Countless people toss and turn at night and they suffer the consequences – chronic fatigue that makes daily life a burden and puts them at risk of accidents and illness. Researchers at Oklahoma State University (OSU) blame their mattress, and their findings suggest an ergonomic and relatively inexpensive way to tackle sleep deprivation.
It’s a pervasive, growing and serious problem. In a 2002 National Sleep Foundation survey, 62 percent of American adults reported having at least one night with poor sleep per week, and in 2005 the proportion rose to 75 percent. In the same survey, 26 percent reported getting a good night’s sleep only a few times per month or less. And a recent Institute of Medicine survey estimated that sleep-related fatigue contributes to direct and indirect costs of some $150 billion annually in absenteeism, workplace accidents and lost productivity.
The OSU researchers reported significant and sustained improvement in sleep quality, sleep comfort and sleep efficiency, as well as significant reductions in back pain and stiffness, when subjects slept on new, medium-firm mattresses. Their study, led by Bert Jacobson, EdD, was published by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2006 and appears in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Ergonomics. His team monitored 59 men and women of all ages for four weeks with their old mattress and four more weeks with new ones. Then they analyzed the participants’ daily assessment of their back discomfort, spine stiffness, sleep comfort and sleep quality.
They found that lower back pain was much more prominent for the participants who slept on older beds and cheaper beds. And those who entered the study with back pain found the greatest level of relief with the switch to a new mattress, they said.
The average age of the participants’ old beds for the study was 9.5 years. The researchers noted that with an average of seven hours of sleep per night, this adds up to over 24,000 hours spent in that bed.
In a widely-published article about the study, Dr. Jacobson observed that people tend to buy cars or appliances more frequently than beds. “Likewise, joggers retire their running shoes after a certain number of miles to avoid the risk of pain or injury,” he said. “It should be axiomatic that beds are not built to last forever.
He noted that if the bed subtly breaks down over the years, it is reasonable to conclude that an equally subtle onset of pain and stiffness and reduced sleep quality follows. But subtle increases in stiffness and pain over a decade are typically blamed on a person’s age rather than the mattress, he added.
The benefits of a new mattress are immediate, he said. “Through our research, we found that new bedding improved sleep quality by 62.0 percent and sleep comfort by 70.8 percent, and reduced back pain by 55.3 percent and back stiffness by 50.7 percent over a four-week period.
The reduction in pain and improvement in sleep became more prominent over time, and participants improved regardless of age, weight, height or body-mass index.
Sources: BetterSleep.org;Rent to Own Online;Health.com