The Best Bedroom Products to Calm a Racing Mind
For anyone doomscrolling the news at home, the state of the world can make falling asleep a challenge. For frontline workers, emergency personnel and even the journalists processing and delivering the news, peacefully drifting off to sleep can feel almost impossible. Going from a high-stress work environment to a quiet bedroom can feel foreign and poses a difficult transition to navigate. But anyone with a racing mind or feelings of stress can struggle to wind down and feel ready to relax at night.
To gain insight on how to calm the mind before bed and the best products to lull us into great sleep, we checked in with Jade Wu, Ph.D., a sleep psychologist, Sleep Advisor to Mattress Firm and researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, as well as Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® Kristian Lewis.
The Best Sleep Setup for a Racing Mind
“Comfort is what puts us to sleep, but support is what keeps us asleep,” Lewis says.
This means that once you drift off to sleep, you need the right sleep setup to help optimize the sleep you’re getting. A lumpy mattress, one where you roll into the deep divot in the middle or one that wakes you up with back pain each night, will compromise that rest. You might still sleep great if you meditate for five minutes each night instead of 10, but there’s no remedy for an uncomfortable mattress.
Lewis says those who come home from especially stressful days—including frontline workers, news anchors or anyone who internalizes stress—would benefit from the ultimate combination of comfort and support. His first recommendation is the Tempur-Pedic line of mattresses. From here, you can home in on personal preferences like cooling capabilities with the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze or pressure relief from the Tempur-Pedic ProAdapt. For sleepers who like a slightly springy feel in their mattress, Lewis favors the Purple Hybrid Premier. The Premier is also recommended for anyone with mobility issues.
Lewis’ mantra of comfort allowing us to fall asleep, and support to help us stay asleep, is only partially provided by the mattress. The other part, he says, is an adjustable base. These bases raise and lower the head and foot area of the bed, adjusting to how you feel the most comfortable, including a zero gravity position with both head and feet raised.
After a stressful day in the studio, anyone trying to quiet a racing mind can benefit from a few aspects of an adjustable base. “To get into zero gravity will be the best way to find comfort in a way that’ll let the mind relax,” Lewis says. “Sleeping in zero gravity also lowers your resting heart rate naturally, so the adjustable base is designed to help you get into that first cycle quicker.” Lewis’ top recommendation for an adjustable base is the Tempur-Pedic Ergo Smart Adjustable Base with SleepTracker. The base has a preset zero gravity option as well as a massage feature and underbed lighting to help find dropped items and avoid tripping over the dog in the middle of the night. Other adjustable bases that may help ease some of that tension brought home from work include:
The Best Mattress When Your Partner Has a Different Sleep Schedule
Whether you get out of bed at unusual hours due to sleep disruptors, a racing mind or shift work, having a partner who has a different sleep pattern can be a challenge. The motion of one partner getting in or out of bed can disrupt the other who’s still trying to get restorative sleep. One solution Lewis mentions is investing in a mattress with motion isolation. All of the Tempur-Pedic beds start with an upper comfort layer of memory foam that works to absorb motion, so everyone is more likely to sleep soundly without movement disruptions.
Now that the mattress and base are sorted out, let’s figure out how to move from work mode to sleep mode.
Benefits of Sleep Hygiene
Regardless of the hour someone heads to bed, anyone with a high-stress job is likely to be working to transition as quickly as possible from a go-go-go mentality to a much more relaxed pace. This transition can be difficult and oftentimes rushed to get the most out of each day. But Wu says that taking just 20 minutes to wind down can spell the difference between restful sleep and stressed sleep.
“It's hard for our bodies to make that switch because we’re not really designed to switch on and off like that, unless there’s danger,” she says. “The quick switching on and off can almost simulate danger in the environment, which makes our fight-or-flight systems ramp up, and this can happen throughout the day.”
To counter this, Wu recommends taking even 20 seconds between high-octane situations to close your eyes and breathe as a way of reminding the body that everything is safe. “Doing this throughout the day can help prepare for eventually winding down,” Wu says.
When the time does come to go to bed, Wu recommends a consistent wind-down ritual of three to five activities or elements. These don’t have to be elaborate and not every night needs to include all elements. Brushing your teeth, putting on comfortable pajamas, or playing meditative music all count toward the wind-down routine or sleep hygiene. “This routine should be something that you can always count on to be pleasurable and relaxing so your body and your mind both look forward to that time,” Wu says. “It signals to your body to automatically start winding down when it encounters those cues.”
Calming Ways to Achieve a Better Night’s Sleep
Consider your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. In addition to implementing a wind-down routine, Wu recommends limiting your bedroom to activities that aren’t stressful (no paying bills from bed!). If you're prone to late night work sessions from your bed, try substituting bills for journaling or a coloring page.
“The atmosphere in the bedrooms definitely plays into how safe your body feels to fully relax into sleep,” she says. “The whole biology is designed to just keep you safe, so if there's anything that feels unsafe or disruptive, your brain is always going to be perked up a little bit because of those interruptions.”
These disruptors include noise, temperature, comfort level and light. A frontline worker or news anchor coming home from a long, stressful day in the world will be less likely to relax into sleep if they know that there could be an irritating noise or temperature discomfort to awaken them. As Wu explains, even small disruptors can impact how restful our sleep is.
If sound is a concern, Lewis recommends a white-noise machine that’ll help drown out any sounds that could hamper sleep. This could also be a sleep-saver for those who sleep at odd hours and will have housemates or neighbors going about their daily activities.
Lewis also recommends taking a look at your bed accessories. “Bedding is key to the sleep system,” he says. “From your mattress, to your base, to your sheets, those all play a part.” He points out that a mattress like the Tempur-Pedic LUXEbreeze that’s designed with cooling material won’t be able to work its magic if the sheets work against it. Not all sheets are breathable, so Lewis recommends shopping for a Tencel set if cooling is a priority, for example.
He also points out that if our homes are our sanctuary, the bedroom should be the most serene room. To help achieve maximum relaxation to help switch from work mode to sleep mode, Lewis incorporates aromatherapy aspects like essential oil diffusers or an aromatherapy pillow.
Lewis mentions one more aspect not to be overlooked when creating a relaxing sanctuary: cleanliness. He recommends washing sheets at least once every two weeks, but to sleep in a more hygienic environment, it’s important to use a mattress protector. Our mattresses are made of materials that absorb what’s around in the air including dust, dead skin and other allergens. The job of a mattress protector is to keep those elements from settling into your mattress. Not only does that create a problematic environment for those who deal with allergies, it can shorten the lifespan of the mattress.
Settle in for a Calming Night’s Rest
From first responders to doctors to news anchors, many professions require us to be working in stressful environments. Shifting from work mode to relax mode before bed can be a struggle. Wu likes to think of the mantra “Get out of your head and into your body.” This means paying more attention to your body and getting in touch with physical sensations. A comfortable and supportive mattress, soft sheets and some lavender essential oil are a great starting point to turn off the mind and tune in to the body.