Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why We Hate Shopping for New Mattresses

Sheeesh its confusing to shop for a new mattress.  It seems there are mattress stores on every corner, all saying they have the best deal in town, or best sale ever.  How can they all be right?  Should we buy from a big chain, or shop locally?  Why are none of the model numbers the same from store to store?  Are the Sealy's Serta's Springaire's etc. of the world really any better than others, or each other?  How do I know I'm getting a good deal?  How long does a mattress last?  Is this memory foam really better?  Will air beds really take my pain away, as they say in the commercials?

Those are some of the questions that enter our minds when we feel like our old mattress needs replaced.  We also buy infrequently, so every time the prices of mattresses can surprise us.  However, sleep is critical to quality of life, and a good bed will make you sleep better.

Now to the hype, will this bed or that one really do a better job?  It all depends on your expectations.  Let's say you are in your early 20's, you are reasonably active, and have no back injuties or pain.  In this case almost any quality bed will improve your sleep.  Please note I said QUALITY, that word is important.  Quality comes at a price.  Quality beds have been designed by good engineers to offer great support.  Quality beds take into account the materials they use, making sure that the materials perform as designed, and return as much time as is feasible.  Quality beds use high quality ingredients.  Quality beds will last longer, making the difference in cost insignificant at best, and swing the overall cost of ownership in their favor.  Which is why most of us tend toward name brand manufacturers.  Most, if not all put a lot of research and developement thought into their product.  They have been around for years, and desire to continue for years to come, you can't do that if you get a reputation for bad mattresses.  That doesn't mean that smaller manufacturers are bad, many put a lot into their beds, keeping abreast of research done by others, they often can be a good source for a bed.  And some of the major players aren't always as they seem.  One manufacturer I am aware of has a name plate that has been around for years.  But a couple years ago went into banckruptcy and the name was sold to cover debts.  The new company was just that, a new company, looking to use the name to get instant recognition.  There are several other major manufacturers that have problems since around 2008.  So keep in mind, brand names aren't always what they appear to be.

That being said, I doubt that in any boardroom or office of any company selling mattresses there has ever been a disscussion about how to make people sleep worse.  There are four basic styles of sleep technology, Spings, Water, Foam and Air Supported.  Let me fill you in on my bias, I work for a Comfortaire dealer, it first company to market Air Supported sleep system, back in 1981.  I promise to be as open minded as possible.

I suggest that buying as local as possible is a great strategy.  Local stores usually have their owner on hand.  If it is possible to make a deal, they are who you need to talk to.  The possibily of finding Mr. Serta in the store is remote at best.  If you present a deal to a local merchant, and he or she can make a little money, the odds are they will accept it.  On the other hand, major chains have price lists which cannot be deviated from, if the rep wants to keep their job.  I saw a quarterly report recently.  The number of units was up slightly, however same store profit was up almost double.  There is a disconnect, the company kept more money from every sale, Wall Street Loves them!  Did their customers get a 'deal'?  They can do that in several ways.  Reduce costs, things like reducing quality of foams, removing parts that you won't feel in the showroom, or forcing employees to be more productive, reducing labor costs.  Bottom line, their customers paid more per unit than last year, either in dollars or quality.  The chains do most of the advertising as well.  Advertising is a cost of the bed you buy from them, a good deal may be available from a lesser known dealer because they control this cost.  One chain we are familiar with spends almost half of the cost of their beds on advertising, advertising is not bad, but there is a proper level.  They could make money selling their beds at half their current price, just by eliminating advertising.  If I mentioned their name probably 95% or more of you would recognise them.  Which is what advertising is for...

Get to know the rep, he is much more an expert in mattresses than you are.  Find a rep that you feel a trust for, but verify their claims.  know how their beds are made, what quality of components are used.  Where did the mattress come from?  What is the warranty?  Who supplies the warranty, the manufacturer or the store?  How restrictive is the warranty?  See, a warranty is great, but not if it is set up to not protect you.  There is a common phrase in most spring warranties for instance, that says sagging is not covered unless it is a certain amount, almost never has a mattress sagged that much, how good is the warranty.  Spring beds are designed to last no more than 10 years, a 20 year warrnaty would indicate that it isn't worth the paper it is written on.  Sometimes the warranty is just a way to encourage repeat buying.  A 20 year warranty may be in force and your bed sags.  You call the store and complain, they send out a rep to measure.  They are so sorry that the sag isn't enough to get you a new mattress, but they feel sorry for you, so here is a 'great' deal on a brand new bed. 

