Is Your Sleep Being Affected by a Sleep Disorder or Your Mattress?

Why Can’t I Sleep—Haven’t I Tried Everything?!

While some sleep problems may be the result of serious sleep disorders, a sleep survey conducted by Arc Consulting for the Better Sleep Council concluded that sometimes all you need to do to get a good night’s rest is to replace your old mattress.

The majority of people in the study agreed that a bad mattress could mean back problems, poorer quality sleep and overall decline in health and wellness. But among these 400 adults, almost half of them (46 percent) said that they didn’t replace their mattresses until their old ones were in “bad” or “very bad” shape. In fact, those surveyed were 5 times more likely to blame their poor sleep quality on daytime stress than their substandard mattresses.

Andrea Herman, Director of the Better Sleep Council, said in general people took a quite impractical approach to diagnosing the root of their sleep problems. While theoretically they understood that replacing their mattresses could fix the issue, they often overlooked this simple connection between sleep and mattress quality when finding a solution became necessary.

The study confirmed this wide disconnect between knowledge and behavior. Respondent said that during normal daily life, they rarely thought of their mattresses. There didn’t seem to be a need to do so unless you noticed a specific problem with the mattress. People were much more likely to attribute problems to aspects of their lives that seemed more relevant, or more pressing, like stress at work and among family and friends.

How do I Decide When to Replace My Mattress?

Andrea Herman said that people who find that they toss and turn at night for no apparent reason should consider the condition of their mattresses. While stress may sometimes be an inevitable hindrance to even the best snoozers’ quality of sleep, getting a new mattress is a quick and easy fix.

Researchers suggested that people perform a formal “Rest Test” two times every year in order to evaluate the condition of their mattresses. Go to a home department or specialty mattress store and weigh how those new mattresses feel as compared to the one you use at home. When shopping for a mattress, keep these criteria in mind:

  1. Adequate Support
  2. Long-Term Comfort
  3. Sufficient Space
  4. Durability / Warranty
  5. Accompanying Bed Foundations
  6. Overall Value

Remember, a mattress is a big purchase that you will use every night. It’s important to make the right decision. Take your shoes off, get under the sheets, bring along your bed partner, etc. — the store employees won’t mind. How else will you know what it’ll feel like?

 

Contributor: Alex Smith of SleepDisorders.com

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Sleepys on The Dr. Steve Show

I had such a fun time working with “The Dr. Steve Show,” on a segment that was all about sleep!  I love getting together with people to talk about all things sleep, especially since it’s a topic that affects each and every one of us.  I brought my friend, Dr. Robert Oexman of the Sleep to Live Institute, along with me for the show.  I’m letting my sleep geek-ness show a little bit, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to two doctors discuss sleep topics and how to find the perfect mattress.  In case you missed the segment from “The Dr. Steve Show,” which airs nationally, here is the clip:

I’d like to thank my friends at “The Dr. Steve Show,” and WPIX who reached out to me and made this opportunity possible!

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett, Snooze Director

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is Sunday May 13th and if you’re looking for a unique gift idea, why not give Mom the gift of quality sleep?  I think we can all agree that moms are hard workers and that they deserve a great night’s sleep.  There is such a thing as beauty sleep!  No need to raid the cosmetic aisle for your mother’s day gift when you can get her a sleep related item that will aide quality sleep.  A study found that people who were sleep-deprived were perceived as less healthy, attractive and more tired than those who got a great night’s rest.

A mattress is the first gift idea that comes to mind since the mattress your mother sleeps on directly affects her waking life.  If she has been complaining about aches and pains or just not being able to get comfortable at night, she may be in need of a new mattress.  But a new mattress can be an expensive gift so here are a few more affordable sleep related Mother’s Day gift ides:

Pillows can be just as important as a mattress when it comes to quality sleep.  All too often people will buy a pillow out of preference as opposed to what their body needs.  Your pillow should fit your preferred sleeping position.  For example I know I like thin, flat pillows, but I’m primarily a side sleeper, so I’m actually doing my body a disservice by using the improper pillow while I sleep.  Side sleepers need a full but soft pillow; while back sleepers need a medium thickness pillow and stomach sleepers need the thinnest pillow (if any at all).  Find out what position your Mom prefers to sleep in and then find a pillow that suits her sleeping position.  Sleepys.com organizes their selection of pillows by what position they are best for.

