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Sleep Number
Sleep Number

Meet the Smart Bed That Warms Your Feet

Sleep Number
Sleep Number

You may recognize Sleep Number from the evenings you’ve stayed up watching infomercials while splayed out in your antiquated coil-spring bed. The company started as an adjustable-position alternative to conventional mattresses; lately, they’ve been rolling out products with built-in technology that claims to help resolve back alignment, snoring, and other issues.

With the Sleep Number 360, the newest of the company’s offerings, users can now aim for a sleep experience previously available only to rich oil barons … or people with electric blankets. The bed will use a timer to preheat the foot of the mattress so that your feet will never again have to experience the indignity of being even slightly cold.

It’s an unusual feature, but Sleep Number claims to have conducted research indicating that people fall asleep faster when their feet are slightly warmer than usual. The timer used to begin the warming process is connected to the bed’s app, which tracks a sleeper’s bedtime habits and can make adjustments based on that data.

The Sleep Number 360 is expected to become available to consumers sometime this year, with prices to be announced.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Big Questions
Why Is It So Difficult to Sleep While Sitting Up?
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Many of you traveling home to visit friends and family over the holidays will encounter the eventual need to sleep on an airplane, train, or bus, or in a car … while sitting up. Have you ever wondered why it's so much more difficult to get a good sleep in the upright position as opposed to lying flat in bed?

In order to understand it, you first need a quick primer of your sleep cycles: The human brain cycles through five phases of sleep when your head hits the pillow, the fifth of which is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM only makes up about 25 percent of your sleep cycle, and occurs approximately 70 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep, but you enter REM sleep several times during the night. During REM, the brain sends signals to the spinal cord to create a temporary paralysis of your muscles, which causes you to lose muscle tone. 

"Usually during REM sleep, other than eye movements, our voluntary muscles are paralyzed," Dr. Neil Kline, an internist and sleep disorder physician and CEO of the American Sleep Association, tells Mental Floss. "We likely evolved this disconnect during REM sleep in order to prevent injury to ourselves." For individuals who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), “this disconnect is faulty," Kline says. "People with RBD act out their dreams, and often injure themselves and others."

The partial paralysis and loss of muscle tone make holding the upright posture of a straight back and neck difficult. It may be why your seatmate tilts sleepily into your personal space, snoring on your shoulder, and why sleeping on a plane is just hard to do comfortably.

Despite this difficulty, some Buddhist monks purposely sleep sitting up as part of their meditation practice for up to five hours per night. They sit in specially designed chairs with hard, firm backs and proper cushioning, and do this as part of a goal to be in meditation as many hours of the day as possible. Your goal may be just an hour of snoozing between takeoff and landing.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Live Smarter
Want to Get Better Sleep? Don’t Think of Yourself as an Insomniac
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Around 10 percent of the population suffers from chronic insomnia, according to the Sleep Management Institute, and for many of those people, insomnia is a psychological issue. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy is usually the first line of treatment for insomnia, not pills. A recent review of the scientific literature on insomnia in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy (spotted by BPS Research Digest) identifies yet another piece of the psychological puzzle that could help people with insomnia. According to findings from University of Alabama psychologist Kenneth Lichstein, just identifying as an insomniac can make you feel worse than the lack of sleep does.

Not everyone who sleeps poorly during the night feels equally foggy the next day. The less satisfied you feel with your night's sleep, the worse you probably feel after you wake up. If you get three hours of sleep but aren't worried about it, you're less likely to complain of fatigue and impairment the next day than someone who lies awake beating themselves up over those hours without sleep. Whether or not you think of yourself as an insomniac is surprisingly idiosyncratic, and isn't always tied to your actual sleep quality.

Lichstein calls this "insomnia identity," suggesting that no matter what the quality of your sleep at night, if you think of yourself as an insomniac, you'll probably feel worse. For one thing, if you're primed to think you'll have trouble falling asleep, you'll be far more sensitive to even the mildest of insomnia symptoms. All that stress, in turn, will make it harder to fall asleep, starting the process over again. You'll be primed for disappointment, and probably won't acknowledge any small gains you make, because you'll have a rather fatalistic attitude toward the whole endeavor of sleep. This insomnia identity is tied to all the same negative effects of the not-sleeping itself, including hypertension, fatigue, depression, and anxiety, according to the study.

If identifying as an insomniac really does have such a major impact, therapies designed to improve symptoms of insomnia should be tackling the self-stigma first, helping people get over their conviction that they are irreformable insomniacs so that they can keep an open mind during their treatment. In the process, they'll start to feel better, even if they don't begin to sleep all that much more.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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