Q. Why is sleep important?

A. Sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Like eating right and exercising, sleeping well is essential to feeling your best during the day. It affects how you feel, your relationships, your productivity and your quality of life. While you sleep, your brain goes to work, consolidating the day's learning into memory and reenergizing the body.

Q. Is it true that napping can be bad for you?

A. There's nothing wrong with taking a short nap to help refresh you during the day. But if you find you're napping all the time, it could be a sign that you aren't getting as much sleep as you should. Or that you're not getting the deep, restful sleep you need at night.

Q. Does the mattress affect how a person sleeps?

A. Yes. The mattress has the potential either to encourage sleep or rob you of sleep. Whether your mattress is a sleep friend or a sleep foe can determine how refreshed you feel in the morning. If you're tossing and turning more at night or if you're waking up feeling stiff or sore after a night's sleep, it could be a sign that your current mattress is no longer the best for you. Your body appreciates a comfortable, supportive mattress and will let you know if it's not up to the task.

Q. How much sleep does the average person need?

A. The average person needs 7-8 hours a night, but it differs for every person. Some people may need as much as 10 hours a night and others need much less. If you sleep longer on the weekends than during the week, you probably aren't getting the sleep you need every night.

Q. What are some ways to get a better night's sleep?

A. A few key things should help. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day – even on the weekends. This will help keep your biological clock in sync. Develop a sleep ritual by doing the same things each night just before bed. Parents often establish a routine for their kids, but it can help adults, too. A routine cues the body to settle down for the night. Another hint: Unwind early in the evening so that worries and distractions don't keep you from getting a good night's sleep. Finally, create a restful sleep environment – sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation – to get your best night's rest. If you're sleeping as much as you need, but still find that you're sleepy during the day, you should consult your doctor to see if you might have a medical condition interfering with your sleep.

Q. What can shiftworkers or people who work at night do to sleep better?

A. Anyone who sleeps during the day needs to make sure their room is dark – use heavy window coverings to block out the light. This is important for everyone, but particularly for people who sleep when it's bright outside. Also, make sure your room is cool, between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius). Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation that offers you enough space to move around comfortably. And sleep in a room that's quiet. The sleep environment is a very controllable part of good sleep – whether you're sleeping during the day or at night. You can adjust the temperature, replace an uncomfortable or worn-out mattress, block out noise with earplugs or a white noise machine and keep light from your bedroom with dark blinds or eye shades.

Q. Is there a problem with falling asleep on the sofa watching television, not falling asleep in bed?

A. If you regularly fall asleep on your sofa, you may not be getting as much sleep as you need at night in your bed. Or maybe your sofa is more comfortable than your bed! In either case, you should make sure to practice good sleep habits – from sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress to not drinking alcohol too close to bedtime. And try to get more sleep – it may change how you feel during the day. Check out the Better Sleep Guide for tips on how to get a better night's sleep.

Q. What if there's no time for sleep? What can people do to sleep better?

A. Sleep needs to be a health priority. It affects every aspect of your day-to-day living. If you can't say "yes" to sleep, make sure to make the most out of the sleep you get. Exercise regularly – people who exercise a few times a week sleep better than people who don't. Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products late in the day. All can interfere with sleep. You need to create a restful sleep environment so the sleep you get is restorative and uninterrupted. Sleep in a dark room, on a comfortable, supportive mattress. Keep the room cool and quiet. And if you find yourself too stressed to sleep, make a list of all the things you need to do. Once you've made your to-do list, give yourself permission to relax and sleep. You'll need the energy to tackle your tasks in the morning.

Q. Can people make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping in on weekends?

A. No. If you sleep more on the weekends than during the week – and many of us do – this indicates that you have a "sleep debt." A sleep debt accumulates when you don't get enough sleep. The only way to reduce the debt is to sleep as much as your body needs every night. Make sure you're getting the right quality of sleep as well. Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room on a comfortable, supportive mattress to get your best night's sleep.

Q. How can someone tell if they have a sleep disorder?

A. If you've looked at your sleep environment and your everyday routine to make sure you're not sabotaging your sleep and you still feel sleepy after getting a full night's sleep, you should see your doctor. You may have a medical condition that interferes with getting a good night's sleep. Check out our Sleep Disorders link for more information.

Q. What's the best mattress?

A. The answer is a matter of individual taste. What's best for me may not be best for you. When it comes to mattresses, there is no one-size-fits-all. After all, we're all built differently and have different comfort and support preferences, so why would the same mattress be "best" for all of us?
To determine the mattress that's best for you, we recommend using the process of elimination to weed out the ones you don't like. Go to a retailer and use the "rest test" to narrow down your choices. As you lie down on the mattresses, pay attention to three of the mattress's most important features: comfort, support and space. The mattress that best fulfills the combination of these needs is the "best" mattress for you. If you sleep with a partner, bring that person with you to test out the mattresses. After all, you will need to reconcile what you like best with what your partner likes best.

Q. What is the best way to try a mattress?

A. The best way to try a mattress is to take the "SLEEP Test":
Select a mattress
Lie down in your sleep position
Evaluate the level of comfort and support
Educate yourself about each selection
Partners should try each mattress together
Don't be embarrassed. You don't think twice about test driving a car, and you shouldn't think twice about "SLEEP Testing" a mattress. Lie down on the mattress for several minutes and assess how well it provides support and how comfortable it is for you. The only way to tell if a mattress is right for you is to lie down on it.

Q. How often should mattresses be replaced? How long do they last?

A. Mattresses wear out on different timetables. This is due to numerous factors such as how the mattress was used (guest room, master bedroom, doubled as a trampoline for the kids), whether it was cared for properly and/or the quality of the mattress itself. Other important considerations are how personal comfort levels or a person's lifestyle and body may have changed over the years. We encourage you to think about these things and ask yourself the following questions:

• Are you sleeping better or worse than you did a year ago?

• Are you waking up feeling stiff and sore?

• Does your mattress have visible signs of wear and tear?

• Would a new mattress improve your sleep?

If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then it's time to consider purchasing a new mattress. And because people tend to overlook their mattresses and don't think about them, we recommend that you "check" your mattress using these four questions on a regular basis – at least twice a year – to make sure mattress wear and tear isn't sneaking up on you and disrupting your sleep.

Q. Where do bed bugs live?

A. Their name is actually deceiving because bed bugs can live in almost any crevice of any household item. Sofas, chairs, nightstands and dressers, along the edge of baseboards and wall-to-wall carpeting, cracks in wood molding, ceiling-wall junctures, behind wall-mounted picture frames, clocks, phones…anywhere that has a dark, protected location, a bed bug can set up its home. Bed bugs tend to congregate and it is typical to find many in the same location. Bed bugs may occur in all sorts of places besides hotels, homes and apartments. Recent press reports show they are also infesting such places as clothing stores, movie theatres, hospitals, schools and office buildings. In mattresses, they tend to congregate along the seams and edges. They also hide in box springs, bed frames and headboards.

Q. How do I get bed bugs?

A. These pesky critters are quite efficient hitchhikers. They usually are transported into dwellings on luggage, clothing, beds and furniture. Since bed bugs are so small, it's difficult to detect them after they've hitched a ride in your luggage or household items.