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While we all know that too little sleep leaves us drained, it’s not been clear how sleep affects our energy levels. We decided to dig into the research to better understand the impact.

Does Sleep Increase Energy?

Intuition tells us that after sleeping we often wake up with more energy. It’s only recently, however, that this connection has been explained through research. In a sleep study conducted by Harvard University researchers, lab rats were tested for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels when awake and asleep. (ATP is a primary source of energy transfer within our brains.) The Harvard team found that when awake, the rats’ ATP levels remained constant; however, when they were in extended, non-REM sleep, ATP levels increased in four central regions of the brain that are critical to performing activities when we’re awake.

Increases in ATP levels don’t occur during the day--our brains are depleting ATP to manage activities--or when we sleep less than 6-8 hours. When we sleep the recommended 7-9 hours, though, ATP stores increase--providing us with more daytime energy.

Interestingly, caffeine similarly affects ATP, giving us the boost we associate with a coffee or caffeinated beverage. When we begin to fall asleep, adenosine molecules--the “A” in ATP--bind together and signal our brain that our energy levels have been depleted and it’s time to sleep. Caffeine interrupts the signals adenosine transmits to brain neurons, in effect tricking our brains into perceiving that energy hasn’t been depleted and is available for use--thus the “boost.”

Why Do I Sometimes Feel More Tired After Napping or Sleeping?

A 10- or 20-minute nap can be helpful in giving us a quick boost of energy by providing our brains a chance to reset. In fact, many medical professionals advocate taking naps over relying on caffeine (restoring your body vs. tricking it would seem to make sense, no?).

But why do we sometimes feel groggy? There’s a good explanation. When we sleep more than 20 minutes, our brains enter slow-wave sleep (SWS), the deepest part of sleep. To get the most benefit from naps, try and keep them under 20 minutes, and target between 1:00 and 3:00 pm, when we naturally become drowsy. Limiting naps to early afternoon also helps avoid interfering with nighttime sleep.

Sleep Quality versus Sleep Quantity

Like other sleep experts, Level Sleep advocates 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Some of us find, however, that we arise feeling tired. One cause relates back to SWS--when we’re jolted out of sleep by an alarm or external factors, we don’t allow our bodies to wake up at a natural, non-SWS sleep stage. To address this, try avoiding an alarm clock and head to bed early enough that you get enough sleep to avoid needing to be awakened.

The other issue is sleep quality. Our bodies rely on multiple, full sleep cycles of 90 to 120 minutes, during which restorative sleep occurs. When we interfere with these natural cycles, we deprive ourselves of this restorative sleep, spending the night tossing and turning. So while we might be sleeping enough, we’re not getting the beneficial sleep we need.

Why the Right Mattress Makes All the Difference

The three zones of Level Sleep’s TriSupport’s mattress work together to prevent pressure buildup, especially at key contact points such as your shoulders and hips. Less pressure and less pain directly translates to less tossing and turning and better sleep.

  • The firmer lumbar zone supports your back and spine, maintaining alignment and reducing stress on soft tissues.
  • The soft shoulder zone absorbs and comforts your shoulder’s bone structure and tissues
  • The medium zone supports your hips and works with the lumbar zone to naturally align your hips and back

This patented design is why our clinical trial participants experienced 34% less tossing and turning and woke up with 43% less fatigue and 63% less daytime dysfunction due to sleepiness.

We also offer the Restore Pillow, which combines with our mattress to provide neck support and limit snoring, helping you--and your partner--sleep more soundly.

For Help and Additional Information

We encourage you to take a look at theLevel Sleep blog for to learn more about sleep and health.We also invite you to give us a call at 888-999-8831 or to visit levelsleep.com for sleep tips and more on how our products can help you live with more energy.

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Okay, February, your post-holiday, nasty weather, cabin fever days are making us feel stressed. Worse, our stress may be keeping us up at night. So what is the link between stress and sleep, and what can we do to sleep better?

Does stress interfere with sleep?

While not everyone experiencing stress suffers from sleep problems or insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “43 percent [of adults&91; report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.”