Other materials will last longer, like foam beds.  Quality foam has a much longer useful life than the typical spring bed.  There's the word quality again... there are many types of foam, and the manufacturing process can vary.  As with almost any other product, there are ways that speed up the process that may not feel different in the showroom, but will impact the longevity of the product, and the overall ownership costs.   Jimmy Bob's (hope that isn't a real manufacturer) mattress factory may have a cheap price, because of cheap materials.  They don't expect to be in business when the product starts to fail, good money with no longterm commitment.  You can find these people, they hang around bargain centers, internet auction sites, flea markets and the like.  Their foam is low quality, as well as internal components.  A lot of times they try to mimmick a major players name, a player with a good reputation, but the mattress is like half the price.   My Grandmother taught me you get exactly what you pay for.  Is it ok to buy, sure, just don't expect it to last as long as the name brand equivalent.

Do research yourself, there are more than a few sites that review mattresses.  Sites like Consumer reports, or offer good insights to each brand.  Google the company name and "problems" see what the results are, but please keep in mind that only consumers that feel wronged generaly post negative reports, take it with a grain of salt, but quiz the rep and see if their response makes sense.  And keep in mind that sometimes competitors will post negatives about their competition, mostly it is impossible to know for sure.

So out the door you head, you want to visit some showrooms and try out the bed.  Don't short change this step!  Plan to spend some time experiencing the mattresses you are interested in.  Let the rep know what your needs are, and see wht they offer.  Try it out, not for a couple minutes, but maybe like 15 minutes per mattress.  If the rep tries to move you too quick, explain that you need to try it longer.  A good rep will understand and give you the time you need.  The best will also give you space, so that you and your partner can discuss the bed.  Also keep in mind that manufacturers try to promote their products by buying the rep through spiffs.  If you specifically wanted to look at Tempurpedic, and they suggest you try another first, they are probably being spiffed by the other manufacturer.  Limited assortments can be a good thing.  If there are 50 or 75 beds available, and 5 or 7 manufacturers in the showroom, the reps tend to be more tour guides, they will have a general over view of different beds, but they can't be expert in all of them.  They will, however, know which one will get them the best commission.

Sometimes, the more expensive beds are better, sometimes not.  We love it when someone enters the store asking "what is your top of the line bed?"  It gives us the opportunity to point out that all our beds are the same quality (since we only have one manufacturer) but different materials, designed to do different things, and that affects the price of the bed.  Do you need all the materials, or just a select subset?  Depends on how you sleep if you have issues, and how you view your bed.  Our least expensive bed as an example is as supportive as our most expensive.  A stomach sleeper would be happier on the lesser expense bed, a side sleeper would normally prefer a middle to upper end by price bed.  A back sleeper is happier in the middle.

What's the best type?  Bottom line is they all have their proponents.  Springs have been around since the 1800's, and air supported adjustable systems are somewhat newer.  Are springs intrinsically bad?  Nope, but I would like to suggest it is old technology.  Is foam the best stuff ever?  Nope, but for many it is a great nights sleep.  Will air take away pain?  In certain situations yes, but others no.  What about water?  Again it is a good surface, but maintenace needs to be accounted for.

So once you have tried the beds you think will help you the best, take time to talk with your partner and get their input.  Consider all the 'facts' presented by all the reps.  Talk to friends, family, and neighbors to see what they sleep on, and how well they sleep.  They have no reason to lie to you, they don't get paid to talk about beds. 

Lastly, don't rule out any technology, there are only 4 major types, try them all.  Some people just don't like the feel of one or the other.  They may find memory foam confining, or air adjustable confusing, or springs just too hard.  There is a right bed out there, put a smile on, open your mind and SHOP.

Sleep well!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mattresses History and Disection

One great mattress today.

