10 Intriguing Sleep Habits From Around the World
How people sleep around the world can tell us a lot about their cultures.
It’s a new year—heck, a new decade—which means it’s that time of year again to reflect on the past year and set goals for the new year.
Many people focus on eating better or losing weight for their New Year’s resolutions, but few people are setting goals to improve their sleep. In reality, your sleep is critical to your well-being and maintaining a holistically healthy lifestyle. Your sleep contributes to your mood, energy, focus, and it even plays a role in your ability to lose weight.
The problem is that many people either don’t realize they need to repair their sleep or they don’t know how to begin fixing it. We’ve made it simple for you. In 2020, resolve to finally work on your sleep health by implementing these 20 expert tips for better sleep each night.
One of the issues many people face in our fast-paced world is having trouble slowing down. If your mind is racing a million miles a minute up until the time your head hits the pillow, falling asleep won’t be easy.
Being intentional about carving out time for a wind-down routine can be extremely beneficial for your sleep hygiene. Habitually practicing the same relaxing routine each night will help signal to your body that it’s time for rest. Before you know it, falling and staying asleep will become much more natural to you.
Not sure how to establish a bedtime routine? It’s simple. In the last one to two hours before your bedtime, practice healthy habits that help you relax. Here are a few recommendations:
Choose what works best to help you wind down and relax in the evenings.
To truly maximize your potential for improving your sleep, you should also think about how you’re waking up each morning.
Is it typically difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning? Do you wake up groggy and unenergized for the day? Creating a morning routine will help you break out of this slump.
You may not think it’s possible to become a morning person if you aren’t already naturally one, but that’s only a myth. With some hard work and dedication, anyone can become a morning person." Alesandra Woolley, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
Plus, starting your morning off on the right foot will help you have more productive days. Here are a few simple steps you can incorporate into your morning routine:
Beginning each day with a consistent routine will help you wake up on the right side of the bed every morning!
Staying consistent is the key to unlocking the full potential of your bedtime and morning routines. For one thing, humans are creatures of habit and we like to establish routines. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to fall into better and healthier habits.
More physiologically speaking, our sleep schedule is controlled by our circadian rhythm. There are many factors involved in regulating the circadian rhythm, one of which includes your consistency.
Related: Sleep-wake homeostasis
Be warned, this isn’t an easy task. When you first start really caring about your sleep, you’ll likely notice how inconsistent and careless you’ve been all this time. Within a couple days, you may start to miss the late-night TV binges and it can tempt you to disrupt your routine, but doing so will only erase your progress and make it all the more challenging to get back on track.
To stay on track make sure you set a designated bedtime, set a designated wake up time, and adhere to these times each and every day (yep, even on weekends). The thought of hearing your alarm go off on a Saturday morning may seem miserable, but staying on a schedule consistently will pay off in the long run. Eventually, you may not even be able to sleep in past your regular wake up time!
You can’t solve a problem without getting to the root of the issue. If you’re having trouble getting good sleep at night, there may be an underlying problem. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but 80 percent of cases go undiagnosed.
Other factors, like suffering from PTSD, could be interrupting your sleep. In a survey we conducted of over 1,000 people who reported experiencing a traumatic life event that negatively impacted their sleep, we found 79.9% of respondents have faced insomnia after a traumatic event. That’s nearly 4 in 5 people who face this issue.
See the Full Study: How Traumatic Events Impact Sleep and Well-Being
“Seek qualified assistance from a medical professional,” said one of our respondents, a 33-year-old man who experienced traumatic grief or separation. “Know that you are not alone, and there are others going through similar issues, and help is out there. There is no quick fix, but it does seem to get better after a while.”
Your sleep problems may be deeper than just some tossing and turning. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep, no one expects you to be a one-man sleep glossary. It may be time to consult your healthcare provider or visit a sleep clinic.
A sleep consultant can help you get to the root of your slumber problems, and your doctor can help treat any ailments that are preventing you from sleeping well. If you believe you are suffering from a sleep disorder or if you think your health issues are causing sleep deprivation, it’s in your best interest to call in the big guns and consult with an expert.
One way to measure if you’re improving your sleep is to consider how you feel when you wake up in the morning or writing in a sleep diary. The only issue is these methods are subjective and doesn’t give you any information about how to fix your sleep problems. With a sleep performance tool that tracks your sleep, you can see exactly where the issues are and start working to solve them.