The mid-winter doldrums challenge us in many ways: For example, we’re not as active and, as a result, don’t release endorphins that can improve our mood and bring down stress. Under stress, we tend to eat and drink more, increase our caffeine intake, and spend more time in front of electronics that disrupt our circadian rhythms and interfering with the buildup of melatonin, the hormone that initiates the onset of sleep.

Stress-related moods don’t help, either: Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Lawrence Epstein suggests that "There's a big relationship between psychiatric and psychological problems and sleep. So people who are depressed or have anxiety often have trouble with sleep as part of those disorders."

Can poor sleep increase stress?

Anyone who’s been challenged to fall asleep already knows the answer. But how do we know if we’re stressed or simply restless? Stress is experienced in a variety of ways.

  • Emotional: Nervousness, feeling burned out, boredom, irritability, depression, feelings of helplessness
  • Physical: Headaches, stomach aches, and backaches, fatigue, cold sweats/clammy hands, restlessness
  • Behavior: Irritability, change in eating, bossiness, drinking more alcohol

So back to the question: Is stress affecting our sleep? The National Sleep Foundation says it is. For example, in NSF’s research, adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night are more likely to report symptoms of stress than those getting eight or more.

Compared to those who slept more than eight hours, adults with less sleep reported:

  • Feeling irritable or angry (45 percent vs. 32 percent)
  • Lacking interest, motivation or energy (42 percent vs. 30 percent)
  • Feeling overwhelmed (40 percent vs. 27 percent)
  • Losing patience or yelling at their spouse or partner (50 percent vs. 36 percent)

Breaking the Cycle

“Sleep and stress are so integrated that we ask patients to evaluate each and incorporate any challenges into the care we provide” says Dr. Tony Garrow of Jersey Shore Wellness Center, which combines chiropractic, massage therapy, weight loss, acupuncture, and physical therapy and recommends Level Sleep products.

Dr. Tony Garrow

Bringing the relationship between stress and sleep to light is the first step in breaking the cycle. What’s next? As sleep experts, we’ll start with approaches to getting better sleep.

  • Dr. Garrow and others recommend starting with the right mattress and pillow. Our TriSupport Mattress’s three zones align and reduce physical stress on your body, while minimizing the pressure buildup on your shoulders, hips, and back that contributes to tossing and turning. Our Restore Pillow works with the mattress to prevent neck pain and disruptive snoring. In other words, you’ll sleep longer and more soundly.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and stimulants that interfere with sleep. While you may fall asleep faster with alcohol, it has a major negative impact on your sleep cycles and sleep quality.
  • Consider natural supplements or remedies such as melatonin or chamomile.
  • Create a consistent sleep-preparation routine and schedule that gets you ready for sleep and signals your body it’s time to wind down.
  • Exercise regularly--but allow at least two hours between your exercise and sleep time.
  • Prepare your bedroom for sleep by turning down bright lights and establishing a cool, comfortable sleeping environment.
  • If you’re consistently sleeping (as opposed to being in bed) fewer than eight hours, don’t force yourself to bed; instead, try and match your schedule in bed to your natural sleep pattern, then gradually expand your time in bed to reach eight hours.

To reduce stress, we recommend the following. (Please note that we are not medical professionals at Level Sleep. If you are experiencing high stress levels and advanced insomnia, see a physician.)

  • Reinforce habits and behavior that encourages healthy, consistent sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet, avoiding junk food and sugars, as food can change change your hormonal balance, affecting your sleep patterns.
  • Exercise consistently, whether it’s a light walk or a heavy workout. Remember the “two-hour rule” of not exercising close to bedtime.
  • Be social and spend time with friends and family; sharing your challenges and feeling supported will help you offload stress.
  • Understand sources of stress. Take the time to review causes of your stress and, where possible, delegate and/or read up on techniques for managing your workload and life challenges.

To learn more about topics related to sleep and health, we invite you to visit the Level Sleep blog at https://www.levelsleep.com/blog.

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Level Sleep recently spoke with Dr. Kevin Flythe of Bodyworks Chiropractic & Wellness Center. We asked Dr. Flythe how he advises his patients about ways they can improve their diet and habits to foster better sleep.

