- The Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
The very best mattress for back sleepers will be the mattress that supports the body in a neutral position.
What do we mean by that? Well, the best mattress will be able to not only support your body weight, but also simultaneously provide the proper contour necessary to maintain that neutral position.
Your neutral position is how you look standing upright, nice and relaxed; it’s the way your shoulders line up with your hips. If you turn to the side and look in the mirror, you can see the natural curvature of your spinal column and how your seat curves down to your hamstrings.
This is what we’re trying to replicate while back sleeping: everything should look as close as possible to how it looks while you’re standing upright. All that natural curvature needs to exist while you’re sleeping. If it doesn’t, you’ll wake up with soreness due to the stress of being mispositioned during the night.
For back sleepers, please pay special attention to the hip region. The heaviest bone group in the body is the pelvic region. If proper contour isn’t achieved in this area, it throws off the entire alignment.
If the bed is too firm, and hips are held too high, once sleep sets in and the body relaxes, the hips will be forced upwards (towards the ceiling) in an unhealthy way, and ultimately flatten out the natural curvature of the low back region. The discs in between each vertebrae can’t rehydrate properly, resulting in back pain. The musculature isn’t relaxed in a healthy position, but is flexed, resulting in tension/pulling sensations: back pain. See where we’re going with this?
If the bed is too soft, the hips/pelvic region drop in too far into the mattress, creating a swayback effect. This creates musculature tension along the lumbar spine due to exaggerated curvature: back pain. And again, the intervertebral discs can’t rehydrate properly when they’re pinched.; back pain results.
Do you need a soft, medium, or firm mattress? The answer is dictated by your weight.
We suggest throwing the terms “soft” and “firm” right out the window. Shop according to flexible support that allows proper positioning. Find a mattress that holds you properly, then take a good long look at the warranty to see how long you may expect it to do so. Beware, again, of “comfort impression” caveats. Please refer to our article: Mattress Warranties—What You Need to Know Before You Buy for more information on how to de-code warranties: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2012/12/mattress-warranties-what-you-need-to.html
Next up: What’s the best mattress for stomach sleepers?
- THE BEST MATTRESS FOR SIDE SLEEPERS
We decided to break things down in shorter (but still informative) essays more focused on main sleeping position.
Go look in the mirror at yourself in a relaxed, standing position. Note the position of your shoulders in relation to both your hips and waist region. This is your neutral position.
This is what the best mattress for you will do: it will allow your body to rest in that alignment while you’re sleeping.
For the side-sleeping individual, imagine replicating your standing position while in bed.
The shoulders and hips need to “get in” to the mattress, compressing the materials just enough so that the midsection gets proper support. There should be contact on every part of your body: no gap under the midsection.
The firmness of the best bed for you depends on your build and weight.
When side-sleeping, if the shoulders and/or hips do not compress the surface of the mattress enough, the mattress will essentially repel them. So comparing the two:
A well-fitting mattress:
Plenty of room for shoulder/hips and support through the midsection. Spine in a straight alignment.
Note the foundation underneath the mattress: a flexible slat system adjusts to your movements and helps get the spine in proper alignment.
A too-firm mattress will get you to this:
Shoulders and/or hips get forced upward (towards the ceiling), which flexes the spine into a “U” position. Pain in the low back area will occur. Also, compression upon the shoulders/hips can cause numbness in the arm, tingly fingers, mid-back pain, hip/shoulder pointers, etc.
If a mattress is too soft, the heaviest parts of the body (hip zone) get too far into the mattress; once again, the spine is flexed in an unnatural position. Different problem with the same results: Low back pain and more.
So there you have it, yet again. The proper mattress for YOU will be dictated by:
- Your weight
- Your build
- Your sleeping positions
- 40 Facts About Sleep
|40 FACTS ABOUT SLEEP YO U PROBABLY DIDN'T KNOW...|
(OR WERE TOO TIRED TO THINK ABOUT)
What really strikes me:
"Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%."
-The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
- It's impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.
- Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you're sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you're still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.
- A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year
- One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.
- The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.
- REM sleep occurs in bursts totalling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.
- Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It's possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.
- REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery - obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.
- Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film
- No-one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.
- Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.
- Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others reckon we dream about things worth forgetting - to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.
- Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations - sleep and consciousness.
- REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten puppy rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.
- Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain's sleep-wake clock.
- British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers' body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers' retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.
- Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.
- The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.
- The NRMA estimates fatigue is involved in one in 6 fatal road accidents.
- Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.
- The "natural alarm clock" which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.
- Some sleeping tablets, such as barbiturates suppress REM sleep, which can be harmful over a long period.
- In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.
- Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
- To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain's sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That's why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees - one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.
- A night on the grog will help you get to sleep but it will be a light slumber and you won't dream much.
- After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you've slept enough.
- Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates like chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of whom sleep for 10 hours.
- Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.
- Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnoea, a disorder which causes sufferers to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
- Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep
- Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal
- Some studies suggest women need up to an hour's extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.
- Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.
- Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.
- Most of what we know about sleep we've learned in the past 25 years.
- As a group, 18 to 24 year-olds deprived of sleep suffer more from impaired performance than older adults.
- Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet.
- The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.
- Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain
- By TARA PARKER-POPE
The best path to a healthy weight may be a good night’s sleep.
Now a fascinating new study suggests that the link may be even more insidious than previously thought. Losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row can lead to almost immediate weight gain.
Sleep researchers from the University of Colorado recruited 16 healthy men and women for a two-week experiment tracking sleep, metabolism and eating habits. Nothing was left to chance: the subjects stayed in a special room that allowed researchers to track their metabolism by measuring the amount of oxygen they used and carbon dioxide they produced. Every bite of food was recorded, and strict sleep schedules were imposed.
The goal was to determine how inadequate sleep over just one week — similar to what might occur when students cram for exams or when office workers stay up late to meet a looming deadline — affects a person’s weight, behavior and physiology.
During the first week of the study, half the people were allowed to sleep nine hours a night while the other half stayed up until about midnight and then could sleep up to five hours. Everyone was given unlimited access to food. In the second week, the nine-hour sleepers were then restricted to five hours of sleep a night, while the sleep-deprived participants were allowed an extra four hours.
But even though we burn more calories when we stay awake, losing sleep is not a good way to lose weight. The light sleepers ended up eating far more than those who got nine hours of sleep, and by the end of the first week the sleep-deprived subjects had gained an average of about two pounds.
During the second week, members of the group that had originally slept nine hours also gained weight when they were restricted to just five hours. And the other group began to lose some (but not all) of the weight gained in that first sleep-deprived week.
