Looking to improve your sleep and, in turn, your overall health and well-being? According to the National Sleep Foundation, one of the best things you can do is to design a designated sleep space that’s got all the facets of a high-quality sleep environment—a comfortable mattress, soft sheets, a cool temperature (around 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal), dim lighting, and minimal noise. Sounds perfect, right?
In truth, the way many of us catch our Z’s is often a lot less well-orchestrated. For busy, stressed-out adults, the sofa seems like as good a place as any to score some much-needed rest, especially after a long day or when a nap is much-needed. But taking a nap or falling asleep at night on the sofa in the living room is actually not the best idea. The ideal sleep environment does not involve a sofa at all. Here’s why.
1. It Affects the Neck and Spine
You’d be surprised to learn exactly how much your mattress affects the health of your back and spine. In general, the goal is to sleep on a surface that keeps your spine in a healthy alignment, to prevent strain that can lead to serious issues down the road. When you sleep on the couch, your spine doesn’t get the necessary support it needs. After all, the couch was made for sitting, not sleeping.
Whether you’re lying on your back or side, sofa sleep can leave you waking up with a seriously sore back and neck. Consistently sleeping this way can cause permanent damage to the spine. You may find that using massage or laser therapy for back pain are the only things that can help.
2. It Prevents You from Deep Sleep
The fact is that, the vast majority of the time, you won’t reach the deep sleep phases when you attempt to get your rest on the couch. There are several reasons why. For one, you need room to move around in your sleep so that you can find and stay in a comfortable position that helps you reach those deeper phases. Additionally, the sofa wasn’t designed to help you settle into a long, restful night of sleep, and it may prevent you from relaxing enough to sink deeply into those key sleep cycles.
3. It Prevents You from Staying Asleep
A big part of designing a healthy, sleep-friendly bedroom is eliminating interruptions in any way you can. When you fall asleep on the couch, you’re putting yourself at the center of your household where your family, kids, pets, or roommates congregate. You also have minimal control over light and sound, two things that are often to blame for interrupting sleep.
As you may know, getting quality sleep comes down to falling asleep and staying asleep long enough to get into those deep sleep cycles, so interrupted rest can drastically diminish the positive effects of sleep. Sleeping on the couch encourages divided sleep—as in you sleep for a few hours on the couch and the rest of the time on the bed—which has serious consequences.
4. It May Worsen Your Allergies
Things we don’t often think about when considering sleep health are our allergies and sinuses. In the bedroom, we change our bedding frequently (ideally, once a week or so), which helps get rid of any stubborn dust particles or allergens that can cause us to wake up feeling stuffy. Many allergy sufferers also find relief from sleeping with an air filter in the bedroom. However, the sofa doesn’t get covered with sheets and is a magnet for many of the tiny particles that trigger your stuffy nose and itchy eyes, so it isn’t ideal for those who suffer from allergies.
How to Stop Falling Asleep on the Couch
Because of the above effects, it’s clear that it’s well worth your while to try to break the sofa sleep habit. Easier said than done, though, especially for chronic sofa-nappers! There are some things you can do to prevent sinking into a sofa sleep schedule:
1. Set designated sleep times
Whether it’s a midday nap on the weekend or bedtime after a long day, it’s helpful if you set a specific time for sleep. This should be the time you go to your bedroom and stop using any blue-light-emitting devices, including your phone and TV. You can even use the bedtime function on your phone to let you know it’s time to head to bed.
2. Make your lounge space for lounging, not sleeping
There’s a reason why your sofa and bed have different kinds of pillows! As tempting as it is, don’t pile the sofa high with cozy sleep extras like pillows or the down comforter from your bed. You don’t want to make your sofa uncomfortable; just not comfortable enough for sleep.
3. Make your bedroom a sanctuary
If you have meticulously designed your bedroom for high-quality sleep, you won’t be as tempted to snooze on the sofa. Put some effort into creating a dreamy (quite literally) bedroom that entices you at the end of a long day or for a quick midday nap. Add your favorite candles, luxurious sheets, a comfortable mattress, and even a sleep sound machine if that helps you get rest.
4. Don’t darken the living room
Unless you’re watching TV during the day and need to reduce glare, let your lounge spaces be places where natural light streams through. Blackout curtains or blinds can trick your body and mind into thinking it’s time for sleep when it isn’t time yet.
Getting a good night’s rest is crucial to living a positive, productive, and happy life. Sleep supports your ability to be creative, to stay focused on tasks, to remember information, and to even to ward off diseases so you don’t become sick. Despite this, we often put it way down at the bottom of the list of important ways to support good health. Don’t make this mistake by allowing yourself to get your rest from the sofa. A few minor tweaks to your sleep schedule can help prevent sofa-induced health risks.