Women’s Edition: Vantage Point

womens-edition-coverNatural Bed Store, Good Sleep for a Good Life
By Emma Penny

I’ve always been rather bemused by the fact that, despite the United States being one of the richest countries in the world, most Americans lack a very basic necessity: sleep. If you are one of the yawning millions, read on!

So I could learn about solutions for our seemingly perpetual grogginess, I visited the Natural Bed Store to talk with Ron Larson, president, and Jeanie Kensinger, key accounts manager. The Natural Bed Store has been in the bed business since the ‘70s, and the company has spent significant time and resources on its sleep lab to find out just what folks need to get the right amount of sleep.

“We get really good things from good sleep,” Ron explains. During sleep, areas of our brains that are not active during the day get busy at night, which is one reason why we can “sleep on it” and sometimes wake up with a creative solution to a puzzling problem. At night, a growth hormone or enzyme, which is probably more appropriately called a “healing hormone,” goes through our bodies repairing the general wear and tear of everyday life right down to the cellular level. This hormone is only secreted during sleep. When we sleep, the brain and body regroup and heal themselves, he says.

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? “Studies show that if you only get six hours of sleep a night, you are going to shorten your life,” Ron says.

Jeanie explains that sleep deprivation has been linked to everything from high cholesterol and high blood sugar, to diabetes and weight gain: “A lot of us exercise and eat right, but we can’t get rid of those stubborn pounds because we’re sleeping five hours a night. Plus, a lack of sleep ages you. You look haggard.”

So what are some natural remedies for sleeplessness? Sleep is affected by temperature, moisture, and pressure. The last two items are influenced in part by the quality and firmness of your mattress, they say. You can encourage sleep by reinforcing your natural temperature cycle: Take a hot bath or shower a few hours before bed, and keep your bedroom cool but your bed warm, especially down by your legs, Ron recommends.

The Natural Bed Store offers a bed with three different zones of heat for three different areas of your body. Ron says you will sleep better if your feet and legs are warmer than your torso, which should be warmer than your head.
Another important tactic is having a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Jeanie adds that difficulty sleeping can be a sign of a serious medical condition, so don’t discount the idea that you may need to see a doctor.

You might also need a new mattress. How can you tell if it is time for a new one? “When you wake up in the morning and you hurt worse than when you went to bed,” Jeanie says. “Also, when you are waking up before your alarm clock, not because you’re feeling refreshed, but because it isn’t going to feel good staying in bed.”

Another red flag is sleeping better away from home, she says. “Hotels typically buy the cheapest mattresses they can. People will say, ‘I felt better on that cheap hotel bed than when I went home and got into my own bed.’ That’s usually a clue.”

So what’s the inside scoop on shopping for a new mattress? A mattress needs to be soft, yet comfortable and firm enough to allow you to sleep with proper posture, Jeanie states. If it is too soft, the heavier parts of your body—your hips and shoulders—will sink down and your back will be out of alignment. If the mattress is too firm, your spine will be lined up nicely, but you’ll be uncomfortable.

A second challenge is that the best amount of firmness or pressure is different for different people because of varying weights and personal preferences. In addition, women’s needs change due to pregnancy and menopause, for example, while changes in men’s bodies that affect sleep don’t usually happen until they’re in their 60s. This is one reason why the Natural Bed Store has an option where couple’s beds can be constructed differently, Jeanie says.

Another high priority for the Natural Bed Store is making natural mattresses that really are natural. Jeanie points out that the store’s label has only four items on it, all of which you can pronounce and are natural: cotton, wool, latex, and wood (the latter will be on the label if you buy a foundation).

The word “natural” is tossed around a lot, so I asked exactly what it means at the Natural Bed Store. “To build a truly natural bed, you have to have ingredients that are chemically and synthetic-free and don’t contain fire retardants,” Jeanie explains.

Wool is a natural fire-retardant, allowing the store’s natural mattresses to pass federal fire safety tests even though they aren’t sprayed with chemicals. But latex? Isn’t that synthetic? Actually, natural latex has only three ingredients, all of which are natural, Jeanie states. The latex itself is a kind of tree sap from rubber trees.

Melody Graves, a home environmental consultant from Ecodynamic Living Solutions in Mansfield, Texas, explains why she is a fan of the Natural Bed Store: “I use and recommend to my clients the natural latex mattress from the Natural Bed Store because it is metal-free, 100% certified chemical-free, and comes with an unbeatable in-home trial and return policy.”

Many Natural Bed Store customers come in looking for relief from allergies or other ailments, Jeanie points out. But couldn’t we all benefit from having one less item in our homes that is putting off toxins? That is why the Natural Bed Store now makes crib mattresses, Ron says. “After my son, Ian, was born, knowing what I know about plastics and toxins and all that, I couldn’t face the thought of putting him on one of those (other mattresses) for so many hours,” he adds.

The mattresses are manufactured here in Lincoln, giving us locals an advantage. We can make an appointment to visit the showroom and try out the mattresses ourselves, Ron points out.

In the end, it’s all about not making a good night’s sleep a rare event or a luxury. Because by improving our sleep, we improve the rest of our lives, Ron points out. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy and look forward to going to bed at night,” he says. “That’s when we know that we’ve done our job.”

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