Thursday, February 24, 2005

Luxury Essentials: Breakdown of a Luxury Bedding Set - Pillows

Luxury Bedding

Source: By Luxury Sleep (c)2005

This article is the first in a series intended to provide quality information about luxury bedding. After doing some research about this subject I found that there really wasn't a definitive resource. My background is rooted in the bedding industry. I worked for one of the largest natural bedding manufacturers and distributors in the world. I was lucky enough too be assigned a few 4-star hotel accounts to help me get a first hand look at luxury bedding. In 2002 we started too offer the highest quality bedding available online, feel free to browse our shop and send us an email if you have any questions.

In this first article, we will discuss what makes up a Luxury Bedding Set. I will go over each piece and talk about its role and the things too look for, when finding quality bedding. Also at the end I will provide a glossary for some of the terms used in this article to help understand the marketing that goes into bedding these days.

Breakdown of a Luxury Bedding Set - Pillows:

Pillows - Quality pillows are essential in attaining a good nights rest. They are used to cradle your neck and provide support for your head. I believe many people still go out and buy any pillow on sale before looking into what kind of pillow they need for there type of sleeping style. I break pillows down into 3 support categories:

Soft: Pillows billed as Down or Goose Down. These are for people who like minimal support under there head when they sleep and want it too feel like they are sleeping on air.

Medium: Pillows billed as blended (Down and Feather mix) or most synthetic pillows fall into this category. I feel 60-70% of consumers fall in this category. They want support under there head but also want the pillow to feel like a cloud.

Firm: Pillows billed as firm are usually 100% feather, Heavy fill Synthetic, Buckwheat or "Grandma's style" pillows. This is for people who want strong support under there head or might have neck or back problems. If you do have back problems you might want too look into foam-core pillows also.

Next Article: Comforters

-Sleep Well-

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Hospitality Bedding: Bedding is Taking Center Stage

Luxury Hotel Bedding

Source: By Leo Vogel

Over the last several years, hotel beds have become more visible than ever. Hotel properties and the media that report on them have been buzzing with terms like pillow tops, plush, heavenly, sweet, perfect, ultimate and unforgettable. But what is the reality behind the buzz? Is there a noticeable difference between beds? What can beds do for a property? And how do guests feel about hotel beds?

Proven Success: It's been well documented that hotels that make a commitment to guest service and comfort through luxury bedding programs have experienced higher guest satisfaction scores, market share and business growth. Bedding upgrades can attract guests to hotels and delight them with an unforgettable sleep experience. A memorable sleep experience provides an additional reason for the guest to select and return to the hotel.

Guest is the Catalyst: Part of the increased focus on better hotel bedding is that consumers have been buying better quality bedding for their homes. They expect as good, if not better, comfort and quality when traveling. Higher disposable incomes combined with stressful current events have created an environment where personal comfort is a desirable and justifiable indulgence. The more upscale the hotel, the higher the expectations of its guests.

Satisfaction Affects Business: The bed is an important element in the delivery of the hotel's promise of comfort and caring to its guests. A comfortable night's sleep can go a long way toward reinforcing the hotel's position and creating satisfied guests who will recommend the property to others and return as loyal customers. Because of this, it can improve guest satisfaction, loyalty, ADR and occupancy rates, which can make for a better Return on Investment and improve a hotel's bottom line.

Marketing the Beds: When marketed by a hotel property, a highly recognizable brand name bed serves as a reassurance to guests of a comfortable night's sleep. The higher the awareness and brand preference of the bed, the greater the impact that the marketing effort can have on guests. In addition, the current interest in bedding has created many PR opportunities for a hotel to leverage its bedding upgrades or premium bedding brands to the relevant media to promote the hotel and differentiate it from its competition.

Guest Purchase Programs: A trend in the hospitality industry, especially in the upscale and luxury segments, is the request by satisfied guests to purchase hotel products that they have enjoyed. This is a powerful commentary on how well the hotel has met guest expectations, and it creates a lasting connection between the guest and the hotel that reinforces a loyalty to the property. In addition, the royalties received from a guest purchase program can be used to offset the capital expenditure for the beds themselves.

