Sleeping Better

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The right mattress can improve the quality of your sleep

By Carlyn Schellenberg

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We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, so naturally we should put a lot of consideration into how we sleep, and what we sleep on. Choosing the right mattress is one of the biggest factors that lead to a good night’s sleep.

When buying a mattress, spend a couple of hours in the store choosing it, says Best Sleep Centre president David Keam. “The work is in spending the time… if you do it right, you only have to buy a bed once every 8, 9, 10 years. So give yourself a couple hours to make the decision.”

shutterstock_214040800-w1200-h1200Every sleeper has different needs and preferences, so if a salesperson isn’t asking you a lot of questions, go somewhere else. Some of the questions Paul Rodgers, the owner of Simmons Mattress Gallery on Grant Avenue, asks are: What kind of bed do you have now? How long have you had it? What does your budget look like? Rodgers says choosing a mattress has a lot to do with what people are used to.

The key to a good mattress depends on what it’s made of, Keam says, noting that the quality of the material lies in the weight. “When you’re buying a bed, the more the bed weighs, the better the quality of the bed.”

It’s also important to look for latex when buying a mattress. Keam says, “Latex is a really high quality foam. If you’ve got some of that in your mattress it’s going to last a long time, and the more of it you’ve got, the more it’s going to last.”

The number of coils in a mattress makes a huge difference, says Rodgers – more coils equal more support, and high quality mattresses have 1,000 coils or more. Furthermore, the more you weigh, the more support you will need, and, therefore, the more money you will need to spend.

“When you’re buying a bed, the more the bed weighs, the better the quality of the bed.”
– David Keam, Best Sleep Centre, President

Is a firm or soft, cushy mattress the right one for you? Rodgers says it depends which position you sleep in. Most people sleep in the fetal position, for which the softer mattress is the right choice. Your shoulder and hip sink into the soft mattress, but are resisted by the firm mattress, causing pressure. “Most (side and stomach sleepers) tend to gravitate towards the plush medium to cushy bed because it’s easier on the hip and the shoulder. If you’re on a harder bed, you can get a little bit of pressure in the hip that tends to go into the lower back, and a little bit of pressure on the shoulder which tends to go up into the neck.”

However, back sleepers are better off with a firmer bed.  “Your heavy proportion is your seat, and if your seat is on a cushy bed, and it’s going down too far, you’re putting a little pressure on … your back because your seat is down,” says Rodgers. Back sleepers will achieve the straight position they need on a firm bed because their seat won’t sink as much.

Dr. Vishal Goyal, the owner of Norwood Chiropractic Centre, says sleeping on your back or in the fetal position is good for your spine, “however it can vary and depend on each individual’s spinal alignment or X-ray results.” Goyal suggests a firm pocket coil mattress. “It provides more stability for your spine and can help keep your spine in a neutral position while you sleep,” he explains.

Picking the right pillow is also imperative. Pillows that are too thick or thin will give you a headache, says Rodgers. Goyal explains, “A pillow should keep your cervical spine in a neutral position, not causing too much flexion or (having) your head in extension.”

Do rotate your mattress from time to time – sleeping on the same side of the mattress each night can produce uneven sides. You may need some extra hands rotating it, though – due to the build-up of dust mites, your mattress will be twice as heavy by the time you need to buy a new one.

The technical aspects of a mattress aside, comfort is the number one concern. Rodgers says, “This is a third of your life – do you want to be pinched and kicked, or do you want to be cuddled and hugged?”    

shutterstock_181675202-w1200-h1200What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

SAD is characterized as the “winter blues”:  depression that occurs at the same time of the year each year. Two to three per cent of Canadians suffer from SAD. In Canada, we’re prone to SAD because of how far north we are, says Tara Brousseau Snider, executive director of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM). SAD can include a loss of energy, feelings of sadness, weight gain, and a loss of interest in daily activities. It occurs for the majority of people in October and November, and can occur again in March.

SAD light therapy

Recommended for 20-30 minutes each morning, SAD light therapy uses full spectrum fluorescent lights while a patient is working at a workstation. The patient sits so the light can enter their eyes without staring directly at it. SAD lights can be bought and rented at the MDAM located on 4 Fort Street.

How SAD light therapy helps us sleep

People suffering from SAD may experience either insomnia or oversleeping. SAD light therapy helps with circadian sleep disorders, jet lag and shift work adjustment. The bright lights alter brain chemistry, halt the production of melatonin, and ultimately help regulate our internal clock, increasing people’s energy and fostering better sleeping patterns.

Vitamin D

In the winter months, especially in the northern climates, being far away from the sun, and having little sun during the day, makes it difficult for our bodies to use sunlight to make vitamin D. Thus, vitamin D deficiencies are more prevalent in the winter. Taking supplements is one of the easiest ways to maintain vitamin D levels. For adults, the Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, while the Food and Nutrition Board recommends 600 IU per day. Have your vitamin D levels tested – you’ll get a better idea of how much vitamin D you need. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels will help you achieve a quality sleep.

This information provided in part by the MDAM and Usana Health Sciences.