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Simplify Your Mattress Search With the 13 Best Mattresses in a Box, According to The Sleep Doctor0

What if there was a way for you to get a brand new mattress without having to leave your home? That’s the main selling point of the best mattress in a box brands on the market today. No longer do you have to trek down to a furniture warehouse to select your next new bed. Instead, you can conveniently browse the options at online mattress companies, pick the product that’s best-suited to your needs, and have it compressed in a box and shipped directly to your house. Some companies will actually send someone to come to your home and set up the mattress on your bed frame or box spring!

It’s an easy way to go mattress shopping, but with so many options to choose from, it may also be overwhelming. Luckily, The Sleep Doctor has already done the heavy lifting for you. Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D. (aka, the Sleep Doctor) partnered with the expert review team at Mattress Advisor to compose a list of the 13 best mattresses in a box. With the help of their combined expertise, you can use this easy-to-follow guide to find the mattress best-suited to your sleeping position, comfort preferences, and budget.

We’ll start with a round-up of 13 top-rated bed-in-a-box-mattresses.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Best Overall:

Honorable Mentions:

What to Consider When Shopping for the Best Mattress in a Box

As you seek the top mattress to meet your needs and your budget, there are a handful of shopping considerations to keep in mind.

Sleep Position

How do you tend to fall asleep at night? Lying on your back? Curled up on your side? Different sleep positions all have their pros and cons, and in order to achieve the healthiest posture, it’s important to pair your sleep position with the best mattress. Keep in mind that there isn’t one perfect sleep position that works for everyone; rather, it varies from person to person based on your mental and physical characteristics.  

And, according to Dr. Breus, “Your primary sleep position will often be determined by the health and strength of your back, your age, your weight, and the mattress type you choose. If there is a mismatch, it can be a problem.” 

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers tend to prefer mattresses that cushion and cradle them to sleep. Two important considerations are achieving a neutral spine position (which helps prevent aches and pains), and getting enough pressure relief for the neck, shoulders, and hips. When you lie on your side, most of your weight falls to your hips and shoulders, which is why it’s important for side sleepers to rest on a mattress that gently contours to these pressure points, helping to relieve undue strain and stress.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers want a mattress that supports their natural spine curvature, and provides some cushioning without too much sinkage. Note that those with sleep apnea or acid reflux may also benefit from a slight elevation, which can be achieved with pillows or a bed wedge.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers are more likely to have their neck and spine out of alignment due to the amount of pressure placed on joints. Because of this, belly sleepers typically benefit from a firmer mattress feel, which allows them to feel supported and not like they’re sinking into their own mattress. When stomach sleepers sink too far into their mattress, their spine can curve inwards. This is why it’s crucial for stomach sleepers to receive proper support and spine alignment to ensure a healthy posture and pain-free sleep.

Multi-Positional Sleepers

People who change position during the night usually want something that’s responsive, meaning it adjusts and adapts to their movements during the night, and provides supportive comfort no matter the position. 

Mattress Type

Bed-in-a-box brands are available in a number of material types, all of which have their strengths and their drawbacks.

Memory Foam

The best memory foam mattresses are known for offering an optimal blend of comfort and support; they are often advertised with the promise that you’ll feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud Memory foam excels in pressure relief and motion isolation, but sometimes falls short in body temperature regulation and has slow responsiveness. This is because foam tends to trap body heat and cause overheating. Once the heat dissipates the foam begins to expand back to its original shape, and only once at the final shape will it provide support.


A hybrid mattress is simply any product that combines multiple materials, such as polyfoam, innerspring coils, or latex.

Learn more about the best hybrid mattress for you.


An innerspring mattress is made with a system of coils, which generally makes it durable, responsive and supportive. Coils tend to hold up over time better than foam. And, unlike memory foam, innerspring coils don’t retain as much body heat,  helping you maintain a comfortable temperature. In most cases they can come individually pocketed.


A latex mattress will likely offer a springy feel that’s well-suited for combination sleepers. Additionally, latex is naturally breathable, which means it runs cool. Naturally-sourced latex mattresses provide an excellent option for the eco-conscious shopper.