Luxury Hotel Bedding Info

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hidden horrors of bed linens?

Bed Linens

Several years ago I asked a twentysomething guy at the office if he was going to hear a panel discussion on Jack Kerouac, the beat generation writer, and he said, no, he had to go look for a duvet cover.

A duvet cover?

This was a guy, in the first place, and in the second place, what did he plan to do with his weekend after that 10 minutes was taken up?

That was before I owned a duvet. A duvet (pronounced doo-vay), for any of you fortunate enough not to know, is a French word for comforter, the kind you put on a bed. The difference is that a duvet, as opposed to a comforter, needs a cover. The plain duvet is usually just white, but not white in a sense that it looks finished. White in the sense that it cries out to be covered.

A year or so ago I bought one. It made sense at the time: If you buy a duvet, then you can take the cover off and wash it as often as you like. You can change the cover, too, without having to buy a whole new comforter. So when I saw duvets on sale at Stein Mart, I was there. I bought a Ralph Lauren king-size down duvet for about $70, a great deal. It's white with the unfortunate addition of little polo guys embossed on it, making the need for the duvet cover even greater.

Here's the rub: Only the most expensive designers make duvet covers. I guess they figure if you're stupid enough to buy a comforter with a French name, they can really sock it to you. Duvet covers actually cost more than duvets! And more than comforters, which don't need a cover.

I have been looking for a duvet cover for, let's see, a year and a couple of months. I've shopped in every linen department in Tampa and specialty stores in New York City and New Orleans. At first I wanted something distinctive. Then I just wanted something that doesn't wrinkle. Or at least isn't wrinkled when you take it out of the package.

A king-size duvet cover is roughly the size of a football field, but when packaged in a plastic wrap it's the size of a Russian novel. Wrestle that huge duvet into the cover, which opens -- like an envelope -- on only one end. Fasten the buttons and voila, you've got a bed that looks like Sid and Nancy slept in it.

"Do you think the wrinkles will hang out?" you ask your husband.

You don't even consider ironing something this size.

Back to the store after you and your husband (this is not a job for one person) wrestle the duvet out, then begin the Rubik's Cube task of refolding it to fit back into the package.

Of course, even if you could find a duvet cover, that's not enough. You still need shams and, unless you want your bedroom to resemble a rooming house, a bedskirt. Shams? They're probably out of them. Or, they don't make them king-size. Shams, I've found, are now often made in two sizes: standard and Euro. Euro refers to huge square pillows, the kind I don't have, and, as far as I know, no one has, here or in Europe.

Don't let this happen too you. We take pride in making sure everyone of our valued customers get the same service we would expect ourselves. Visit for our latest bedding collections.

Bed Linens

Friday, February 11, 2005

Four Points by Sheraton Turns up the Heat in Hotel Bed Wars

Hotel Bedding

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. | Let the feathers fly! Five years after Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT - News) spurred a hotel bedding revolution with the introduction of the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed, the hotel giant is betting on a bedding battle in the mid-scale arena. Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood's moderately priced brand, is investing $13 million to roll out its new Four Comfort Bed(SM) to all of its 100-plus properties in North America by July, 2005. The Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort Bed, already in hotels in New York, Denver and Portland, is the first new branded bed in its class.

Following in the footsteps of the Westin Heavenly Bed® and sister brand Sheraton's popular Sweet Sleeper Bed®, the Four Comfort Bed is a multi-layered, cozy cocoon designed to pamper guests. The four key comfort points of the Four Comfort Bed are: a deluxe 11.5" Sealy Posturepedic® Plush Top Sleep System featuring a 9-inch high Shock Abzzorber® foundation; four large luxurious pillows including two feather/down and two Euro Square lounging pillows; a decorative and inviting cushioned duvet; and, crisp cotton blend sheets. The duvet features an attractive plaid design available in a rich palette of colors to match each hotel's decor. Additional bed accoutrements include a bed skirt, mattress pad, plush blanket, and a decorative pillow featuring the brand's signature compass logo.

