT-I alone.
  • There are multiple health benefits. Not only can meditation improve your sleep quality, but it may also help reduce blood pressure and ease pain, anxiety, and depression.
  • It’s easy. Meditation is an accessible, budget-friendly practice that everyone can try—insomnia sufferers of different ages respond well to the practice, including older adults. Though you can pay for meditative classes and books that teach you the practice, you can also search online for free apps and YouTube videos if you’d like to try it before you spend money on it.

The basics: Start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and then close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, directing your attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath. You might try doing it for, say, five minutes at a time at first and gradually increasing the amount of time as you get more comfortable with the practice.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

 

How Excessive Sleep Can Affect Your Metabolism

Few people worry about spending too much time in bed. An extra hour or two of stolen sleep on Sunday can feel like heaven after a long week of work and family activities. But did you know that clocking more than the recommended amount can negatively impact your health?

For most adults, getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night is ideal. Although a small percentage of people actually need 10 hours, for most adults sleeping more hours than the recommended amount may indicate an underlying health concern. In addition, regularly sleeping more than the suggested amount may increase the risk of obesity, headache, back pain, and heart disease. And a recent study discovered that oversleeping can put the body at risk for metabolic issues. Learn more about how excessive sleep can impact your metabolism.

What the Science Says

In a recent study, researchers analyzed the health, medical histories, and sleep totals of a group of more than 130,000 men and women ages 40 to 69. With this data, researchers were able to link sleeping less than six hours, as well as sleeping more than 10 hours, to cases of metabolic syndrome and related symptoms.

Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

People diagnosed with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following symptoms: Excess fat around the middle, hypertension, low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, high fasting blood glucose and high triglyceride levels. In the study, 29 percent of men were deemed to have metabolic syndrome, while a quarter of women showed signs of it.

There are some notable differences between genders when it comes to sleep and metabolism. In particular, women who sleep less than six hours a night may have more belly fat than those who sleep longer, while men are likely to have both bigger waists and metabolic syndrome if they sleep less than six hours. On the other hand, women who sleep 10 or more hours have a much higher risk for metabolic syndrome, while in men it correlates to higher triglyceride levels as well.

Red Flags for Metabolism Issues

For most people, feelings of excessive sleepiness that arise even if they meet the recommended seven to nine hours a night may reflect recent lifestyle changes, such as a new work schedule, job relocation, or increase in physical exercise. It could also be a sign of a disorder such as sleep apnea that results in poor sleep quality, leaving people tired in the morning. But because there may be other health issues at play, including Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety, infections and gastrointestinal disorders, if you are experiencing excessive sleepiness, it’s important to mention it to your doctor. Take the time to describe your symptoms in detail which will help your doctor diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment fit for you.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Mattress Sizes

Comparing mattress sizes starts with looking at their dimensions in regards to length and width. Keep in mind that height/thickness varies depending on the manufacturer and model, so there is no universal thickness for each mattress size. Width and length measurements are standardized for each size and are listed in the table below.

Mattress Size Dimensions (Width x Length)
California King 72″ x 84″
King 76″ x 80″
Queen 60″ x 80″
Full 54″ x 75″
Twin XL 38″ x 80″
Twin 38″ x 75″

 

There are six different mattress sizes available from most manufacturers (in addition to crib/child size beds). For some, the choice can seem overwhelming. However, it’s easy to break the mattress sizes down into two categories: Beds suited for multiple people (couples, parents with children sharing the bed, etc.), and beds best fit for single sleepers. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of each mattress size:

Mattresses for Couples & Families

The sizes queen, king, and California king are all large enough to comfortably sleep multiple people. The big consideration with these three sizes is how much extra space you want, as well as how well the larger sizes will fit into your bedroom.