Mattress Firmness

Different firmness levels can impact your overall level of comfort depending on your sleep position. For example, the average side sleeper prefers something in the medium or medium-firm range that allows for cradling and contouring, while back sleepers and stomach sleepers may need something slightly firmer for more durable support. Some of the mattresses on this list offer multiple firmness options, or even let you flip back and forth between a firm side and a soft side

Learn more about the best firm mattresses for your sleep needs.

“Matching your firmness level, type of support and your initial starting most comfortable sleep position, sets you up for a great night’s rest based on three of the most important components understood to help with sleep.” says Dr. Breus.

The 13 Best Mattresses in a Box, According to The Sleep Doctor

1. Best Mattress in a Box for Back Pain: Casper 

Casper mattress

Casper is one of the best-known brands of memory foam mattresses, and its signature model, the Casper Original, doesn’t disappoint. The main draw of the Casper is the supportiveness it offers for those who suffer from back pain; by evenly distributing your body weight, this mattress prevents your joints and lower back area from undue strain. And, with a uniquely designed support layer, the Casper provides more give under the shoulders and reinforced support for the hips and lower back. It should come as no surprise that the Casper earned a spot on our list of best mattresses for back pain for having the best total score, coming in at an impressive 9/10

But that’s not all– back pain sufferers will also appreciate this bed’s near-perfect spine alignment that ensures a healthy, neutral sleeping posture while you rest (it earned a 9.5/10 score!). And the mattress’s middle-of-the-road firmness level hits that sweet spot of not too soft, and not too hard, which is ideal for alleviating back pain because it’s supportive enough to prevent sinkage, but soft enough to cushion your head and neck. 

Besides being a great mattress for mitigating back pain, the Casper also excels in adapting to your movements, earning a perfect 10 out of 10 in responsiveness. The best part–– this mattress ships straight to your doorstep, packed in a box, and comes with a 100-night sleep trial to boot.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Warranty: 10-year Limited

Buy it, Casper Wave Hybrid, $1,095 (Queen),

2. Best Memory Foam Mattress in a Box: Puffy

Puffy mattress

Puffy’s three-layer, medium-firm memory foam mattress is one of the pillars of the online mattress space. It’s not necessarily a flashy product, but its utility is deep and broad; this is a universal mattress, meaning it offers ample comfort and support for many different sleepers. The Puffy falls at a 7 out of 10 on the firmness scale, meaning it rests on the firmer side of medium-firm, providing great support for back and stomach sleepers.

Excellent pressure point relief makes the Puffy another good option for those with joint pain. The Puffy features an innovative ClimateComfort foam layer that’s impervious to contractions caused by extreme temperatures, meaning it works to melt away pressure through the coldest of winters and warmest of summers. Couples would also fare well on this mattress thanks to the Puffy’s near-perfect 9.25/10 motion transfer score. It’s not recommended for those who want something super plush, or for those who prefer innerspring coils; but for memory foam enthusiasts, however, it has much to offer. And with a lifetime warranty that ensures quality for as long as you own the mattress, it’s hard to turn down this memory foam knockout.

  • Mattress Type: Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Buy it, Puffy, $1,150 (Queen),

3. Best Value Mattress in a Box: Nectar

Nectar mattress

One of the great things about the breadth of the bed-in-a-box mattress industry is that discerning shoppers don’t have to break the bank just to get a high-quality sleep experience. The Nectar is the gold standard in overall value, priced below $1,000 and bolstered by a year-long sleep trial and a lifetime warranty. Financial considerations aside, it also happens to be a solid product, testing well in many major categories. Made with gel memory foam, the Nectar is a supportive and pressure-relieving option that fits all sleeping positions, and works well for couples. It’s medium-firmness and high pressure relief score makes this budget-friendly mattress a good pick for side sleepers especially. The Nectar is soft enough to offer deep contouring and cushioning for pressure points, but still supportive enough to keep you from sinking into the mattress. If you love the huggable feeling of memory foam, and appreciate a good bargain, then the Nectar is a nice match for you.

  • Mattress Type: Gel Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Buy it, Nectar, $799 (Queen),

4. Best Hybrid Mattress in a Box: Helix Midnight Luxe

Helix Midnight Luxe mattress

A hybrid made from durable innerspring coils and supple foam, the Helix Midnight Luxe is recommended for couples, for hot sleepers, and for plus-sized sleepers alike. Start with its innovative cooling technologies, including a proprietary pillow top that allows the bed to feel cool to the touch, even months after you’ve unboxed it. This is due to the phase change material used in the pillow top that works to absorb excess heat, and when paired with the breathable coil system, the result is an ultra-cool mattress. It nearly earned a perfect score for cooling, mitigating hot sleeper’s night sweats. 

