Monday, October 22, 2012

Sleep Your Way

Your Number One Comfortaire Exclusive DealerThere are three positions that people sleep in.  Sometimes we all wonder which position is best.  Let's just put the statistic on the table:  around 70% of people in the US sleep on their side, 10% sleep on their stomach, and 20% sleep on their backs.  That is interesting to me as a mattress sales professional in that most people coming in to our store test beds on their backs.  Our preferred position seems to be ingrained in to our minds, it is very hard to change.  This blog entry wants to not promote one position or another, we feel that instead we need to talk about what we can do to make each position better by using body mechanics to lessen the stress on our skeletal system.

Side sleepers have the least amount of surface area on the sleep surface.  And the most amount of profile, that is the curves of the human body.  Our hips and shoulders are more pronounced on our side than on our back or stomach.  The surface you sleep on should accommodate those curves to effectively enhance your sleep posture.  This will be a bit counter general thought, but side sleepers should look for a some what softer sleep surface than back or stomach sleepers.  The softer surface will allow your hips and shoulders to indent the surface more, encouraging better posture.  Side sleepers are the ones who appreciate pillow tops, as pillow tops help deflect more pressure from our bodies, and soften the surface.

Back sleepers, roughly 20% of the population, have the most surface sleep area on our mattresses.  Because of this, the amount of pressure per square inch of sleep area is less.  But back sleepers still need to consider how they sleep on their backs.  Our bodies are not intended to be a straight line, there are normal curves which need to be taken in to account.  Back sleepers should shop for their mattresses by paying attention to their lower back.  If you feel a push in the lower back, the mattress you are laying on is too hard.  Our muscles work to keep our spine in the proper alignment.  If the bed is too hard, it will push the hips up relying on the muscles, particularly in our lower back, to compensate and align our spines.  Over use of muscles will cause pain.  Back sleepers need to also look to their knees, again the knees will be stressed if they are too straight, consider a small pillow under them to give them a slight bend.  Like with the side sleepers, too hard of a bed will cause it to not conform properly to your body, and that too will cause pain.  Too soft or too much pillow top will cause your back to sag, and that will cause lost sleep and pain.

And the stomach sleepers... Most doctors, osteopaths, and chiropractors recommend against sleeping on your stomach.  However in otherwise healthy people, it is not as bad as you might think.  Stomach sleepers do need a firm surface with no pillow top, or very slight.  And, this is important, the legs should never be straight.  A slight bend in one leg will help encourage your body to be in a good posture.  Stomach sleepers also do not need nor often times desire a pillow.  Pillows will throw the neck out of position, it is not comfortable and can cause neck pain.

Minor tweeks to the way you sleep is often easier than to try a complete new position.  And can eliminate some early morning neck and back pain.  We do not normally sleep in the same position all night.  This has to do with the pressure of the sleep surface against the body.  In most cases our bodies will sense the build up of pressure, when it reaches a certain point, we will roll over.  When we ask the question:  Which sleep position do you prefer?  Often we are met with quizzical looks, some people do not know what their sleep position is, because they toss and turn all night.  Your preferred sleep position is that position, which when you go to it, you fall asleep fastest.  If you plan for and shop for that preferred position, you will get a better bed.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know there are 4 major types of sleep systems in the US these days:  Coil springs, Memory Foam, Water, and Air Technology beds.  To be fair, our store concentrates on the last one, Air Technology, we feel it is the most responsive to our bodies and, it allows two different people to adjust the sides individually keeping both in the same bed, and that is a good thing. 

Our store is a Comfortaire dealer, and we believe they are the highest quality out there today.  There are others like Innomax, and Sleep Number, but Comfortaire is the oldest of the air bed companies, their design is the first mass market design, and was copied by others, with minor changes to avoid patent infringement.  As prices of materials have gone up, Comfortaire has managed to maintain quality with slight price increases, rather than holding the price static and cheapening the inside of the mattress. 

And of the two major players in the air technology business, Comfortaire generally has lower prices on similar beds.  Which means they are a better value.  If you are inclined to look at Air Based sleep products, ask to see the inside of the bed.  Comfortaire trains their representatives to offer a look inside, the others generally discourage it, but will show the customer, if asked.