If your goal is to lose weight, you regularly step on a scale to weigh in. If your goal is to eat less, you track calories in a notebook or an app. So when you’re ready to repair your sleep, you need to have a tool to measure your performance." Ashley Little, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
With a sleep tracker, you can measure your heart rate, breathing patterns, duration spent in each stage of sleep, and number of times you wake up during the night. Once you have a read on these diagnostics, you can track to see how your sleep improves over time.
This tool also becomes handy if you notice irregularities. For instance, if you have irregular breathing patterns over the night, that may be a sign you need to switch up your sleeping position or even consult with a medical professional about the potential risk of sleep apnea.
Sleeping with a partner isn’t always the romantic dream you imagine it to be. Sometimes, our sleep partners can be disruptive to our own good night’s sleep. If your sleep partner is a snorer, sleep talker, or just plain annoying to sleep with, it may be time to consider a sleep divorce.
In a recent survey, we found that 4 in 5 people who sleep with a partner are making sacrifices in the bedroom for their partner’s sake like sleeping with the TV or fan on. When comparing the sleep quality ratings of those who slept alone vs. those who sleep with a partner, we found that entering a sleep divorce could save you over 100 extra hours of sleep in a year.
It may be time for you and your partner to start sleeping solo, but if you do, make sure you’re not ignoring any serious health issues along the way. For example, if your partner’s heavy snoring is disruptive to your sleep, sleeping in a different room can help you get better rest, but make sure you don’t ignore the potential health risks your partner could be facing.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, your environment could be the problem. Your bedroom should be a place of rest and relaxation, meaning it should be clean and calm, not messy and overstimulating.
Creating the ideal sleep environment can be done in a few simple steps. These include cleaning out clutter, setting the mood for relaxation, taking out the TV, adjusting your lighting, and reducing allergens.
Most importantly, designate your bedroom as a space of rest. This means leaving your work and technology devices out of the room entirely. This will help you learn that when you enter the bedroom it’s team to wind down and go to sleep.
To create a haven of good sleep, there are a few designer tips you can use. The first is choosing an optimal paint color for your walls. Avoid bright, loud colors or crazy patterns that could overstimulate you. Instead, opt for lighter shades in a warm or cool palette depending on what appeals most to you.
Secondly, consider feng shui. This ancient Chinese practice suggests that the arrangement of your room affects the flow of energy and ultimately how you feel in the room. For your bedroom, feng shui principles suggest you place your bed in a commanding position against a solid wall, meaning it’s positioned so you can see your doorway but you’re far away from it and not aligned. You should also leave room on either side to climb in and out of bed and set symmetry by placing a nightstand, plant, or lamp on each side.
Do you toss and turn at night? Your sleep may be interrupted by simple distractions that you have the power to eliminate. The two main issues that may be waking you up are light and sound.
Block out lighting by hanging up blackout curtains that keep out street lights, car headlights, or city lights. In your room, if you have devices that shine a bright light, consider removing them from your bedroom, unplugging them while you sleep, or finding alternative options.
For noise distractions, consider using a white noise machine. These sound machines emit a noise that masks background sounds and helps you relax as you fall asleep. Alternatively, you could use ear plugs, though some may find those uncomfortable.
We don’t want to sound like your parents, but you really should clean up your bedroom—particularly, your bed. We surveyed over 1,000 Americans and found out… well, Americans are gross. The average maximum number of days people can go without changing their sheets before it’s considered gross is 35.3 days!
Even worse, over half of the males admitted to not changing their sheets after they become soiled from sexual activities.
See the Full Study: How Often Do Americans Wash Their Sheets?
Maybe you think it’s okay to live with these hygiene standards, but think about the repercussions. You perspire around 26 gallons of sweat each year into your sheets. Along with being disgusting, this also poses an inviting greeting to bacteria, which is the last thing you want in your bed.
But speaking of things you don’t want in your bed… let’s talk about bed bugs. These tiny creatures feast on your dead skin cells, which you’re shedding into your sheets every single night. If you’re not keeping up with proper maintenance of your mattress and bedding, there’s no telling what’s hiding under your sheets!
Long story short: Keeping your bed clean will help you sleep safe and sound.
If you’ve ever been stuck sleeping on a couch, air mattress, or other disappointing sleep surface, you know that comfort is a large factor in how well you sleep. Luckily, you’re in the right place for finding a comfortable night’s sleep.
If anyone knows about the importance of choosing the right mattress, it’s us. We’ve spent countless hours researching and testing mattresses to learn everything there is to know about how much a mattress can impact your sleep quality and why. And while we know it can seem expensive to really invest in quality sleep products, it’s cheaper than back surgery.
