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Just like the correct diet or a safe and effective exercise plan, a good nights sleep is critical to a happy and healthy life. Even so, much of the world is underestimating the value of a good night's rest. Contrary to popular belief, the body does not "shut down" during sleep, and neither does the mind. While you are off in dreamland, your body continues working around the clock, replacing old cells with new ones and re-energizing your muscles and organs. All that work done while you are asleep is just as vital for a healthy well being as the work your body does during the day.

Just getting sleep isn't enough to make your body in tip-top condition though. If you get lots of sleep, and yet never feel rested you may not be sleeping well. Can you remember the last time you woke up feeling like you had just had a great nights sleep? Chances are good that when you experienced this you had just slept somewhere other than in your home. At a hotel, a friends house, or a bed & breakfast perhaps. This is most likely due to the fact that your mattress at home is not suitable for your lifestyle changes, body, and comfort preferences.

- Lifestyle Changes: Moving, getting married, having children...all these things affect your lifestyle. Higher stress and shorter nights may call for a different mattress.
- Your Body: As we get older, our bodies are constantly changing. A mattress you found comfortable when you were 20 may be unbearable for you when you are in your late 40's. A teenager who has had the same mattress since he was 6 will quickly realize that the amount of space needed for a 15-year-old is often times far different from that of a 6-year-old.
- Comfort Preference: Just like tastes in music, food, and movies...we have tastes in comfort. And being people, we change our opinions of things often. Mattresses are no exception. Make sure your mattress really fits your taste.

There are two main things to consider when you make that trip to the mattress store:

- Quality: Yes, mattresses are expensive, especially when you get up into the better quality ones. But realize that a mattress is like a sofa, you usually keep it for 10 or more years. The cheaper mattresses are going to deteriorate more quickly, and the comfort quality will often times be lessened by this deterioration.
- Use: A mattress that is in a child's bedroom is going to get much more use than one in the guestroom. Choose higher quality mattresses for rooms that get lots of use.

And be sure to take comfort into consideration. Try out all the mattresses at the store in your price range. Take off your shoes and lie down on the mattress, that's the only way you'll find out how they really feel. Don't be afraid to move around and make sure it fits your needs, remember- this is a major purchase that will effect you on a daily basis. This is not a chair that you can avoid sitting in if it isn't too terribly comfortable. And if you sleep with a partner, be sure to bring them along so that you can be sure that both your needs are met.

Once you've got the proper thing to sleep on, you need to make sure your sleeping environment is up to par. Light, noise, and temperature can all affect how good your sleep it.

-Light: This is one of our body's most powerful indicators of time. Our internal clock will associate the rising sun with "time to wake up"! A dark room is best for sleeping, whether it is day or night.

-Noise: Loud random noises can easily disrupt sleep. A low, steady humming of a fan or air filter can make drifting off much easier.

-Temperature: A room being too hot or too cold can make sleep a tough thing to do. 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for a room you are sleeping in.

On top of the mattress and environment, some other tips for getting a good nights sleep are to

- keep regular hours, even on weekends
- develop a ritual before going to bed so your body gets ready for sleep
- exercise regularly to help relieve tension
- cut down on stimulants, such as caffeine
- stop smoking, statistically smokers take longer to fall asleep

Being well rested will cut down on stress, bad tempers, slow reflexes and mistakes. Do yourself a favor and sleep better tonight. If you continue to have a bad nights sleep even after using the tips, you may have a sleep disorder and should consult your family doctor.