How does the food we eat affect the quality of our sleep?

We no longer follow a 9-to-5 schedule; our days have gotten longer and longer. Food truly affects the quality of life, and it causes problems when the food we eat is out of sync with our lifestyle.

We need to give our bodies time to digest. With the longer days we work we often eat 2-3 hours before bed, and even in bed, and that leads to inflammatory issues including acid reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and other conditions—and it doesn’t help that we’re eating a lot more spicy and processed foods. Doctors are ending up prescribing Prilosec and other acid reflux medications, and patients are waking up feeling like they’re choking or can’t catch their breath.

We’re also in a caffeine world, and people think they need a nightcap to help them sleep. But it comes right back at you by creating an acidic environment, heating up your body and changing it chemically. And for those who smoke, nicotine does the same thing as caffeine.

What do you tell patients to do to address these challenges?

One of the biggest things is hydration. The Cleveland Clinic and other sources have recommended that you drink a glass of water before you go to bed, two when you get up. Hydration helps with the digestive process and helps cool the body down. I reinforce with my patients that they drink alkaline water, which helps the body repair itself.

What is the relationship between weight and sleep?

It’s huge, huge. Disrupted sleep increases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and causes adrenal dysfunction. The whole endocrine system is affected, leading to our waking up just as tired as when we went to bed. And parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, which regulates melatonin levels, and the pituitary gland, which regulates a number of critical hormones, are thrown off. These hormones disrupt sleep and lead to weight gain because our systems can no longer properly regulate themselves. And without enough sleep, the body can’t recover.

Do you recommend any food detox or other programmatic approaches to improving sleep?

We do a food detox program here in the office. I also tell patients to keep a food diary, which helps me tell them what we need to eliminate. Lots of folks have aches and pains, and it’s the food that’s causing an inflammatory response. We also recommend alkaline water to alkalize the body, and eating more whole foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables and organic meat.

We also look at supplements. We often recommend melatonin at night, as well as valerian root, and magnesium. We need magnesium and calcium to allow the calm in the body, and sodium and potassium to create action potential in the muscles. We also suggest 5-Hydrodroxytryptophan and amino acids at night to calm the brain down.

What’s your favorite tip for getting better sleep?

  • Don’t wait until you get tired to go to bed. When you feel yourself getting sleepy, allow yourself to get prepared. Your body needs to gently go to sleep, not be forced to go to sleep.
  • Also, don’t do rigorous exercise 2-3 hours before bed, and learn to turn off the TV. Your mindset should be that your mind needs to be at ease. So, whether it’s soothing music with no voice, or meditation, something I do daily, be consistent and conscious about preparing for sleep.

How Level Sleep Can Help

Level Sleep products, including the TriSupport Mattress and Restore Pillow , work together to offer a sleep system “designed for the human form.”

The TriSupport mattress’s three zones effectively accommodate the body’s curves and weights, aligning the body and reducing pain and discomfort. The top, soft zone absorbs the shoulder and reduces pressure; the lumbar zone supports the lower back and torso to reduce spinal strain; and the medium zone reduces pressure on hips and equalizes pressure across the body.

The ergonomic, patent-pending Restore™ Pillow provides natural neck and spine alignment. Its Ergonomic Support Center enables the sleeper’s head to recline at the proper angle when sleeping on his or her back, opening up airways and reducing snoring. The unique ear wells and adjustable heights help side sleepers to position their head at the correct neck angle while reducing pressure on the face and ears. The pillow improves upon an earlier design clinically proven to reduce snoring up by 78 percent in studies conducted at Stanford University.

About the Expert

Dr. Kevin Flythe is the founder and leader of Bodyworks Chiropractic & Wellness Center in Marietta, Georgia. His practice offers chiropractic care, massage therapy, wellness coaching, and a variety of natural healing methods. BCWC focuses on the convergence of mind, body, and spirit, offering techniques that follow Eastern principles. More information is available at bodyworksperformance.com/ or by calling 770-988-0988.

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It’s long been hypothesized that when we get less sleep, we’re more inclined to add weight. Can this be true? Several research studies provide an in-depth look at possible connections.

