How's Your Sleep Hygiene?


I have a stunning number of bad sleep habits. A part of me has always known this (no one in their right mind thinks falling asleep in front of an iPad autoplaying The Office is a good thing), but I’ve only recently had to confront it head on. The reason: I’m moving in with my boyfriend. Exciting, yes, thanks so much for your kind words. But the problem: Now there’s nowhere to hide. So long, Netflix lullaby I’ve grown so found of every night for the past nine years. Farewell, hitting snooze six times in a row, every 15 minutes from 6 to 7:30AM. Goodbye, generous pillow fort that keeps my head surrounded with no fewer than three specifically placed pillows of varying size and squish. My sleep habits, for the sake of my relationship, need to grow up. And they need to grow up fast.

Luckily there’s a term for this. Sleep hygiene. Which, contrary to what the name suggests, is not about showering off your gross commute germs before getting snug as a bug in a rug. Sleep hygiene, for anyone who didn’t read that Arianna Huffington book, is a mashup of all the different things that ensure your sleep is actually good. Of course, we’re talking your run of the mill no-iPhones-in-bed rule. But that’s not all. Good sleep hygiene dictates that your room should be about 65ºF at night, your blinds should be closed to limit ambient light pollution, and you should stop napping for more than 30 minutes in a given day. In a personal assessment on the matter, boyfriend and I netted out at a sleep hygiene ranking of “pretty frickin’ gross.” Even ignoring my Netflix addiction, we had a laundry list of problems. The bed: not comfortable. The pillows: even worse. The room temp: at least 5º too warm. The blinds: wide open. Hygienic it was not. Time to hop in the proverbial shower.

First thing to go was the bed. We’d been privately miserable with our memory foam number for about two years now—a product of the Foam Bed Industrial Complex that finally seeped into our collective subconscious as New Yorkers. If it's not coming up on my podcasts or subway rides, than it's popping up in plain, ol’ conversation. When mentioning that I was in the market for a new sleeping situation, nearly everyone replied, “Oh, are you going to get a Casper?” Prevalent as it is, foam is not for everyone. It's firm, it's dense, and yes it's affordable—but we were sleeping terribly. We needed something new. And something bigger, too. Because one easy way to make sure your temperature stays not too cold, not too hot, but just right is to make sure your furnace of a partner is snoozing in another area code. Sixteen extra inches between us was the ticket. But that was the easy decision to make. As I lamented privately about foam, wondering when tufts and springs became the enemy here, the kind people at Parachute heard me. Very quietly, they launched a mattress—finally, something to put those linen sheets on!—that prominently features firm coils, soft coils, and microcoils for the most supportive, bouncy sleep of your life. And it still comes rolled in a box for your unfurling and blooming pleasure. I heard a raving review from a colleague and took a leap.

Now let me tell you: I’ve always thought good, restorative sleep was for other people. My brother wakes up at 6AM every day with no alarm and no coffee. We're very different. No matter how many hours I got, I still woke up groggy, stiff, and generally unpleasant. This is just who I am! I thought. Get used to it. Well, now you have get to know the new me. The me who wakes up after one alarm, not six, ready to greet the day without grunting under her breath “coffee, goddamnit.” On the surface, beds are for sleeping, yes. But I can sleep anywhere. What I’ve realized is that beds are really for waking up. And if you’re not waking up well, investigate where you’re sleeping. Dress for the job you want, sleep for the morning you want. My mornings are great now. Long live springs!

With the mattress situation sorted, everything else fell easily into place. A bigger bed means new sheets, new comforter, new pillows. If you’re a hot sleeper like me, the crisper the better. I went with white percale that I plan to keep bright with the Laundress Bleach Alternative. Literal hours of duvet research has lead me to L.L. Bean for their cotton down alternative. Fluffy like a cloud; cool enough to avoid night sweats. Curtains are finally going up, with the very essential blackout panel in the back. To the extent that it’s hard to wake up in total darkness, our Philips Hue lights take care of that. Wifi enabled, Amazon's Alexa makes sure they fade on when the alarm goes off. They say no tech in the bedroom, but boy is Alexa helpful for avoiding screens. No more glaring alarm clock or phone screen—she's got it all covered in a screenless black cylinder. In the morning, she's willing and able to play the Up First from NPR—the 13-minute podcast that makes sure my brain is really truly awake. She hasn't figured out how to make coffee yet, but we're working on that.

—Emily Ferber

Photo via ITG.