Mid-afternoon last Sunday, I settled onto the sofa with a stack of magazines. I planned to flip through them for a few minutes and then drift off. It’s a habit I picked up from my mom, who looked forward all week to a good, long Sunday afternoon nap.
An hour later, I was still reading the magazines. I simply wasn’t tired. And I can’t convey what a shock that was.
As I’ve been writing about this summer, I’ve had trouble sleeping for several years and had gotten used to feeling run down all the time. When Dr. Robert Oexman, director of Kingsdown’s Sleep to Live Institute, promised that his cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia program would help me sleep better, I had my doubts, but decided to give it a try.
Using a watchlike device, Oexman monitored my daily activity level and sleep habits for a couple of weeks, then he gave me a long list of changes to make to my habits and environment. For a time, he had me cut back on my sleep and then allowed me to gradually add back—in 15-minute increments—the time I was allowed to be in bed.
The goal was to improve the quality and duration of my sleep each night, reduce my need for daytime naps and eliminate my nightly habit of taking Benadryl as a sleep aid. Now, at the end of the process, I can say: Check, check and check.
Do I sleep like a baby? No. There still are occasional nights when I toss and turn and days when I’m tired. But I do sleep like I did in my early 30s—back when I never thought of myself as a troubled sleeper, back when I never gave sleep much thought at all.
Let’s face it: Sleeping well in modern society—where people routinely work until lights out and sleep with smartphones under their pillows—is increasingly difficult, especially as people age. By the time people are in their 40s, most suffer at least occasional sleep difficulties, whether the result of stress, bad sleep hygiene such as sleeping in a room that’s too warm, disorders like sleep apnea or a worn-out mattress they bought when they moved into their first home 20 years ago.
I undertook this sleep experiment for selfish personal reasons, but I think it has lessons for mattress manufacturers and retailers. We talk often about how our industry “sells sleep.” And we make a product that is, quite literally, the foundation of a good night’s sleep.
But many of us are guilty of not sleeping as well as we can, taking pride in the long hours we work or the few hours of sleep we can “get by” on. The more we as an industry understand about sleep and the more we can be evangelists for sleep, the better our products will be and the better able we’ll be to educate and help consumers sleep well themselves.