Recent research from the University of Chicago found that young, healthy volunteers who had consumed full meals before sleep experienced increased cravings for snacks the following day, especially in the afternoon. Sleep-deprived subjects consumed nearly twice as much fat and 300 calories more per day than they did after sleeping a full eight hours.

What causes cravings and weight gain?

Sleep is closely tied to hormone regulation. For example, the lack of sleep can lead to increases in ghrelin, a hormone that signals our body to eat. Subjects in the University of Wisconsin’s Sleep Cohort studies who slept fewer than five hours had 14.9 higher ghrelin levels than those sleeping eight hours. Sleep deprivation also decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that balances out ghrelin by inhibiting hunger and fat accumulation.

What can we do?

A first step is getting enough sleep; the amounts vary depending your age and personal needs; The National Sleep Foundation has created this helpful chart with recommended amounts of sleep for each age range. Next is bedtime rituals, including eliminating the use of electronic devices prior to sleep, establishing consistent rituals to signal your body it’s time for sleep, and avoiding eating and drinking—especially alcoholic drinks—for at least two hours prior to going to bed. We’ll share additional insights in our upcoming blogs.

As important as our sleep duration and preparation is the quality of sleep we get. When we sleep on a mattress that doesn’t adequately support our bodies, we experience discomfort and pressure on our hips and shoulders, negatively affecting sleep quality. Addressing the curves and differing weights of the human body, Level Sleep’s TriSupport mattress offers three zones that fosters alignment and cushions contact areas such as shoulders and hips. Our mattress is complemented by the Restore Pillow, a uniquely designed pillow that fights pain and increases airflow. For more information please visit levelsleep.com.

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Every year there are nearly four million births in the U.S., as reported by the CDC.

Along with the excitement of the arrival of a new baby come new challenges, notably the expectant mother’s sleep and wellness.

Sleep is critical to both mother and baby, and affects both in unexpected ways. For example, if the mother gets less than five hours of sleep per night during the final week of pregnancy, the chance of a Cesarean grows to 50 percent from the typical U.S. rate of 4.5 percent.

For the health of mother and baby, most doctors recommend* that during the third trimester, mothers sleep exclusively on their left side. The reason behind this is that the inferior vena cava, which acts as the return blood supply from the legs, is on the right side of the groin. Sleeping on one’s back or right side presses the weight of the belly and torso against the vena cava and reduces the blood supply, affecting both mother and baby.


Sleeping only on one side? Easier said than done.

Sleeping only on one side on a typical mattress can lead to pressure buildup and alignment difficulties.

Consider that the average weight of the infant and surrounding tissues is between 15 and 30 pounds. The extension of the mother’s belly forward of the pelvis and spinal column produces both torque and shear, particularly on the lumbar region at L5, L4. This often leads to sciatica during pregnancy and chronic back pain afterward.

Many doctors would recommend pain pills but don’t have solutions when it comes to sleep products.

For example, the typical mattress from leading brands:

  • Build up pressure on shoulders and hips, leading to increased tossing and turning.
  • Offer one uniform surface, translating to no support for the belly and increased pressure on the bladder
  • Often trap heat, causing the mother discomfort and restlessness

To address these challenges, my own daughter tried a Level Sleep TriSupport Topper during her pregnancy. She reported that unlike her prior pregnancy she often slept the night through and had fewer bathroom trips.

How could a mattress topper make such a difference?

  • TriSupport Toppers and Mattresses offer soft shoulder and hip zones that reduce pressure on these parts of the body, significantly reducing the body’s signaling the need to move
  • Their lumbar zone provides support to the belly, helping keep its mass from pulling the body out of alignment
  • Our top-grade, non-toxic foam and latex top layer allows excellent airflow and breathability to dramatically cut down on heat buildup
  • The mattresses and toppers work together with the Restore Pillow to provide a sleep system capable of keeping the mother comfortable on her side by offering multiple height adjustments and breathable ear wells.

* Please consult your obstetrician or doctor for their guidance.

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The Way We Sleep Can Cause Neck and Head Pain. But There Are Solutions.

