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Monday, March 09, 2009

A Worthy Experiment (Part II)

So as most of you know from Part I of this series, there was a problem (actually several problems that are likely related)... a tool for measuring the extent, or at least the symptoms, of the problem... and a possible solution to the problem.

First the problems: Chronic back pain and poor sleep quality.  Not a pretty combination, but I assume that most people who have one, probably experience the other.  It's like a 'buy one get one free' kinda deal.  Sometimes life is generous like that. 

While back pain can ruin the quality of your life, poor sleep can ruin the quality of life for just about everyone else around you.  In short, it turns even the nicest people into raging @ssholes.  But don't take my word for it... I'm sure there are plenty of people I know who can provide testimonials if you don't believe me.

They say you can't fix a problem until you identify the causes... which, if you think about it, isn't really true.  You can fix just about any problem under the sun.  But if you don't know the cause of the problem, you are probably going to end up having to fix it over and over again.  

So with that in mind, identifying the causes of my problems was sort of important in the grand scheme of things.  I believe that the causes of my back and sleep problems are most likely a combination of lack of exercise, being overweight and having an old, uncomfortable bed.

Next the tool for measuring the extent (or at least the symptoms) of the problem

I know how to measure my weight and the amount of exercise I was getting.  And contrary to what my wife may believe, I actually know how to adjust both of those parameters.  But other than counting bruised ribs from where Zahava pokes me to stop the snoring, I had no idea what was going on between bedtime and when the alarm went off in the morning.

While perusing one of my daily reads, I was fascinated by a discussion of a computer program that could task a laptop to actually watch and record you while you sleep, and which could provide empirical data on things like how many times you turn over during the night, and how much noise you make.  Not only that, but it uses this data to make educated guesses about the length and duration of your visits to the various levels/cycles of sleep; a pretty good yardstick of sleep quality. 

For anyone who has a Mac (it isn't available for PC) and would like to try it free for 15 days, you can check it out here.

Anyway, as I mentioned previously, after I'd recorded a few nights on our old mattresses, I was shocked to watch the time-lapse video (the program takes a photo of you every couple of minutes as you sleep and turns it into a Quicktime movie), of myself spinning like a top throughout the night.  Not only that, but almost every time I moved, it seems to have disturbed Zahava, because she would also turn over.

Once we had decided that at least part of the problem was our old beds, Zahava and I started talking about alternatives.  I've had my eye on the uber-expensive Tempur-Pedic mattresses for years and almost convinced Zahava to buy a pair before we made aliyah.  It was so close that I even had a pair delivered to our house in Connecticut when I heard they were offering an unconditional money-back trial period.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved the experience of sleeping on the Visco-Elastic mattresses, Zahava was at the stage in her pregnancy with Yonah where everything (and I do mean everything!) made her feel nauseous... and an unfamiliar, oddly resilient sleep surface was unbearable for her.  So the mattresses went back, and we made aliyah with with a lift full of shiny new appliances... and our tired old mattresses.

And finally, a possible solution.  With my weight on the decline and my having made a concerted effort to get up out of my office chair and actually move around more during the day, the final piece in the puzzle remained the beds.

Zahava admitted that whatever we did going forward, our old beds were just not serviceable anymore.  Like most people, we allowed inertia to blind us to the sorry state of our beds long after they had started interfering with our comfort.  Considering how much time we (and most people) spend in bed, this is just inexcusable stupidity.

I'd gone shopping in some of the pricey bed shops and had come away with serious sticker-shock after seeing the prices on the name brand Visco-Elastic mattresses.  But I really didn't want to buy another inner-spring mattress.

Then I noticed one of the companies advertising over there in the sidebar, called 'Comfort Living'.  At first I assumed they were only selling pillows and down comforters.  But it turns out they also do a brisk business in imported European Visco-Elastic mattresses.  On a whim I checked out their price list and was pleasantly surprised to see that they are extremely reasonable!  And the fact that they offered a two week trial period to let you test out the mattresses sealed the deal.  I ordered a pair.

I'll admit that the sensation of being on a Visco-Elastic mattress takes a little getting used to... especially if you've spent almost half a century on conventional mattresses.  But that adjustment period can be measured in minutes. 

The first night after the mattresses arrived, I got into bed, set the computer program to 'record' and fell almost instantly asleep.  When I woke up in the morning, the first sensation I was aware of was of being refreshed.  Instead of clawing my way out of sleep after hitting the snooze bar several times, I found my eyes actually opened a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off.

I lay there for a few minutes taking stock of the situation and decided to use the extra time before the alarm to review the night's recording results.  Amazingly, instead of turning over dozens of times per night, I was delighted to see that I'd only changed positions six times in eight hours.  And looking over at Zahava's side of the bed in the movie, she almost didn't move at all! 

The snoring was still there, but was significantly softer and there were fewer episodes of it.  But I'm less inclined to give the mattresses full credit for that since my snoring usually starts to decrease along with my weight.

Since then, my sleep has continued to improve, with less movement, and a consistently good feeling of being refreshed in the morning.  Also, I don't know why I didn't make note of it before, but I realize now that my shoulders and hips were always mildly sore in the morning on the old mattresses... but with the new ones; nothing!. 

Needless to say, we've been talking up the new mattresses with all of our friends like a couple of new converts.  I guess when you find something good (and there isn't a limited supply), your first instinct is to share the good news.  But even this had a funny result.  When Zahava turned to me the other day and told me that one of her friends wanted to try out our bed, I proved that my self-editing device isn't working so well, because what came out of my mouth was, "Um honey... are we talking about a 'Big Chill' situation here?"  To her credit she just looked at me and said, "In your dreams, big guy!"

But then, isn't that what this is all about... pleasant dreams?

Note:  Comfort Livingis a US company that has expended internationally to include Israel.  If you want information and a really nice personal touch, I had an excellent experience dealing with their Israeli office:

I'm not sure, but I assume that since they are part of an American company, they can also arrange delivery to customers to the U.S. as well.  Here's everything you need to get in touch:

Phone: 09-794-1262. (Outside of Israel +972-9-794-1262)
Fax: 09-794-1538 or outside of Israel +972-9-794-1538
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9:00AM - 5:00PM, Friday: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Email: info@comfortliving.co.il
They accept Master Card, Visa, American Express, Pay Pal or Check.

Mention you read about them on treppenwitz and I'm sure the owner, Steve Braun, will give you an excellent deal.

Posted by David Bogner on March 9, 2009 | Permalink

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I think that I'll take a moment to check them out. My sleep hasn't been as restful as I would like and I am sure that the mattress is part of it.

However I can say that I was able to improve upon it by incorporating a foam roller into my exercise regimen.

I still don't sleep as well as I would like, but I find that I wake up with fewer aches and pains than I did before.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 9, 2009 6:30:56 PM

which type did you get?
the site lists 3 types/price ranges

Posted by: daw | Mar 10, 2009 8:41:15 AM

Any idea about how you can contact them if you live in France? :-)

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Mar 10, 2009 11:44:27 PM

Jack... Let me know if you decide to go with a new bed. I'd be curious to know if it helped.

daw... I went with the top of the line. Like I said, if you talk to them , they'll give you a good deal. :-)

Ilana-Davita... They actually buy the mattresses from Europe so they must have some kind of mechanism for doing business there. My advice is to call or email them directly (at the number/email I listed at the end of my post) and ask them what they can do for you.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 11, 2009 11:25:43 AM

Thanks David, I'll try this.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Mar 11, 2009 5:01:27 PM

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