Also take into account the individually wrapped pocket coils, arranged to provide zoned support and targeted pressure relief. Composed of 1,000 coils, this strong support system works to maintain spine alignment by offering a firmer feel under the hips. And with high-density memory foam layered on top, your pressure points are cushioned and catered to. This blend of materials helped the Helix Luxe earn an impressive 9 out of 10 for pressure relief, and an 8.5 for spine alignment, making this bed a great choice for both back and side sleepers. 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Warranty: 15-Year

Buy it, Helix Midnight Luxe, $1,799 (Queen),

5. Best Luxury Mattress in a Box: DreamCloud Premier

DreamCloud Premier mattress

Many mattresses are described as “luxury” products, a term that can sometimes feel ill-defined. With the DreamCloud Premier, however, it’s clear that you’re getting a premium sleep experience. The mattress is made with six layers of high-end materials, including both durable coils and contouring foam. A Cashex cashmere blend and pillowy soft euro top starts off the hotel-quality sleep experience, delivering unmatched softness and body conforming. What’s more–– a white-glove setup and delivery service is available if you’d really like the red carpet experience. And, between the innerspring coils and a layer of gel foam, the DreamCloud is designed to draw heat away from your body. Throw in the micro coil compression system encased in foam, and you’ve got one of the most durable, supportive mattresses on the market today. It comes as no shock that the DreamCloud earned high scores across the board in edge support, pressure relief, responsiveness and cooling, earning an 8.5/10, 9/10, 9/10, and 8.5 respectively, and the 1-year sleep trial and lifetime warranty complete this top-of-the-line mattress experience. 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Buy it, DreamCloud, $1,399 (Queen),

6. Best Firm Mattress in a Box: Cocoon by Sealy

Cocoon by Sealy mattress

Back sleepers and stomach sleepers typically find comfort in firmer mattresses, which allow them to maintain healthy, neutral spine alignment and not feel like they’re sinking too deep into their own mattress. The Cocoon by Sealy is a commendable option in this regard. Actually, it’s a flippable mattress, meaning you can alternate between a couple of firmness options and determine which one feels right to you. The extra firm model in particular offers superior support, especially for those who sleep face down. The Cocoon mattress also earned a near-perfect score of 9/10 in our Sleep Doctor edge support testing, which keeps you in the middle of the mattress, and helps you get out of bed in the morning without worrying about sagging or sinkage. And with a 9 out of 10 score in spine alignment, this firm mattress fulfills its promise of delivering excellent lumbar support.

  • Mattress Type: Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium Soft and Extra Firm
  • Warranty: 10-Year

Buy it, Cocoon by Sealy, $930 (Queen),

7. Best for Athletes: Bear Hybrid

Bear Hybrid mattress

Those who lead an active lifestyle will naturally want a mattress that promotes sound sleep and expedient muscle recovery. Consider the Bear Hybrid, which is made with an FDA-approved fiber known as Celliant. Celliant takes your body’s energy and redirects it, which can speed along muscle recovery and also help your body to more effectively regulate its internal temperature. The result is a cool and therapeutic sleep experience that’s won rave reviews from athletes, seniors, and those who simply want the feel of a traditional mattress with innerspring coils.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: 20-Year

Buy it, Bear Hybrid, $1,390 (Queen),

8. Best Cooling Mattress in a Box: Brooklyn Signature

Brooklyn Signature mattress

There are several aspects of the Brooklyn Signature that many shoppers will admire. For one, this hybrid mattress offers three options on the firmness scale; take your pick between plush, medium, and firm. As such, it functions well as a universal mattress, meaning that it can be a good fit for all sleeping positions, including combination sleepers. Back and stomach sleepers would appreciate either the medium or firm options for more support and spine alignment, while side sleepers would fare well on the plush option that offers deeper contouring and pressure relief. Speaking of pressure relief, Sleep Doctor vetting finds that the Brooklyn Signature helps keep the strain off sensitive joints, a claim that’s backed by an impressive pressure relief score of 9.5 out of 10. 