Among the 40 million Americans reporting that their sleep is disrupted by pain on multiple occasions each week, the most common type involves the head, neck, and face. Why is this, and what we can do to feel better?

We spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Hoefer, D.C., of Precision Chiropractic in Orange County, who specializes in neck/upper cervical care.

Neck Alignment Is Critical to Sleep and Health

“Alignment is the foundation of health,” says Dr. Hoefer. “If you’re sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t support proper neck alignment, your scalene muscles can become irritated, and then pull on your vertebrae. These bones protect the spinal cord; if they have moved out of alignment, this negatively impacts your nervous system by diminishing its ability to help your brain and body to effectively communicate."

“Pain is powerful; it’s often what brings patients in for care. If you’re having headaches, backaches, muscle pain, or sciatica, chiropractic can help you. However, optimal function of the nervous system is about more than not having a headache. Proper alignment is essential to overall health.”

Common Causes of Poor Alignment

“Sometimes patients come to me having developed horrible sleep habits that affect their alignment. They sleep on their stomach, or their mattress and pillow aren’t supporting them. Sleeping with a partner who snores, or with children who toss and turn can also impact your ability to get comfortable.”

“You must keep your muscles neutral and relaxed through appropriate alignment. Sleep—particularly sleep that happens between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.—is when your body restores itself; if you’re out of alignment, this restoration will be compromised. Poor alignment can also affect your diaphragm’s ability to move up and down, which impacts your lung capacity and your ability to get blood and oxygen to your brain. Sleeping with the proper neck position is crucial to waking up feeling rested and well."

Ways to Improve Neck Alignment

“Be sure your pillow and mattress are working together to give you enough support. From what I’ve experienced with the Level Sleep topper, the softer shoulder section allows your shoulder to drop, bringing your upper body into a more neutral position, encouraging proper alignment. When combined with the adjustable height pillow, your neck becomes properly supported as well.

“I recommend that you have a chiropractor conduct an upper cervical exam. He or she may be able to help restore balance through an adjustment. I treat my patients using the Blair Specific Protocol, a gentle approach to upper cervical care.

How Level Sleep Products Can Help

Finding the right sleep product is essential to cervical care, extending the benefits provided by a chiropractor and/or good habits during the day into the night.

The ergonomic, patent-pending Restore™ Pillow provides natural neck and spine alignment. Its Ergonomic Support Center enables the sleeper’s head to recline at the proper angle when sleeping on his or her back, opening up airways and reducing snoring. The unique ear wells and adjustable heights help side sleepers to position their head at the correct neck angle while reducing pressure on the face and ears. The pillow improves upon an earlier design clinically proven to reduce snoring up by 78 percent through studies conducted at Stanford University.

Level Sleep’s patented TriSupport™ mattresses and toppers work with the pillow to achieve optimal alignment along the entire body. “Designed for the human form,” each mattress or topper offers three different zones to accommodate the body’s curves and weights. The top, soft zone absorbs the shoulder and reduces pressure; the lumbar zone supports the lower back and torso to reduce spinal strain; and the medium zone reduces pressure on hips and equalizes pressure across the body.

About the Expert:

Dr. Hoefer earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree, Bachelor of Science, and Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology at Palmer College of Chiropractic.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic Society and is a certified instructor. She had the honor of receiving Blair Chiropractor of the Year recognition for 2015.

She was awarded New Chiropractor of the Year for the State of California in 2013 from the CCA as well as the Orange County District in 2012. She served as President of the CCA Orange County District from 2014-2016 and held the position of Secretary from 2012-2014.

Dr. Hoefer lives and practices full time in Orange County, California with her Husband and 3 daughters.  

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We caught up with Dr. Nick Athens, D.C., of Athens Chiropractic Clinic in San Carlos, California, and a team chiropractor for San Francisco 49ers, to talk about the relationship between pain, decompression, and sleep.

Dr. Nick shared several insights into preparing the body for rest.

Why Is Sleep Important For My Body to Heal?

Relaxing the body increases opportunity for sound sleep and a better quality of life

“The body is a self-healing organism, and sleep is when it does its best repairs. That’s when your body is best at eliminating toxins, repairing tissue, and recovering from injury. Preparing yourself for sleep helps your body repair itself most efficiently.