To tell you everything we know here would fill up a book, so instead, we’ll direct you to some of our best resources for learning how to get comfortable in bed and why it matters:
We’re always hoping to help connect readers with everything it takes to improve their sleep, so reach out and we’ll help guide you along your journey.
If you’ve ever woken up covered in sweat or covered in goosebumps, you know that finding the ideal sleep temperature can be rather tricky. A lot of it has to do with thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is just a fancy way of saying that our bodies are constantly trying to keep a stable core temperature.
Before we go to sleep, our body’s internal temperature drops. We need this drop for our bodies to rest, rejuvenate, and heal. If our bodies can’t drop to this sleep core temperature, it can result in a disruption of the REM cycle, resulting in poor sleep or the gross alternative, night sweats." Alesandra Woolley, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
There are a few easy ways to help your body thermoregulate, the first being adjust your thermostat. The ideal sleep temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees, so find whatever is comfortable for you in that range.
Another way to bring down your temperature for sleep is both fun and relaxing: take a hot shower or bath before bed. It seems counterintuitive to cover yourself in hot water, but actually, the drop in temperature your body feels after you exit the pool of hot water mimics the drop it naturally takes as you wind down to go to sleep.
Lower your thermostat; take a bath; sleep well.
The last thing anyone wants to do in this digital age is put away their screens. Our days don’t feel complete until we’ve done that nighttime scroll through social media, watched one more episode of our newest binge obsession on Netflix, or done a quick sweep of Amazon. Unfortunately, none of those things will help you sleep; in fact, they hurt your sleep.
We surveyed over 1,000 Americans and asked them about their app usage before bed. The results were a bit alarming. Almost 71% of respondents admitted to using their phones before bed, and nearly half of millennials have fallen asleep with the phone in their hands. Only the people who did not touch their phones before bed rated their sleep a perfect 5 out of 5.
See the Full Study: Does Using Your Phone at Night Really Harm Your Sleep?
So, why is this a problem? Screens such as cell phones, computers, and TVs emit something called blue light. When your eyes absorb blue light before bedtime, it has an effect similar to the sun. It tells your body to stop producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) because it thinks it’s still daylight. Yikes!
On top of that, binging multiple shows and scrolling through social media gives your brain a shot of dopamine (the hormone that makes you happy), and you want to keep scrolling and watching way past your bedtime.
“It can be easy to get sucked into social media and email right before bed, but it’s best to skip the phone and instead pick up a book to really make you sleepy,” says Amanda Lasater, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor.
We’ve all indulged in a late-night craving or two. Maybe you ate dinner too early and hunger is gnawing at your stomach. Maybe you’ve been up all night studying and need brain food. Or maybe late-night munching has just been an unfortunate habit you’ve picked up.
We asked 1,000 people about their late-night eating habits, and the overwhelming fast food favorite was Taco Bell. Respondents were willing to drive up to 24 minutes out of their way to get the midnight meal of their choice, and about 38% reported getting lower quality sleep after a late-night fast food indulgence.
See the Full Study: What are Americans Eating at Night?
Eating too close to bedtime can keep you from falling asleep. This is thanks to your body digesting the food you just ingested rather than winding down for sleep. But, if you are going to go for a midnight snack, opt for foods that increase melatonin production like nuts and seeds, yogurt, tea, and tart cherry juice.
The most important foods to stay away from before bed include anything with alcohol, fat, carbs, sugar, anything spicy, and caffeine.
As you may have correctly guessed, coffee and caffeinated drinks have the effect of waking us up. Caffeine works as a stimulant when it hits the nervous system, keeping you energized and on high alert.
It takes about 20 minutes to an hour for the caffeine to enter your bloodstream when you drink a cup of coffee, but it takes nearly 5-6 hours to leave your system. Basically, if you consume coffee or any other caffeinated beverage at least 5-6 hours before bed, it will still have that stimulating effect on your body as you try to fall asleep. That’s why all you late afternoon coffee drinkers may be having trouble falling asleep at night.
Not only that, but caffeine dehydrates you. When you fall asleep dehydrated you are at an increased risk of snoring, waking up with dry mouth, having headaches, and dealing with morning-time fogginess.
Coffee isn’t the only beverage riddled with caffeine, here are some other food and drink items to avoid in those hours before bed:
That morning cup of coffee is fine, but make sure you switch to a caffeine-free drink come afternoon.