Kenneth Wrightdirector of the university’s sleep and chronobiology laboratory, said part of the change was behavioral. Staying up late and skimping on sleep led to not only more eating, but a shift in the type of foods a person consumed.
“We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overatecarbohydrates
,” he said. “They ate more food, and when they ate food also changed. They ate a smaller breakfast and they ate a lot more after dinner.”
In fact, sleep-deprived eaters ended up eating more calories during after-dinner snacking than in any other meal during the day. Over all, people consumed 6 percent more calories when they got too little sleep. Once they started sleeping more, they began eating more healthfully, consuming fewer carbohydrates and fats. Dr. Wright noted that the effect of sleep deprivation on weight would likely be similar in the real world although it might not be as pronounced as in the controlled environment. The researchers found that insufficient sleep changed the timing of a person’s internal clock, and that in turn appeared to influence the changes in eating habits. “They were awake three hours before their internal nighttime had ended,” Dr. Wright said. “Being awakened during their biological night is probably why they ate smaller breakfasts.”
The effect was similar to the jet lag that occurs when a person travels from California to New York.
Last fall, The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on a study by University of Chicago researchers, who found that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells
. In the small study — just seven healthy volunteers — the researchers tracked the changes that occurred when subjects moved from 8.5 hours of sleep to just 4.5 hours. After four nights of less sleep, their fat cells were less sensitive to insulin, a metabolic change associated with both diabetes
“Metabolically, lack of sleep aged fat cells about 20 years,” said Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the senior author on the study.
“These subjects were in their low 20s but it’s as if they were now middle-aged in terms of their response. We were surprised how profound the effects were.”
Both Drs. Wright and Brady noted that because their studies lasted only days, it was not clear how long-term sleep deprivation affects weight, and whether the body adjusts to less sleep.
Dr. Brady said that while better sleep would not solve the obesity problem, paying more attention to sleep habits could help individuals better manage their weight.
In the future he hopes to study whether a focus on better sleep could improve the health of people in middle age who are overweight or prediabetic.
“Telling someone they need to sleep more as a way to improve their metabolic health, we think would be more palatable,” said Dr. Brady. “We think sleep is very underappreciated.”
- What's the Best Pillow?
We have so many customers who are desperate to find a good pillow, it seems logical to discuss how to do so.
In our previous post “Is a Firm Mattress Better? “ we sought to educate the customer as to how his/her weight, build, and sleeping positions determine, to a very large degree, what firmness of mattress is going to hold the body the most properly.
As a quick reminder: In a properly supportive mattress, one that keeps your body in a neutral alignment, the spinal column will be supported evenly.
Meaning that in a side sleeping position, the shoulders and hips should compress the mattress just enough to get support through the midsection and maintain a straight alignment in the spinal column.
In a back sleeping position, the seat should compress just enough of the mattress so the low back concavity gets supported and kept in a neutral position.
What about pillows?
The right pillow for each person depends, again, on build and sleeping positions, but there’s one more thing to take into consideration: the firmness of your mattress.
Why is that?
The deeper your body gets into the surface of your mattress, the less space needs to be filled under the neck to keep it in a healthy position.
A well-fitting pillow will help keep the neck and head in a healthy neutral alignment.
Stand up in a relaxed position and look forward. Take a look at the space between your chest and your neck. That’s the same amount of space you need while sleeping in order promote the healthiest position, which allows optimum oxygen flow. Also, this position will allow the neck muscles to relax properly while sleeping.
Imagine finding the perfect pillow to go along with your mattress. Everything is in perfect alignment; you can breathe easily. There’s no stress in the neck. You wake up without pain. You have set yourself up in a beautiful, healthy neutrality while you sleep!
Now take this pillow with you on vacation, where the bed is far softer than yours at home. Your body sinks in more deeply to the vacation bed. Now, all of a sudden, the pillow that works so beautifully at home is too big! Your head is pitched up at an angle, causing both neck stress and breathing issues. Not good.
Keeping in mind how the mattress itself plays such an important role in finding the correct pillow, let’s now talk about sleeping positions.
Back Sleepers: Generally need lower pillows. Go too tall with a pillow, and your head will be pitched up at an angle. This is terrible positioning for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it puts a bend in the airway, which impedes oxygen flow, which can cause snoring. Secondly, the neck will not rest in a healthy position. Neck pain upon awakening will generally occur.
Side Sleepers: Tend to have more problems with finding a pillow that corrects their positioning from the neck up. There needs to be enough lift under the neck to fill up the area between neck and shoulders, but enough softness under the head itself to allow it to drop into a neutral position.
If the pillow is too short, your head will angle downwards.
If the pillow is too tall, the opposite happens: the head angles upwards. Ultimately, the neck stress and lack of proper oxygenation will happen in both instances.
Stomach Sleepers: Generally don’t need a pillow. But there are many different “stomach sleeping” positions.
For those who sleep truly flat on their bellies; think about the placement of the head while you’re in that position. In order to breathe, you must turn your head severely to one side. This is wreaking havoc on the neck. Torsion of the neck in this position stresses the musculature and can force the cervical vertebrae out of correct position. Our advice is: Do everything within your power to change your sleeping position! The neck is a delicate region and just cannot withstand such stress and maintain good health.
For those who do more of a “belly crawl”; more of a side/belly combo, usually with one leg drawn up. These sleepers like to angle the pillow in order to hug a portion of it. In these instances, look for a pillow that keeps the head as neutral as possible with the spinal column. If the head is pitched upward or downward, the problems with neck pain and breathing will occur.
There you have it. The best pillow for you is dictated by your body, your sleeping positions, and your bed.
One more thing to think about: most people sleep in both side and back positions. Ideally, your best pillow will be able to keep your head and neck properly aligned in both positions.
This is why we have 17 different sizes of Oxygen Pillow-to accommodate the sleepers’ varying positions while still maintaining neutrality. You can have proper alignment, more open airways, and wonderful comfort all night long.
- Snoring Linked to Cancer
Don’t get mad when your girlfriend kicks you out of bed for snoring. Get help—it might save your life.
Snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea, a disorder in which your breathing becomes shallow or even stops for a while during the night. People with severe sleep apnea are almost five times as likely to die of cancer than those who breathe easy while they sleep, according to a new study presented last week at the American Thoracic Society conference. The study, which tracked 1,500 people for 22 years, found that mild or moderate snoring also increases your risk of cancer death. (To live to see your great-grandkids, follow these 50 Tips to Live Longer
Sleep apnea reduces the oxygen level in your blood; to avoid suffocating, tumors grow new blood vessels, says study author F. Javier Nieto, M.P.H., M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. These extra veins and arteries help existing tumors grow faster and give cancer cells more opportunities to spread through your bloodstream to new parts of your body.
