A mattress is usually the first thing people think about when it comes to a good night’s sleep, but is that really enough to get the best quality sleep? I recently asked myself that question and made some big changes to my sleeping environment (aka the physical environment where I sleep) to see if my sleep got any better. 

Does Your Sleep Environment Really Matter? 

Yes! There are multiple studies showing that factors in your room, like light, noise and temperature, have a direct correlation to the amount and quality of sleep someone may receive. 

For example, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Healthy Sleep Guide states, “By being attuned to factors in your sleep environment that put you at ease, and eliminating those that may cause stress or distraction, you can set yourself up for the best possible sleep.” 

Interestingly enough, a study on environmental factors impacting sleep and sleep disorders found that your sleep can be impacted by things beyond your physical environment, like “social features of environments, family, social cohesion, safety, noise, and neighborhood disorder.” 

I wanted to concentrate on things I can control, so when I use the term “sleep environment,” I’m referring to the physical things either in my house or my bedroom.    

How Does the Rest of My Family Sleep?

Before I dig into the changes I made and how they impacted my sleep, I should describe my family’s sleeping habits since they directly impact mine. My spouse and I share a king bed with a Casper mattress. I also have a toddler who sleeps in their own room down the hallway. 

My toddler is a great sleeper and, for the most part, has always been a solid sleeper — of course, there were some sleepless nights when they were just born. My husband has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP while he sleeps. He is the type of person who can lay their head on the pillow, put their CPAP on and fall asleep within 5 minutes. Long story short, both my son and my husband have no problem sleeping — it’s just a me-problem. 

What Was My Previous Sleep Environment? 

Our bedroom has feng shui — a way of arranging a room to create balance and harmony. Feng shui isn’t something I follow or practice, but I have looked it up before and realized my room accidentally fits into the guidelines (the bed isn’t aligned with the door, we have space around both sides of the bed and two nightstands on the sides of the bed). 

Although the layout of my room had peace and harmony, nothing related to my sleep environment did. As I mentioned, my husband sleeps with a CPAP, which means I have a baby monitor on my side of the bed because he can’t always hear it. My son uses a white noise machine, which can sort of be heard through the monitor. 

The biggest mistake in my sleep environment was the T.V. We have a 24-inch T.V. mounted on the wall at the foot of our bed. Since I was pregnant with my son, sleeping has been a struggle — pregnancy insomnia is very real. During pregnancy and early in my child’s life, I got in the habit of watching T.V. while I fell asleep. Up until the beginning of March 2021, this was my bedtime routine: I would get ready for bed, turn up the volume on the baby monitor, check my social accounts, turn off the light on my nightstand, then turn on the T.V. I essentially went from one screen to another. I didn’t set a sleep timer on the T.V. — “The Office” (my show of choice) would stay on all night, so if I woke up in the middle of the night, I had something to watch. 

How Was My Sleep With My Previous Environment? 

Not great. Oftentimes, I would wake up and feel exhausted (like I was just going to sleep). I was waking up multiple times in the middle of the night and often unable to go back to sleep. My watch tracks my sleep, and it said I was getting about five to six hours of sleep per night that was frequently interrupted. I would wake up about three to five times a night and struggle to go back to sleep. So even though I would go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m. (that’s eight and a half hours), I would only get a fraction of sleep.  

What Changes Did I Make? 

The first change I made was to turn off the screens in the bedroom. So when I go to my room at the end of the night, there are no screens — T.V. or phone. Instead, my husband and I will chat a bit about our day then it’s lights out. 

Speaking of lights, I found a blackout eye mask on Amazon for less than $10. The eyes are cupped, so I can open my eyes and not feel the fabric. This means I don’t see the screen light from the baby monitor or when the sun comes up — it’s a game-changer! 

Another change I made was to add a noise machine to my room. As I mentioned, we can hear the one from our son’s room through the baby monitor. We used the noise machine (Hatch) to sleep train our son — it’s been something they sleep with since they’ve been born. When the Hatch is turned on, my toddler knows it’s time for bed. I was wondering if it would do the same for me, so I got a second Hatch and tried it. We set it to rain with a soft blue light, and it’s so soothing. The light acts more like a nightlight in case my husband or I need to get out of bed. 

I also changed my pillow — I now have a Pillow Cube — but I’ll share more about that transition, my thoughts on the product, etc., in a future blog post. 

How is My Sleep Now? 

My sleep is completely different since switching up my sleep environment. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night, and I actually feel rested when I wake up in the morning. I have more energy, so I’m drinking less coffee — I’m down to one cup per day! On top of that, I’m finding it’s easier for me to concentrate on work. My watch has also told me that I’m getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, depending on what time I go to bed. 

How to Find the Right Sleeping Environment for You

Finding the right mattress is the best starting point because it truly is the most important tool for a good night’s sleep. That’s because it’s literally the base that holds your body while you sleep. If you have an old or uncomfortable mattress that gives you back pain, neck pain, hip pain, joint pain or any other issues, getting the right mattress for your needs, sleep style (stomach, back or combo) and body type will immediately help you get a better night’s sleep. 

After you have the right mattress, you can start to think about your sleeping environment. Although you can make a ton of changes to your sleep environment right off the bat, I recommend changing one or two things, then waiting a couple of days to see if/how your sleep improves. After you confirm those changes work for you, make some more and continue with that process until you’re satisfied. 

If you’re not sure what counts as your sleep environment, think about the factors outside of your mattress, pillow and sheets that may impact your sleep. That’s your sleep environment. 

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

Although having the right mattress will help you rest easier, it’s not the only factor that impacts your sleep. Using the best mattress for you is a good starting point, then setting up the perfect sleep environment will help you get the best sleep.