“Sleeping better improves your quality of life, which often deteriorates as you age and feel the effects of a lifetime of accumulated wear and tear. You have to find a way to get your body to work better, not worse, as you age. I tell my patients it’s about healthcare from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. You should be proactive about your wellness by looking at all aspects of your lifestyle, including sleep.”

What Can I Do to Prepare My Body for Restorative Sleep?

Decompressing the body helps reverse the stress built from daily activities

“Many of us spend hours a day sitting in front of a computer, driving a car, or looking down at a phone; these positions and this lifestyle are hunching our shoulders and driving our bodies forward. Plus, as we age, life naturally compresses our spines. We start to rely on walkers and canes, and we lean forward over them. We need to reverse the body’s direction, particularly when we go to sleep at night.”

Ways you can encourage spinal decompression:

  • Stationary stretches to open the chest. These can be done over an exercise ball, on a foam roller, or with a partner’s assistance.
  • Yoga stretches such as cat pose, child’s pose, and gentle spinal twists.
  • Anything to stretch your body and pull your shoulders back.
  • Using chairs, seats, and mattresses with lumbar support

How Does the Right Position Improve My Sleep?

Proper positioning helps the spine decompress and encourages natural alignment

“I suggest sleeping on your side or on your back. Sleeping on your stomach torques your spine into an unhealthy position and cause problems down the road. Research has shown that you can improve your alignment and encourage your spine to decompress by supporting your lumbar spine and your torso while sleeping. Additionally, some find relief by placing a pillow between your legs, if you sleep on your side. Back sleepers can also try putting a small pillow under their legs.”

To summarize, Dr. Nick advocates decompression and proper body positioning as major contributors to reduced pain and improved sleep.

How Level Sleep Products Can Help Decompress Your Spine

Level Sleep’s patented TriSupport™ mattresses and toppers align the body to encourage decompression and reduce stress, and by reducing pressure they prevent less tossing and turning, leading to deeper sleep.

“Designed for the human form,” each mattress or topper offers three different zones to accommodate the body’s curves and weights. The top, soft zone absorbs the shoulder and reduces pressure; the lumbar zone supports the natural curve of the lower back and torso to reduce spinal strain; and the medium zone reduces pressure on hips and equalizes pressure across the body.

The ergonomic, patent-pending Restore™ Pillow provides natural neck and spine alignment. Its Ergonomic Support Center enables the sleeper’s head to recline at the proper angle when sleeping on his or her back, decompressing the cervical spine, opening up airways and reducing snoring. The unique ear wells and adjustable heights help side sleepers to position their head at the correct neck angle while reducing pressure on the face and ears. The pillow improves upon an earlier design clinically proven to reduce snoring up by 78 percent through studies conducted at Stanford University.

About the expert:

Nicholas J. Athens, D.C., graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. In addition to spinal care, Dr. Athens specializes in extremity conditions such as shoulder and hip bursitis, knee tendonitis, and Plantar Fasciitis, among others. Dr. Athens is a team chiropractor for the San Francisco 49ers and has also been a team chiropractor for the San Francisco Giants. He has been in practice for 33 years. Please visit athenschiro.net for more information about Dr. Athens and Athens Chiropractic Clinic.

 

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Having trouble sleeping? Well, you're not alone. Throughout human history, a great deal of effort has gone into improving the way we sleep. As much a part of our basic needs as food, water, and safety, the science of sleep has fascinated humans for centuries.

 

Why Must We Sleep?

While many ancient cultures feared sleep, seeing it as akin to death, they nonetheless understood its importance. Egyptians thought dreams offered a way to communicate with higher powers, decorating their bedchambers with images of their preferred deities and seeking to interpretation divine messages in dreams.

Observing that animals, and even plants, seemed to spend the evening hours at rest, Greek philosophers sought to unravel the mystery of sleep and studied sleeping bodies in an attempt to understand the function of sleep in physical life. In his essay On Sleep and Sleeplessness, Aristotle concluded that sleep was “a seizure of the primary sense-organ; arising of necessity… for the sake of its conservation.”

