At first, the COVID-19 lockdowns and work-from-home arrangements promised to give us all some much-needed permission — the permission to chill out, take one day at a time, and get some rest.
Instead, many of us feel more stressed out, tense, and anxious about their futures than ever before.
The pandemic disrupted many areas of daily living — including essentials like sleep. Thanks to anxiety-ridden news reports, late-night social media scrolling, and our new indoor living, poor sleep can easily be the new pandemic.
To top it all off, furloughed employees can find themselves facing endless days with no structure, no need to fall asleep on time, nor to wake up for work.
If you’re operating on a tighter budget than ever before, stress not. There are affordable alternatives you can use to improve the quality of your sleep on a budget.
What Poor Sleep Quality Costs You
Even before the pandemic raised a magnifying glass to our collective health and immunity, sleep played a significant role in maintaining mind-body wellness. It’s no secret that during the twilight hours when the mind is resting, the body goes to work with restorative and waste-related functions.
You can feel the specific outcomes of a bad night’s sleep — and, conversely, the positive effects of good quality sleep in five areas of health.
1) Memory and Cognition
Memory and cognition impairment feels like being unable to focus the next day, having thoughts that jump around or fade, poor recall, and a general “fuzziness” that we affectionately call “brain fog.”
When you get to sleep, your brain gets to work cleaning the nervous system. It’s efficient housekeeping tasks include clearing out neurotoxins that build up during the day. And that’s why not getting much sleep dramatically alters the body and brain.
2) Energy and Performance Through the Day
A lack of sleep is serious, but your quality of sleep matters just as much. Once you get to sleep, you don’t want to wake in the middle of the night.
By far, the most common issue that many people face is waking up and being unable to get back to sleep. This affects your energy and performance throughout the day.
Every 90 minutes, you go through two categories of sleep:
- One is a “quiet” phase where you go through four progressively deeper stages of sleep. This is when your body is producing physiological changes that boost immune system function.
- The second is the REM cycle, which is when you dream. This part of the cycle contributes to enhanced learning, memory, and emotional health.
An interrupted sleep cycle leads to shortened sleep. It contributes to the degradation of these critical restorative activities the body carries out.
Your body compensates for the lack of mental energy by dropping body temperature and increasing appetite. This is why a lack of a good night’s sleep often leads to weight gain over time.
3) Stress Response
Stress is one of those total-body states that involves almost every system.
Sometimes, stress is a good thing — our body needs it to react and make split-second decisions. It’s a survival instinct, but the handy boost of energy we experience when our cortisol levels spike has to come from somewhere.
In a study of medical students who face stress due to long shifts with no sleep, researchers found a significant deterioration in physiological health, cognitive performance, and mood.
A lack of sleep keeps the body’s stress response “on” far longer and more frequently than when the body is well-rested. Eventually, this leads to longer-term issues like inflammation and even cancer-related disease.
Not getting enough sleep — and consistently failing to get adequate sleep — pins you down into a vicious cycle. You know how it is. The less sleep you get, the more coping mechanisms (like caffeinated energy drinks) you use to keep awake, which means even less sleep the next night.
Rinse and repeat.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that the pandemic exacerbates the downward spiral of lousy sleep at a molecular level — and not for the reasons you may think.
Studies by the research body show that poor sleep disrupts the immune system, especially disease-fighting proteins called cytokines.
So, if you’re sleep-deficient, you’ll have more trouble coping with quarantine measures, fighting future infections could be a struggle, and you could actually become even more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.
5) Mental Health Maintenance
There are various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD, and more. And any of the categorized 70 types of sleep disorders that rob people of quality night sleep can increase the effects of psychiatric disorders (and vice versa).
As an example, consider the relationship between depression and sleep deprivation. Research by Harvard Health shows that 65-90% of adults with depression and 90% of children with depression also experience sleep issues. For most, it’s insomnia, but for one in five, it’s obstructive sleep apnea.
Your Sleep Self: Getting Some Personalized Data
Before you learn how to improve your sleep on a budget, you should find out more about your current quality of sleep and sleep habits. Based on this data, you can decide what you need for a good night of sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation calls the routines and implements you use to sleep better at night. Any budget friendly sleep remedies you use have to address the four essential areas of sleep hygiene, including:
- Creating a bedroom that encourages and even induces sleep
- Optimizing your sleep schedule (also known as your circadian rhythm)
- Crafting and committing to a pre-bedtime routine
- Building “pro-sleep” habits during the day (not drinking caffeine after 12 p.m. might help)
Track Your Sleep
Your first step is to track your sleep habits. This information will help you learn how long it takes you to fall asleep, how restful your sleep is through the night time, when you wake up, and the overall sleep quality you experience.
Apps like Sleep Cycle can help you try and track the amount of time you spend sleeping in each stage. The data you receive will paint a total picture of sleep quality as it connects with other decisions in your life.
For example, if you exercise later in the day, you may fall asleep fast. But information from the app may show that your REM cycles are not optimal. This may tell you why you feel like you’re still tired even though you slept through the night.