California King King Queen
Dimensions 72” wide, 84” long 76” wide, 80” long 60” wide, 80” long
Surface Area 6,048 square inches 6,080 square inches 4,800 square inches
Best For Taller couples; couples sharing a bed with a pet Couples who prefer maximum space; couples sharing a bed with a child Couples without children or pets sharing the bed
Benefits
  • Extra length is ideal for tall people
  • Well suited for those who share the foot of their bed with pets
  • Maximum width is beneficial for couples and families with small children
  • Accessories are widely available
  • The most common mattress size, making accessories widely available & affordable
  • Easier to move than larger King beds
Drawbacks
  • It can be difficult to find accessories
  • The most expensive mattress size
  • Difficult to move
  • More expensive than the popular Queen size
  • Can make smaller rooms feel cramped
  • Difficult to move
  • Significantly less spacious than King/King XL
  • Will feel cramped for couples sharing the bed with small children

Beds for Single Sleepers

The sizes full, twin XL, and twin are better suited for single sleepers. A full could potentially accommodate a couple in a pinch, but twin XL and twin are definitely only for single people. There are a few other considerations to keep in mind with these sizes:

Full (Double) Twin XL Twin
Dimensions 54” wide, 75” long 38” wide, 80” long 38” wide, 75” long
Surface Area 4,050 square inches 3,040 square inches 2,850 square inches
Best For Single adults under 6′ tall Single adults over 6’ tall; teens Single adults under 6’ tall; children & teens
Benefits
  • Relatively spacious for single adults
  • Affordable
  • Versatile; could potentially be used for a couple or a guest bedroom
  • Ample legroom for taller people
  • Room for single sleepers to share their bed with pets
  • Same length as a Queen or King mattress
  • Very affordable
  • Accessories & bed frames widely available
Drawbacks
  • Nearing the price of a Queen, with much less space
  • Cramped for those over 6’ tall
  • Accessories can be harder to find/more expensive
  • Not suited for couples
  • Not suited for couples
  • Can be outgrown

How to Choose a Mattress Size

The tables in the mattress size guide above give you the basic differences between the various mattress sizes. Before choosing, however, there are a variety of factors that you should consider:

Sleeping Partners – Who do you share a bed with? This is the single largest consideration to keep in mind. Couples will likely want at least a queen, while couples sharing a bed with children will likely want a king. Even pets are a consideration; if you let your animals sleep at the foot of your bed, having a bed with ample legroom will greatly improve your comfort.

Your Height & Sleep Position – How tall are you and/or your partner? Typically those under 6 feet tall will have enough legroom on any mattress, while those over 6 feet tall will want to consider a bed with at least 80 inches of length (twin XL, queen, king, and California king). Your sleep position also factors into this consideration; back and stomach sleepers rest fully extended, and therefore need to consider legroom more than side sleepers.

Bedroom Dimensions – What room will you put your new mattress in, and how spacious is that room? To avoid a cramped feeling, we recommend leaving about 24 inches of space around each side of your bed. It’s best to measure out the approximate measurements of your new bed before purchasing it, to get an idea of how well it will fit in your bedroom.

Versatility – A new mattress can be a major purchase, so you’ll want to ensure that you get a versatile bed that will last a long time. This means thinking ahead about your mattress needs in the future. Buying a bed for a small child? Consider going one size up to future-proof the bed. Buying your first-ever bed as a single person? Consider going up a size to accommodate future partners and/or pets.

Cost & Value – A new, quality mattress can cost anywhere from $400 to over $3,000 – and the mattress size has a significant impact on the cost. While we don’t recommend cutting corners to save money on a new mattress, the overall expense of a new bed purchase is still a significant factor. Beyond the initial expense, it’s also wise to consider the cost of accessories. For less common sizes (California king and twin XL, mostly), accessories such as sheets, blankets, and bed frames will be more expensive than accessories for more popular sizes.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Common Causes of Night Sweats and How to Fix Them

Sweating is normal and a core part of how the body regulates its temperature. In a sauna or working out in the gym, sweating profusely is expected. Waking up sweating in the middle of the night is another matter altogether. Night sweats can be defined as sweating in excess of that required by the body to regulate body temperature.