It’s not yet clear whether sleep apnea increases your risk of getting
cancer or just worsens existing cases, and more research is needed to confirm the results. But snoring is cause for concern either way—leading to accidents, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you snore and are sleepy during the day, check with your doctor, especially if you’re carrying a few extra pounds (they increase your sleep apnea risk). Other signs of sleep apnea include grumpiness, forgetfulness, and headaches that are hard to shake. (If you’re battling other aches and pains, click her for The Real Reasons Why Your Body Hurts
- Sleep deprivation has genetic consequences, study finds
Doctors know that being chronically sleep-deprived
can be hazardous to your health. Night-shift workers, college crammers and all the rest of us who get less than our fair share of zzz's are more likely to be obese and to suffer cardiovascular woes than people who get a consistent, healthful eight hours.
Now scientists have some new clues about how lack of sleep translates into disease.
After subjecting 26 volunteers to seven nights of insufficient shut-eye followed by a marathon all-nighter, researchers detected changes in the way hundreds of genes were expressed in their bodies. Some genes, including damage-inducing ones involved in stress reactions, were amplified. Others, including many that nurture and renew cells and tissues, were turned down.
"It's possible to see how that contributes to poor health," said Colin Smith, a genomics researcher at the University of Surrey in England and one of the senior authors of a report detailing the findings this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists have long puzzled over the purpose of sleep. For years they focused on how it influenced the brain, said Derk-Jan Dijk, a sleep and circadian rhythm researcher at the same institution and the study's other senior author.
But epidemiologists noticed that people who work early in the morning or late at night — or who lack sleep in general — have higher rates of diabetes
, stroke and high blood pressure
, among other ailments. And biologists have discovered that people who get poor sleep produce more of the stress hormone cortisol
and the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, among other biochemical changes.
"It used to be thought that sleep was by the brain, of the brain, for the brain," said Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School
researcher who is well-known for his examinations of how poor sleep affects people in a variety of everyday settings. "Now it's recognized that it plays an important role in bodily functions."
To learn more about the biological mechanisms at work, Dijk, Smith and colleagues asked their study volunteers to complete two 12-day-long evaluations.
In one test condition, the subjects — all healthy adults who did not suffer from sleep disorders
— were allowed to stay in bed for 10 hours on seven consecutive nights. Brain wave scans showed that they slept for an average of 8.5 hours each night, an amount considered sufficient.
In the other test condition, subjects were allowed to stay in bed just six hours a night for seven nights, and they got an average of only 5.7 hours of sleep.
At the end of each week of controlled sleep, the researchers kept subjects awake for 39 to 41 hours, drawing blood every three hours for a total of 10 samples.
Then they analyzed cells in the blood, looking at changes in RNA — the molecule that carries out DNA instructions, creating the proteins that drive processes in the body.
They found that losing sleep changed rhythmic patterns in the way genes turn on and off, disrupting the genes' circadian clock.
Also, overall, 711 genes were expressed differently when people were sleep-deprived: 444 were turned down, and 267 were amped up.
Further analysis revealed that genes involved in inflammation, immunity and protein damage were activated, suggesting that tissue harm was occurring after sleep deprivation. Many of the down-regulated genes, in contrast, were involved in producing new proteins, cells and tissues. The balanced process of tissue renewal seemed to be disrupted by insufficient sleep.
Dijk and Smith said they found it striking that the changes were so readily apparent after just one week.
Scientists who were not involved the study praised its careful design and said that being able to use blood to assess the molecular effects of sleep deprivation represented a promising advance for the field.
In the past, many studies of the biological consequences of sleep restriction were conducted in laboratory animals like mice, with scientists examining gene expression in tissues from the brain or the liver. For obvious reasons, that's not feasible with people.
But the ability to use a simple blood test to "tell what time of day" it is in a person's body could help doctors deal with their sleep-deprived patients, said Czeisler, who wasn't part of the British research team.
Today, doctors must rely on a patient's self-assessment of how tired he or she feels. But caffeine "gums up the signal" that tells the brain when it needs more sleep, fooling people into thinking that they're getting plenty of rest, Czeisler said.
"This could be an early warning system" that could let doctors know a patient is at risk for ills related to sleep loss, he said.
- Really? Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep
- By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
Anahad O’Connor tackles health myths.
In today’s gadget-obsessed world, sleep experts often say that for a better night’s rest, Americans should click the “off” buttons on their smartphones and tablets before tucking in for the night. Electronic devices stimulate brain activity, they say, disrupting your ability to drift off to sleep. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed.
In the study, published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, the researchers had volunteers read, play games and watch movies on an iPad
, iPad 2 or PC tablet for various amounts of time while measuring the amount of light their eyes received. They found that two hours of exposure to a bright tablet screen at night reduced melatonin levels by about 22 percent
To be on the safe side, the authors of the latest study suggest limiting computer use before bed, or at the very least dimming your screen as much as possible.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Artificial light from computer screens at night may reduce melatonin levels.
A version of this article appeared in print on 09/11/2012, on page D5 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Really? The Claim: Using a computer before bed can disrupt sleep
- Does your diet influence how well you sleep?
By Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME.com
(TIME.com) -- Poor sleeping habits can lead to overeating, but can unhealthy diets keep you up at night?
Getting enough sleep
and eating right are well-known behaviors for good health. Keeping a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight, and those who get seven to eight hours of sleep per night tend to have better health overall.
have linked a lack of sleep to overeating, but less is known about how diet influences sleep patterns.
A group of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania investigated how diets correlated with sleep patterns.
The researchers studied data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) involving 4,548 people. They looked at how much sleep the participants reported getting each night, as well as a very detailed report of their daily diet.
For the study, very short sleep patterns were defined as less than five hours a night, short sleep was five to six hours a night, standard sleep was seven to eight hours, and long sleep was nine or more hours a night.
It turns out that people in the different sleep categories also had distinct diet patterns. Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, then very short sleepers. Long sleepers consumed the least calories.
Normal sleepers, however, showed the highest food variety in their diets, and very short sleepers had the least variation in what they ate. A varied diet tends to be a marker for good health since it includes multiple sources of nutrients.
Very short sleepers drank less tap water and consumed fewer total carbohydrates and lycopene, found in red and orange-colored fruits and vegetables and high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, than people with other sleep patterns.
Short sleepers tended to eat less vitamin C, tap water and selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish) consumption, but more lutein or zeaxanthin, which are found in green, leafy veggies. Long sleep was associated with consuming less theobromine, which is found in chocolate and tea, the saturated fat dodecanoic acid, choline found in eggs and fatty meats and total carbohydrates. Long sleepers also drank more alcohol.
What do all the correlations mean? As one of the first studies to look into the role that diet plays on sleep quality, the findings are more hypothesis-generating than confirming.
"It was like, 'No one has ever entered this country before, let's go in and take some pictures,'" says study author Michael Grandner, an instructor in psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn.
Many studies have looked at how sleep influences eating habits. Research suggests sleep deprivation interferes with hunger and satiety hormones crucial to regulating appetite. But the study authors suggest that the relationship works both ways, and that diet can alter sleep as well.
Some of the interactions are well known already, such as how drinking too much water and interrupt sleep by waking you up to use the bathroom, or how consuming heavy and spicy foods can keep you up, but there may be less apparent effects as well.
"For example, iron deficiencies have been linked to restless leg syndrome in some cases. There may be certain substances that work on the molecular level to regulate some of the biological machinery of sleep, but there hasn't been a lot done to tease that apart, and this study may be one of the first to help point us in the right direction of where to look," says Grandner.
Further work may may clarify whether the relationship is as complicated as short sleep disrupting the body's ability to process calories, or as simple as people who report very short sleep also under reporting the amount they eat.
Still, there is the potential that scientists could one day determine the right mix of calories and nutrients to promote better sleep, which could become a low-cost strategy to curb obesity and heart disease.
"It reminds people that we have come to the point in our society where we recognize that our diet is important to our health. We don't always act on it, but we recognize it," says Grandner.
"We haven't come there with sleep yet. People don't brag about how much they eat anymore -- we used to, but we don't anymore, but we still show off about how little sleep we get."
The study is published in the journal Appetite
This story was originally published on TIME.com
- Tips for Hot Sleepers
Do you sleep hot and not understand why? Are you playing the “covers on/covers off” game all night long?
Sometimes it’s hormones wreaking havoc, such as in menopause or thyroid dysfunction. Other times it’s directly related to a combination of factors that, with a bit of consideration, can be corrected.
A liter of moisture (on average) emits from our bodies during sleep through breathing and through skin. When this moisture leaves the body, it needs to be absorbed by the immediate environment. The more easily it can be absorbed and drawn away from the body, the more even the temperature regulation remains, and the deeper and more comfortable your sleep will be.
However, if the heat and moisture is reflected back to your body due to use of waterproof or synthetic materials, it creates a feedback loop. Eventually, you’re going to be covered in sweat.
No matter why you’re having temperature regulation problems, there are things you can do to either eliminate this issue, or reduce it greatly.
Sleep scientists have studied this, proving that keeping your bedroom on the cooler side (between 62-72 degrees) will help lower the body temperature and induce sleep.
Always use cotton or linen sheets. Polyester, rayon, acrylic, and nylon blends are treated with chemicals during manufacturing and trap heat and moisture. Cotton is breathable, and doesn’t reflect that heat/moisture back onto the sleeper.
Wool comforters and blankets are incredibly efficient at keeping a sleeper at an even, healthy temperature, due to the nature of wool fibers. They’re hollow, so moisture is siphoned away from the body and evaporated very quickly into the atmosphere.
Conversely, if there are issues with sleeping too cold, the wool fibers hold air to keep the sleeper at a comfortable, toasty temperature.
Things to think about:
Don’t be fooled by Bamboo sheets. Bamboo sheets are actually a very high percentage rayon, and as such can trap heat and moisture.
Anything you put on your bed that’s waterpoof, or even water resistant, is going to trap moisture.
You know what’s highly water resistant? Down. It may feel and look luxurious, but for the sleeper with heat issues it’s a definite offender.
Most conventional mattresses have covers (ticking) made with polyester or rayon, so a great number people will be starting off at a deficit.
Again, cotton, linen and wool are your best bets to stay dry, comfortable, and asleep.
High fat content foods can raise blood pressure, and the body responds by perspiring to level things back out.
For many people overeating, and overindulgence in alcohol can cause problems.
Some sensitive people should avoid meals or alcohol even in small portions for 3 hours prior to bedtime.
These tips are an excellent place to begin in your search to end the cycle. A little extra attention to them can drastically reduce (and sometimes even eliminate) the number of nights you wake up drenched in perspiration.
- Aging in Brain Found to Hurt Sleep Needed for Memory
Published: January 27, 2013
Scientists have known for decades that the ability to remember newly learned information declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer.
The report, posted online on Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience
, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.
Previous research had found that the prefrontal cortex, the brain region behind the forehead, tends to lose volume with age, and that part of this region helps sustain quality sleep, which is critical to consolidating new memories. But the new experiment, led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first to directly link structural changes with sleep-related memory problems.
The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep, specifically the so-called slow-wave phase, which constitutes about a quarter of a normal night’s slumber.
Doctors cannot reverse structural changes that occur with age any more than they can turn back time. But at least two groups are experimenting with electrical stimulation as a way to improve deep sleep in older people. By placing electrodes on the scalp, scientists can run a low current across the prefrontal area, essentially mimicking the shape of clean, high-quality slow waves.
The result: improved memory, at least in some studies. “There are also a number of other ways you can improve sleep, including exercise,” said Ken Paller, a professor of psychology and the director of the cognitive neuroscience program at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the research.
Dr. Paller said that a whole array of changes occurred across the brain during aging and that sleep was only one factor affecting memory function.
But he said the study told “a convincing story, I think: that atrophy is related to slow-wave sleep, which we know is related to memory performance. So it’s a contributing factor.”
In the study, the research team took brain images from 19 people of retirement age and from 18 people in their early 20s. It found that a brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex, roughly behind the middle of the forehead, was about one-third smaller on average in the older group than in the younger one — a difference due to natural atrophy over time, previous research suggests.
Before bedtime, the team had the two groups study a long list of words paired with nonsense syllables, like “action-siblis” and “arm-reconver.” The team used the nonwords because one type of memory that declines with age is for new, previously unseen information.
After training on the pairs for half an hour or so, the participants took a test on some of them. The young group outscored the older group by about 25 percent.
Then everyone went to bed — and bigger differences emerged. For one, the older group got only about a quarter of the amount of high-quality slow-wave sleep that the younger group did, as measured by the shape and consistency of electrical waves on an electroencephalogram machine, or EEG. It is thought that the brain moves memories from temporary to longer-term storage during this deep sleep.