What is a mattress?  A mattress is where we sleep, of course.  It is also much more.  Humans have been using mattresses for centuries to comfort themselves as they sleep.  Mattresses seem to first appear in the Neolithic period.  Those mattresses were simple piles of material, grasses, leaves, and etc. designed to raise the body off the floor and help deter pests and provide comfort.  Over the centuries the mattress has evolved in materials and makeup.  Egyptians slept on palm leaves mounded in the corner of their homes, the Romans put materials like hay or wool into bags to sleep on.  By the Renaissance period, the surrounding of the mattress, what we call the tick was made more visually appealing with richer fabrics and a more consistent look.  By the mid 18th century the covers were made of linen or cotton, but they were still essentially stuffed with things like cotton, hay, feathers and down, and even wool and horse hair.  Towards the end of the 19th century the first technological change began to appear, innerspring mattresses.  Innerspring beds were much lighter and they had a more consistent feel.  In the modern world there are four major mattress designs.  Innerspring mattresses are still around.  There are all foam beds, either latex or viscoelastic memory foam.  Water beds which became popular in the mid 20th century.  And air supported mattresses which began being marketed in 1981.

Innerspring mattresses at their core are steel springs designed to support your body.  Above the springs are comfort materials.  If we lay on just the springs, it would be very uncomfortable, but the materials above them give us a zone that is much softer.  These materials can be anything from natural fibers like cotton to high tech foams.  The springs transfer body weight in a more graduated way than a flat surface.  Innerspring were first used in the late 1800's and constant research has been done since, making them a much superior product to the original designs.  The core of spring beds are generally manufactured by just a few companies like Leggett and Platt one of the first to patent a spring design.

Water beds have been around for a while as well.  In 3600 BC Persians filled goat skins with water to sleep on.  The modern water bed was designed in the late 1960's by Charles Hall.  Water bed sales peaked in the middle 1980's with a 22% market share.  Water as a sleep medium offers some advantages.  It allows the body to go to a normal walking posture, which will take the stress off joints and ligaments.  Water beds also distribute weight better than springs, reducing pressure points, which makes them a good choice for long term bed confinement in alleviating bed sores.  There are a couple of counter points.   First the bladder is non porous (so the water doesn't escape) trapping heat between the body and the top of the bladder.  The bladders can leak, resulting in the sleeper getting wet.  And water has a tendency to move from heavier objects which forms a slight hammock effect. 

Next we will discuss foam mattresses.  There are several different types of foam, but ultimately the support comes in layers.  Most often there is a base foam of higher density that is tuned to the topper pad which can be made of latex, or visco memory foam.  The top layers are not as supportive, but offer comfort, much like the comfort materials in innerspring mattresses.  The foam will contour to the body reducing pressure by spreading more of itself across a wider area of the sleepers body.  Like innerspring, foam comes in different densities to satisfy individual comfort and support needs.  Quality foam mattresses will last twice as long as innerspring, a good step forward.  There is a limit to the lifespan based mostly of the person sleeping on it.  Our bodies do not stay the same during our lives, and because of this we need different support levels at different stages of life.  As a result, the mattress needs to be replaced as our body's needs change.

The last mattress design available in the modern day is air support sleep technology.  The first mass market design was introduced in 1981 by a company named Comfortaire.  By 1987, another company entered the scene, Select Comfort.  There are of course others, less well known, but between these two companies the number of patents they own make them the better manufacturers.  Air is similar to water in its concept, but the physics are slightly different.  Air will allow the body into a more natural posture, like water, but air will go to areas of lesser pressure increasing the support over water.  Like water, the air chambers can leak, but air is dryer and the material in the chamber is normally thicker.  Air supported sleep systems can offer adjust ability on each side, allowing the sleepers to control their own comfort.  And air is lighter which makes moving the bed easier.  Like all beds air is the support system.  Above this system are differing comfort materials which are designed to deflect pressure, feel great, and can incorporate heat control.  Comfortaire has even introduced a hybrid design, using air and foam in tandem to produce a air chambered bed with a unique feel.  Most air supported sleep systems feature a 6 inch latex and cotton or canvas chamber for durability.  This material can be thicker than water beds, offering a better quality product.  With the adjust ability, air supported sleep systems are the longest lasting of all beds.  Comfortaire claims there are still people sleeping on their original design beds introduced in 1981.  Air systems, like water are modular in design, allowing individual components to be replaced if needed, it is sort of like other products like cars, where when tires wear out or batteries die, they are replace rather than replacing the entire unit.

