Bed Anxiety and The Search For Comfort

Often people with insomnia don’t like their bed, and that’s understandable. Bed reminds us of tossing and turning, of frustration and despair, of anxious, repetitive thoughts about how tired and miserable we’re going to feel when morning finally comes. Sometimes this feeling grows into fear and loathing as bedtime looms. This is often called conditioned insomnia. I call it bed anxiety. It’s really just another branch of the sleep-anxiety tree.

What is the cure for bed anxiety? Well, you need two approaches. On one hand, you need to make the mental adjustment of visualizing your bed as a place of supreme comfort and peace rather than a pit of misery. This is a mindset change.


On the other hand, you must actually make your bed and your bedroom more comfortable and restful. This is a physical reality change. Let’s start here, as making your bed (and bedroom) a better place will make the attitude adjustment so much easier.

Let’s talk mattresses!

There are two reasons to get a new mattress. One, it might help you sleep better. Two, even if it doesn’t help you sleep better, it will provide you with a comforting experience when you lie down. This is a big thing if you suffer from the aforementioned conditioned insomnia/ bed anxiety.

Here are just a few benefits you’ll gain from getting a better mattress:

  • More comfort. And feeling more comfortable will help you look forward to going to bed, a major step in overcoming that anxious bedtime feeling. Stretching out after a tough day is its own reward, but only when your mattress is doing its job right.
  • Less pain and stiffness. Many people don’t realize how much their stiff joints and aching muscles might be caused by poor mattresses. And likewise, they don’t realize how much chronic pain, even if mild, can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
  • Better allergy control. Old mattresses are notorious for harboring lots of dust mites. These tiny critters aren’t interested in biting humans (unlike the frightful bed bug) but they do love the skin particles and dust that accumulates inside mattresses. Their presence often causes nasal and respiratory allergies.

Adjustable beds in particular can help you with several health issues at once:

  • Alleviate pain through the so-called “zero-gravity” position that helps eliminate the pain of pressure points throughout your body
  • Easier breathing when your allergies kick in by raising your upper body just enough to avoid congestion
  • Improve circulation by raising your legs just enough to help blood flow more easily from your feet to your heart
  • Help snoring by lifting your upper body just enough to prevent soft tissue collapse in the throat and sinuses.

How To Choose a Great Mattress

Deciding on the ideal mattress, of course, has to be a personal choice based on individual needs and preferences. My own preference leans toward adjustable beds and all-natural latex mattresses. You may feel at your best in a wrapped-coil mattress, a memory foam mattress or air mattress. It doesn’t matter what bed you ultimately choose as long as it’s right for you.

The mattress industry has become highly competitive lately and you’ll have no problem finding the bed of your dreams as long as you can navigate the huge array of choices without going a bit nuts. Big name brands and lesser-known brands alike feature some high quality beds in all price ranges.

Go Forth and Lie Down

The best way to find out what you like best is by going to the store and trying out various mattresses. This is not always a fun project. Sometimes you might feel a little self-conscious. Sometimes lying on a bed in the middle of a crowded store during “Big Blowout Saturday Only Sale” is a bit daunting. Sometimes you endure the aggravation of a salesperson hovering about, giving you the old “This one is 50% off but it’s is the only one we have left” line. It might be difficult to concentrate under these conditions. But you need to persevere. You can shop for online bargains all you wish once you have actually experienced the bed in real life.

When you lie down on the bed, make sure you assume your customary sleeping position. Take notes on how it feels. Do you feel supported throughout your body with no pressure points? Do you feel as comfortable on your side as you do on your back? Can you move around easily? Are your back, hips and neck feeling buoyant enough with no sinking?

Beware of multiple layers of luxurious padding, as “pillow tops” have a tendency to sink in permanently after a while, forming “body impressions” that render the mattress a lot less comfortable and supportive than it was in the showroom. When in doubt, go for a firmer surface on which you can place your own mattress topper. The simpler, less-plushy mattress often costs less as well. And speaking about costs…

About the Money

Yes, mattresses are expensive. You may need to save and scrimp, or prioritize your spending to make it happen. Obviously you don’t want to cause yourself more sleepless nights worrying about how you’re going to pay for the mattress you just bought. And it’s possible that if your ideal mattress is also the highest priced one on the lot, you might have to compromise and find one that is still very good but not so pricey and luxurious. Maybe only four layers of premium foam rather than six, or a reasonable 16 inches of thickness rather than a decadent 22 inches (see paragraph above—thickness is not always what it’s cracked up to be). Or just plain all-natural latex instead of organic. But the bottom line is, it’s worth it.

Making Your Bedroom a Nicer Place to Lie Awake (That’s the First Step)

The bed is first priority, of course. But once you have that settled, it’s time to take a good look around. The bedroom should be a comfortable, peaceful place. That doesn’t mean it needs to be luxurious, squeaky clean, or look like a photograph in a magazine. But, within reasonable limits, it must reflect your own inner longings for peace, comfort and serenity.

While some people are most comfortable with a lot of “stuff” surrounding them, others need a sparse, uncluttered environment. While some individuals prefer a bright and airy atmosphere, others feel more relaxed in a dark and subdued place. While I may like warm earth tones, you might prefer cool whites and ethereal blues and lavenders.

Maybe you haven’t really given much thought to these things, like colors and atmosphere and lighting or the presence or absence of stuff. Maybe it was never an issue before because you always slept well and your room served its utilitarian purpose just fine until insomnia and sleep anxiety came along to throw your life into disarray.

Well, things are different now, and it’s time to give some deliberate, conscious thought to what might turn your bedroom into a pleasant, comforting, inviting sanctuary—even when you can’t sleep very well within its walls. Because at the end of the day—literally—that feeling of physical comfort and relaxation, combined with a shift in mental perspective, will go a long way towards relieving you of that old feeling of anxiety and replacing it with calming optimism. And where will that lead? To the ultimate enjoyment of sleeping better and longer.

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