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Breaking the Sleep-Stress Cycle

— by Tempur-Pedic + Wall Street Journal on Apr 16, 2020

This content was paid for by Tempur-Pedic and produced by Wall Street Journal Custom Content. The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in its creation or production.

We’ve all been there: It’s 2 a.m. and your mind is racing. You can’t stop tossing and turning. Sleep looks no more likely than it did three hours ago. The next day you’re noticeably anxious and exhausted—and your work and daily routines suffer. When it comes time for bed, you’re worried about all you weren’t able to accomplish.

In other words, you’re stressed, so you can’t sleep. And because you can’t sleep, you’re stressed.

Researchers have coined a term for this conundrum: the sleep-stress cycle. According to the American Psychological Association, the consequences of reduced sleep include feelings of anger and irritability, lack of motivation and increased stress levels. With most Americans getting an average of only 6.7 hours of sleep a night (fewer than the recommended 7 to 9 hours), such symptoms are a daily reality for many adults.

Their impact is deeply felt in the workplace, where reduced sleep can erode productivity and frazzle leadership. “For members of the C-suite, the chief concern is often focus. They’re worried about making a massive mistake in terms of overlooking a clause or an important number,” says Christine Hansen, an executive coach who helps leaders develop better sleeping habits. “There’s also an impatience that breaks through when they’re too tired to be their best selves at work, which wouldn’t happen if they’d gotten a good night’s rest.”

Amid a growing focus on the relationship between sleep and work, Hansen and other experts like her have identified numerous factors affecting how we sleep, which run the gamut from dietary habits to bedroom lighting. They’ve also created a wide array of strategies designed to help people break the sleep-stress cycle—improving both their quality of sleep, as well as their waking lives at work and at home.

Changing your sleep routine

Sleep impacts numerous aspects of cognitive function, including memory retention, creativity, and concentration. It also has important physiological effects, with sleep loss linked to increased risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

“We know that getting better sleep helps reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses. And conversely, we’re seeing the development of some of those diseases as a result of not sleeping well,” says Dr. Juliana Hauser, a marriage and family therapist and professional counselor. “When your overall health is being affected due to lack of sleep, that’s also going to affect your day-to-day routine.”

So how can we break out of our sleep-deprived cycle? Hauser suggests making simple adjustments to your environment and pre-sleep routine, like putting bedroom lights on dimmers, placing phones out of arm’s reach or practicing breathing exercises that help slow your heart rate. Guided meditation can be effective, as can writing down nagging thoughts and worries before bed. Hauser calls this practice “recapitulation.”

“It can help distract your brain from racing thoughts and help you determine what’s important and what isn’t. When you practice it often enough, it can help put your mind at ease, so you can actually go to sleep.”

What you eat also has an impact on how you sleep. Hauser suggests reducing carbs if eating later than 7 p.m. and avoiding foods that could cause digestive stress, allowing your body to prioritize the task of falling asleep over resolving heartburn.

Hansen goes further, advising her clients to carefully manage their blood sugar levels to avoid sudden spikes. “Sugar sends your body into peaks and crashes, and you can end up having a sudden spike in the middle of the night,” she says. “Instead, look for foods that release sugar more evenly, so the curve of your blood sugar is as even as possible.”

a man and woman sitting on a Split King mattress

Optimizing the sleep surface

The sleep surface is another key factor when it comes to the quality of your rest. The temperature and humidity that exists between a person and their mattress is known as a “microclimate,” a thermal environment that influences the physical processes that help your body regulate sleep.

Sleep surfaces like Tempur-Pedic’s TEMPUR-breeze° line of mattresses are engineered to manage the sleep microclimate and keep the body as cool as possible—even typically hot sleepers. A cool-to-touch cover uses phase-change material that draws heat away from the body, while a layer of ultra-breathable TEMPUR® Material allows for all-night cooling.

“We challenged our engineers and technicians to create a product that has incredible breathability,” says Allen Platek, Vice President of New Product Development at Tempur-Pedic. “This helps to recharge that phase-change material and the low-density polyethylene yarn in the cover, allowing them both to stay effective throughout the night. As a result, the PRObreeze°, which provides cutting-edge cooling, feels up to 3 degrees cooler* through the night, and the LUXEbreeze° feels up to 8 degrees cooler** while delivering pressure-relieving power.” It’s no wonder the Tempur-LUXEbreeze° mattress won a “Best of What’s New” award from Popular Science1 for being one of the most innovative and exciting products in 2019.

The removable fabric covers alone, Platek notes, took over 14 months to develop—plus the efforts of an 80-person R&D team squarely focused on delivering improved sleep. That commitment to innovation has been a constant across Tempur-Pedic’s history, creating a through line from TEMPUR Material used to support NASA astronauts during liftoff to the same material used in TEMPUR-breeze and TEMPUR-Adapt mattresses today. Regardless of whether your career sends you into the stratosphere literally or figuratively, most people could benefit from the improved night’s sleep such innovations help facilitate.

“When people start sleeping better, one of the first things they tell me is that they have more clarity in their discussions at work or with their families—and things just seem brighter,” Hauser says. “I hear one common phrase: ‘When I sleep better, everything just seems easier.’ You wake up and say, ‘OK, I can handle today.’”

Get your best sleep this summer with Tempur-Pedic. Check out the cutting-edge cooling materials of TEMPUR-breeze° line of mattresses.

*Based on average heat index of Tempur-PRObreeze° compared to TEMPUR-ProAdapt models measured over an 8-hour period.

**Based on average heat index of TEMPUR-LUXEbreeze° compared to TEMPUR-ProAdapt models measured over an 8-hour period.

1Learn more at popsci.com

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