Sleep and Culture

Shakespeare too understood the value of sleep to health, and many of his tragic characters are tortured by a lack of “that innocent sleep/Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care.”

A true man of leisure, King Louis XIV owned more than 400 beds and often held court while reclining in one of them.

Even the ever-regimented Napoleon Bonaparte knew the importance of sleep (though His Imperial Majesty was known to take frequent naps…). 

 Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool. - Napoleon Bonaparte
The Development of Sleep Technology

Of course long before anyone began to think or write about the importance of sleep, people still slept. While early humans may not have understood the connection between sleep and health (and were probably just tired of sharing the bed with insects), attempts to improve sleep technology have been ongoing since the Neolithic period—when raised beds first began to replace straw heaps in cave dwellings.

Though they generally saw sleep as a waste of time, the Romans were the first to construct mattresses, filling crude cloth bags with reeds, hay, wool, and (for the wealthy) feathers. During the Renaissance, Europeans covered rough cotton mattresses with velvet and silk brocades in an attempt to make sleeping more comfortable. But it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that mattresses, usually stuffed with straw or down, were specifically designed to fit in wooden frames.

In the early nineteenth century, coil springs were first introduced as supports in chair seats. In 1871, Heinrich Westphal transferred this technology to the bedroom, creating the world’s first innerspring mattress. Since that time, various sleep fads have come and gone—adjustable mattresses, futons, and water beds among them—and the materials used in mattress construction have changed—artificial fillers, foam rubber, and latex are now frequently employed—but Westphal’s basic design remains far and away the most common type of mattress used today.

Roman bed - Pompeii Exhibit Ranch Acres History Museum, Singapore Roman bed | by Amsk 

How We Sleep Now

Throughout the twentieth century, the study of sleep has become a growing field of interest for scientists. Numerous sleep disorders have been diagnosed and codified, and the importance of a good night’s sleep has taken on new dimensions in scientific and popular culture. We now have apps on our phones that can measure how well we sleep, access to a large suite of prescription and over-the-counter drugs to aid sleep, even medical centers devoted entirely to enriching our understanding of sleep.

In recent years the sleep industry has also begun to change. Web-based companies have introduced new designs aimed at reducing the cost and increasing the comfort of mattresses. Various foams and gels have been introduced as alternatives to spring-based designs.

Yet, despite these developments, numerous studies show that Americans are not sleeping better. According to a 2014 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, fewer than one third of Americans get “excellent” or “very good” quality sleep on a regular basis.

Humans have been obsessed with sleep for ages and today we are more keenly aware of the need for quality sleep than ever before. We have the science and technology to help ourselves sleep better, so isn’t it time we started to use it more effectively?

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A Possible Connection Between Sleep Loss and Alzheimer's?

Over six million Americans currently live with the dreaded disease Alzheimer’s, and its impact on families and the economy is staggering. Scientists have long struggled to find the causes of this complex neurological condition, but recent research indicates that a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s is a buildup of plaque in the brain. Plaque formed by certain proteins, called beta-amyloids, clumping together around brain cells has been shown to inhibit nerve function and interfere with cell-to-cell communication, leading to brain cell death and reduced cognitive functioning. This type of plaque is often found in high concentrations in the cell tissue of those who have suffered with Alzheimer’s. While there is hope that this discovery could lead to treatments for this as of yet incurable disease, the idea that the beta-amyloids could be a cause of Alzheimer’s is something all of us should take note of today.

That’s because a recent sleep study performed at the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests there is strong connection between sleep and the removal of beta-amyloids. This study found that while we sleep, specific brain cells, called glial cells, remove metabolic waste products from the central nervous system, allowing the liver and kidneys to effectively destroy them. In fact, this waste removal is one of the most compelling biological (as opposed to psychological) reasons for sleep scientists have discovered. And beta amyloids are among the waste products removed by glial cells each night. So if you are only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, you are not giving your glial cells the time they need to perform their proper function. In the process, you are quite possibly increasing your risk for Alzheimer's.

In another study that supports the University of Rochester findings, Dr. Adam Spira, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, “To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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