The Best Sleep Products for Restorative Sleep
No matter your job or responsibilities when awake, good-quality sleep is critical for helping us function at our best. After all, good sleep can quicken our response times, improve our decision-making skills, and help us feel stronger and smarter.
That’s helpful no matter what your job is, but for ER doctors and frontline workers, those skills factor into life-or-death decisions, and shifts are rarely standard 9-to-5 hours. Instead, some doctors, including ER residents, work so-called graveyard hours, with shifts sometimes lasting 24 hours or longer.
To learn more about how to get restful sleep, we checked in with a sleep neurologist and a Sleep Expert® to learn how ER doctors can get the best sleep during the time they have, with tips that can apply no matter what you do by day or night.
The Life of a Sleep-Deprived Doctor
Sleep neurologist and Mattress Firm sleep adviser Dr. Chris Winter is no stranger to the long and chaotic hours that come with working in the ER. He points out that while much of the population walks around describing their lack of sleep as “sleep deprivation,” that’s usually not the case. Not getting enough hours or getting restricted sleep happens often, but sleep deprivation is reserved for a small group of people who consistently aren’t getting the shut-eye their bodies would like. Winter says ER doctors absolutely qualify as sleep deprived. But before we start mandating that doctors get more sleep, Winter also says some people can perform life’s important tasks (and lifesaving surgeries) without any issue while sleep deprived.
“Some people can pull an all-nighter and hold it together a lot better than other people can,” Winter says. “This concept might start even before a doctor walks into medical school. They sort of come to an agreement with themselves that they’re actually really good at dealing with sleep deprivation.”
Winter says that just because you’re good at sleep deprivation doesn’t mean it’s healthy or that you should, which goes for ER doctors and the many generations of politicians who profess to thriving on little sleep, too.
Sleep is also the time for your body to recover and repair from a long day on your feet. Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® Amber Greer understands what it feels like to fall into bed bone-tired after a long day. Her athletic background mirrors the tired, aching feeling ER doctors can experience when they arrive home after a long shift: a sore lower back paired with exhausted legs and feet that are begging for rest to be elevated.
How to Find the Best Sleep Products for Restorative Sleep
The right bed setup can help with that much-needed sleep. Here are the beds and accessories Greer recommends.
Begin with a good mattress. “To start off with finding the right mattress, we explore what kind of sleeper they are — a back, stomach or side sleeper,” Greer says. “Then we move into pinpointing some common sleep disruptors like pain, snoring, sleep apnea, or if they often toss and turn.” She mentions that anyone who’s been standing all day or working in physical labor would likely want to consider also prioritizing pressure relief.
Greer’s first mattress recommendation for soothing tired bodies is the Tempur-Pedic LUXEbreeze. It’s the mattress she sleeps on at home and the one she finds to offer the best combination of comfort and support for a tired body while also providing cooling benefits. The cover of the LUXEbreeze is made with Tempur-Pedic’s phase-change material that helps absorb unwanted heat. It’s also great for pressure relief when it comes to aches and pains.
When shopping for a new mattress, keep in mind that everyone experiences comfort and firmness differently, so Greer recommends trying out several mattresses before settling on your perfect fit. For tired doctors, she also suggests looking into the IntelliBed line, which is excellent for pressure relief, support and motion isolation (key for those who share the bed with a partner or pet).
Your comfort while sleeping after a long, tiring day comes down to more than just the mattress. Greer points out the mattress foundation can be just as important as the bed itself. For this, she recommends an adjustable base that allows you to raise and lower the head and foot area of the bed. “With the aches and pains of someone being bone-tired by the time they get home, raising the head and feet up takes pressure off of the lower back and the legs,” she says. “Raising the head up takes 40 pounds of pressure off of the chest to open up that airway.”
Restorative sleep on the right mattress and base can help you tackle tomorrow before it even begins.
Make Your Bedroom the Ideal Sleeping Environment
Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary, Greer says, where you feel comfortable enough to unwind and relax.
“The sleep environment, like your mattress protector, sheets and your pillows, makes up the rest of the comfort, aside from the mattress and base,” she says. “You could have the best technology in the mattress, but if you're using the wrong mattress protector or the wrong sheets, it could take away some of the cooling technology that’s in the mattress.”
For both of these, Greer points toward breathable materials like the Stearns & Foster Waterproof and Cooling Mattress Protector. When it comes to sheets, Tencel offers one of the most breathable and heat-wicking experiences, so Greer likes the PureCare Elements sheet set.
She’s also a fan of using aromatherapy to give the body cues that it’s also time to calm the mind. An essential oil diffuser or a soothing aromatherapy pillow that has a scented core are easy ways to get your room smelling like the spa. Greer’s personal favorite is the Sleepy’s Coconut Bliss Pillow that’s reminiscent of a tropical beach vacation.
If you happen to be coming home from a long shift and will be sleeping during the daytime, a white noise machine can help drown out the sounds of the world while blackout curtains can mimic night in your room.
How to Get Better Sleep When You’re Not at Home
ER doctors and many shift workers might not always go home for their sleep. If a shift is slow, they may have the chance to nap in the on-call room, especially if they’re residents working a longer shift. Winter mentions that getting eight hours of sleep per day in chopped-up pieces with naps doesn’t come close to the restorative sleep that comes from one continuous period, but he says it’s better than not napping at all.
If you have a hard time falling asleep in environments that aren’t your home, Greer suggests bringing some comforts from home like an eye mask, since it’s travel-friendly. Something that helps Greer relax before bed that could also work wonders for tired muscles is a portable massage gun. The lineup of Theraguns all offer targeted muscle relaxation for sore spots like the feet, lower back and calf muscles that typically hurt while working on your feet all day, and the sleep protocol has been shown in studies to help with higher-quality sleep. The portability aspect means you can take it back and forth between work and home to serve as a wind-down activity in both locations.
The high-stress constant motion of life — regardless of your profession — calls for getting restful sleep that’ll not only benefit you but also your work quality. In a world where sleep deprivation is seen as part of the lifestyle, having a comfortable sleeping space can make a world of difference.