If you’ve ever had insomnia, then a guy who refers to himself as “The Sleep Doctor” might be your first stop. Insomnia is the diagnosis for difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking too early or feeling tired upon waking. It is attributable to medical, psychiatric, or environmental causes. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30 to 40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year. Great British Sleep Survey, insomnia statistics from the UK, said women are three times more likely than men to suffer from insomnia. Visit Insomnia Land for an insomnia support forum that shows how the Brits handle it.
The causes and cures are too many to list. But if you have insomnia, you know it. “The Sleep Doctor,” Michael Breus PhD, is also the author of “Look Younger, Lose Weight, Feel Great through Better Sleep.” Well, if he can promise all that, he’s my man. But he goes on to recommend that, first, I clean my room to ensure a good night’s sleep. He lost me there. I would, however, like to know the weight loss part. You can try medications, cognitive therapy (learning positive thoughts about sleep). You can restrict your awake time in bed to sex. That’s not so bad. Here’s another recommendation. Buy a new mattress. There’s a lot to the science of “mattressing” but the journey in the quest to conquer insomnia showed interesting psychological phenomenon. People get so irritated in a mattress store. After watching cranky after cranky patron, I took my own shot at it. (OK, I admit that I was pivoting between mattress stores in the same block trying to figure out how to sound like a pro before my own inner crank came through).
We, the innocent patrons, do not like not being experts in purchases that cost us ridiculous amounts of money and are constructed in ways we cannot understand. In this case, the vocabulary consisted of coils vs. latex vs. box spring vs. platform, vs. some skinny thing with holes in it instead of a box spring? How about memory foam (I am not sure I want a memory of my body every morning) or cashmere covering? How about sticker shock? John Lewis of the London Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service stated, “it’s worth spending as much as you can afford on your mattress.” Has he lost his mind? Sorry, but even in my wildest fantasies I could not imagine buying a mattress for $12,000. That’s right. Twelve thousand dollars. For that I would jam four wheels on it and hope it got good gas mileage. And how indignant was that salesman when I balked at putting my kid’s college tuition into a good night’s sleep? That’s when they start having you do the math. Remember, he said, you are going to spend more than one third of your life in your bed. That sounds so depressing. That’s 175,200 minutes per year.
No wonder we are grumpy buyers. The guy immediately shuffles us off to a mattress costing one-tenth the price. Now I’m feeling really stupid because I know they have to be dramatically different but they feel the same. I am feeling the hostility rising. I’m flinging questions right and left. Like does a sweating sleeper really want a latex bed? That’s when I learned that latex was not really latex. It looked like sweat-inducing latex to me. What was it? I still have no idea. Cashmere? Some goat gave of himself for my mattress? No thanks. (By the way, how often do you think of cashmere as a goat product?) He takes another tactic.
Technology. When reason doesn’t prevail in this day and age, technology will. My husband and I are placed on mattresses wired into a computer, that in four minutes promises to tell us exactly what mattress would bring us lifelong ecstasy (or at least a 10-year warranty). First, given the current divorce rate, you do think twice before making a joint purchase of anything. Cutting a mattress in half is not pretty. Next, if this amazing software could make up my mind for me, why didn’t we go to the machine when we walked in the door? Finally, if a computer can do this then, therapists around the world, quit your job. I have often worked with those who have sleep disorders. Now that I know there is a quick fix, I am banning a visit to the local mattress store as part of their CBT. Going back to “The Sleep Doctor,” Dr. Breus stated that to truly test a mattress in the store you need to lie on it for 10-15 minutes. Assume there are at least 50 mattresses in the store. That’s about ten hours of mattress time, way more than a good night’s sleep.
I next visited Sleep Like the Dead, a site that rates over 50,000 actual owner experiences. (Whom else would they rate? Non-mattress owners?). No matter what their ratings, I prefer not to be dead when I wake up. Six hours into this project it is time to commit.
The winner? The computer. Sorry. Mankind is just too manipulative for me in my nascent knowledge of mattress purchasing. If I can’t trust my own body to make a decision, thank goodness I can trust Apple or Dell or Microsoft or whoever calculated my sleep quotient. Bed delivered tomorrow.
So sorry this has a PS with it. I HATE THIS MATTRESS. Sorry for shouting, but it really is terrible and we are contractually obligated to try to “break it in” for 30 days. This either requires continuous and outrageously athletic sex or we could buy some really expensive sponge covering (which they promised was not sponge and would not make you sweat) and then JUMP ON IT every night for a month before going to sleep. This is the truth! The sales guy figured that either way, we would be exhausted from our exertions and fall blissfully to sleep.
There are times like these when you have every right to be angry and frustrated and need to put that negative energy somewhere. We invite you to all come over and jump on our mattress. Two more weeks to go.
Susan Winston is a television producer turned psychotherapist with a private practice in Great Barrington.