On a second test, given in the morning, the younger group outscored the older group by about 55 percent. The estimated amount of atrophy in each person roughly predicted the difference between his or her evening and morning scores, the study found. Even seniors who were very sharp at night showed declines after sleeping.
“The analysis showed that the differences were due not to changes in capacity for memories, but to differences in sleep quality,” said Bryce A. Mander, a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. His co-authors included researchers from the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco; the University of California, San Diego; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The findings do not imply that medial prefrontal atrophy is the only age-related change causing memory problems, said Matthew P. Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley and a co-author of the study.
“Essentially, with age, you lose tissue in this prefrontal area,” Dr. Walker said. “You get less quality deep sleep, and have less opportunity to consolidate new memories.”
- 10 toxic hotspots in the home
Children’s Bedroom: Toxic Furniture
10 toxic hotspots in the home
- Is a Firm Mattress Better?
In the interest of continuing education, I was reading an online article about this subject. The author, who’d worked in the mattress industry for over 20 years, gave some pretty insightful information.
In the comments section, however, a reader felt the need to dispute all that good information. He was adamant that the perfect bed had to be the combination he then listed, which was a long list of very specific components in very specific heights and, strangely, a specific height of bed frame. He stated in his comment that this list was what will work for everyone, because it’s what worked for him.
I was horrified.
Not only because it was so wildly inaccurate, but also because it was the first comment after a quite helpful article about how to find a better bed. What’s the typical “I need a new mattress” researcher to think?
So, let's clarify a few things. Is a firm mattress better?
Let’s define “firm.” Firm means solid. Hard. Stiff. Rigid. Not yielding when pressed. This is something we hear quite a lot: “My doctor says I need a firm bed for my back.”
What becomes clear when talking more in-depth to customers is that a huge percentage of people equate the word firm with the word supportive.
Let’s define “supportive." In a medical sense, the word “supportive” means to help maintain a normal physiological balance. In essence, a properly supportive mattress is one that holds your body in as neutral a position as is possible while you’re sleeping.
“Firm” and “supportive” don’t mean the same thing. A super firm mattress, one that does not give to the natural curvature of the body, will cause problems for most people. A supportive mattress, one that fits properly, will hold your body in a natural, neutral position. A supportive mattress will support your body weight and yet provide enough contour for shoulders and hips.
The goal is to get your body in as neutral a position as is possible. Imagine how you look when standing in an upright, natural position - hips and shoulders are nicely stacked and relaxed, that’s how the proper mattress should hold your body. And that’s where weight, build, and sleeping positions come into the picture.
Imagine a 5’2”, 115 lb. female with a small waistline who’s a side sleeper. In order to achieve a neutral position while side sleeping, her shoulders and hips have to compress the mattress materials enough to get contact in the waistline area. This is the only way the spinal column can remain straight and neutral.
If the mattress is too firm for this person (meaning her weight is such that her shoulders and hips can’t compress the mattress enough) the shoulder and hip will get contact, but the waist will not. There will be a gap in that region until the muscle relaxation of sleep sets in, at which time the waist region will sag down until it meets the mattress. Ultimately, the spine is forced into a “U” position, placing undue stress on the intervertebral disks and spinal musculature. Pressure points can potentially build up in the shoulder and hip joints, causing pain and/or numbness. At the very least, she’ll have low back pain upon waking.
Now imagine another scenario. This time we have a 6’2”, 220 lb. man who is mostly a back sleeper. If you envision the customary, slightly curved “S” shape of the spinal column and keep in mind that he’s a back sleeper, you can conceptualize how the seat area needs to compress the mattress just enough so that the curvature of the low back gets contact. With that accomplished, the spinal column should be supported nicely. This individual, as a heavier back sleeper, can go firmer than the female side sleeper and be in a healthy position.
However, if you turn this same man onto his side, the broadness of his shoulders comes into play. Now, in order for the shoulders to compress enough of the mattress to allow support through the torso (and maintain a straight spinal column) the mattress needs to be a bit softer. No less supportive, just more flexiblein order for the shoulders and spinal column to align properly.
Back to the original question of “is a firm bed better?” The answer is that it truly depends on your weight, build, and how you sleep. You can go too firm, and you can also go too soft, depending on your weight.
Your body weight has to be distributed evenly on the mattress. The mattress needs to be flexible enough to give where you need it to (shoulders/hips when side sleeping, seat when back sleeping) but supportive enough so that your spinal column is never forced into an unhealthy position.
This is why we ask so many questions when customers come in for mattresses, even when there’s the old familiar “I need firm” idea in their minds. We take our customers through a fitting process to find the mattress that not only supports them properly, but feels the best to them. It’s simple. It’s logical. And it works.
- Driving While Drowsy
January 4th, 2013
03:55 PM ET
Most of us are familiar with the dangers of drunken driving, but drowsy driving can be just as deadly
. Studies estimate 15% to 33% of fatal crashes involve tired drivers, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Being sleep-deprived slows our reaction time, said Dr. Michael Howell, a sleep expert with the University of Minnesota. That can mean hitting something we might otherwise avoid, like a child on a bicycle who suddenly veers off the sidewalk.
We're also more impulsive when we're tired, Howell said. It's like our brains revert to being teenagers. "We respond to things without thinking them through," he says. "... Road rage happens because people are sleep deprived."
The CDC report
analyzed data from a 2009-2010 national behavioral telephone survey of more than 147,000 respondents. Approximately 4.2% of those surveyed reported having fallen asleep while driving at least once during the last month. That’s one out of every 24 people.
That sounds like a small number, but the problem may be more prevalent over a longer period. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll
found that 60% of drivers had driven while sleepy in the preceding year. In a 2010 national telephone survey, more than 40% of people admitted to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point in their lives, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Men were more likely than women to report falling asleep at the wheel, according to the new CDC report. Howell said men are more likely than women to have sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea. They're also less likely to regularly get enough sleep.
"We live in a sleep-deprived culture," he said. "There’s a reason why there’s a coffee shop on every corner. We don’t sleep as much as we should."
- Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain
Anyone whose resolve to exercise in 2013 is a bit shaky might want to consider an emerging scientific view of human evolution. It suggests that we are clever today in part because a million years ago, we could outrun and outwalk most other mammals over long distances. Our brains were shaped and sharpened by movement, the idea goes, and we continue to require regular physical activity in order for our brains to function optimally.
Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.