But more than anything, it’s recommendable because it sleeps cool. breathable The top comfort layer features an infusion of patented Titanium gel, which helps disperse heat and keeps you cool as you rest. Also, the Brooklyn Signature’s hybrid design also supports cool sleep as the coils don’t retain as much heat as an all-foam bed would. Cooling mattresses usually run pretty pricey, but hot sleeper’s will be happy to know this hybrid mattress is available for less than $1,000 in a Queen size.  

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Plush; Medium; Firm
  • Warranty: 10-Year

Buy it, Brooklyn Signature, $999 (Queen),

9. Best Flippable Mattress in a Box: Layla

Layla mattress

The Layla mattress is akin to having two beds in one; it’s flippable design offers a medium-soft feel on one side and a medium-firm option on the other. The medium-soft side registers at a 4 out of 10 on the firmness scale, while the medium-firm rests at a 7 out of 10. Side sleepers would enjoy the medium-soft side for more of that huggable foam feel, while the medium-firm option fits back and stomach sleepers better by offering more durable support. The Layla also scores well in many of the top Sleep Doctor testing categories, including responsiveness, edge support, and pressure relief

  • Mattress Type: Memory foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium soft; medium-firn
  • Warranty: 10-Year

Buy it, Layla, $1,049 (Queen),

10. Best Organic Mattress in a Box: Birch

Birch mattress

What about mattress products for eco-conscious shoppers? Several mattress companies offer all-natural options, and the Birch is one of the most renowned examples. Its foams are made entirely of non-toxic ingredients, and processed in compliance with the most rigorous environmental standards (including CertiPUR-US). It’s also made with organic wool, sourced in New Zealand, then carefully assembled by hand. Not only is this a great “green” option, but it offers a contouring feel that many sleepers will appreciate, and scores high in spine alignment, guaranteeing a healthy sleep posture. And, it’s durable, with a 25-year warranty to prove it.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: 25-Year

Buy it, Birch, $1,499 (Queen),

11. Best Mattress in a Box for Couples: Nolah Original

Nolah Original mattress

What should couples look for when shopping for a bed they can share together? One key feature is motion isolation, which measures the extent to which the mattress material insulates one sleeper from their partner’s tossing or turning. The Nolah Original fares well in this field with a solid 9 out of 10 score, so you can sleep soundly through your partner’s midnight bathroom breaks. Also note that it’s made with AirFoam, which is a more supportive alternative to memory foam; it’s also more responsive and leaves more room for air to pass through, compared to dense memory foam that tends to trap heat.   This helps to keep the mattress cooler, which is important for couples who stir up more body heat than single sleepers. An all-around good pick, especially for a couple that plans on sharing their bed together.

  • Mattress Type: Airfoam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: 15-Year Limited

Buy it, Nolah Original 10”, $969 (Queen),

12. Best Mattress in a Box for Side Sleepers: Leesa

Leesa mattress

For side sleepers to get a comfortable night’s rest, it’s crucial to find a mattress that promotes neutral spine alignment, and keeps the shoulder and hip from too much pressure. The Leesa is the Sleep Doctor pick in this category. It provides just the level of comfort side sleepers crave, helping them feel like they are being hugged to sleep at night. A contouring layer of memory foam helps to melt away strain surrounding your pressure points, and a base layer of dense core support foam provides exceptional spine alignment. And, you can feel good about purchasing a Leesa thanks to the company’s commitment to social good; for every 10 mattresses sold, they donate a bed to those in need. 

  • Mattress Type: Memory foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: 10-Year Limited

Buy it, Leesa, $999 (Queen),

13. Best Mattress in a Box for Combination Sleepers: Tuft & Needle Mint

Tuft & Needle Mint mattress

The Tuft & Needle Mint mattress packs a lot of benefits into a small package: Its advanced foam blend provides phenomenal spine alignment and overall comfort, plus the graphite infusion helps  wick away heat.. But for combination sleepers particularly, the Tuft & Needle Mint really shines. With a high score in responsiveness, the Tuft & Needle Mint’s adaptive foam layer responds and adapts to your movements with ease. And yet, the Tuft & Needle is also available in a competitive price range, and backed with a 100-night trial period plus a robust 10-year warranty. It adds up to a smart option for savvy shoppers and combination sleepers alike.