Decide On Your Schedule
We’re still discovering the science behind sleep. Sleeping “chronotypes” are the newest science-backed way to help many people transform the way they sleep. Humans are generally diurnal, which means we’re awake in the daylight and naturally fall asleep at night.
However, sleep chronotypes allow you to adjust this general trend based on when you like sleeping and waking and when your natural energy levels rise and fall.
For example, a “Bear” chronotype means you sleep in the night, and you’re active in the day. Contrast that with the “Wolf” chronotype, which feels most energetic when they wake up at noon, lose steam four hours later, then pick up again at around 6:00 p.m.
Now, you don’t need to follow these “chronotypes,” but part of the information you’ll be getting from your sleep app is waking and sleeping patterns. This can tell you when your optimal sleep times are and when you’re most productive. Based on this, you can set a routine that allows you to sleep well, get the hours you need, and awake refreshed.
Five Fantastic Fixes to Improve Your Sleep On a Budget
One of the best ways to improve quality sleep is sleeping on a better mattress. Bed surfaces can support everything from better posture and optimal body temperature to breathing issues and allergies.
However, if a new mattress is not in the books for you right now, there are still plenty of budget friendly tips you can use to sleep well right away. For example, you may choose to skip a mattress and get a new memory foam mattress topper instead.
These five tips will help you sleep better, whether you have the best mattress or not.
Fix #1: Natural Remedies for Better Sleep
Improving your bedtime hygiene can start with the simplest of details. Relaxing, natural scents, journaling, and engaging in physical activity are just some of the ways you can sleep better.
Essential oils like lavender, vanilla, jasmine, and sandalwood have a relaxing effect on the nervous system. You can use a few drops in a diffuser, or simply soak them in a warm bath before the end of the day.
Use natural methods as a part of your pre-bedtime routine to help you get to bed faster.
Fix #2: Sleep “Add-Ons” For Uninterrupted Sleep
Sleep habits help address your behaviors and routines around sleep. But you should also try a few sleep aids or implements to get a healthy amount of uninterrupted sleep.
You can try and find many of these sleep aids on Amazon, where the reviews and information can help you choose the right brand for your budget. Sleep aids include:
- A white noise machine
- Blackout curtains
- Sleep apps like Calm or Headspace
- A sleep mask
- Ear plugs
- Weighted blankets
- Blue light blockers for screens
You don’t need to try all of these to see which one makes a difference. For example, you may find that a sleep mask is more convenient than installing blackout curtains, or ear plugs are less expensive than a white noise machine. Find and use sleep aids that work for you.
Fix #3: Practice Better Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is not something that “happens” at the end of the day. As you now know, the quality of sleep you experience is vastly different from day to day. And the reason for that is because we’re preparing for a quality rest all day through the actions we take.
Use these sleep “hygiene” tips to make sure falling asleep is no issue:
- Set the temperature to be cooler, around 65 degrees, at night (even in the winters)
- Avoid light disruption from screens (you can even replace light bulbs in your room, so they’re on the warmer end of the light-color spectrum)
- Choose quality sheets and blankets that feel comfortable to the touch
- Keep nap length around 20 minutes
- Lower the lights 30 minutes before sleep to contribute to your body’s production of melatonin
- Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime
- Make your bed a sanctuary for sleep and intimacy only
Fix #4: Optimizing Your Bedroom
Researchers found that 56% say that a very comfortable mattress is the best way to get to bed fast when it comes to ideal sleeping environments. Others need it to be so dark they can’t see their own hands, while 47% of people would rather have their bedroom be quiet.
Making all three a priority may not be in your budget yet, so you may choose a few worthy substitutes. For example, a memory foam pillow for more neck and shoulder support is an excellent way to make sure you’re not tossing and turning at night.
Clearing your room of unnecessary clutter can also help your mind feel relaxed. You can install dimmers on your light switches to help create a “signal” for your brain that it’s time for bed. You can even designate a small corner of your room as a meditation area to relax before going to bed.
Fix #5: Setup a Pre-Sleep Routine
These aids and habits should all contribute to a fixed pre-sleep routine. Obviously, you may not be 100% consistent with one routine, but, for the most part, the activities you do in the hour or two before bed create triggers.
These cues subtly give your mind information about the phase of the day. For example, you can read before bed three evenings out of the week and take a bath the other two evenings. That way, your pre-sleep routine doesn’t become monotonous, but you’re still communicating with your brain:
Hey, it’s time for bed.
When you sleep better, everything changes.
You know what this feels like if you’ve ever woken up from a night’s rest feeling totally refreshed, ready to go, knowing it’s about to be an amazing day.
That’s the power of quality sleep, and that’s what it can do for your mental health, physical immunity, body, and so much more.
At Essentia, we see our mattresses, foundations, pillows, and other sleep accessories as your bridge to a better night’s sleep.
Our Lifestyle, Performance, and Wholebody mattress collections offer highly customizable sleep experiences for individuals who are ready to reap the benefits of organic, all-natural materials, 20-year warranties, and a process that is industry-certified according to global standards.
Learn more about our process and our performance mattresses at Essentia.