The Cost of a Good Night’s Sleep

Mar 20, 2012 7:00am

Mark Angelich, 49, has had trouble sleeping for the past 21 years. His wife, Jane, said her husband, who works for Apple in San Francisco, has tried pretty much everything to get better sleep. He stopped drinking caffeine after a certain time of day, moved the TV out of their bedroom and played soothing music at bedtime.

Finally, as a last resort, the Angeliches bought a new mattress for $6,000. Jane said she wished they had spent their money elsewhere.

“We hate the mattress. We haven’t liked it pretty much the whole time we’ve had it. And he still doesn’t sleep well,” she said.

Americans have no shortage of sleep problems and no shortage of sleep aids to help them get some shut-eye. The solutions range from the simple and low cost – eliminating caffeine, switching off smart phones and keeping rooms dark, for example – to pricey – expensive mattresses, pillows and bedding.

According to a story  in the New York Times, even hotels are getting in on the sleep game, offering patrons glamorous, expensive  solutions to their sleep problems.

But how likely is it that the most luxurious mattress or perfect pillows will help insomniacs put their sleep problems to rest? Experts say it depends on a person’s specific sleeping problem.

Researchers have documented America’s sleep disturbances, the most common of which is insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 10 to 15 percent of adults have chronic insomnia, which is insomnia that lasts for a month or more; 30 to 40 percent experience occasional sleeplessness.

But it’s hard to say whether or not those numbers are higher today than in decades past. Philip Gehrman, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, said the field of sleep research is fairly young, and scientists don’t have much data from the past to know how well previous generations slept. But he said an increase in rates of insomnia wouldn’t be all that surprising.

“Considering that one of the most common triggers is stress, it seems likely that we’re seeing more insomnia,” he said. “Our lives certainly aren’t getting any calmer.”

And there’s no shortage of companies who want to help the sleep-deprived ease into comfortable sleep – for a wide range of prices. Tempur-pedic sells foam mattresses ranging in price from $1,100 to $6,500, while Swedish mattress maker Hastens sells a model priced at $60,000.

Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist in private practice, said he viewed pillows, sheets, mattresses and other bedding as tools that help enhance  sleep performance, just as athletes perform better in specially designed shoes rather than in flip-flops.

“I think you do get what you pay for. If you buy a $499 mattress and box springs, you can pretty much be sure it’s disposable,” said Breus, who also serves as a consultant for mattress companies and sells the  Dr. Breus Bed  with bedding manufacturer Comfort Solutions, which costs up to $3,000.

Gehrman, who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep troubles, said it certainly makes sense for an insomniac to make sure their bed isn’t what’s keeping them from a good night’s sleep.

“But it’s highly unlikely that changing your bedding will fix your chronic insomnia,” he said.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus