Part 1: Customers need more than just a mattress. They are really looking for a good night’s sleep!
Sleep Physiology & Technology by Guy Eckert
In the past decade, awareness about the importance of a good night’s sleep has increased dramatically. The bedding industry and consumers alike have reaped the benefits of new medical knowledge about sleep and the body’s sleep physiology.
Dr. James Maas, pioneer in the field of sleep research, helped bring this knowledge to the masses with his 1998 Best Seller, “Power Sleep”. In his book, the Cornell University professor tackles such topics as sleep physiology and ways to help improve the quality of sleep. Getting regular exercise, for example, is just one of the factors in helping one drift into unconsciousness at bedtime. Bedroom environment and diet also matter.
William C. Dement, MD, PhD and founder of the world's first sleep disorders center at Stanford University also explored the physiology of sleep. Dr. Dement was the first to intensively study the connection between rapid eye movement (REM sleep) and dreaming. In his book, “The Promise of Sleep,” Dr. Dement teaches how to "reclaim healthy sleep" in one’s own life by adopting a "sleep-smart lifestyle."
Harvard professor and founder of the Behavioral Medicine Insomnia Program, Gregg Jacobs, not only explored how to achieve healthy sleep, but actually overcome insomnia. One of the most important factors he stresses: developing a sleep-enhancing lifestyle including diet, exercise, and an understanding of the importance of body temperature.
An informed consumer now looks for much more than initial comfort in their bedding – and it’s our responsibility to be a knowledgeable resource on the particulars of sleep physiology.
Historically, the bedding industry has struggled to rid itself of the commodity label and longed for the day when a new mattress was mentioned in the same breath as a vacation or health club membership. Now that medical science has confirmed and stressed the importance of healthy sleep, that day has finally arrived at retail. The bedding industry has matured before our very eyes. Bedding technologies now encompass everything from memory foam and performance fabrics to synthetic and natural fill pillow tops.
This article is the first in a two-part series exploring the physiology of sleep, the evolution of bedding products, value promises and how to accurately convey these messages to consumers at the point of sale.
Sleep experts like Drs. Maas, Dement and Jacobs all agree that – aside from living a generally healthy lifestyle – one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep is the entire sleep environment. Wall color, lighting, feng shui, room temperature, and sleep surface all contribute. Is there a better place to address all of these issues than a full service retail furniture store?
- With our hectic schedules, it can be a challenge to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night. Our daily balancing act of work, family, friends and everything else leaves little time to worry about keeping our bedrooms in an “optimum sleep condition”. There are, however, some simple things that can be done in order to achieve a better night’s sleep. But first, we must know the basics of sleep physiology:
- Your body must cool down in order to go to sleep.
- Your body continues to cool off during the evening until just before you awake.
- Your body begins preparing for sleep at sundown when your retina sends a signal to your brain - which, in turn, sends a signal to the pineal gland to begin to produce Melatonin.
- Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical that lowers your body temperature and makes you drowsy (this has the same impact as taking a warm shower before going to bed; your body temperature elevates while in the shower, then cools once you come out). That change in temperature makes you drowsy and helps you prepare for sleep.
- There are 5 phases of sleep in a typical sleep cycle with the 5th being the all-important REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Studies have shown that REM propensity increases when your body temperature is at its lowest point during sleep…typically in the early morning hours. during REM your brain reorganizes and recharges for the next day. This is also the state in which you experience vivid dreams.
- You must go through all 5 phases of sleep consecutively in order to achieve REM sleep. If you wake up in the middle of Phase 3, you don’t fall back asleep and pick up where you left off. You will have to successfully complete Phases 1 and 2 again.
- Most sleep experts recommend setting your room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum sleep.
Since most consumers don’t know all the technical details of sleep physiology, it’s our responsibility to explain it. Remember – having knowledge about and explaining these topics will also differentiate you from your competition. When purchasing a bed, most consumers simply lie down to see if they feel “comfortable”. Unfortunately, this is often in the middle of a very crowded, noisy showroom with bright lights and temperatures not conducive to relaxation. As sleep experts, you can help create an environment that will more accurately reflect the optimum sleep environment, educating your customer and creating a scenario that will ultimately lead to your customer making the proper purchase.
Historically, home textiles retailers have stressed the technique of layering bedding products to consumers. This process can actually work against them and contribute to many sleepless nights!
Remember, we’re all walking furnaces…there’s warm moisture radiating off our skin at all times. Creating their own little sleep cocoon may look fashionable, but it can actually work against what our customers’ bodies are naturally trying to do – and that’s cool down. The heat radiating from their skin gets trapped inside the cocoon, causing the relative humidity and microclimate temperature to elevate. If they’re like 80% of the consumers in this country, the next step involves throwing the covers off or sticking a leg out to cool down. When they get too cool, the leg comes back in and the covers come back on. Some consumers do that for the first 15 minutes they’re in bed, and others do that all night long. Think about it - if they toss and turn for a total of one hour each night, by the end of week they’ve lost the equivalent of a full night’s sleep!
Now that we know what it takes to achieve a good night’s sleep, we can continue in the next issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine to look at emerging technologies that are paving the way to better sleep. We’ll not only delve into new bedding technologies, but also look at examples of manufacturers who are pioneering the bedding market through product development and retailers whose innovative point-of-sale, marketing and advertising strategies are paying huge dividends.
Guy Eckert has been with Outlast Technologies since 1999. He is responsible for product development, supply chain management, sales and marketing, and overall profit and loss for the business unit. Guy is an expert in specialized bedding, top of bed products, mattresses and more. He possesses a unique point of view on how new technologies are advancing the future of the bedding industry and permanently raising the bar for comfort standards. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. For more information on topics related to this article contact him at email@example.com, or call him direct at 303-581-0801.
Outlast Technologies, Inc. a pioneer in developing phase-change materials and applications. As an innovative technology company, Outlast has launched temperature-regulating technology in apparel, footwear, bedding and accessories. Originally developed for NASA, Outlast® fibers, fabrics and coatings contain patented microencapsulated phase-change materials called Thermocules™, which absorb, store, and release heat, providing increased comfort for consumers.