Play Pretend: Sleep

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On the heels of my previous post regarding the power of sleep as a method of self-care, I decided to play pretend and create the ideal space for a good night’s rest. Good sleep isn’t fashioned out of thin air for most. Many factors play a role. Some of these factors include the avoidance of blue-light from screens up to two hours prior to bedtime. Light in general should be avoided. Heavy duty curtains can prevent outdoor light from shining into the bedroom of a downtown loft. A cheaper option would be an individual sleep mask for the eyes. On top of sleeping in a darkened room, an ergonomic mattress has been shown to greatly improve quality of sleep. An added priority should be sheets that are friendly to the skin and worth sinking into. Lastly, humidity control and replenishing masks allow skin to recuperate overnight from the harshness of sunlight.

In an effort to create the ideal micro-environment for decent shut-eye, here are a list of home favorites that set me up for sleep success.

In an effort to stray from the indication that good sleep requires spending, here are a list of free actionable tips to improve your sleep.

  • Maintain consistency in following your natural circadian rhythms.
  • Avoid screens up to two hours prior to bedtime.
  • Drink a glass of water prior to sleeping and upon awakening.
  • Quiet the mind in the form of meditation.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Consider when you eat. Go to bed satiated, not hungry or full.

Of course, a combination of both creating the right environment and doing the right actions creates the best results. You may also find relevance in the following posts.

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Intentional Living: Invest in Rest

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

A good night’s sleep is one of the best forms of self-care. It is regenerative for the body, mind and soul, and much to any frugalist’s joy, it is free. Often viewed as an unproductive activity, getting a good night’s rest lies low on the priority list for the majority. On the contrary, I attribute much of my productivity and success to sleep – and a lot of it, too!

Ever since I was young, I was very fond of the stuff. My parents love to tell the story of how I would nod off in my high-chair, often plopping my face down on my food. I was the last to wake up on Christmas morning (well, every morning for that matter) and the first to fall asleep at night. At family get-togethers, one could be sure to find me on the couch, hogging up the sitting space asleep in fetal position. I took afternoon naps until high school and even in college, I was one of the few people who got eight hours of sleep, frequently trading in a night of partying for my warm sheets.

There was a time when I went against my sleeping pattern and took up midnight shifts as an early-morning baker. I noticed the toll it took on my health. Even though I was still sleeping eight hours every night, the fluctuation between night shifts and day shifts every other day really wrecked my body. I started depending on coffee, lost a lot of weight, and had trouble eating. My mind was exhausted and I noticed that I was on survival mode, less productive overall and more lenient about my tasks and deadlines. It only took three months for me to realize the effects, and while I was happy and alive, my body was barely keeping up.

As I gained awareness of my body’s circadian rhythm, I learned that my optimal sleeping time is 9 hours per night. If I receive less than that, it is best if I take a mid-afternoon nap. Now there are groups of people who would argue against the health benefits of this. But every person is different and the range of ideal sleep time is vast. Regardless of what the actual number of hours is, sleep is a crucial part to your overall productivity and here is why you need to make sure you get enough of it.

Reasons to Invest in Rest

  • Sleep is important for memory and processing daily experiences.
  • A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.
  • Sleep clears toxins in the brain.
  • Sleep is the most crucial factor for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function, mood regulation.
  • Even mild sleep reduction has detrimental effects on cognitive function many days afterwards.
  • One-third of working Americans sleep less than six hours a night.
  • Sleep deprivation was declared a public health epidemic by the CDC in 2018.
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, and cancer.
  • Getting consistent sleep is very important to your health.

As a person trying to live an intentional life, I care a lot about sleep. I understand that the long-effects of getting enough shut-eye will outweigh the few hours I lose each day. Investing in rest doesn’t just mean making the resolution to sleep a set number of hours each night, although that is the FREE self-care part of it. However, one must also consider what they sleep on.