Night sweats can occur during sleep and without physical exertion. They aren’t caused by a heavy blanket or warm bedroom. Instead, other underlying health issues may be responsible for these episodes of considerable sweating in your sleep.

Night sweats can reduce sleep quality, concern a bed partner, and provoke serious discomfort. As a result, it’s natural to want to know more about the causes of night sweats and how they can be resolved.

What Are Night Sweats?

As the name indicates, night sweats are episodes of excessive perspiration that happen during sleep. They are often described as soaking or drenching and may require a change of sheets or even clothes.

Night sweats are distinct from simple overheating, which occurs because of something in a person’s environment, such as a heavy blanket or high bedroom temperature.

How Are Night Sweats Different From Hot Flashes?

Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth. Hot flashes can occur at any time during the day, and when they occur at night and provoke heavy perspiration, they are classified as night sweats.

In some resources, night sweats are also called hot flushes, but they are distinct from flushing. Flushing1 is a reddening of the skin from increased blood flow. While night sweats can occur with flushing, flushing itself does not provoke intense sweating.

How Common Are Night Sweats?

Exact estimates of how many people have night sweats are limited. One study of over 2,000 patients in primary care offices found that 41% of people reported2 having had night sweats in the last month. In that study, night sweats were most common in people aged 41 to 55.

Four Common Causes of Night Sweats

The body’s system for temperature regulation is complex and influenced by multiple factors, which can make it hard in some cases to know exactly why a person experiences night sweats.

That said, four common causes identified in research about night sweats include menopause, medications, infections, and hormone problems.

Menopause

Menopause3 is when women permanently stop having their period. During this time, significant changes in the body’s production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are believed to be an important driver of hot flashes4.

Hot flashes are considered to be a hallmark of menopause5, affecting up to 85% of women6. In most cases, hot flashes actually begin in the transition time before menopause, known as perimenopause, and can continue once a woman is postmenopausal.

Menopausal hot flashes normally last for a few minutes and can occur multiple times per day4, including at night, when they can cause night sweats. It’s common for hot flashes to continue occurring for several years, and some women experience them for more than two decades.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many women — up to 64%5 — report sleeping problems and higher rates of insomnia7 during perimenopause and menopause. While night sweats are not the only cause of these sleeping difficulties, they can contribute to poor sleep6, especially when they are severe.

Medication

Certain medications8 are known to be associated with night sweats. These include some antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), steroids, and medicines taken to lower fevers, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, that may paradoxically cause sweating.

Caffeine intake can be a cause of generalized sweating. Alcohol and drug use9 can also increase the risk of night sweats.

Infection

Many infections are associated with night sweats10. Most often, this is because infections may trigger a fever and overheating. Tuberculosis, bacterial and fungal infections, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are a few examples of infections for which night sweats are a significant symptom.

Hormone Problems

Changes in the endocrine system11, which controls hormone levels in the body, can be related to night sweats. Examples of hormone problems with links to night sweats include overactivity of the thyroid (hyperthyroidism12), diabetes and elevated blood sugar, and abnormal levels of sex hormones.

The part of the brain that regulates body temperature is known as the hypothalamus, and it is also involved in the endocrine system. Hypothalamic dysfunction13 may be an underlying issue related to hormone imbalances and night sweats.

Other conditions affecting the endocrine system such as pheochromocytoma14 (a tumor of the adrenal gland) and carcinoid syndrome15 (caused by slow-growing tumors that produce hormones) can also be associated with night sweats.

Other Causes of Night Sweats

Beyond these four common causes, other conditions may give rise to night sweats. Hot flashes may be more common during pregnancy and the post-partum period16. Anxiety and panic attacks have been correlated with night sweats2.

Hyperhidrosis18, a condition of excessive sweating, may affect people during both day and night. Some research has pointed to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)19 as a potential cause of night sweats20.

Night sweats can be a symptom of certain types of cancer or a side effect of cancer treatments21. Hot flushes may occur in people with lymphoma22. They frequently arise as a result of hormone therapy for women with breast cancer23 and men with prostate cancer24. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy for cancer may provoke night sweats.