Mattresses have evolved over time.  Not every mattress is the perfect mattress for every body.  However, it is a great time to be alive!  Our options today are much broader than palm leaves in the corner.  Choose by trying them all.

Sleep Well!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sleep Disorders

According to the FDA, most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night to be well rested.  However, not everyone gets the sleep they need to be well rested.  Some 40 million people in the US suffer from sleep problems every year.

When we don't get enough sleep and it can impact our lives, causing health problems.  Or it can magnify problems like diabetes and high blood pressure. 

There are a number of things that can interrupt our sleep.  Working long hours may keep us away from bed.  Stress either in our personal lives or professional lives may prevent us from resting.  If our kid gets sick, we want to care for them.  Simple things like light or sound from a TV set or traffic outside our window can impair sleep.  Comfort, as in too hot, too cold or the wrong firmness in our mattress (or a worn out mattress) can keep us awake at night.  And finally, lifestyle issues like alcohol too close to bed time can cause poor sleep.

There are also other problems, less in our control that may be happening.  We may experience insomnia.  We may be sleepy during the day.  Snoring and sleep apnea can affect the quality of sleep.  Let's take a look at these issues.

Insomnia is caused by having trouble falling asleep, or having trouble getting back to sleep if we are awakened.  Or just waking up too early, well before the alarm.  How can we combat this?  Taking some medicines may help the issue, and/or changing our routine, can help up to 85% of those with insomnia.  Unlike the FDA, this author prefers to try more natural ways of getting sleep, so we would promote the change in routine first, and if that doesn't solve the problem, perhaps it is time to try medication.  Consider your sleep environment, is it too close to a busy street?  Are there street lights beaming in the window?  Is it too hot or too cold?  Are you comfortable in your bed?  By making those a priority, maybe consider noise dampening, light dampening window treatments, perhaps we can solve the problem of insomnia.  Or a simple thing like a new mattress, can help.  Go to bed on a schedule, get up at the same time 7 days a week.  Avoid recreational drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol 4 to 6 hours from bed time.  Here's a good one:  don't exercise, well at least in the 2 hours before you need to go to sleep.  Be careful with naps, for a normal schedule, try not to nap after 3 in the afternoon.  Take time, maybe a half hour to unwind doing something relaxing before bed.  And if you find yourself unable to fall asleep for more than about 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet like sitting in a chair in a dim room.  If none of these work, and in consultation with your doctor there may be medical treatment available to help break the cycle of bad sleep.

So you get enough sleep, yet you feel sleepy during the day, what's up with that?  If you experience things like slowed thinking, trouble paying attention, heavy eyelids, or just a cranky feeling, you may have something going on which needs medical attention.  It is normal to experience these symptoms occasionally, but when they are the norm, you may be symptomatic of things like narcolepsy in which people will feel sleepy even after sleeping all night.  Things like this need a doctors care, please do not delay.

Snoring can be annoying, especially if it is your partner.  Snoring is caused by the soft palette vibrating against the back of the throat.  There are several things you can do to reduce snoring.  Please don't use the pillow over the face method!  Losing weight can help, cutting down on smoking and drinking can be effective, as well as changing your sleep position, sleep on your side or raise the head of the bed.  You might also try the nasal strips available over the counter to make breathing easier.

Snoring can also be a sign of Sleep Apnea. If you snore, and have daytime sleepiness, ask your doctor if you might have Sleep Apnea.  Your breathing may stop multiple times at night with Sleep Apnea, and the danger is you may not start breathing again.  Please take Sleep Apnea seriously, it can be deadly.  Sleep Apnea is treatable.  Again work with your doctor, but losing weight may be all you need, or stopping smoking, or avoiding alcoholic drinks.  In the worse cases there are products, called C-PAP that can keep you breathing, or even surgery to correct physical restrictions in the airway.

Take sleep seriously, it is important to your quality of life.  Ignoring sleep problems can reduce your life expectancy, and make you less happy to be alive.  Sleep is important in our circadian body clock, like diet and exercise, the proper amount of sleep can make you more productive, happier, less prone to other health issues, and bring about a better quality of life.