  • Mattress Type: Foam blend
  • Customer Rating: 4.9 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Warranty: 10-Year Limited

Buy it, Tuft & Needle Mint, $995 (Queen),

Final Thoughts on How to Choose the Right Mattress for You

You’ll notice that these 12 Sleep Doctor recommendations don’t even cover popular brands like the Purple, or the original Casper mattress… evidence of just how vast the online mattress space is. There are a number of outstanding products to support all kinds of sleepers, so before you shop, check out an individual mattress review of the bed you have your eye on. Make sure it offers the perks you need, and that it fits your preferred sleep position

Sources for this Article:

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2020. “Effects of sleep posture on upper airway stability in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.”

Avocado Green. 2020. “Support: Our Innerspring Unit.”

CertiPUR-US. 2020. “A Health Checkup for Foam.”

Comfort Option. 2018. “Cooling Technology, For Your Best Night’s Sleep.”

John Hopkins Medicine, 2017. “Choosing the Best Sleep Position.” John Hopkins Medicine, June 15, 2017.

Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2009. “Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (Vol. 8, Issue 1), March 8, 2009.,efficiency%20with%20medium%2Dfirm%20bedding

Leggett & Platt. 2020. “Open Coil” Kansas State University Institute of Environmental Research.,University%20Institute%20of%20Environmental%20Research.

The post Simplify Your Mattress Search With the 13 Best Mattresses in a Box, According to The Sleep Doctor appeared first on Your Guide to Better Sleep.

Sleep Bruxism in Young Children0

Dental hygienists can help patients learn how to change their habits for the long term through behavioral therapy, reports RDH.

Bruxism is reported as highest in childhood, and it frequently decreases as the child gets older. In a case where the severity is limited, a wait-and-see approach is usually taken. In a study by Huynh et al., the majority of parents completing a questionnaire about their child’s SB reported no signs, even though further testing confirmed the disorder. A smaller number of parents reported related signs of SB. The researchers presumed that those parents who were reporting signs of SB may be more aware of the signs and symptoms of the disorder and, therefore, more cognizant of sounds or clues related to this issue

Can Allergies Make You Tired?0

If you are one of the 50 million Americans who experience allergies, you are probably familiar with the uncomfortable symptoms that often come with allergy season, like itching and watering eyes, sneezing, and a running nose. But did you know that allergies can also make you feel tired?

Disturbed Sleep Tied to Cognitive Problems in Parkinson’s Patients0

Disturbed sleep, like that due to sleep apnea, significantly associates with poorer cognition in Parkinson’s disease patients, particularly in the domains of attention, executive function, and memory, a study reported.

Create a Bedtime Routine That Will Lead to Better Sleep0

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are undisputed, but it can be entirely too difficult to quiet your body and mind enough to get the quality shuteye you need. Creating a bedtime routine customized to your needs can help with this. Here are some ideas to choose from that you can incorporate into your evenings before bed.

New Ebb Therapeutics Data Validates Forehead Cooling Approach for Insomnia0

Four studies by Ebb Therapeutics, a sleep tech company specializing in drug-free, wearable solutions to sleeplessness, are published in the 2020 abstract supplement of SLEEP. The studies validate the effects of forehead cooling on subjects with sleeplessness and insomnia—including two unique sets: menopausal women and veterans.

The abstracts are:

This new data supplements Ebb’s prior scientific research, including the results of Ebb’s randomized, controlled clinical trial in insomnia patients that led to a publication in Journal SLEEP in May 2018.

[RELATED: New Over-the-Counter Device for Sleeplessness Debuts, Prescription Version Available for Diagnosed Insomnia]

The data is based on more than 35 years of brain-imaging research during Nofzinger’s tenure as Director of the Sleep Neuroimaging Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Nofzinger discovered that when the forehead is cooled there is a reduction in activity in the frontal cortex and a person is better able to reach restorative sleep. He dubbed this “PrecisionCool Technology” and spent more than a decade developing a wearable forehead-cooling device to help patients with insomnia.

“Without good sleep, one’s quality of life suffers,” Nofzinger says in a release. “It has been my goal for three decades to bring a safe sleep solution to the masses, and I am proud to be able to have data to show that precise forehead cooling is truly effective.”

Interview with James Nestor, Author of NY Times Best-Seller, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art [Podcast #92]0

Please join me as I welcome James Nestor, author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal,  and LA Times best-selling book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.