Eye masks, white noise machines and lavender scented products are all apart of sleep hygiene.  It is easier to fall asleep when our bodies are relaxed and our sleep environment is conducive to sleep.  Lavender is used in aromatherapy as a way to relax the body and ease a person into sleep.  Having a dark, cool room is optimal for sleeping conditions, but sometimes it is hard to get a room truly dark enough.  You can try room darkening shades to block out excess lights from outdoors, but an eye mask is also a great way to get the same effects without trying to remember what color your mother’s bedroom is.  If you notice that your mom complains out noises keeping her up at night or preventing her from falling asleep, a white noise machine is a great Mother’s Day gift!  A white noise machine will drown out all the other noises that keep her awake with an even, monotonous sound that basically bores a person to sleep.

The gift of sleep is a great way to show your mom that you appreciate all she does.  From kissing boo-boos, to leaving work early to watch one of your games and just always supporting you in every way possible no matter where you are in life, this Mother’s Day, give your Mom the gift she really wants, a great night’s sleep.

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

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Sleep Positions and Your Health

I found a really interesting article on Sleep.com about “How Your Sleeping Position Can Affect Your Health,” and I thought I would share some of the key points with you.  We spend (optimally) eight hours each night in a primary position so there has to be some benefits and some negative effects for remaining in a single position throughout the night.  None of the negative effects are life threatening, they are more so a nuisance.  Here are the three most popular sleep positions and how they affect your health.

  • Fetal Position – While lying on your side with your feet curled up towards your chest and your chin pulled down towards your chest as well, the fetal position is one of the most common sleeping positions.  A benefit to sleeping in the fetal position is when you’re pregnant; sleeping on your left side will increase blood flow to the uterus.  With the increase in circulation, your baby will get plenty of oxygen and nutrients while you sleep.  The downside to the fetal position won’t be felt until the morning.  Spending all night curled up can cause aches and pains in your neck and back.
  • Back Sleepers – Whether you’re a soldier or a log, a back sleeper is more prone to snoring.  Also you may want to avoid sleeping on your back while pregnant because there is more weight stressing your lower back which also affects the veins that carry blood to your legs.  If you have the proper mattress, back sleeping is great for keeping your spine in neutral alignment so you shouldn’t wake up with aches and pains.
  • Stomach Sleepers – Sleeping on your stomach greatly reduces snoring, but if you have to use a CPAP machine every night, it won’t be very comfortable sleeping on your stomach.  Also, while in the early stages of pregnancy you may find it comfortable to sleep on your stomach, as your pregnancy progresses it will become more difficult and more uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach.

I had a great opportunity to make a video for Sleep.com and it was about sleep positions, personalities and how they are related.  There is great content on Sleep.com not just about sleep but also about your health.  There are two really cool features that I love on the site.  One is that you get to share your dreams with other Sleep.com visitors and the other is the Sleep Debt Calculator, which is a really handy tool.  Visit Sleep.com and leave me a comment on this blog on what you thought about the site!

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

Sleep Is Not a Luxury

It’s almost eight months since I started my journey as the first-ever Sleepy’s Snooze Director.  I have learned so much about sleep and mattresses; I can’t help but reflect on what I’ve learned.  It’s not all too often that you’re able to have a job that is not only professionally rewarding, but also beneficial to your health.  This job was created as a way to express the importance of sleep and how it affects your life, but I still feel like there is much more to be done to make sleep a priority in everyone’s lives.

I think that the main battle we have to overcome as sleep enthusiasts is to define sleep as a necessity, not a luxury.  Our society glorifies (and almost demands) sleep deprivation as a normal thing.  Students are frequently pulling all-nighters to get through their demanding schedules of classes, jobs and coursework (not to mention extracurricular as well).  Also, many people are forced to take on shift work to make ends meet.  Then there are the people with the mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” who make it no easier to believe that sleep is crucial.

I believe there is hope for our cause though.  I’ve been seeing “Sleep” sections on some of the most visited websites, such as Yahoo, The Huffington Post and WebMD.  There is also Sleep.com which is a website entirely devoted to sleep.  This is great because now people have access to sleep information whenever they want.  It’s just a matter of getting people to realize that their sleep troubles are actually problems with real solutions.  All too often I’ll hear someone say, “Oh, I’m just a light sleeper,” and they accept the fact that they don’t sleep well.  To them I say, “Get help!”  When your TV isn’t working, you get it fixed.  When your tooth hurts, you go to the dentist.  If you’re not sleeping well, talk to your doctor!

What are your views on sleep?  Is it a necessity or is it a luxury?  What are you doing to advocate the importance of sleep in everyone’s lives?  Do you ever talk to your doctor about your sleep problems?  I want to hear from you, so make sure to leave a comment below so that we can have a great conversation about this.  It’s in my opinion that if we don’t start to openly talk about sleep and our problems with sleep, then we won’t be able to change the public perception of sleep as a luxury.