Quality is a base pad, it keeps the Air Technology from moving too much and stretching the cover, making the bed last longer.  You will not feel anything different, at least for a number of years.  Quality is good controls.  Good controls are those that work when you need them too.  Wireless controls require a battery, wired do not; wired seem to get better quality ratings, and they are real hard to lose.  Quality is good fabrics.  The fabric on top will help determine how well you acclimate to the bed.  Fabrics can cause you to sleep hot.  Lower quality fabrics can stretch.  Quality is good foams.  How long your bed lasts depends on how good the foam is as well.  Lower quality foams will indent sooner and performance will sag. 

Sleep Well!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sleep and Babies.

Read this article today: Welcome to the five star sleep spa! Hotel holds 'enforced relaxation' weeks where exhausted parents can recuperate.  And realized that this is our times... Kind of sad, but even raising children seems to be hurting our sleep.

We have two children, and a grand child; we know about the sleep disruption they cause.  But isn't this a little over the top?  I suppose with all the two earner families out there that it can be stressful.  Perhaps the single parents are in similar straits, however, in the past family has always been there for a break.  But we are in the 'me' world of the 21st century. 

Perhaps by setting regular bed times for the child, these parents could anticipate some relaxation.  By planning meals at the right time and taking advantage of when the child sleeps, they could better their position.  Too often we believe that children are treated as small adults.  Ever see how many strollers there are in the local mall after 8 PM? 

And perhaps worse is the lesson we are teaching our children.  Sleep is relegated to lesser status than other activities.  And we wonder why kids are obese?  We starve them at school.  We keep them up too late.  They do learn from us... Let's take a pledge to teach them well, then watch them soar!

Two things are important to us, children and sleep.  Children are the future, sleep makes sure the future is secure.  Sleep like the future depends on it, it really does!

Sleep Well!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The World Series, or How to Sleep Like a Champion!

We are baseball fans, its what we do in St. Louis.  They call us Cardinal Nation, and when our beloved Birds make the post season the town goes red!  So Go Cards!

So how do we sleep like champions?  Sleep is one of the most important things we do every day that influences our quality of life from the beginning, to the end of it.  When we are babies, nature and parents make sure we get enough sleep, when we grow older we some times make decisions that affect the amount of sleep we get.  Those decisions can determine how long you will live, and the quality of your life.

First set a schedule for sleep.  Make sure it is the same hours all 7 days of each week.  It doesn't matter if you want to wake up early and go to the gym, or read the paper, but keep that schedule.  Occasional variations are OK, but occasional would be less than a couple times every month.  We would suggest to take your waking time and subtract 7 to 9 hours to arrive at a bed time.  Regardless of when you arise, make sure you have plenty of quality sleep time.

Second, make sure your room is sleep friendly.  What is sleep friendly?  Sleep friendly is a room that screens out external light.  It is a room that is at a good sleep temperature.  And it is furnished with a great sleep surface (like Comfortaire, its what we do...).  Consider the wall color by choosing a color that is restful.  Make sure that there are no light sources to interrupt your sleep, like cell phones, computers, TVs and the like.  Make sure the sound level is conducive to sleeping.  If you live on a noisy street consider heavy drapes or a white noise device to filter out the noise.

Third, consider what you sleep in.  Make sure it is louse fitting and comfortable.  This includes the bedding.  Natural materials like cotton are a great choice. 

Fourth, make time to snuggle.  It is something we all need to be a complete human.  But it should not interrupt the amount of time we are in sleep mode.  It is one of the two things that should occur in the bed room.

Fifth, take time to wind down before your bed time.  Avoid stimulants, or depressants that would impact your sleep.  The Cardinals, when they won the Wild Card Game, had champagne, but most of it went all over the room! 

These five things can make you a sleep champion, and although there is no big blingy ring for being a champion, you might find yourself more productive when awake.  Productivity should find your wallet getting fatter, so splurge on the bling yourself!  Oh and hey St. Louis... Its OK to watch the Cardinals, this will be the one off variation, OK?