I spend a lot of time curating my bed, and highly recommend getting a mattress and pillows that are ergonomically beneficial. Spinal problems caused by having a cheap bed will translate to decreased quality of life and productivity. My personal favorite company is LEESA. We own their mattress topper and pillows, and it has been such a game-changer. I used to have a lot of neck and back pain due to maintaining static postures and craning my neck at the dental office – so much so that I would wake up in the middle of the night from the pain and spend entire Saturdays lying on the couch unable to move. Once we switched to high-quality pillows and added the LEESA mattress topper, the pain went away! After watching my dad undergo three spinal surgeries in the last two years, I knew that I was not going to wait until my own symptoms got worse. If you want to step up your bed game, Try LEESA! Get up to $400 OFF a LEESA mattress this MLK weekend by clicking on my affiliate link. They have a great trial-period guarantee. For those who are wary about making such an expensive commitment to their health, LEESA also offers 0% financing through Affirm for as low as $25 a month, the equivalent of 8 drip coffees! Think of it as getting better sleep and saving on the coffee.

Likewise, I also invest in high quality bedsheets made out of clean fabrics that are good for the skin. I really like Parachute’s linen sheets and have written why Parachute sheets are the only sheets you need to own this post. Since then, we’ve tried a cotton duvet cover from them as well, pictured above, and we love it just as equally.

An alternative for those who wish to have cotton sheets is PACT. Pact is an eco-conscious company who makes clothing and textiles for the home. Currently, they have a sale on their bedding and bath products lasting until January 31, 2021. Simply use the code REFRESH25 to receive 25% OFF. You can access the sale by clicking on my affiliate link here.

Shop Pact Today.

Other rituals I have around my sleep include making my bed every morning so that the sheets stay clean, turning on a humidifier, and putting my phone away an hour before bed. We also wash the sheets frequently, vacuum the mattress, and rotate the toppers and pillows as outlined by my ultimate cleaning list.

Regardless of what you do to make sleep an important part of your day, make sure to prioritize it for the years to come!

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Home: A Good Night’s Sleep with Leesa Mattress Topper

This post is sponsored by Leesa, a mattress company devoted to helping others get good sleep.

It seems as if immediately after the passing of my thirtieth trip around the sun, my body began to show signs of wear. It’s true what they say, although any twenty-nine year old will disagree. When you enter your thirties, you start to notice aches and pains in parts of your body that you didn’t even know had feelings. A crick in the neck becomes a resounding pop with a slight turn of the head, resulting in a moment of starry-eyed dizziness. A stressful day at work leads to a soreness in the jaw due to a severe teeth-grinding habit. A simple exercise leads to a sharp painful complaint from the heel of your foot every time you hyper-extend. But worst of all is the start of a new day, waking up to a slew of back and joint aches.

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I am a dentist, so that doesn’t exactly help. Static postures similar to anyone who has ever had a desk job and scrunching to contort myself into tiny mouth spaces are both daily occurrences that feed the fire. Bad ergonomics on my end lead to a stiffness in the neck. Some days, I come home with such severe lower back pain that I can’t even sit down. Just recently, I spent an entire Saturday crying because my upper back was spasming between the shoulder blades so that getting up took great effort. I spent the afternoon on my back lying on our living room couch.

It was this particular afternoon that I said, “No more.” For many years, I had known that part of the problem compounding the situation was an ill-fitting mattress. We were twenty-seven and just moving in together when we went mattress shopping for our first space. I had just graduated from dental school and was currently living at my parent’s house. The queen sized mattress that my parent’s handed down to me was pawned off for free after learning that my previous rental space had a termite problem. My 6’3″ husband was ready to give up his double bed, where his feet would hang off unless he chose to slept diagonally across the entire mattress.  Personally, I was happy to sleep anywhere that we can call our own space.

Perhaps that is why, on the hot summer day that we traipsed around and visited three mattress stores, I was very passive about which mattress I wanted. My husband preferred hard mattresses (“the stiffer the better”), and I preferred softer ones. But when the sales person said that it doesn’t matter so much what type of mattress I got because I weighed so little, a comment I now begrudgingly look back on and find appalling, I gave way to whatever mattress my husband decided on. Which inevitably, was hard as a rock.

It has been almost four years since that fateful day but I did notice a worsening of symptoms on most mornings. The problem is that I am a side-sleeper and he is a back-sleeper. I am half his weight and therefore do not make any indentation in the mattress, whereas he sinks in. Imagine sleeping on a hardwood floor on your side, with your back collapsed and your hips and shoulder taking the brunt of the force. I’ve been complaining about it for what seems like forever. The symptoms were getting worse. Unless I want to be completely useless by my mid-thirties, I know that it was time to address it.

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Leesa immediately came to the rescue! As a frugalist who did not want to pay for a brand new mattress in wasteful fashion (ours had originally cost $1,200 on sale and is barely three and a half years old), I thought perhaps the better solution would be to add a mattress topper on our existing mattress. Not only would it be more cost-effective, there would be no mattress lying unwanted by the trash bin in our alley way. I mean, it is, still, usable, albeit uncomfortable. The best part about choosing a mattress topper instead of a brand new mattress altogether is that there can be compromise. If the mattress topper is too unbearably soft for my husband, we can alternate between using it and not using it. Of course, I’m hoping we won’t have to for the next few years.

The Leesa mattress topper arrived on our doorstep in millennial fashion – that is, rolled up like a log in a fairly miniature, minimalist box. It does come in plastic, a minor drawback for any anti-plastic nerd, but a quick slice of it leads to an unfurling of the 2 -inch foam topper. It comes with a removable cover that protects it and is easy to wash cold and hang dry. Suffice to say that set-up was simple and flawless.

After a night’s rest, we noticed that we slept cooler than if we were sleeping atop our mattress directly. We also noted that it did not move around, despite not being tied down. Our Parachute sheets comfortably covered the topper so it was a good thing it wasn’t too thick. I like that it didn’t add much height to our existing bed since we like to sleep low to the floor. I woke up the next day after a peaceful sleep (without waking up once!) feeling rejuvenated. For the first time in a while, my back did not hurt.

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We also paired the mattress topper with a pair of Leesa foam pillows. Prior to Leesa, we had these two king pillows that we found in the sale bin of a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You know, the ones that sit in the center of the aisle so that you have no choice but to practically run into them? They were $15 each. At the time, we were fatigued from all the purchases we were making for our first home together, so we figured it wasn’t a big deal. After sleeping on Leesa’s foam pillows, I realized that we were wrong.

As a person who is invested in preserving the ability to work in my profession, I now realize that proper ergonomic support during sleep is one of the best things I can do to prolong my career and maintain good health. I realize that choosing unsupportive pillows have aged me, even though I couldn’t see it at the time. The rusty joints and heavy limbs have been aggravated by my poor choice in bedding. I can tell because after a night’s sleep, I already feel the difference.

Equally as important as my own personal backstory is Leesa’s dedication to having a good backstory of their own. A company that seems to know I toss and turn at night over the environmental impact that the human species extols on this planet, Leesa is doing all the right things on that front.

For example, their mattresses are CertiPUR-US certified, free of the long list of chemicals that goes into the typical mattress, including flame retardant. You can easily smell this difference after opening a box. There was no chemical scent! And every mattress is made in the USA.

Leesa also helps me to rest easy knowing that I am supporting a company trying to make a social impact. They are working v. hard to help the homeless by donating one mattress for every ten they sell. So far, 37,000 beds have been donated. They have another initiative where a tree is planted for every mattress sold (called The One Earth Program). Their goal is to plant 1 million trees by 2025. This B Corporation really is trying to do good by all.

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I know we are all spending extra time at home these days. Sometimes, that’s what it takes to realize what needs attention. For me, it was this mattress. If you are wanting to improve your health or simply upgrade your bedding situation, give Leesa a try.  In case you worry that the mattress will be incompatible, it helps to know that there is a 100-night risk-free trial. Shall you love your new Leesa product like we do, there is a 10 year warranty.

This post was sponsored by Leesa. All thoughts are my own. As always, thank you for supporting brands that support this space.