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

Sleep Tip Experiment 2: No Coffee

It’s been a while since my last sleep tip experiment, which I am still working on and enjoying its benefits of sound sleep.  My latest experiment consisted of one week without any coffee.  Before I got my job as the Sleepy’s Snooze Director, I would have multiple cups of coffee throughout my day.  Once I learned how much coffee and caffeine affects your sleep if consumed in the afternoon, I cut back to just my one morning cup of coffee.  But last week I went for the extreme, no coffee at all!  How was I going to get through my day?!  What am I going to do to give me an extra push in the morning?!  I was nervous, but I knew I had to do this, for you my readers.

I feel as if this experiment would have been easier if A) my mom didn’t make coffee every morning (fresh brewed coffee is one of my favorite scents) and B) I didn’t pass four Dunkin Donuts, three 7-11’s and a Starbucks on my way to work (I can’t even count how many delis and bagel stores I pass).  I resorted to two drinks for my coffee-free week; green tea and water.  Drinking a glass of cold water is a much better choice for an afternoon energy boost than coffee or soda.  The sugar and caffeine in coffee and soda will only lead to a harder crash; water will give you the boost (and hydration) you need to tackle the 3pm slump.

The first day was fairly tough; green tea doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee.  I had three cups of green tea on my first day just to try and add up my caffeine fix, which yes, is cheating, I suppose.  But the green tea just didn’t give me that boost I needed on my first day without coffee.  I do have to say that I was fortunate enough to not get the dreaded caffeine withdrawal headache during my experiment, which I now think is a sign that I don’t really need my daily cup of coffee.

By the middle of the week the only thing I was missing was the taste of coffee.  I was drinking more water than I normally did so my body was fully hydrated which is a great natural way to give yourself an energy boost.  I was also battling a bit of a cold and I think that because I was drinking water and green tea, my body was able to beat my cold more quickly.  Completing this sleep tip experiment has made me realize that I don’t need coffee for energy.  Not drinking coffee at all made it even easier to fall asleep at night.  I felt that I was sleeping more deeply because I didn’t have coffee at all.  This experiment really showed me how crucial quality sleep is when it comes to having enough energy to get you through your day.  Coffee and energy drinks just don’t compare to quality sleep when it comes to your energy level.

Since I have completed this sleep tip experiment of no coffee, I have returned to one cup of coffee a day, but it’s more so to enjoy the taste of it.  I love the smell of coffee brewed in the morning and I love the flavor, it’s just something I would miss.  One cup of coffee isn’t bad for you; in fact studies have recently showed that drinking multiple cups of coffee in a day may decrease a woman’s risk of developing depression.  But when it comes to sleep, coffee intake can definitely affect your quality of sleep.  So if you have a hard time falling asleep each night, you may want to try and see if you can go a week without coffee and see if it improves your sleep quality.

Have you ever given up coffee for a period of time?  Do you think you would be able to go a week without coffee?  Tell me in the comment section below!

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

How to Decrease Stress for Better Sleep

A blaring alarm clock is the first thing that sets the snowball effect of a stressful day in full motion.  Struggling to get out of bed, hitting the snooze button too many times and you’re too late to eat breakfast before work.  After sitting in traffic during your commute you get to work and find three urgent messages from your boss, there’s no hope for the day to slow down.  By the time you get home, after sitting in traffic yet again, it’s time to make dinner, tidy the house and rest your head on your pillow while all the stressful thoughts of what you didn’t accomplish today invade your brain preventing you from falling asleep.  Stress is stress.  We all have it and we all cope with it in different ways.  But there are ways to help calm yourself when your stress levels start to peak.  Being able to eliminate stress in little ways will help you rest easy at night and get better sleep.  Here are a few tips for calming down.

The first step to calming down is to figure out what exactly is causing it.  You may be sleeping eight hours each night, but do you wake up still feeling tired?  It will be worth your while to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss you sleep quality and see if there’s an underlying sleep disorder that is preventing your from getting deep sleep.  When we don’t get enough sleep, stresses become more difficult to deal with because we don’t have the full mental capacity or energy to solve the issue.

I think we can all agree that stress makes us lose focus and become unproductive.  Taking a step back and trying a deep breathing exercise can help calm your nerves and refocus your energy.  In my weekly yoga class we work on our breathing, so I can vouch for the effectiveness of breathing exercises.  Inhaling and exhaling for equal counts of four, in through the nose and out through the mouth, can help reduce your stress.  It’s really important to focus on yourself when stress seems to be taking over.  Giving yourself a little more me-time, even if it’s just a minute of deep breathing, will help you cope with stress.