Although the idea of a nightcap is popular, it actually isn’t beneficial for your sleep. Having a drink (or two) before you go to bed may help you feel drowsy and fall asleep faster, but that doesn’t make it an appropriate sleep aid. Unfortunately, many people believe this sleep myth.
In a recent survey we conducted polling over 1,000 adults, 55% of respondents said they believe they get a good night’s sleep after drinking alcohol.
In reality, drinking alcohol before bed destroys your healthy sleeping patterns. In fact, 25% of this same group reported experiencing restlessness and waking up often throughout the night after drinking, along with several other sleep disruptions.
See the Full Study: How Alcohol Truly Affects Your Sleep
Thanks to the REM rebound effect, you’re likely to wake up feeling groggy and, let’s face it, hungover. Drinking alcohol before bed suppresses the time you spend in REM sleep in your first few sleep cycles of the night. Then later in the night to compensate, you spend far more time in REM sleep.
Disturbing your natural sleep cycles is extremely harmful, so cut out the boozing before you start snoozing.
Instead of the nightcap, consider alternative sleep remedies—ideally, natural ones. The list of potential sleep remedies is long since people have been having problems sleeping for as long as the world’s been turning. This means that the odds are in your favor that you’ll be able to find one that actually works for you.
We asked a few of our Certified Sleep Science Coaches about their favorite sleep remedies so you can learn from the pros!
I love dropping some lavender essential oil into my essential oil diffuser and letting it fill up the room. It's super relaxing and usually puts me to sleep in less than fifteen minutes. If this doesn't work, my fail-safe is listening to the Sleep with Me podcast on Spotify - or really any sleep podcast for that matter. It helps to stop my mind from wandering and winds me down in no time.” Amanda Lasater, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
I always make sure I keep a good book on my nightstand so I’m more encouraged to read at night rather than scroll through social media. Unfortunately my favorite genre is thrillers and those sometimes give me nightmares, so I’m working on picking more bedtime-friendly books!” Ashley Little, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
I've struggled with sleeplessness throughout my life, but my life changed once I improved my sleep hygiene and conditions. Game changers for me have been black out curtains, lowering the room temperature at night and using a weighted blanket. With these three things I've found my perfect recipe for sleep." Christine Huegel, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
I used to always go to the gym or exercise really late at night; around 10pm. I would find myself unable to go to sleep because my body would take longer to wind down. Now if I exercise in the late afternoon or early evening, I will feel naturally tired and be ready to sleep at a decent hour.” Andrew Warren, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Mattress Advisor
A natural remedy can be any lifestyle change or particular thing that aids in your good night’s sleep. Whether you use essential oils like lavender or even CBD, there’s something out there that can help improve your sleep.
Stomach sleepers, listen up! Your sleeping position could be harming your sleep and your health.
Sleeping on your stomach may help you reduce snoring, but this position causes added pressure on your muscles and joints, particularly your neck and back. Stomach sleeping can even lead to irritation of the nerves, numbness, and tingling. Plus, it’s difficult to breathe and you’re more prone to wrinkles.
When it comes to what the best sleeping position is, there isn’t too much debate. Sleeping on your back is the healthiest position for your spine and your sleep; although, it isn’t a totally perfect position.
Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue to relax and fall to the back of your throat, making you susceptible to snoring or blocking your breathing tube if you have sleep apnea. Elevating your head on a thicker pillow can help avoid this.
Without hard work and determination, you’ll never be able to achieve a difficult goal. And improving your sleep isn’t always easy.
Actually taking the time to up your sleep game is going to take work. It’s time you learn to prioritize your sleep. But how do you do this?
Start by dedicating at least seven or eight solid hours to your sleep each night. This may mean saying no to things, shifting priorities, or cancelling those late night TV binges. Your sleep is worth it.
Other ways to prioritize your sleep are to get serious about tracking your improvements. Whether you journal or use a sleep app, find a way to keep track of your progress. You can also set small goals for yourself, like learning to actually wake up on time over the weekends or getting up on the first alarm.
Developing healthy sleep habits doesn’t have to be an exhausting endeavor. It starts with one step at a time and a commitment to improving your sleep health. We hope our simple tips can make it easy for you to live your best days by getting your best night’s sleep.
As a reminder, or a checklist for yourself, here are our 20 tips for better sleep:
Keep coming back to Mattress Advisor as your one-stop resource for improving your sleep. We’re always aiming to help more people get a good night’s sleep each night.