The role of physical endurance in shaping humankind has intrigued anthropologists and gripped the popular imagination for some time. In 2004, the evolutionary biologists Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard and Dennis M. Bramble of the University of Utah published a seminal article in the journal Nature titled“Endurance Running and the Evolution of Homo,”
in which they posited that our bipedal ancestors survived by becoming endurance athletes, able to bring down swifter prey through sheer doggedness, jogging and plodding along behind them until the animals dropped.
Endurance produced meals, which provided energy for mating, which meant that adept early joggers passed along their genes. In this way, natural selection drove early humans to become even more athletic, Dr. Lieberman and other scientists have written, their bodies developing longer legs, shorter toes, less hair and complicated inner-ear mechanisms to maintain balance and stability during upright ambulation. Movement shaped the human body.
But simultaneously, in a development that until recently many scientists viewed as unrelated, humans were becoming smarter. Their brains were increasing rapidly in size.
Today, humans have a brain that is about three times larger than would be expected, anthropologists say, given our species’ body size in comparison with that of other mammals.
To explain those outsized brains, evolutionary scientists have pointed to such occurrences as meat eating and, perhaps most determinatively, our early ancestors’ need for social interaction. Early humans had to plan and execute hunts as a group, which required complicated thinking patterns and, it’s been thought, rewarded the social and brainy with evolutionary success. According to that hypothesis, the evolution of the brain was driven by the need to think.
But now some scientists are suggesting that physical activity also played a critical role in making our brains larger.
To reach that conclusion, anthropologists began by looking at existing data
about brain size and endurance capacity in a variety of mammals, including dogs, guinea pigs, foxes, mice, wolves, rats, civet cats, antelope, mongeese, goats, sheep and elands. They found a notable pattern. Species like dogs and rats that had a high innate endurance capacity, which presumably had evolved over millenniums, also had large brain volumes relative to their body size.
The researchers also looked at recent experiments in which mice and rats were systematically bred to be marathon runners. Lab animals that willingly put in the most miles on running wheels were interbred, resulting in the creation of a line of lab animals that excelled at running.
Interestingly, after multiple generations, these animals began to develop innately high levels of substances that promote tissue growth and health, including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. These substances are important for endurance performance. They also are known to drive brain growth.
What all of this means, says David A. Raichlen, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona and an author of a new article about the evolution of human brains
appearing in the January issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, is that physical activity may have helped to make early humans smarter.
“We think that what happened” in our early hunter-gatherer ancestors, he says, is that the more athletic and active survived and, as with the lab mice, passed along physiological characteristics that improved their endurance, including elevated levels of BDNF. Eventually, these early athletes had enough BDNF coursing through their bodies that some could migrate from the muscles to the brain, where it nudged the growth of brain tissue.
Those particular early humans then applied their growing ability to think and reason toward better tracking prey, becoming the best-fed and most successful from an evolutionary standpoint. Being in motion made them smarter, and being smarter now allowed them to move more efficiently.
And out of all of this came, eventually, an ability to understand higher math and invent iPads. But that was some time later.
The broad point of this new notion is that if physical activity helped to mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today, says John D. Polk, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and co-author, with Dr. Raichlen, of the new article.
And there is scientific support for that idea. Recent studies have shown, he says, that “regular exercise, even walking,” leads to more robust mental abilities, “beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.”
Of course, the hypothesis that jogging after prey helped to drive human brain evolution is just a hypothesis, Dr. Raichlen says, and almost unprovable.
But it is compelling, says Harvard’s Dr. Lieberman, who has worked with the authors of the new article. “I fundamentally agree that there is a deep evolutionary basis for the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind,” he says, a relationship that makes the term “jogging your memory” more literal than most of us might have expected and provides a powerful incentive to be active in 2013.
- Mattress Warranties – What you need to know before you buy.
If you’ve been mattress shopping lately, you probably discovered that the world of mattress warranties can be incredibly confusing and very often misleading. Most reasonably intelligent individuals would think that a 25-year warranty is better than a 10 year warranty-that the mattress with the longer warranty should be better quality and last longer. Unfortunately, the mattress business doesn’t usually work that way. The ugly truth is that most 15, 20 and 25 year warranties are quite simply marketing ploys intended to make a sale. Don’t make the mistake of associating length of warranty to a realistic indicator of how long the mattress is going to last. Read the fine print. Some back ground - What is a warranty meant to do? A warranty is a written guarantee given to the purchaser of a new item by the manufacturer or dealer, usually specifying that the manufacturer will make repairs or replace defective parts free of charge for a stated period of time. This all sounds great, but what happens when you throw in the added complexity of a “limited warranty” and the “pro-rated warranty”? These kinds of warranties provide less repair and replacement conditions the longer you own the mattress. As a result, the manufacturer is responsible for less and less the longer you have the item. Most manufacturers will have a schedule for the amount of proration of a 20-year warranty (or 10-year warranty, or 15-year…you get the gist.) Depending on the mattress model you buy, the warranty schedule will tell you the length of time that the company will repair or replace the mattress at no charge. It will also tell you what you can expect to be charged for repairs and/or replacement after that time frame has passed. Many times, this cost is based on a percentage of the retail price you paid for the mattress multiplied by the years you've had it. Imagine you purchased a mattress for $2,000 with a 20-year warranty. You become aware of the mattress sagging during year 2, and contact the company to see what your options are. A company rep comes to your home and fully agrees that you have a problem. Unfortunately, your warranty was only a FULL warranty for one year. Since you've had your bed for 2 years, you must then pay 1/10th multiplied by 2 (the number of years you've had it) of the purchase price to get the issue resolved, as well as pay for shipping of the entire mattress to and from the repair facility. You thought the warranty was a safety net: instead, you have to pay $400 plus shipping costs. Imagine what would costs you'd incur at year 14 or 18! At year 10, you'd spend the same amount just to get the mattress repaired that you originally paid for it, and even more with shipping costs. What to look for in a warranty.
Better mattresses will provide better warranties. Ask to see the warranty in writing. You should be able to study it in detail. For the most part you will get a significant amount of legalese but it should be very simple to filter through the important points. Look for phrases like “full warranty,” “limited warranty,” “prorated warranty”. Also, look for “depth of mattress compression” and/or “body impression” (aka “comfort impression” and “body signature”) followed by 1½” or 2.0”. These key terms will tell you what you are dealing with. In essence, how much of a body impression you must achieve to get your warranty to kick in.