Don’t let the stress of a busy day keep you from hitting the gym.  If you think you don’t have time to go to the gym in your busy day then think again.  You don’t even have to break a sweat; just take a walk around the office when stress starts piling up.  Getting your heart rate up will reduce hormones that counteract stress.  I think that Elle Woods, the fabulous main character of Legally Blonde, said the best quote about stress and exercising:

“Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

If something is stressing you out, then take a minute and just walk away from it, seriously.  If it’s at work, get up from your desk and step outside, a little sunshine can’t hurt and can improve your mood.  If it’s a fight with your significant other, walk into the other room to cool off.  Any kind of movement will help with stress, whether it’s a light walk or a session at the gym lifting weights.  Getting active to deal with stress will not only have you feeling great, you’ll also look great too!

After dealing with a day of stress, don’t you just want to grab a pint of ice cream or a bacon cheeseburger to pat yourself on the back?  DON’T!  Well, please, reward yourself, YOU DESERVE IT, but don’t run to the nearest junk food item.  You can celebrate with better snacks that are still delicious.  I’m a big fan of chocolate covered anything, so I suggest if you’re looking for a sugary “Job Well Done” then reach for some chocolate covered strawberries.  I’m also addicted to peanut butter so instead of grabbing a bag of chips, I go for a handful of baby carrots and dip them into peanut butter (I hear celery is delicious with peanut butter as well).  Also, another benefit of carrots and celery you may ask?  They’re super crunchy so you can chomp out some of your built up stress (carefully though, no need to chip a tooth!).

The most important tip (at least to me) is to not bring your stressful thoughts into bed.  Having a racing mind will keep you from falling asleep and achieving restorative deep sleep.  My mom always told me to grab a pen and paper and write down whatever thoughts were keeping me up at night and it actually works (thanks mom!).  Give it a try!  Next time you let stressful thoughts flood your brain, write them down so that they’re out of your head, especially if it’s a to-do list.  How often are the thoughts that keep you up at night about what you didn’t get to finish that day and what you’ll have to do tomorrow?  Write them down so that you won’t forget about them in the morning and you’ll be able to sleep much easier knowing that you have all your thoughts in one place (thank me later).

There will always be stress, but now you have different techniques to try when times get tough.  There’s no foolproof way when it comes to coping with stress; it’s just like sleep tips, everyone reacts differently to them.  All that matters is that you try something so that you can find the best method for coping with your own stress.  Improving your ways of coping with stress will make it easier to sleep at night and we all know how sleep directly affects both your mood and health. 

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

Should Schools Start Later?

The internet is buzzing with the latest sleep debate.  Should schools start later as a means to combat teens’ sleep deprivation?  More research has been coming out that suggests that biologically, teenagers’ circadian rhythms are set to produce melatonin much later in the night, between 11pm and 12am, so they are unable to fall asleep in time to get enough hours of sleep before school the next day.  So if you’re thinking your teen is staying up late just to Facebook with friends and text all night, you may want to think again.  Both sides of this argument have plausible defenses, but at the end of the day, what should we go with?  Let’s bring both sides of the argument into the hypothetical boxing ring.

In this corner of the ring we have the long reigning champ known as logistics.  The way we have school times set up now is so that the youngest kids are picked up last so that they aren’t waiting for the bus in the darkest mornings of winter which is a safety issue.  Elementary students get picked up last and middle and high school students get picked up first.  School times that are currently in place exist because of parents’ work schedules as well as the students’ after-school activities.  If school starts later then the students get out later and then their sports and clubs get pushed back and so does getting homework getting done and so on and so forth, into a giant snowball of reasons why not to start school after 8am.

On the opposite side of this argument we have the rookie, the supporter of later school starting times.  Any teenager will automatically back this argument, even without further details.  But there are scientific facts that back up this rookie argument that could KO the reigning champ.  Teenagers’ don’t produce melatonin until later in the night compared to adults and children, which is why they stay up later.  So when they wake up early in the morning to get ready for school, there is still melatonin in their body which makes it very difficult to wake up.  The teenagers are basically zombies during the first few periods as their bodies slowly wake up.  If the school day started a little bit later than the students would be getting more sleep each night which may result in better attendance, higher grades and less of a chance of depression. 

I’m not even sure if I know where I stand on this issue.  I remember my zombie mornings getting ready for school and barely remembering my first four classes of the day when I was in high school, but I did survive it, with decent grades.  Then again, if my peers were given more time to sleep, they would’ve probably been equally successful with their grades and actually attend the first few periods of the day.  But then would we have to shift the average work day so that working parents are able to get their kids to and from school safely?  Where do you stand on this delayed school debate?  Do you think school start times should remain the same as they are or should they start later?  How do you think your high school experience would have been different if it started later in the morning?