He will reveal the following:

  • How and why did you write this book?
  • How did you end up volunteering for a Stanford experiment to plug your nose for a few days?
  • How do you deal with doctors and other patients that don’t see poor breathing as a serious problem, especially if you’re younger or thin?
  • What’s the one thing that you’ve implemented after writing this book?
  • What are some tips for our listeners to improve their breathing and well-being?
  • And much, much more.

Download mp3  |  Subscribe



Sorry about the individual speaker views. I pressed the wrong button.

The post Interview with James Nestor, Author of NY Times Best-Seller, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art [Podcast #92] appeared first on Doctor Steven Y. Park, MD | New York, NY | Integrative Solutions for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, and Snoring.

5 Ways Better Sleep can Strengthen Your Intimate Relationship0

I’ve just finished reading some interesting and sobering information about the strain that the pandemic is having on couples in the US. The polling organization Ipsos has been tracking the state of our unions in the pandemic, and earlier this month released their latest findings. Polling both married and partnered couples, they found that 1 in 10 consider themselves very likely to separate at least partially as a result of pandemic-related strain on their relationships. One in 5 couples say they are fighting more during the pandemic than they were before, and 1 in 3 feel more annoyed with their partner.

Given all that we’re dealing with right now, you might look at these numbers and be surprised and even grateful that they aren’t higher. Until you remember that these figures represent millions of couples struggling with conflict, frustration, and isolation in their intimate partnerships, which has been brought about (or made worse by) the intense, sweeping impact of coronavirus.

Better sleep can have a profound and transformative impact on our relationships, especially our most intimate ones. Studies show couples who are sleep deprived fight more and resolve conflicts less successfully than well rested partners. And it only takes one person in a couple who is short on sleep to increase conflicts, according to research. Studies also show that one partner’s poor sleep has a direct and negative impact on the other partner’s mood and relationship satisfaction

Our sleep and our intimate relationships are intricately connected, for better and worse. If you’re experiencing tough times in your partnership, here are five ways reasons getting more and better sleep can help set you on a course to reconnect.

You’ll communicate better

Stop and think for a moment about all that goes into effective communication. Reasoning, attention and focus, facility with language, control of our own emotions and recognition of our partners’ feelings. How about humor, compassion, and patience? We need those too, in order to communicate well with everyone, especially the people closest to us.

That’s an incredibly complex range of cognitive skills that all need to activate at once. Every single one of those skills is compromised by poor sleep. There are a couple in particular I want to highlight for couples.

Lack of sleep makes you more emotionally reactive. Sleep deprivation increases activity in the amygdala—that’s emotional rapid response center of the brain. Short on sleep, the amygdala goes into overdrive, causing us to be more intensely reactive to situations. At the same time, lack of sleep also hampers communication between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain handles a lot of complex tasks, and one of them is to put the brakes on impulsiveness. The prefrontal cortex is kind of like a traffic cop for our emotions: it sees an impulsive reaction and says, “whoa, slow down, do you really want to say THAT right now?”

Lack of sleep impairs your ability to recognize your partner’s emotions. Tired and sleep deprived, we can’t see our partners as clearly, at an emotional level. A number of studies have demonstrated this impairment, showing that sleep deprivation inhibits our ability to accurately gauge the positive and negative emotions of others. If you’re not getting your rest, you’re more likely to miss the simmering hurt and anger in your partner during an argument, and the conflict can escalate. You’re also less likely to catch your partner’s happiness and contentment during a quiet conversation together on the couch, missing out on that moment to reconnect.

You’ll have more empathy

Empathy is essentially our ability to walk in another person’s shoes. When we’re relating to our partners empathically, we can see situations from their perspective, and relate deeply to their feelings. Vicariously in touch with our partners’ emotions, we do more than feel for them, in a sympathetic way—we have the experience of feeling as they do.  Empathy is a foundational element of loving, durable, nurturing and supportive relationships.

A number of studies have documented how poor sleep limits our capacity to be empathic with others. Here’s one that stands out. This 2014 study measured the impact of a single night of sleep deprivation on the empathic abilities of a group of 37 healthy adults. Scientists measured empathy in two ways:

Direct empathy, which is the overt, conscious relating to another person’s emotional experience. You see your partner hurt or in distress, and you register your own explicit feelings of distress.

