2008.10.01 What's keeping you awake at night?

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I could barely keep my eyes open trying to read through the results of the new sleep survey from SleepBetter.org. It wasn’t fatigue that made it a challenge, just a lot of small print.

The survey points to three reasons for poor sleep: finances, family and health. That doesn’t explain my situation. At 3:33 a.m. I was thinking about the mercury separating in my thermometer outside.

According to the survey, 47 percent of Americans cite financial concerns as anxieties that keep them awake at night. About 45 percent worry about health and lack of health insurance.

I should point out here that the survey was an on-line survey of 2,000 people. That means you have to be an internet user to have talked about your sleep problems and you had to be one of those people who would actually take the time to participate in a survey on-line about sleep.

There’s probably a good chance that it was 1 a.m. when many people took the survey because they just couldn’t force themselves to go off-line and get into bed. Little wonder they have sleep troubles.

Overall, the survey concludes that 75 percent of Americans don’t think they’re getting enough sleep and only a third rate their sleep as good or excellent.

Dr. Breus, SleepBetter’s board certified psychologist, talks about the vicious cycle: poor sleep leads to a poor work performance which leads to financial concerns (about getting canned, apparently) which leads back to more poor sleep.

There’s a hint of a solution in the final finding from the survey: 50 percent of Americans have not yet found the perfect pillow or mattress. Probably 25 percent of the world’s population doesn’t own what SleepBetter would distinguish as a mattress. I wonder how those people are sleeping.

Another solution is to take the website’s Zzzz Score test and learn from the advice offered by the doctor.

There are questions about your lack of exercise, the temperature of your feet, who you’re sleeping with, your sleeping position and the age of your pillow and mattress.

My Zzzz Score suggests using window blinds, which I have for years. My mention of cold feet triggered an alarm for Dr. Breus. This could indicate a serious medical condition and he recommends I talk to my doctor about it immediately and also get advice from my doctor about ways to increase comfort during sleep. Maybe I can get a prescription for a pair of thin socks.

Dr. Breus thinks I should consider buying a new mattress. If I like my old mattress and still find it comfortable, the doctor suggests that I could support the bedding industry in a lesser way by buying a mattress topper. Actually, we have an old mattress in need of replacing, but I’m not going to give Dr. Breus the satisfaction of knowing that.

I decided to mess with the doctor and his Zzzz Score. I signed in under a different name with some different answers. I’m told that sleeping with a pet might lead to allergies and body aches. One of us should sleep on the floor.

Even though my pillow is new, I might want to consider something specifically designed for my personal sleep style. And just because my mattress is new, he gave me something to worry about during those moments of insomnia: Some mattresses wear out in five years. I should probably buy a mattress topper or pad.

I very seldom have trouble getting to sleep. It’s the 3:33 thing when I wake up and my mind kicks into gear. I don’t consider it worrying; just thinking about things. The doctor says maybe I should make a list of my life’s current events before I go to sleep.

He says I should make my bedroom with its new mattress topper into a sanctuary and perhaps bring in the freshness of the outdoors. My wife already thinks it’s a sanctuary for spiders.

He says I should pamper myself with a massage and meditation before I use my new firm pillow. And after I see a doctor about the temperature of my feet, perhaps I should consult with a sleep specialist.

At least now I have something to worry about at 3:33 a.m.

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