Five years and three beds's the bed, stupid!
Though the hospitality industry is in the business of selling sleep, hotels were notorious for cutting corners on beds, committing a multitude of bedding sins from foam mattresses to cheap pillows to polyester bedspreads in shades of eggplant. Then in 1998, Starwood issued a wake up call to the industry when it launched the luxurious, all-white Westin Heavenly Bed. The bed was so popular, guests insisted on taking it home, and a retail business was born. Today, Westin has sold some 30,000 Heavenly pillows, sheets, duvets and beds. The success of the Heavenly Bed spawned the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, introduced in 2003. Both brands have experienced significant improvements in Guest Satisfaction Scores and higher average daily rates since introducing the beds, and Sheraton and Westin continue to earn market share from their competitors.

"Our sister brands have enjoyed terrific success with their new beds, and Four Points by Sheraton plans to replicate this success in the moderately priced hotel segment," said Hoyt Harper II, the brand's senior vice president. "The Four Comfort Bed is a real competitive advantage in our class, and we think one that will inspire guests to check out of our competitors, and into Four Points by Sheraton."

Four Points by Sheraton - On a Roll!
Four Points by Sheraton continues to aggressively expand with new hotel openings and conversions in choice urban, resort and suburban locations such as New York City, Hyannis and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Four Comfort Beds can be found in several of the brand's newest properties including the 158-room Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea, the 595-room Four Points by Sheraton Denver Southeast and the 150-room Four Points by Sheraton Meriden, CT. In late 2003, a new enhanced amenity program was introduced, featuring free high-speed Internet access in all guestrooms, complimentary bottled water, and upgraded bathroom products.

Four Points by Sheraton, with more than 136 properties in 17 countries, is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and is consistently rated as a top performer in the mid-priced category by Business Travel News' "Annual U.S. Hotel Chain Survey." Four Points by Sheraton hotels are located at airports, in mid-sized cities, leisure destinations, and business and commercial centers. Our hotels cater to business and leisure travelers as well as meeting planners seeking a quality, mid-priced and value-oriented product. In addition to the high-speed Internet access services, key features include an on-premise restaurant serving cooked-to-order breakfast, complimentary bottled water, room service with a 30-minute delivery guarantee, swimming pools, fitness facilities, business services and meeting space with catering facilities.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 750 properties in more than 80 countries and 110,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. With internationally renowned brands, Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels and resorts including: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W brands, as well as Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts.


Hotel Bedding

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Marriott Reports Fourth-Quarter Gains

Hotel News

Marriott International, propelled by rebounding business and leisure travel markets, particularly in the United States and Asia, reported fourth-quarter net income of $189 million, or 79 cents a share, up from $169 million, or 69 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

The lodging company's Q4 per-share earnings beat a First Call consensus estimate of 75 cents. Marriott saw healthy top-line gains, too. Revenue rose to $3.1 billion in the fourth quarter from $2.9 billion in the year-ago period, while RevPAR increased 10.4 percent at its North American hotels.

J.W. Marriott, Jr., Marriott's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that it saw rate increases across the board. ADR strengthened "significantly," he said, especially late in 2004. Strong rate increases were reported in New York, Washington D.C. and Florida in the fourth quarter.

For the full year 2004, Marriott's lodging operating income rose 20 percent to $575 million from 2003 levels, owed to, among other factors, robust leisure and business demand, strong RevPAR, unit expansion and strong timeshare operating profits.

Profits, however, were partially offset by higher general and administrative expenses, which increased 16 percent to $607 million, driven partly by higher overhead costs associated with charges related to timeshare joint ventures.

Wall Street was somewhat disappointed over Marriott's 2005 outlook. The company said its lodging gains and other income are expected to total $75 million to $85 million in 2005, compared with $136 million in 2004, a decline of roughly 14 cents to 17 cents of earnings per share.

Contributing to the decline was a reversal of interest income. Marriott said it saw an interest income benefit of $55 million in 2004, but will see an interest expense of $10 million to $20 million, or 18 cents to 20 cents a share, in 2005.