The full warranty, non-prorated, not limited is the best you can find...period. HOWEVER - Buyer beware: There are a few companies that offer a full warranty with certain requirements that must be met before they will replace or repair their mattresses. Those requirements may or not be included in the warranty handout. Always ask “what's the catch?” Universally in our research on this subject, each company touting a full warranty will not repair or replace your mattress unless there is a body impression of at least a certain amount, typically 1½ inches. They'll measure the depth of the indentation, and if it's not at least 1½ inches, they do absolutely nothing to remedy the issue. They consider that to be normal wear, and usually it’s stated right in the warranty. That’s where the usage of phrases such as body impression, comfort impression, etc. come into play. Keep in mind, a body impression measuring ½ inch to 1-inch in depth can significantly affect proper neutral alignment. So by the time you reach that magical 1½” of compression, you could be experiencing significant discomfort. Some companies even have a hybrid warranty, which they call (for example) a “10-Year Full Warranty, 20-Year Pro-Rated Warranty.” When you read that, it's almost impossible to think it's not a great warranty - it sounds as though you have a 30-year warranty. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that during the 10-year portion of the warranty, it's not truly a full warranty. Once again, any body impression must be at least 1½ inches deep for the warranty to go into effect...and there must be no staining on the mattress cover. Which brings us to: Stain on the mattress cover and your warranty Across the board, no mattress warranty we’ve run across will honor a warranty if there is any staining on the mattress cover. Why? Consider this scenario, and it’s one we hear quite often from customers discussing bad experiences with beds they’ve purchased in the past. You purchased a “top of the line” mattress just one year ago. It’s becoming more and more obvious that you have a very deep body impression in your mattress. Let’s say it measures 2” in depth. You have your warranty and call for help. A representative comes out and agrees there is a problem, but then points to a barely perceptible sweat stain and tells you that staining of any sort voids your warranty. At that point, you're trapped either sleeping uncomfortably in that body impression or purchasing a new mattress with the hope that it will hold up better than the last one. What if I don't buy the box or foundation piece? Staining isn’t the only issue that will void your warranty. In many cases, if you don't purchase a box spring or foundation piece along with your mattress, that will also void your warranty. Some companies even go so far as to stipulate the box spring must match the mattress. What does that mean? If you've taken advantage of the “mis-matched mattress and box spring” promotions so prevalent now, you may have no warranty at all. How bed frames can void your warranty: Recently, we’ve become aware of warranties that discuss “improper support of the mattress in the bed frame.” In order to keep the mattress stable and prevent sagging due to improper support, every bed frame that’s a Full size or larger should have center supports. Meaning, not only are there legs on the 4 corners, but also at least one going from the center of the frame to the ground. More center supports are, of course, going to offer even greater stability. All this is true. But many companies will stipulate how many center supports must be used with the bed frame-usually 3 or 5. If you have a warranty problem and just one center support, your warranty is void. This just re-illustrates how very important it is to read through a warranty prior to your purchase. The Sovn European Sleep Systems Warranty Our objective is to keep things simple. That’s why we offer a true Full 10-year Warranty. We don't measure impressions - if there's a body impression in one of our mattresses during the warranty period, we determine where the problem lies (top component? Bottom piece?) and replace it. Period, end of story. How can we do this? First of all, our components are of vastly superior quality and durability. As a result, we simply don’t have warranty issues. Since our mattresses come with a zippered cover, we can honor the warranty without taking any surface staining into consideration. We simply imbed the new component back into the same cover. And of course, if you'd like to purchase a new cover at any time, you're more than welcome to do that as well. Our mattresses are designed to be used with or without foundation pieces. So, if you purchased only a mattress and no box spring you're still covered. Another point that’s important to mention: we don’t have weight limits in our warranty. If you weigh 380 lbs, you’re covered just as completely as someone who weighs 120 lbs. Søvn European Sleep Systems has the best warranty in the business: we aren’t looking for a loophole in the fine print; we just want you to feel less anxiety about your purchase.
- Natural Latex Foam vs. Synthetic/Polyurethane Foam -- What's the difference?
We received a phone call recently from a gentleman who was frustrated with his latex research. I informed him that “There’s natural latex, and then there’s synthetic latex.” His reply was, “Well, but latex is latex is latex, right?”
The answer is Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, there is a world of difference between natural latex and synthetic/polyurethane foam. To make things even more interesting and/or confusing, there are different variations of both kinds. Natural latex is manufactured from sap tapped from rubber trees, then it is either vulcanized (Dunlop method) or frozen, then vulcanized (Talalay method.) I don't want to get too involved in which method is better, because it's hugely dependent upon the processing facility and a number of other factors. The point is, natural latex is an incredibly resilient and durable, clean and supportive material. It is resistant to dust mites, anti-microbial, antifungal, and hypo-allergenic. The important thing to remember when considering a product made of natural latex is purity - what is the percentage of pure natural latex vs fillers or synthetic material. Look for certification by an independent laboratory such as Oeko-Tex, which tests for chemicals and toxins in the finished product. The Oeko-Tex stamp of approval will attest to the cleanliness and purity of the product. Some manufacturers add fillers (most commonly clays, calcium oxide, or titanium dioxide) to the natural latex to make it go further (imagine taking one gallon of milk and diluting it with water to create two gallons of milk). While the finished product will be less expensive, the addition of fillers ultimately makes the latex less durable and more apt to rapid breakdown. Here’s where the consumer needs to be very vigilant…the fact is that natural latex with additives such as those listed above can technically still be called “natural latex”. Synthetic latex(aka polyurethane foam/memory foam) is made of petroleum by-products, sometimes actually mixed with natural latex. Again, that's where you have to be really careful. There are many manufacturers who tout their product as “natural latex”, when in fact it's actually a blend of natural AND synthetic. Interestingly, Dunlop and Talalay latex can be either natural or synthetic. Needless to say, Caveat emptor -- do your research! Synthetic latex, being chemically based, has a tendency to break down quicker than natural latex. If you have ever had a warranty issue with a mattress,you know what I mean. Have you ever had a body impression in your mattress measured by your friendly local mattress salesman and told that it's “normal wear and tear?” Polyurethane foam /synthetic latex are actually graded on how quickly they're expected to break down. That's the reason you have to waituntil the body impression is at least 1.5 inches (in most cases) in depth to get your warranty to kick in. Synthetic latex / polyurethanes also have a tendency to off-gas. That is, the chemicals inside the mattress will escape and cause a strange odor. Guess what? You're breathing those chemicals in while your skin is absorbing them. There's also an issue with synthetics being unable to absorb and release moisture properly, trapping moisture and heat, which is a great breeding ground for molds, mildews, dust mites and other undesirable little critters. What does that mean for you? Well, it means that the mattress made with poly-foam or synthetic latex is less durable: compacting or developing body impressionswhen confronted with weight and moisture (by the way, the human body emits about 1 liter of body moisture while sleeping, not necessarily sweat, just moisture being released by the body. No kidding… yuck!!!) Take this into consideration also: the average queen-sized polyurethane foam mattress covered in polyester fabric loses HALF its weight over ten years of use. Where does the weight go?