Indirect empathy, which is our own physiological response to another person’s emotional experience. Seeing your partner hurt and distressed, your heart rate rises in response.

Scientists found that one night of sleep deprivation impaired both types of emotional empathy, rendering the volunteers less able to recognize and relate to the emotional experiences of others.  Especially when times are tough, extending empathy to our partners can be a lifeline for staying emotionally connected.

You’ll feel more gratitude and appreciation for each other

We’re all at home a lot right now, juggling jobs and childcare and household responsibilities. That’s a lot of work, and a whole lot of togetherness. Under these conditions, it can be tough for couples to maintain appreciation for each other. Grumbling to yourself about how your spouse loads the dishwasher all wrong, wishing someone would thank you for making dinner for the 15th night in a row, missing the regular date nights that got you out just the two of you—there are a thousand ways that losing appreciation for one another can put emotional distance between couples.

Not sleeping will only makes things worse. That’s because  lack of sleep diminishes gratitude for our romantic partners, according to this research by sleep scientists at UC Berkeley. Their study of more than 60 couples found that going without sufficient rest made couples supportive of one another when solving problems together, less attuned to one another’s moods, and more likely to feel unappreciated by their partners.

A really important detail from this study for couples: Scientists observed that if one person in the relationship is short on sleep, BOTH partners lose a sense of gratitude toward the other.

You’ll have better sex—and more of it

You probably don’t need a sleep expert to tell you that couples are less likely to have sex—and less likely to enjoy sex to its fullest–when they’re tired and short on sleep.

Part of the problem here has to do with the timing of most couples’ sex lives. Limiting sex to bedtime can be a real intimacy killer. Why? Because 10 or 11 p.m. is, biologically-speaking, about the worst time to have sex, thanks in large part to low levels of testosterone, the hormone that drives sexual desire for both men and women. Testosterone is at its daily high first thing in the morning, so one way to increase your sexual intimacy is to try working some morning sex into your lives.

But sleep deprivation can affect both sexual arousal and sexual function, in both men and women. Insufficient sleep is linked to lower testosterone levels in both men and women, one way that sleep can diminish sex drive, arousal, and sexual pleasure. Men with low testosterone are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, and ED is also strongly linked to the obstructive sleep apnea—another excellent reason to seek screening and medical attention for snoring and sleep disordered breathing.

Research shows sleep deprivation reduces physical arousal and desire in women, diminishing sexual drive and interfering with sexual function, including lubrication and orgasm.

Partners are also more likely to misread each other’s sexual interest when sleep deprived. A 2013 study found that men, when sleep deprived even for a single night, overestimated women’s interest in sex. Scientists attributed this to the effects of sleeplessness on the brain’s frontal lobe, where we assess risk, manage inhibition, and make complex judgment calls.

You’ll see the world—and each other–with more optimism

Sleep colors how we view the world around us, and how we perceive the people closest to us. Restful sleep helps us maintain a more optimistic outlook. I’ve written before about the connection between optimism and sleep. That relationship is actually a 2-way street. Sleeping better can make us more positive-minded, and adopting an optimistic mindset has been shown to improve sleep. (Some really interesting research found that optimists are better overall sleepers, with lower rates of sleep disorders.)

Lack of sleep hinders our ability for optimism, and exacerbates our focus on negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Research has shown that sleep deprived people have more repetitive negative thoughts, and are less able to shift their minds to positive thoughts.  their better-rested counterparts. That research has also told us that more sleep deprived we are,  the more difficult it is for people to stop ruminating on negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences

When we’re sleep deprived, we’re more likely to worry about what the future holds—a form of worry that scientists call anticipatory anxiety. Scientists at UC Berkeley found that emotional control centers of the brain—in this case the amygdala and the insular cortex– were activated by lack of sleep and contributed to increased anxiety about the future.

Stuck in a negative mindset with more pessimistic view of what’s ahead, we run the risk of losing sight of the deep and lasting value of our intimate relationships.

We’ve all got plenty of challenges to face right now. Finding comfort, companionship, support, pleasure and fun with your partner is a whole lot easier if you’re both committed to getting consistently good sleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM

The Sleep Doctor™

The post 5 Ways Better Sleep can Strengthen Your Intimate Relationship appeared first on Your Guide to Better Sleep.

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