How much do you value sleep? Do you get enough of it? Do you have a healthy sleep cycle? What’s your relationship like, with you and shut-eye?
These are all important questions, but ones we rarely ask ourselves. For many of us, sleep is literally the last thing we think about. And then we close our eyes at night and do the best we can. Struggle sleep is all too real, people.
When I was in college, it was all about depriving myself for various reasons. To party, to study, to hang out with my friends. For some reason, not getting enough sleep seemed almost cool. And then it started becoming something of a problem, as I went into graduate school and then began working for a newspaper. And then blogging. All time consuming tasks that frequently call for late nights and running on empty. Even though I’m long past my college days, to be honest often it feels like I never get enough sleep just because of what I do for a living.
Let me tell you the story of my first mattress. A decade ago, my husband and I were a newly married couple living in south Miami, right by the University of Miami campus. I was a graduate student, doing my MFA in Creative Writing. (Someday I’ll publish those short stories, I swear)! One of the first purchases my husband and I made was our queen sized mattress, which I recall we bought at a discount store on Bird Road (near Miami Twice and the comic book store, for my Miami readers). This wasn’t the kind of store where one could lie on the mattresses to try them out. Mattresses stood against the wall in dangerous looking plastic covered stacks, and the gentleman who was there didn’t speak much English.
Which one of those would you sleep on? Exactly. This is the kind of mattress situation we walked into.
We paid $250 for a mattress and boxspring — that was our price range in those days — and we drove home with this queen sized mattress set tied to the roof of the Honda Civic, holding it in place the whole way. Our mattress was hard. It was never cushy and comfortable, even on its best day. And we slept on it for 10 years. A decade of creaky mattress back issues and struggle sleep.
In the mean time, we spent money on other things like restaurants and entertainment, never thinking about the real improvement an actual investment in our mattress might make to our lives. But when you think about the statistics, it only makes sense. Think about how much time you spend in bed. Think about how much better you feel after a truly good night’s sleep – like at a hotel, for example. Think about the relationship between beauty, and sleep. We’re willing to go for expensive facials and treatments that make our faces look beautiful and rested. Why not invest in something that can actually make a tangible difference to your life, your health, and your physical appearance in a holistic way? Why do people settle for struggle sleep?
For tangible answers, I recently interviewed Dr. Robert Oexman who is a sleep doctor for the Sleep to Live Institute, as well as the Sleepy’s Sleep Consultant — click here to check out the Sleepy’s Facebook page and click here for their official site, Sleepys.com! I had to ask serious questions. Like, first things first — is beauty sleep even a real thing?
Afrobella – My blog is primarily about beauty and sleep is always connected to beauty, to the point where mattresses are named for the idea of beauty sleep. Is beauty sleep a real thing? Can more or better sleep in fact improve one’s appearance in a calculable way?
Dr. Oexman – Actually we do see aging related to sleep issues. I am not sure that it is “calculable” (for example 6 hours of sleep for 4 years will make you look x years older). There are some very good examples of what happens during sleep that will impact how we look. For example, human growth hormone is secreted at night when we sleep. Instead of taking that supplement why not try some extra sleep! People who do not get enough sleep have higher levels of inflamatory markers like “C-reactive protein”. Melatonin is a great antioxidant that is secreted at night when we sleep and is diminished when we are awake.
Afrobella – How old is the average American’s mattress? How much time do we spend in bed in our lifetime?
Dr. Oexman – The average mattress purchasing cycle is approximately 13 years (I have asked this question to patients that report having the same mattress for greater than 30 years!!!). For most people they should change out every 7 to 8 years. People who are overweight or perspire a great deal should change out more often. We should spend on average about 1/3 of our lives in bed. Unfortunately in the past 20 to 30 years we have seen average sleep time in the US fall so that we are not spending as much time sleeping. This is most likely attributed to technology that has invaded sleep time like cell phone use late at night, computers, games, Facebook, texting, TV’s in bedrooms, etcetera.
Afrobella – What are your thoughts on dealing with dust mites? The idea of them living in a mattress or pillow is just horrifying – are there any mattresses or pillows on the market that are dust mite repellant?
Dr. Oexman – As disgusting as they may seem we have been living quite symbiotically with them for many years. You can put protective barriers on your pillows and mattress but they will still be in blankets, carpets, headboards, etc.. The best way to deal with this is to put your pillow in the dryer on low for 30 minutes once a week when you change the pillowcases. Use a mattress protector that you can wash once a week and vacuum your mattress once a month. No matter what you do you can reduce the numbers but you can not eliminate them.
Afrobella – What is your best advice for anyone who wants to buy a mattress?
Dr. Oexman – First I would say you need to get fitted for a mattress just like you do for a pair of shoes, eye glasses or a new tux. There are test systems at some mattress stores that measure your body and will recommend a mattress that will fit your body type and any pain complaints you may have. It is brand agnostic and covers a wide variety of price points. If the retailer does not have that system, you need to look for a mattress that has cushion layers to relive pressure on shoulders and hips. It also needs to support you so that you do not feel like you are sleeping in a hammock. Consider buying a new pillow with the mattress since your pillow needs may change with the different support you are getting from the new mattress. If you are not going to change your mattress take your old pillow with you to the store. Make sure the mattress does not feel hot. Heat can disrupt sleep more than noise in the environment. Buy the biggest bed you can fit into the bedroom. The larger the bed the less you will be disturbed by your partner. Try using separate sheets and blankets. This will give each sleeper the temperature they are looking for and will reduce the amount of sleep disruption from pulling on blankets.
Afrobella – I am a side sleeper, and my husband has back issues. Should we go for firm, or pillowtop? Tempurpedic or something else?
Dr. Oexman – Sleepys.com has the diagnostic system that will measure each of you and make a recommendation for a support level you need. Start with that and select the “comfort” you are looking for. There is no real definition of firm and a pillow top is mattress design. You can have a manufacture designate a mattress as firm but it may feel quite different than another manufacturer’s firm. I have felt some pillowtops that are very soft and others that are very firm.
That’s the official word from Dr. Oexman — click here to follow Sleepy’s on Facebook, click here for their Twitter, and if you’re in the market for a mattress, definitely check out Sleepys.com, their selection and their prices are amazing!
And what about me and my decade old mattress? I recently went through the exhausting (see what I did there?) process of choosing a mattress, and this is but post numero uno in a mini-series about the quest for beauty sleep. I can tell you now that finally — a decade later — I’ve upgraded my mattress situation and I’m here to tell you it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in YEARS. Stay tuned for part two! But for now — tell me about your current mattress and your relationship with sleep? Is it a healthy relationship? Or are you getting by on struggle sleep right now?