Sleep Well!

An Apology

When we started this blog, our goal was to write 2 to 3 times a week on sleep.  It has been too long since our last, and we are sorry.  We do not take you, our readers for granted, it has just been a bit busy around here.  Now check out the next entry for today's blog!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why Can't I Get Comfortable on My Pillow?

Ahh pillows, they support our heads in soft bliss as we sleep-- well maybe not always.  A pillow is integral to your sleep especially for side sleepers.  But how do you know what pillow to buy?  That is one of the great mysteries of our time.  Today I was scanning TV and saw an infomercial for pillows, and it was the inspiration for this post.

There are many types of pillows available.  Down, a natural fill with good resiliency and softness.  Synthetic down, usually a polyester fiber these days has similar resiliency, less softness.  Memory foam a very heavy pillow that conforms well to your head, but may also retain heat.  Buckwheat pillows, another heavy pillow that is said to conform well, and has some fans.  Latex pillows, these come in a couple ways either one piece or shredded, these tend to be the hardest pillows.  There are many more types of pillows, I am sure, because we keep looking for a better one.

The thing is, there are some good ones out there now.  No one pillow will be perfect for all people.  I have even seen a marketing ploy where they 'fit' a pillow by using two different parts to make the whole.  There are some novelty places that will stuff your pillow right in the store.  What is the mystery of a great pillow?

First, the fill material is not important.  Rather it is the quantity of that fill and how you feel when you are on it.  Few of us are exactly the same size.  Men tend to have broader shoulders than women.  Women generally have longer necks.  There is not a one size fits all pillow.  So we go in to a department store, discounter, linen store, or specialty store and look for the best pillow.  Yet from what I heard this morning we all over the course of our lives own 50 pillows.  That's a maximum of 2 years per pillow.  Sometimes it is more like 2 weeks.  And still we are enamoured with the next great pillow to come along, I was even compelled to go to the infomercials web site to check it out.

So what is the answer?  It is important to get high quality ingredients.  If you choose memory foam as an example, consider the foam inside the pillow.  All the different fills come in different quality levels.  Consider the cover of the pillow, is it pleasant to touch?  Consider shopping stores that let you test drive the pillow.  Bed stores are a great place.  Lay on a bed, preferably close to the bed at home, and feel the pillow as it supports you.  Great stores will help you to 'fit' the pillow to your body, much like a good shoe store.  At the very least make sure there is a return policy, so if it doesn't fit, you can return it.  However, understand that a returned pillow is often thrown away, or donated to charity and you owe it to the merchant to try to get it right the first time.

Sleep correctly on the pillow.  A pillow is not designed to support your shoulders.  It is designed to support your neck and head.  By keeping your neck in good posture, it will make sleep much more enjoyable and healthy.  It may even help eliminate snoring.  It is probably good to shop for a pillow with a friend.  Ask them to judge how straight your neck is while you lay on the pillow.  A pillow can take the stress off your neck, if it fits right.  And like the mattress, it is all about posture.  The closer you can get to normal waking posture, the better the pillow will help you sleep. 

The cover is important because it is what we actually feel as we lay on it.  There are different materials for this as well.  If you choose down as a fill, make sure the cover is down proof to keep the down in the pillow.  When you find a really good pillow and it feels great, protect it.  Buy a pillow protector.  A pillow protector is like a mattress pad, it is washable and will help keep body oils and moisture out of the pillow, extending the life of the pillow.

Once you have found your pillow, it's time to maintain it.  Make sure the pillow can be laundered.  Most can, it just depends on the how the materials were prepared.  Learn how to fluff a pillow properly, don't just beat it.  Make sure , if you have a pillow protector you launder the pillow a couple times per year.  Without a protector, at least once a quarter to remove oils, moisture build up, and keep dust mites under control.

Finally, and this is something my Irish Grandmother taught me, you get what you pay for.  The pillow manufacturers are very competitive and the only way to find a cheaper pillow is if it is a cheaper made pillow.  It will not last as long.  And if you find a great pillow, shouldn't it last a long time?