Sleep Well! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Night Time Acid Reflux

One of the worse things that can occur at night is heartburn. Heartburn happens when acid, which is normal in our stomach, migrates to the esophagus. In the esophagus it will burn tissue, the esophagus is not designed to handle stomach acid. There are any number of reasons that the acid will migrate. Some of
these require a doctor's intervention, please do not let any heartburn go untreated. That being said, let's look at some of the causes that we do have control over.

If the heartburn is occasional, try to determine what caused it. Was it something you ate? Or drank? This would be best case, since once you pin point the cause, it is simply a matter of not doing that. Or even just
not doing it within several hours of bed.

Sometimes our stomach over produces acid, then there is no place to go but up. In a case like this, what is triggering the over production? Is there a change we can make in our lives to stop that trigger?

Night time heartburn, some times called acid reflux or GERD, can impair your sleep. In fact, in research done by the American College of Gastoenterology found that almost half of their survey group of sufferers reported sleeping poorly. In their control group, those without Gerd, reported sleeping poorly, but at a reduced rate of
just over 1/5 of the time. We see from this research, that GERD can impact the quality of sleep.

What can we do? It is a life necessity to sleep. And to sleep well. To sleep well for the long term does take some effort. Alcohol as an example can trigger heartburn, as can some spicy foods. If we plan when we eat or drink the triggers, then we can enjoy
sensibly, and sleep better.

Is there anything else we can do? The answer is yes!  At Hannah's we are all about sleep and beds, your bed can help with night time heartburn, heartburn will impact your sleep. Think about it, you lay flat
and that turns your body on end, now the stomach is no longer below the esophagus, but next to it. When the acid builds past the entrance to the esophagus, it will eventually start to leak in, and the more it leaks, the more it will leak. It is a catch 22.

What can we do to our beds to prevent that? There are actually several things. First, Comfortaire beds foster healthy waking posture, this feature will help keep the angle a little more positive, keeping acid
where it belongs. Second, all Comfortaire beds can be paired with a power adjustable foundation. With these foundations, you can raise your head even farther, which again helps the angle and raises the
esophagus in relation to the stomach, the good thing is it really doesn't take much of a raise to accomplish this, so even side sleepers can be comfortable. Third, we can raise the bed in other ways, consider
putting a pillow under the head of the mattress, or even a 2 x 4 under the legs of the furniture. In either case you will raise the head enough to keep the acid in its place. One counter productive way is to use a wedge on top of the bed, since that will disrupt your sleep posture.

We welcome you to our store to explore the options of better sleep, whether it is due to acid reflux, or any other cause, we want to help. We believe we have more options to improve sleep than any other
store in town.

Sleep Well!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sleep and Obesity

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night and have the urge to raid the ice box?  There is scientific studies that have shown a relationship between short sleep duration and high body mass index or BMI.  A study by Emmanuel Mignot and his colleagues suggests that it's not just the additional snacking opportunities that make those who don't sleep enough more likely to be overweight.  Intriqued by the connection between sleep and BMI, and recent studies that showed a reduction in the hormone leptin, an appetite control hormone, Mignot set out to study levels of several hormones, known to regulate appetite under real life conditions.

They took advantage of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, which began in 1989 and is tracking sleep dissorders in the general population.  The Wisconsin study has already shown a link between sleep apnea, a disorder that interrupts sleep, and hypertension.

Mignot and company measured sleep duration immediately prior to blood sampling, BMI, and pre breakfast hormone levels in over one thousand study participants.  They found, and it is coroberated by previous studies, that those who slept less than 8 hours, BMI was inversely proportional to sleep duration.  In other words, those who did not get enough sleep showed a higher body weight than those who did sleep 8 hours.  The study not only showed a reduction in leptin in those who did not sleep enough, but also a raise in the hormone ghrelin, which some believe increases appetite, causing the individual to want to eat more.  These two hormone levels could explain why BMI increases with lack of sleep.

So it is very important that we get a good nights sleep to control these hormones to promote a general better metabolism, and make our exercise and diet programs more effective.  Try to keep electronics out of the bedroom, set a sleep schedule, and invest in a sleep promoting mattress.  Hmm, maybe we can melt away pounds in our sleep.

Sleep Well!