3 Easy Ways to Have a Safer Night’s Sleep


Getting a better night’s sleep is one of the top New Year’s Resolutions of 2019. And one little-discussed part of a better night’s sleep is safety. However, search for “safer night’s sleep” and all the internet returns is a bunch of articles about putting babies to sleep on their backs. Too bad, because there are several steps adults can take to have a safer night’s sleep and if you know you’re sleeping more safely, chances are you’ll sleep more soundly.

Sleep With Your Bedroom Door Closed

You are more likely to die in a fire at home than anywhere else, according to FEMA. And if that fire breaks out at night while you are sleeping, your chances of survival are even slimmer as you battle grogginess and darkness. Underwriters Laboratories conducts all sorts of fire safety testing and says you have three minutes or less to escape a house fire these days. That’s compared to 17 minutes, decades ago, before open floor plans and other factors caused our homes to burn faster.  People often ask themselves “what would I take with me in a fire?” The correct answer is not photo albums or financial documents or any other possession. The only thing you have time to do is grab your family members —and go. Fortunately, there is a simple —and free— step you can take to give yourself more time and drastically increase your chances of surviving an overnight fire. UL says to simply keep your bedroom door closed while you sleep. Smoke usually kills people before flames do and, as this video shows, keeping your bedroom door closed keeps the smoke and heat at bay far longer, giving you critical time to evacuate safely.

Choose a Mattress Made With Certified Foam 

Nearly all mattresses —whether memory foam, innerspring or adjustable air— contain foam. In the early 2000s, substandard mattress foams were coming into the U.S. from overseas, some even containing banned substances.

To address the situation, the CertiPUR-US foam certification program was created in 2008. This is a non-profit,  independent foam certifying body that has set rigorous standards for mattress and upholstered furniture foams. Certification requires testing at accredited labs to make sure foam used in mattresses is made without chemicals of concern such as formaldehyde, heavy metals, and Tris flame retardants. If your mattress is more than 10 years old, it didn’t benefit from this strict certification standard and may contain things you would rather not sleep on. Plus, a decade-old mattress isn’t providing the support your body needs and it may be time for a new one. You can verify that any new mattress you are considering contains certified foam by checking the list of participating manufacturers on the CertiPUR-US website, which is updated constantly. In fact, I was so impressed by all the folks at this tiny non-profit have accomplished that I volunteered to partner with them to help get the word out.

Get Any Sleep Disorders Diagnosed and Treated

Sleep apnea doesn’t just make you groggy in the morning.  It can kill you.  And yet 80 percent of people estimated to suffer from sleep apnea are undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.  In sleep apnea, people briefly stop breathing while they sleep, either because the soft tissue in their throat collapses or because their brain fails to signal their muscles to breathe.  This can cause an immediate danger, by triggering a heart attack, and can also slowly degrade your health over time by causing high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches and more.  It’s unclear why so many people leave this potentially deadly disease undiagnosed.  Perhaps they believe it only happens to overweight, middle-aged men.  Wrong!  As many as a quarter of sleep apnea sufferers are women.  Another hurdle: people may feel intimidated or embarrassed about going to a sleep center for an overnight sleep study.  While that is the gold standard for diagnosis, the good news is that home sleep apnea tests have gotten increasingly sophisticated.  Do you snore?  Wake up gasping for air?  Have morning headaches?  These are just a few symptoms of sleep apnea.  Consider them a wake up call to find a good sleep doctor and get tested and treated.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 13-time Emmy-winner and 25-year consumer advocate for programs such as Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show.  She also writes a consumer column for the Washington Post.  Connect with her at Leamy.com and @ElisabethLeamy on Twitter.