Nonetheless, Marriott said it expects to gain market share in 2005, during which it will open 25,000 to 30,000 new rooms. The company said it expects North American RevPAR growth for 2005 of 7 percent to 9 percent, and 1.5 to 2 percentage points of improvement in house profit margins.

Base management, franchise and incentive management fees should total $990 million to $1 billion, an increase of 13 to 16 percent, the company said.

Assuming North American RevPAR growth of 6 percent to 8 percent in the first quarter 2005, Marriott said it expects first-quarter earnings per share of 52 cents to 54 cents, including roughly 6 cents of earnings from its synthetic fuel business.

Marriott said it expected a one-time pre-tax cost of $40 million to $45 million this year, as it gives incentives to property owners and franchisees to rollout new bedding by year end. Marriott recently said it would add new luxurious bedding to 628,000 beds at about 2,400 hotels worldwide, across eight brands.

The bedding will include plusher mattresses, softer sheets, more pillows and a fresh white look, and Marriott cited research in which consumers said the bedding would make it more likely that they choose a Marriott brand.

In a research report, Bear Stearns analyst Joseph R. Greff reiterated his "Outperform" rating on Marriott stock. He said the rating was based in part on Marriott's expected steady unit growth this year and next, strength in its timeshare business and growing free cash flows.

Room rates, profit margins and earnings quality, Greff said in the report, "remain on the upswing."


Luxury Hotel Bedding

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Perfect Pillow

Luxury Pillow

How important is a really good pillow? It can mean the difference between a sound, restful slumber, and a nightmare of sleep spent tossing and turning. Literally, the wrong pillow can be a serious pain in the neck - and back.

But how do you know if you’re sleeping on the wrong pillow? Any of the following signs indicates it’s time for a new one:

A pillow that is no longer comfortable, or just doesn’t feel the same as it did when you bought it, should be retired.
A lumpy, misshapen, or stained pillow has also seen better days (and nights).
Fill coming out of your pillow through holes or worn seams? Rest assured, it’s time for a new one.

Fills & Construction – so you know the difference.

Natural Fills:

Down – Extremely soft, fluffy and comfortable, down is grown under the breast feathers of waterfowl such as geese and ducks. When considering down as a pillow fill, you’ll need to consider fill power to ensure your pillow has enough fluff. (The higher the fill power, the more fluff.)
Feathers – Though feathers are more durable than down and also provide better support, feathers are also flatter than down and are nowhere near as soft and warm. Feathers also have a tendency to poke through your pillow, which can account for a rather rude awakening.

Synthetic Fills :
Down-Type Synthetics – Though not the real deal, these imitators are soft and fluffy and come without the allergens and cost of real down.
Foam – Designed to provide proper support to the neck, back and spine, foam is gaining popularity as a fill. Since it is synthetic, foam is a good choice for people with allergies.
Polyester - Light, strong and durable, polyester is popular as both a stand-alone fill, and a blend in pillow covers. Its attributes are: inexpensive, wrinkle-resistant, hypoallergenic and washable.
Construction - what to look for when choosing a pillow:

Fill – The type and amount determine how soft, or firm, your pillow will be.
Covering – Your pillow should be covered with material (also known as ticking) that is soft and absorbent. Naturally filled pillows should be covered with a quality fabric that breathes to resist mildewing. Cotton is an excellent cover choice. If you’re looking for a really soft cover, choose a better quality one of a higher thread count. These covers will do a better job of keeping the fill inside the pillow, and are essential when covering a down pillow to keep allergens from getting out.
Seams – Choose a pillow with tightly bound edges, cording or piping trim. This will ensure a longer pillow life, while gusseted sides increase loft and support.
Shape – Rectangular is the most typical shape of a sleeping pillow, but quite a few specialty pillows have been making their way into the market lately. Most of these are ergonomically designed for those with special needs.
Your favorite sleep position determines the type of pillow you need.
There are 3 basic sleep positions and a 4th reserved for those tossers and turners of the world, and believe it or not, a specific pillow type recommended for each.