How to Stop Night Sweats and Get Better Sleep

Night sweats can be worrying and bothersome, and they frequently are tied to serious sleep disruptions. As a result, it’s natural for anyone dealing with night sweats to want to know how to avoid them and sleep more soundly.

Because there are multiple potential causes of night sweats, there’s no single solution for stopping them. Several steps may be involved and can be tailored to fit a person’s specific situation.

Talk to Your Doctor About Night Sweats

You should talk to your doctor if you have night sweats that are

  • Frequent
  • Persistent over time
  • Interfering with your sleep
  • Affecting other aspects of your daily life
  • Occurring along with other health changes

It’s important to consult with a doctor in these situations, but unfortunately, one study of over 900 people who experienced night sweats found that the majority had not raised the issue with a doctor.

Meeting with a doctor is important because they can help determine the most likely cause and order tests to get to the bottom of the situation. Based on that information, a doctor can work with you to create a treatment plan that takes your symptoms and overall health into account.

It’s also important to let the doctor know about any sleeping problems that you have. Sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), may be causing daytime sleepiness and, according to some research, may also be a factor promoting night sweats25.

Treatments for Night Sweats

The most effective treatment for night sweats will vary for any individual patient and should always be overseen by a health professional. Some potential treatment methods include modifications to environment and behavior, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication.

Changes to Your Environment and Lifestyle

A standard approach to night sweats, especially those related to menopause, is to start by trying straightforward changes26 that can minimize the frequency and severity of night sweats while improving overall health and sleep.

  • Sleeping in a Cooler Bedroom: While a warmer bedroom isn’t the central cause of night sweats, it may facilitate or trigger them. Keeping the thermostat at a lower temperature and using lighter bedding can keep heat from building up around the body during the night.
  • Wearing Breathable Clothing: Tight-fitting clothes trap heat, so it’s best to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes made with materials that are breathable and airy. Dressing in layers makes it easier to make adjustments to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoiding Caffeine, Alcohol, and Spicy Foods: All of these things can cause spikes in body temperature and induce sweating. Avoiding them, especially in the evening, may cut down on night sweats.
  • Drinking Cold Water: Having a small amount of cool water before going to bed helps some people with night sweats achieve a more pleasant temperature.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Some research has identified a correlation between higher body weight and night sweats. Being overweight or obese can contribute to other health problems, including those that affect sleep, such as sleep apnea.
  • Utilizing Relaxation Techniques: Finding ways to put yourself at-ease can make it easier to fall asleep. Studies also suggest that techniques like controlled breathing may help to meaningfully reduce hot flashes27 in menopausal women.

Many of these tips overlap with broader healthy sleep tips that can be gradually implemented to make your sleep-related habits work in your favor for more consistent and high-quality sleep.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that is commonly used for health problems like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It is normally conducted in-person by a psychiatrist or counselor, but a number of self-directed programs have been developed.

CBT is based predominantly on reframing negative thoughts in order to promote healthier actions. CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) has a strong track record of success, including in menopausal women7.

Studies have found that CBT for hot flashes and night sweats28 can reduce their frequency and improve mood and quality of life in menopausal women. CBT is compatible with other approaches, such as behavior modifications, and likely has the greatest effect on night sweats29 when combined with other approaches.

Medications

If existing medications are causing night sweats, then changing the prescription, the dosage, or when the drug is taken may resolve night sweats. If the night sweats are caused by an underlying infection or hormone problem, medication may help address them.

For menopausal women, medications may be considered if behavioral treatments don’t work. Several types of drugs, notably hormone therapies, can reduce night sweats, but these drugs can have significant side effects. A doctor is in the best position to discuss the benefits and downsides of any specific medication.

Alternative therapy with estrogen-containing products like black cohosh, red clover, or soy have not been proven to be effective26 in addressing hot flashes caused by menopause. Even though these may be available as supplements without a prescription, patients should always talk with their doctor before taking them in order to help prevent potential adverse reactions.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation