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Will fabric softener make you sleep better? (1/24/11)

January 24, 2011

Can Comedians Sell Sleep?

Having trouble sleeping?  You’re not alone.  Only about 5% of Americans claim to sleep well every night.  And Proctor and Gamble now says it will help out all the rest.

Their plan is to advertise Downy fabric softener as a way to sleep better – via cleaner, crisper bed sheets.  And if that doesn’t work, they’ll add America’s most prominent sleepwalking comedian, Mike Birbiglia, who will perform in a week long window display for Manhattanites and – can you hear this Andy Warhol – sleep in public! (Warhols may fetch $60 million at auction these days, but the canny Pop artist was previously famous for his notorious film of a man sleeping on camera for hours and hours and hours.)

Will cleaner bed sheets really make you sleep better?  What this new advertising campaign does demonstrate is perhaps more interesting:

  1. Sleep is hitting the big time. It may be true that it’s hard to differentiate one fabric softener from another, despite the bewildering list of chemical ingredients.  Yet sleep is already very big business, and large corporations are increasingly recognizing that sleep’s third of life (well, it’s less than that now) is critical to people’s health and –  their perception of their own health.  It may be that Americans’ relentless paring of sleep over the past few decades combined with the economic crisis, is finally getting people to recognize that rest is regeneration. Without enough rest, you don’t function.
  2. Sleep does improve with a comfortable bed environment. Some manufacturers will try to tell you a $30,000 mattress will provide “miraculous” effects on one’s ability to sleep – though without much evidence that such pricey mattresses really are more effective.

Yet what seems to matter is a bed environment people like. That will differ radically from person to person, but a mattress that feels supportive, a nice room with cool temperatures and the ability to block out light (block out drapes work well,) pleasing, clean pillows and bedsheets, all can improve the ambience that tells you this is a good time and place to sleep – or have sex.

That’s what beds should be for – sleep and sex. Sleep is all about conditioning.  If you have trouble sleeping, you shouldn’t be using the bed to eat nachos, slurp ice cream, watch Monday Night football or read thrillers in bed. Sleep is much about conditioning, setting up a combination of environment and behaviors that sets you up to slumber.  One rule is rest before sleep – you generally have to be calm before falling asleep, and many Americans are anything but calm these days.

Making Sleep Fun

Americans still don’t understand that sleep rewires their brains and bodies; helps control weight; helps prevent cardiovascular disease; is critical to their mental health.  Yet corporate America has yet to realize that much hay can be made if the population starts to sleep as fun.

Yes, fun.  As when waking with playful dreams, feeling fully rested, rising from the bed with the sense that your body has reorganized and revitalized in a positive way.

You  can make sleep fun through pre-dreaming – coming up with visualizations of what you’d like to dream about before you go to bed.  You can make sleep fun by making the period just before sleep one of the most calm and relaxing parts of your day. You can make sleep fun by seeing that rest is regeneration, rebuilding, renewing, restoring, reinvigorating, and rejuvenating you. If you like, you can do what many couples do – enjoy sex – a wonderful form of social rest – before sleep.

So try to see sleep – that critical, if passive part of rest – as something both necessary for your life and a pleasure.  Don’t view sleep and rest as a waste of time keeping you from work worries, video games and titillating text messages.  You’re body’s built a certain way – so let it be used that way.

Fresh bedsheets can be nice, too.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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