Stomach – Not recommended because it can cause serious neck problems. However, if you have to sleep in this position, you can minimize the strain on your neck by choosing a flat pillow (one with less fill) that is soft and light.
Back – A medium firm, average fill pillow is perfect for this sleep position. The medium fill offers your back the correct support while lending some softness at your head.
Side – You’ll need a firm, extra fill pillow for this sleep position, one that will support your neck to correctly align with your spine.
Frequently Change Positions – If you’re a tosser and a turner, it’s best to go with a soft pillow that can be fluffed and adjusted to achieve comfort in various positions. Natural fill pillows are your best bet here, because they are the most flexible.

Choosing the right pillow size.
Though commonly thought that the size of your sleeping pillow should coordinate with the size of your bedding, i.e. twin bed – standard size pillow, king bed – king size pillow, you certainly can think outside the box on this one. If you prefer to sleep on a king size pillow, but sleep in a twin size bed, just keep your bedding coordinates in mind when choosing pillowcases, shams, etc. Or, feel free to keep your sleeping pillow out of sight or hidden behind other pillows on your bed.

Pamper your pillow and your pillow will pamper you.
Extend the life of your pillow by putting a pillow protector on it as well as a pillowcase. This helps keep dust mites out and allergens in, which surely makes for a more restful night’s sleep.

Wash your pillow frequently following the directions on the label for proper cleaning instructions. Always make sure that your pillow is completely dry before replacing the pillowcase to prevent molding and mildewing. A damp pillow can also become misshapen and therefore lose some of its intended benefit.

Finally, fluff your pillow by hand, or in the dryer, to help keep the loft.


Luxury Down Pillows

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bed Linens and Bedding - Heaven or Hell

Bed Linens

Source: by Mercia Tapping

On my first night in London recently my 6' 3" husband and I squished ourselves into a 4ft-wide bed, whose 30-year-old mattress sagged if you so even as much as breathed on it. "Do not move a muscle", I admonished my husband, as any movement from him caused the mattress to undulate like an earthquake eruption. My husband asked, "What is all that crackling noise on the pillows?" I informed him that cheap pillow covers or dust mite covers were often plasticized and felt like Pampers or an incontinence pad underneath one's head. At 3 am, I crabbily informed him that the comforter was clearly a single, not a double, but he was going to have to share because I was freezing. By morning time, we both admitted defeat. My husband who had foolishly boasted to my Dad that he could sleep on anything, was about to eat his words. "It is a new bed or a hotel", he said firmly.

A loan of a comforter from my sister and the purchase of a new bed mattress the same afternoon allowed us some semblance of sleep for the next 9 days. However, I confess that I looked at the bedding on my father's bed and our own with something akin to distain, disgust and incredulity all week long.

"This is a dead pillow," I said to my husband, "the deadest you will ever see". The feathers were coagulated into one hard flat lump. If you fold a pillow in half and it stays in place, this is a sure sign of rigor mortis. The average pillow lasts 18 months. These pillows were somewhere between 30 and 40 years old and the odor was none too grand either.

As for the bed as new as it was, you get what you paid for, and my bones ached all week. I got out of bed feeling and walking like a cripple. However, I have you know, I kept my complaints to myself and soldiered on with good British stiff upper lip.

When I returned to Boston, I wearily crawled into bed-and then I confess, I was completely taken aback and surprised. The contrast was so great, there are hardly words to describe it, and I just lay there savoring the experience and counting my blessings. Our Primaloft soft pillows and Primaloft pillows felt like clouds under my head and my comforter just enveloped me in reassuring toasty, but lightweight warmth. Thank God, warm at last. I could feel the softness of the lambswool mattress pad underneath. As for the bed mattress itself, a Royal Pedic, was true miracle of latex support and cushion at the same time. But the real proof was, I had a really decent night's sleep, woke up refreshed and with no backache or joint pain.

I thought sadly of my poor Father the other side of the Atlantic who grumbles about how uncomfortable his bed is, and I made a promise to myself that on my next trip he will get a major bedding upgrade.

Luxury Comforter

Sunday, February 06, 2005

It's essential to fight long-term insomnia and get the rest you need

Good Nights Sleep

Source: Heath Beat By Jillian O'Connor

It's 4 a.m., and the numbers on the clock cast their menacing crimson light from across the room. Your eyes start to burn, but you just can't seem to shut them and get back to sleep. As you begin to wonder if you'll ever doze off again, rest assured that you're not alone.
In the United States, more than half of the adults polled by the National Sleep Foundation said they experienced short-term insomnia a few times a week, while the National Institutes of Health estimates that 10 to 15 percent of grown-ups may be affected by its long-term cousin, chronic insomnia.

Insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep and to stay asleep. It is unlike sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep that may have played a role in the recent death of football legend Reggie White.

One local long-term sufferer of insomnia is Saralane Tennin-Allen. While she uses old tricks such as counting sheep under a perfect, cloudless sky to get back to dreamland, she often finds herself wide-eyed after bedtime - usually about four times in a night.

"I fall asleep right away, but then about an hour later I wake up," she said. "Partially because my husband snores and because my dogs move around, and they're on either side of me. So that's part of it," she said with a laugh.

"But I've always been a poor sleeper. I wake up at the drop of a hat."

Beverly Heap, 75, has also experienced problems staying asleep and used to find herself kept awake by the relentless whooshing noise of traffic from the nearby Hollywood Freeway. But in a moment of inspiration, the Los Angeles County resident devised a clever way to find solace in the hum - and to get some shut-eye at last.

"I close my eyes and pretend I am sleeping in the sand, and the freeway noise becomes the roaring of the ocean," she explained. "The slapping of the waves lulls me right back to sleep."

Though struggling to fall asleep or doze off again can be frustratingly difficult, physicians point out that it's not really a problem if it lasts for less than two weeks. Acute insomnia, which tends to be tied to stressful events in a person's life, such as an upcoming exam or evaluation for a promotion, usually runs its course quickly and goes away once the stressor has been removed.

When the problem persists for about a month, though, it may be time to check in with a physician and review possible causes.

"Somewhere between two and four weeks, that's when you should consider making a doctor's appointment," said Dr. David Brandes, director of the Sleep Evaluation Center at Northridge Hospital Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of neurology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

The dangers of forgoing the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep, said Brandes, are not as dire as one might expect, but the lack of rest may cause people to fall short of their best.

"The main thing comes from activities during the daytime where you need to be alert," he said. "And driving is one of the most common. Daytime activity that requires alertness could be dangerous or difficult."

People may find their impaired alertness could hurt them in doing their best even at desk jobs, though there are no compelling direct risks to health from losing hours of rest.

Good sleeping habits, referred to as sleep hygiene, are usually the first area doctors address when trying to pinpoint the root of an insomnia case. Not keeping a regular schedule of bedtimes and waking times is often a problem for insomniacs, as is napping during the day, considered a no-no since the habit can set off a vicious circle.

"Some patients will not get a good night's sleep because they'll nap in the daytime," said Brandes, "and then when they go to bed at night, they're not sleepy yet."

Another non-sleeper is Mike Kirwan, who said he feels he can't sleep at various times during the year, but he's never quite sure if it's true sleeplessness.

"I'm not sure if I've slept or not, because I'm dreaming I can't sleep," said Kirwan.

He has found, though, that he rests quite normally most of the time, as he keeps regular sleep and wake times, one of the top recommendations for maintaining good sleep habits.

Other doctor recommendations include avoiding caffeine within six hours of bedtime; some people even need to rule out caffeine altogether to get a restful night.

Apart from poor sleep habits, Brandes noted, major causes of insomnia seem to be psychological distress, such as that seen with anxiety and depression. Patients are often unaware of the potential stresses in their lives, and a doctor's perspective can help identify the trigger of the insomnia.

And men who suffer insomnia due to depression often aren't aware of the psychological cause because they experience depression so differently from women, said Brandes.

"Men get kind of irritable and withdrawn, but they don't cry very much, and they don't really feel depression like women do."

Medical conditions, especially those causing pain, like arthritis, or lack of mobility, such as Parkinson's disease, may also contribute to the problem. Neurologist Dr. David Thompson, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, finds that the use of alcohol or medication can also be disruptive to maintaining sleep.

Alcoholic beverages may help people fall asleep at first, but a few hours later, plummeting alcohol levels can actually rouse the person.

"Many people use alcohol recreationally, and the intake is going to be excessive, and they may be able to fall asleep relatively easily with alcohol in their system, but one, two, or three hours later, the alcohol wears out, and they literally are then awake for much of the night," Thompson said.

Certain prescription medications, on the other hand, can cause problems, including hallucinations or dreams that jolt people awake, he said.

Insomnia may be a bit more prevalent among older adults, from middle age up.

"It increases a little bit more in the retired group, where their sleep schedules are more erratic," said Thompson. "For those of us who continue to work, most of us have to be up at a specific time in the morning. In the retired age group, the individuals may feel freer to get up anytime they want to."

That can cause problems, he explained, when there is napping and a somewhat early bedtime despite a late waking hour.

Other causes of insomnia that involve frequent waking (sleep-maintenance insomnia) include obstructive sleep apnea, which can suddenly rouse a sufferer when the upper airway constricts and the sleeper can't breathe for a period of time, often awaking with a snort.

In the relatively common condition restless legs syndrome, the sufferers' legs can feel extremely uncomfortable, though they don't quite hurt.

"They get a creepy-crawly feeling, and they can't get to sleep until their legs kind of settle down," said Brandes, who mentioned that treatment is available for the common but seldom-diagnosed affliction.

Periodic leg movements in sleep (PLMS), a condition that causes sudden movements that sometimes arouse sleepers, has also taken the blame as a frequent cause of poor sleep maintenance.

All three of the conditions often go undetected until a patient seeks the help of a sleep laboratory in pinpointing the cause of insomnia, usually after all other possible explanations for the problem have been fully explored.

At Northridge Hospital's sleep center, for instance, patients come in for a night of sleep in the evening, then are connected to electrodes, which help the sleep experts detect irregularities as the subject gets a night's rest.

"It may not be the best night's sleep ever, but with five or six hours, we're able to make a diagnosis in 95-plus-percent of cases," said Brandes.

Short-term solutions for insomnia often include the over-the-counter drug diphenhydramine hydrochloride, found in Benadryl and Tylenol PM, though Brandes warned that the medication can cause a hangover effect the next day and should not be used for more than short bouts of insomnia, as the body will build a tolerance to the substance.

Prescription medications used currently to treat insomnia in the short term include the newer drugs Ambien and Sonata, which Brandes said do not produce the hangover effect of some older sleep aids and do not affect takers' daytime performance.

But for Rose Sarkissian Knapp, 82, saying the Lord's Prayer alternately in English and Armenian helps her ward off insomnia when she has rough nights.

"I say it once, and if I don't get the feeling that sleep is coming, I just keep saying it slowly, slowly, slowly," she said. "And in a way you say, 'I'm with God, right,' instead of taking a sleeping pill.

"Then I fall asleep."

Luxury Bedding

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Sleep: Young adults, teens skimp on shut-eye

Shut Eye

Jackie Head thinks she may be the mother of vampires.

Her two sons, 19 and 21, stayed up all night and slept all day during the recent holidays.

"It's ridiculous. It makes me crazy," Head said of her sons' sleeping patterns. "They don't even start their activities until midnight."

"Yeah, we're vampires," said Brandon Head, 21, of his and brother Brian's sleeping habits. "During the school year, I go to bed at sometimes 2 or 4 and get up at 9. About 2 o'clock, I'm pretty wrecked. It feels good to catch up."

Like Jackie Head of Douglasville, hundreds of parents of high school and college students throughout metro Atlanta scratched their heads in wonder, and worry, at their young adults' and aging teenagers' sleep patterns during the holidays.

Research shows there may be good reason for concern. While the nocturnal habits of teenagers and young adults have driven parents to distraction for years, the off-schedule holiday sleep habits of today's teens — who are up all night and asleep all day for days on end — are another issue altogether.

"No, no, no, [their] normal sleep pattern is not to sleep all day and stay up all night," said Dr. Mary A. Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown Medical School and director of the E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Lab in Providence, R.I. "Humans are not inherently nocturnal."

Most likely, the sleeping patterns are symptomatic of severe sleep deprivation, experts said. Intense demands that begin as early as middle school to get into the right school, get the right scholarship, and fulfill parental bragging rights may be wearing out — and burning out — an entire generation.

But also, the sleeping patterns are a product of a culture that does not value sleep and that has introduced enough technological goodies, such as cellphones and computers, to keep even young teenagers eager to stay up all night so they do not "miss out" on any action.

Need increases

These irregular sleep patterns will not make up for long-term sleep deprivation. Instead, sleep experts suggest that the patterns should be addressed before adolescence, by getting more sleep on a consistent basis, even if that means cutting back on activities and other demands.

"Across the second decade of life, the need for sleep actually increases," said Dr. Gary Freed, professor of pediatrics at Emory University and director of the Pediatric Sleep Lab at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Teenagers need between 9 1/4 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night, Freed said. "Lack of sleep is a huge problem."

While people are sleeping, the brain begins a night shift that differs greatly from its day job.

The brain regulates hormones and other body chemicals when the rest of the body is shut down. It does not do this critical regulatory work as well while the rest of the body demands its attention.

For those in adolescence and early adulthood, the consequences of poor regulation may be more serious than for other age groups because their bodies are already in great hormonal flux. Complicate the body's already challenging job during adolescence, and bad things can happen.

'Sleep is a priority'

For example, a University of Chicago study in 2003 showed that the ability of sleep-deprived teens to process glucose declined to the point of diabetics'.

Sleep-deprived teens and early adults may be at even higher risk for illness and accidents, some studies suggest.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 crashes are caused each year by drowsy driving, with those ages 16 to 29 being most at risk.

Sleep deprivation also causes gaps in learning, memory loss, and non-vehicular accidents.

Erica Nichols, 17, a senior at Avondale High School, knows what it feels like to be constantly sleepy. It's one reason she slept until noon and sometimes as late as 2 p.m. during the holidays. With each later waking time, she tended to go to bed later that night — or next morning.

"Usually, you don't get much sleep when school's going on, so you try to catch up," Nichols said. "I've got a limited chance to do that during the school year."

Nichols, who has been accepted into one college so far, said she feels the heat of college admissions competition. She takes advanced placement classes and had assignments over the holidays.

Last week, she was anxious over a test she was to take on a novel she had to read over the holidays.

"It's constant books," she said. "Nonstop books."

Keegan Ross, 18, stayed up late during the holidays to relax, he said. Many of his friends were doing the same. They didn't necessarily go out to party.

Instead, they curled up under a blanket on the sofa or in bed and snuggled with a cellphone.

"A lot of times you stay on the phone, and you lose track of time," said Ross, who graduated from Tucker High in June but is already a sophomore at Fort Valley State University.

"I don't have a problem going to sleep," Ross said. "I just don't want to sleep."

While all-day sleeping may feel like a luxury, it is only a stopgap at best, experts said. And, it can lead to a difficult readjustment to the regular schedule of life and, worse, a long-term sleep disorder.

"The general rule is that you want to keep a regular sleep schedule," said Dr. Beth Malow, director of Vanderbilt University's Sleep Disorder Clinic. "That's how the body synchronizes your biological clock."

Parents should begin modeling good sleep patterns early in a child's life, experts said, by setting firm bedtimes and also by getting enough sleep themselves.

They also should encourage less demanding lifestyles, teaching children to make choices among various activities and social endeavors instead of allowing them to do everything they wish to do.

"Parents want to give their children the opportunity to do everything, to have everything," Carskadon said. "They should be teaching them to make choices so they learn responsibility instead of trying to do everything and then trying to make their lives work. And they need to teach that sleep is a priority as much as anything else."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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