Polyurethane foam oxidizes, creates “fluff” (dust) which is released into the air and eventually settles in and around your home as well as in your lungs. Yes, you breathe in this dust. And some of the chemicals used in these types of mattresses include formaldehyde, styrene, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), antimony...the list goes on and on. Onceagain, do your research if you're concerned about these things. We suggest reading up on the effects of chemicals on www.epa.gov.
The bottom line: Natural latex (without fillers) is more resilient/durable, cleaner/healthier and more comfortable -- anti-microbial, anti-fungal,and hypo-allergenic, as well as being dust mite resistant and biodegradable. You'll pay a bit more for anything made of pure natural latex, because it's more expensive to obtain and produce, but you get your money’s worth out of the product in longevity and comfort. When purchasing a natural latex bed, remember grandmother’s excellent advice: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” A natural latex bed free of fillers won’t be inexpensive. Find out what warranty corresponds to the item you’re interested in, and read it! The warranty will tell you a great deal. Also, keep in mind that websites can be tricky: many that have the Oeko Tex logo do have natural latex products, but also polyurethane. And there you have it, a crash-course in latex foam. Hope that helps you navigate the mattress world. Good luck & happy shopping!
- Get Some Sleep: Are you a night owl? Here's why
I hear the floorboards creak, the toilet flush, first one shoe drop to the floor, then the other. My husband pulls back the covers and climbs into bed, disturbing the dog, who now spins around rattling her tags looking for a new, cozy den. I groan and turn over to look at the clock: 3 a.m., an early night for him. You see, my husband is what many people call a "night owl," but really he suffers from a circadian rhythm sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase disorder.
Circadian rhythm means a 24-hour cycle. Humans have a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that is linked to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. So, in the optimal situation, we rise in the morning and after about 16 hours of wakefulness we are sleepy and we go to bed and sleep for eight hours. In my last blog, I talked about shift work disorderand how shift workers are not able, because of their jobs, to flow with this natural rhythm. People with delayed sleep phase disorder also get out of sync with what we would consider normal bed times (10 p.m. to midnight), but for unknown reasons. The exact prevalence in the general population is unknown, but it is estimated to affect 7 percent to 16 percent of teens and young adults. Delayed sleep phase disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Sleep onset is delayed at least two hours from social norms, and these altered sleep/wake times can impair the work, academic and social parts of sufferers' lives. People with DSPD often complain of insomnia because they try to go to sleep at a normal time but their internal rhythm is set to a later time and sleep is usually impossible until very late. Then, if they have to get up for work or school, they are very tired and sleepy in the daytime and are not functioning at their highest capabilities. Often, they will steal a nap, but that only sets them up for further delay in their bedtime. Usually the patients who show up at the sleep center are teens who are brought in by their mothers because they can't get up and make it to their early morning classes. Their grades are failing and the school is threatening to expel them. How do I help them? Well, I must return to my near-constant theme: Light. We get them on a schedule where we slowly move up their bedtimes - just 15-30 minutes each time over a series of weeks. With each change in bedtime, they are instructed to be sure to avoid bright light two hours before the desired bedtime. We often need to use glasses that filter the blue light because it is not realistic to think that teenagers are not going to be on the computer or using some electronic device. I also have them get outside and get some bright light in the mornings. Where I am in Chicago, for much of the year we recommend that such patients use light boxes in the morning. I recommend the ones made by Lite Book because they use LED technology, which means they are smaller and patients need to spend only 15-30 minutes in front of the unit. We also use melatonin, but not as a sleep aid. Instead, we use it to alter people's circadian rhythm, and therefore, we give it 5-7 hours before desired bedtime and we use small doses (0.5-1.0 mg). And I always recommend that they try this at home the first few times in case it makes them sleepy right away. I would like to caution that although this general principle of bright light in the morning and dim light before bedtime is easy enough to understand, it is also easy to apply the principle incorrectly and actually make matters worse. For example, a well-meaning mother of a 16-year-old reads this and tomorrow morning hauls her son out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to get him to his first AP class. The next night, to her dismay, he stays up even later, and getting him up the following morning would require inviting the marching band to hold practice in his bedroom. What has gone wrong? Well, when mom got him up at 6:30 a.m., he had only had 4½ hours of sleep and his core body temperature had not reached its low point. When his eyes received bright light before the lowest drop in core body temperature, then the internal clock in the brain was being reset to a later time and actually delaying the sleep onset for the next night. Many times we have to wait until a vacation to try to reset someone's clock. Most times, the help of a sleep physician is essential, and always, the patients themselves have to want to change their schedule. Another word of caution: It is easy to confuse this disorder with insomnia, but just giving the young person a sleeping pill doesn't usually work to reset the internal clock. Why do some teens have these dramatic shifts in sleep onset and not others? This can run in families and changes in one of the circadian clock genes have been associated with this disorder but we cannot yet point to a specific genetic mutation that causes this problem. Delayed sleep phase can be associated with depressive symptoms but the good news is: Many will naturally outgrow it, especially when the responsibilities of adult life force them into becoming morning people. Some, like my husband, will return to their nocturnal ways every chance they get. The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.
- Why we love wool!
If you sleep on a Søvn bed, you won't be exposed to chemical flame retardants. The Søvn bed does, however, meet all federal requirements of flame retardancy. How is that possible? We use wool in the lining of our mattress covers. Another major benefit of using wool is its capacity to absorb moisture - reducing heat & humidity from the body. This characteristic makes wool a “temperature regulator” because it can protect the body in both cold and warm conditions.
- New Worries About Sleeping Pills
- If you can avoid sleeping pills and get some good, solid natural sleep, do it! Read this:
- Celebrity Couples Who Sleep In Separate Beds
- You would be surprised at how many customers tell us they sleep in separate bedrooms. Many report a more restful night's sleep. They also tell us the like one another more since they don't disturb the other in the middle of the night.
- Toxic Chemicals and Newborns
- Born Toxic? Newborns have already been exposed to more than 200 potentially hazardous chemicals in the womb. PBDE's (flame retardants) are one of the "chemicals of concern" according to the EPA...finally! PBDEs have been voluntarily outlawed in Europe for about 10 years!