Sleep is dynamic, changing as we go through many ages and stages of life. Sleep is also complex in that it is based on numerous internal and external ingredients. The Somn sleep assessment is based on 50 years of academic sleep research and identifies 5 sleep factors. The Somn sleep factors (and sub-factors) explain the sources of problems that may be negatively impacting your sleep, and are:
Somn Sleep Factor: Mind
(Anxieties • Worries • Feelings)
Everyone’s had those sleepless nights when their mind wouldn’t stop racing as worries, stresses and negative feelings piled on top of one another. The mind is a powerful element when it comes to the quality of our sleep and a difficult day can keep us awake regardless of physical exhaustion. As stress hormones peak at night, our sleep can be disrupted simply because our mind cannot rest. And, when we don’t rest at night, we struggle to be our best selves the next day.
Stress, anxiety and negative thoughts have been shown to not only minimize the amount of sleep we get each night, but they can also reduce the quality of those hours while increasing the risk of insomnia. Sleep isn’t simply a moment for us to rest – it’s a time when the body repairs itself and the mind processes the day. An anxious or depressed person who can’t sleep because of these symptoms can easily get locked into a vicious cycle that causes more sleeplessness, which in turn worsens their mental state. Studies have found that an erratic schedule and the inability to reduce external distractions (including our connection to digital devices) can affect sleep already mired in negative moods.
The mind can be a powerful obstacle to sleep, but there are many tools, such as meditation apps or aromatherapy, that can help create calm. A study conducted at the University of Sussex suggested that reading for as little as six minutes may reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds. And, exercise is no slouch, either – research has shown that just a few minutes of physical activity can reduce anxiety and foster better sleep.
Want to learn even more about the Mind Sleep Factor?
Somn Sleep Factor: Body
(Biology • Discomfort • Physiology)
While the mind can be a powerful deterrent in the quality of sleep one gets, the body, its demands, ongoing changes and, general discomfort can be equally as prohibitive. Our sleep needs change as we age and go through major life events like pregnancy, menopause, and illness. Some discomforts may be temporary while others could be lifelong. No matter where we are in life or where our health stands, we all need to be comfortable and physically nourished to fall – and stay – asleep.
There are many physical aspects that can impact sleep – from something as simple as needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night to an ongoing condition, like Restless Leg Syndrome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Restless Leg Syndrome is present during the day but the urge to move may worsen or only happen in the evening. Individuals that experience this sensation can feel tired during the day and then unable to sleep at night. Similarly, more than 18 million Americans have Sleep Apnea, another nighttime condition that often involves heavy snoring and impaired breathing at night, ultimately diminishing both the quantity and quality of sleep.
The inability to sleep reduces the body’s ability to rest and recover, which leads to more pain as your body has less downtime to heal. When the Body is a key factor in sleep issues it’s important to remember that it can be remedied. We don’t have to live with discomfort. And, our sleep doesn’t have to suffer because of it. If your body has recently started interfering with your sleep, explore the articles below for advice. And, if your body has been a sleep issue for a while, reach out to your doctor to get the support you need to feel better and sleep better.
Want to learn even more about the Body Sleep Factor?
Somn Sleep Factor: Routine
(Personal Habits • Behaviors • Choices)
Imagine yourself on vacation without chores, work assignments, or a schedule. You find yourself easing into a comfortable routine. Here, your behaviors, habits, and choices are designed for enjoyment and relaxation, which primes your mind and body for better rest.
But, back at home, life is rarely like this. Instead of strolling along the beach, we’re commuting in heavy traffic. And, rather than eating a fresh meal, we’re ordering fast food. The Routine factor encompasses the daily behaviors that impact sleep, like our diet, bedtime and wake time, activity/exercise, and the number of caffeinated and / or alcoholic drinks we consume.
However hectic our day-to-day may be, we all have routines we follow from morning to night. The question is: Do they support or harm our sleep? One easy way to answer this question is to keep a sleep journal. This tool helps you track your daily habits and uncover which ones lead to good sleep and poor sleep.
If you want to make a specific improvement in your sleep routine (such as waking up earlier), try taking incremental steps. For example, start by aiming to wake up 15 minutes earlier instead of 2 hours earlier – and then progressively wake up earlier and earlier over time until you reach your 2 hour goal. Change isn’t always simple, but you can set yourself up for success by easing into a new routine.
Want to learn even more about the Routine Sleep Factor?
Somn Sleep Factor: Social
(External Pressures • Obligations • Relationships)
Regardless if it’s an important project at work with a fast approaching deadline, a sick child, or an upcoming social event, daily responsibilities can interfere with sleep. External influences and obligations to work, family, friends, and even pets, are at the heart of the Social sleep factor. Though we may want better sleep, it may not be possible with the responsibilities we have in every aspect of our lives. So, if you tend to prioritize those responsibilities over your sleep (and let’s face, we all have at one point or another), then Social is likely a key sleep factor for you.
The great news? You don’t need to sacrifice sleep to be a great leader, a star student, or an amazing parent and friend. In fact, studies have found that sleep is fundamental to success at work and at home. Consistent, quality sleep helps concentration and decision-making (two things we all need when we’re on the clock). It also helps us be more empathetic and balanced, which comes in handy when we’re back at home or out with friends.
Determine ways to mitigate external pressures and protect your sleep by setting boundaries. For example, commit to not working after 5:00 p.m. (or whenever your workday ends). Also – and we know this goes against the norm – but say no to things when you feel overextended. You’ll find that setting limits can be liberating and beneficial to a sleep routine.
Want to learn even more about the Social Sleep Factor?
Somn Sleep Factor: Environment
(Noise • Light • Interior Layout)
Sleep isn’t just influenced by our internal biology and thoughts – it’s also affected by many external forces, including the space around us. In fact, our sleep environment often triggers biological functions that help us fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up. Whether it’s the bedroom at home, a family member’s guest room, or a cabin at a rural getaway – our environment affects our sleep. For a moment, just think of those three spaces we listed – the bedroom at home, the guest room, and the cabin. Each one of those spaces is going to have different sounds, temperatures, types of light, and levels of comfort. And, those differences (however slight they may seem) can make or break our sleep quality.
Many studies have shown just how much our environment affects our rest. In 2017, researchers found that a few days of camping (and avoiding artificial light) helps tune our bodies to a more natural circadian rhythm. Another study found that bedroom temperature impacts sleep quality even more than noise. And, in our own research at Somn, we observed that the frequency of nightmares correlates with uncomfortable beds. Now, more than ever before there are a range of mattress solutions that are designed to help address your unique sleep needs.
There are also many simple things you can do to make your environment more sleep-friendly. Start by trying to make the space cool and dark. If it’s too costly to run the A/C, try a cooling mattress pad. If you don’t want to spend money on black out curtains, just get an eye mask. There are solutions out there for every budget and every lifestyle. Any investment you make in your sleep and your health are worth it.
Want to learn even more about the Environment Sleep Factor?
Read our from the lab series about on the environment impacts sleep.
What to do next…
- Learn about sleep journaling.
- Get started now with your own Somn Sleep Journal and start tracking your sleep.
- Learn about the Somn Sleep Assessment.
- Start taking the Somn Sleep Assessment.