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

Give the Gift of Sleep

It’s crunch time for completing your holiday gift list!  Is there any one on your list that is difficult to get for?  Do you have someone on your list that already has everything under the sun?  Or perhaps you need to get a gift for someone you don’t know very well.  Why not give them the gift of quality sleep?  With a variety of sleep products on the market, you can find the perfect gift for that someone and you won’t have to break the bank to get it.

Sleepy’s has some great sleep gift suggestions for you.  From slippers to books, you will be able to find a gift that is thoughtful and useful.  After being kept up late wrapping presents and attending holiday parties, giving the gift of sleep to someone will definitely be appreciated!  Getting a great night’s sleep will help relieve tension and stress that is built up around the holiday season. 

Another great idea for that impossible someone is to give them a nice bedding item that aides a great night’s sleep.  It’s also a thoughtful idea, because most people don’t remember to get new pillows or sheets after some time.  One night on a brand new memory foam pillow, as opposed to their old flat pillow, could have you on someone’s “Nice List,” for next year!  Do you have a college student on your list?  How about getting them a supportive and comfortable mattress topper?  When I was in college, my foam mattress topper transformed my floorboard of a mattress into a comfortable haven. 

Think about the person’s bedroom as well.  Healthy, restorative sleep comes with proper sleep hygiene and one of the best tips for good sleep hygiene is sleeping in a dark room.  Room darkening shades prevent any excess light from the outdoors from seeping into the bedroom.  This may not be the best choice for someone you aren’t very familiar with though.  An eye mask would have similar effects to room darkening shades and you wouldn’t have to know the color scheme of their bedroom!

Sleep is so essential for good health, both physical and mental.  At a time when we all become sleep deprived and stressed, a great night’s sleep is the best gift of all!  There are plenty of different ideas when it comes to sleep-themed gifts, you will find something for everyone.  Giving a restful night’s sleep for the holidays will make everyone happier and enjoy their company more knowing that they are relaxed from their quality sleep.  We here at Sleepy’s hope you have a happy and restful holiday!

Be on the lookout for our After-Christmas Sale when you can get a great price on a new mattress and all your bedding essentials.

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett

Pets in the Bed Debate

The American Pet Products Association recently surveyed pet owners and found that almost half of dog owners and over half of cat owners let their furry friends cuddle up next to them in bed.  I’m actually a little surprised by those high statistics, I really didn’t think that many people would be so keen on letting their four legged family members sleep with them.  Maybe from watching cartoons of dogs living in dog houses when I was a child, or perhaps since I have never let my own dogs stay in my bed, I just assumed most people wouldn’t let their animals in bed with them.

I have two dogs, Napoleon (8 years old) and Ethan (1.5 years old), and they have never slept in my bed or my room.  I have my reasons though.  Ethan, who is finally getting out of his puppy stage, was a notorious bed wetter for a while and I never wanted to take the chance of having him ruin my mattress.  The choice was simple; Ethan would not be allowed on my bed.  Napoleon being older and having more control of his bladder was a different story.  I tried one night to let him stay in my bed, but I don’t think that experience lasted longer than 15 minutes.  Napoleon somehow took up most of my full sized mattress (he’s only 30 pounds) and snores louder than any human I have ever heard snore.  From that one experiment on, my decision was super easy, Napoleon was not allowed on my bed.

Ethan is on the left and Napoleon is on the right

Between the bedwetting and the snoring, I had to make the ultimate decision to put my quality of sleep over my dogs, and you know what, I’m totally fine with it.  I love my dogs to pieces but I cherish my sleep and I want to make sure I take any and all distractions out of my room so that I can have restful sleep.  But it’s not like my dogs are sleeping on rocks.  Napoleon has the run of the downstairs, meaning he can sleep on the couches or his bed, but for some reason he always winds up on the kitchen floor. Ethan has an oversized cage with a pillow and blankets to snuggle with (we don’t want him to make a mess on the couch).

The decision to share your bed with your furry family members is completely up to you.  But if you choose to let them on your bed, I recommend getting a mattress protector for your bed.  Besides protecting your mattress from stains and damage, it will also protect your warranty and I’m pretty sure that my Ethan isn’t the only puppy who is still learning how to control his bladder.  Do yourself a favor, eliminate stress and clean up with a mattress protector pad.

So now that you know where I stand on animals in the bed, what’s your opinion?  Do you let your pets sleep in bed with you?  Why do you or why do you not let your pets spend the night in your bed?

 

Contributor: Emily Barrett