The sleep-health equation

Connecting conditions with the right mattress

Terry Cralle

Terry Cralle spoke at ISPA EXPO 2014 in New Orleans about ‘the most important health care product in the household’–the mattress.

“The mattress is the most important health care product in the household,” Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator based in Charlottesville, Virginia, told attendees at the recent ISPA EXPO, a biennial trade show sponsored by the International Sleep Products Association.

Cralle substantiated her claim by outlining the relationship between the most prevalent health conditions reported by consumers and sleep surfaces—as well as how manufacturers effectively can use this information to help improve mattress marketing, customer satisfaction and the sales process.

Here are a few of Cralle’s observations:


As people age, their mattress needs change because their bodies and physical conditions change—and sleep become more important. Issues such as the height of the bed, adjustability and edge support often need to be addressed when consumers are considering the purchase of a new mattress, Cralle said.

Allergies and asthma

A significant number of people who suffer from asthma experience frequent heartburn from a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease. She advised that asthmatics use an adjustable base or pillows to elevate their head.

Beauty sleep

Sleep decreases stress hormones, such as cortisol, Cralle explained. Insufficient sleep causes cortisol levels to rise, and cortisol inhibits the formation of collagen, a protein often referred to as the “glue that holds the body together.” That’s why sleep deprivation actually accelerates aging.


There’s a bidirectional relationship between joint pain/arthritis and finding the right sleep surface, Cralle noted. Not only does joint pain cause sleep loss, but sleep deprivation makes joint pain worse. Also, new research indicates that lack of sleep actually causes bone loss.

Chronic diseases

There’s also a bidirectional association between chronic disease and sleep, Cralle said. Sufficient sleep can minimize chronic conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes and depression. In many cases, it can prevent chronic disease. And the management of these conditions, which affect people of all ages, can improve the quality of sleep.


According to Cralle, by 2015, 60% of homes will have two master suites. “For years, people have been wrestling with sleeping partners who have different temperature, blanket and softness needs,” she said. “There is a push in sleep clinics to take the stigma out of sleeping apart because the benefits of a good night’s sleep probably trump the benefits of sleeping together—if a couple isn’t sleeping together well.” Not surprising, snoring is the No. 1 reason why people sleep in separate beds. Sufficient sleep helps keep the romance in a relationship, she said.


“Almost everyone has insomnia at some time,” Cralle said. And their mattress can be the main distraction. Insomniacs are “hyper-sensitive” to their sleep environment and to a mattress. “The second most important variable to an insomniac is temperature,” she added. “Some scientists think insomniacs aren’t able to lower their core temperature and get that cooling that helps them fall asleep. Thirty-nine percent of American adults have problems with it.” And, she noted, insomnia wreaks havoc on co-sleeping. Plus, insomnia is often associated with heartburn, so it may be good for insomniacs to have the head of their bed elevated—such as with an adjustable base.


One of the factors affecting obesity is sleep deprivation, so sleeping on the right mattress can help manage this disease. “We have to address this subsector of consumer,” Cralle said. “We need to have resources available and give these consumers more information about the durability and longevity of a mattress, as well as how the right sleep surface helps weight management.”

Marketing the mattress-health relationship to consumers

The bedding industry is uniquely poised to educate consumers about health, wellness and quality of life. How can it be a resource?

According to sleep expert Terry Cralle:

■ Sell sleep; the products will follow.
■ Be sleep advocates.
■ Insert the mattress into the sleep equation. The benefits of the mattress equal the benefits of sleep.
■ Make sure the sales venue reflects sleep, wellness and health.
■ Educate consumers about sleep based on science and medicine.
■ Provide tools, resources, websites, point-of-purchase materials, etc., about sleep. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” Cralle says.

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