Thursday, July 19, 2007

"There hasn't been a new mattress in the White House since Nixon..."

I found myself thinking about a different aspect of sleep this week as I wrestled with my pillows and covers several nights in a row. I remember a time at a much younger age when I could lie down almost anywhere and fall asleep. The type of bed or pillow or even the temperature did not much matter. Babies and teenagers, they say, can sleep for large parts of the day and nearly anywhere under most conditions. As we mature, the regenerative process that depends so much on sleep is less needed, explaining why it is that the older we get, the less sleep we seem to need or want. And, the more dependent we are on the tools of sleep.

Oh, the quote in the title is from President Allen, played by Gina Davis, on the tv show, Commander in Chief. Why ever did they cancel that show?

I did a search on “mattress” and over 17 million entries appeared, almost every one describing features of some brand mattress or other. Over a third of Americans spend as much now on mattresses as they do on televisions. And nearly 20% say they are willing to spend as much on a mattress as on a vacation. Interestingly, a vast number of Americans say that sleep is more important than exercise or nutrition and are willing to “invest,” they say, in the tools to help them sleep better.

So, as I flipped over and over the other night, I wondered if it were time for a new mattress. How do you know? It’s a good one and nowhere near the lifespan of the mattresses in my childhood. So, I searched again to see if there is checklist for determining the life of a mattress on the Internet. Lo, and behold! The Better Sleep Council ( has an informative site, including a section on Mattressology with a quiz on evaluating the effectiveness of your mattress. They suggest a new mattress every five to seven years, although they do admit that most people hate to give up their mattress, or dislike shopping for mattresses so much they just hold onto them. Key signs that it’s time to get rid of the one you’re on, they say.
  • You wake up sore, stiff, numb or in knots.
  • You see visible lumps, dips and other aberrations when you look at the mattress.
  • You slept better somewhere else (e.g., a hotel bed).
  • You cover it so no one else will see the shape it’s in.
As for pillows, I found over 21 million entries on that subject. I have yet to find the perfect pillow, although we have quite the collection at Capabilities. I have tried all of them and have a couple that work better than any so far. The Postura Thermoform Foam Pillow, for example, provides very good support for the neck, helping keep the spine in alignment while sleeping. I like the memory foam more than I thought I would. My only complaint is that it gets a bit hot in this summer weather. Obus Forme makes a versatile Neck & Neck Pillow ($52.99), too, that provides four different sleeping options depending on the type of sleeper you are. You also have a choice of comfort foam or memory foam. The comfort foam provides a flatter surface while the memory foam has more contoured support. There is a high and a low end to match your needs for height while sleeping. Finally, there is a pleated surface for more air circulation that also reduces pressure points, and keeps you cooler.

So many choices! I lie awake thinking about them.

Let us know your thoughts on the many angles of sleep. How old is your mattress? How do you shop for one? And how many pillows do you use? Tell us about your favorite one? How often do you replace your pillow? Post your comments to continue the conversation.

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