Build your awareness of what universal design features should be incorporated into homes with this report, based on this real life demonstration home.
A Better Bed Leads to Better Sleep
By Rosemarie Rossetti
Copyright © 2009 Rosemarie Rossetti
Publication copyright © 2009 United Spinal Association
Five months ago, my husband, Mark, and I had our first night’s sleep on our new bed. We could have slept another three hours because the bed was so comfortable.
I didn’t find myself flopping from side to side that first night like I used to, trying to get comfortable. Previously I could only sleep on my sides and put lots of pressure on my hips. That first morning, I woke up less stiff with fewer aches and pains than when I slept on our previous 13-year-old mattress.
Mark and I spent many months researching and shopping for a bed.
We made our final selection at the Sleep Outfitters (www.sleepoutfitters.com) showroom in Columbus, Ohio, where we tested many beds.
Our preference was the Kaymed gel mattress (www.kaymedworld.com). This 12-inch thick, pressure-reducing mattress is made of four layers: high density visco foam, gel honeycombs, visco elastic, and energy absorbing foam. Visco-elastic is unique because it is body-responsive, softening under contact points with the body. It molds to your body by reacting in a few minutes to your body heat. The ability of the mattress to contour and conform to your body gives you a feeling of comfort—like you are riding on the mattress or floating.
For the base of our bed, we selected the Leggett & Platt Lifestyles S-cape adjustable bed (www.lpadjustablebeds.com). We have two extra-long twin mattresses that, when positioned side by side, are as large as a king-sized bed. By sleeping on two separate mattresses, we do not disturb each other when we move in bed. In order to make transferring to and from my wheelchair easier, we lowered the frame about two inches by taking off the wheels under the frame.
This bed has two cordless remote controls that can be independently adjusted to elevate and lower the head and foot of each mattress. A feature we really enjoy is the two variable speed therapeutic body massagers in the “wave” motion. This feels great on my hips and lower back.
It has been 10 years since I have been able to sleep on my back. I thought that this was due to my spinal cord injury—T12-L1 incomplete, spinal fusion and Harrington rods implanted along my spine. As I found out, I was wrong. It was due to my old bed. With the head and foot of the new bed slightly elevated, I am now able to sleep on my back for hours.
I also thought that I would have to take Baclofen, an antispasmodic, for the rest of my life. I used to take 10 - 40 mg each day, even taking some during the night to stop my legs from shaking. Several nights a month, the spasms in my calves and feet were so severe that I left our bed in great pain and torment. I would lie on the couch in the great room for the rest of the night, hoping to fall asleep. It took an hour for the Baclofen to reduce my spasms so I could sleep. I would then sleep until the late morning and felt sleep deprived and lethargic the rest of the day.
Again I was wrong. With my doctor’s advice, I have gradually weaned myself off all Baclofen, and rarely take a pill during the night. Now I have more energy during the day. This bed has made all the difference!
I was curious what my doctors would have to say about my new sleeping experience. Dr. William Pease, chairperson of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University Medical Center is a leading expert in spinal cord injuries. He said, “Relieving pressure points on joints and putting joints in more comfortable positions at night reduces spasms.” We discussed the properties of visco elastic, also referred to as memory foam. He was aware that some people who used these mattresses complained that they felt hot in bed because they were sinking into the foam as they slept. I did not have this experience.
Dr. Sam Colachius, director of SCI Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University Medical Center, is the doctor who treated me for five weeks after my spinal cord injury. He has continued as my doctor to provide medical advice to me. When I asked him if other patients ever mentioned that their beds made an incredible difference in their quality of sleep, he said I was the first patient to bring this up. I asked him if he had read about any research on this subject. He said, “I’m unaware of any studies that have addressed beds in the management of spasticity.” He concurred with Dr. Pease, and said, “Certain positions make spasms worse. If a bed that conforms to you and doesn’t cause pressure areas, a bed can reduce spasms.”
From our conversation, one can conclude that a mattress with a pressure relieving surface which prevents pressure areas on the body could reduce spasticity at night. A pressure relieving mattress could also reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers.
Colachius also explained that a change is a person’s spasticity could be a manifestation of a pain or condition such as kidney stones, bladder infections, or a soft tissue injury pressure sore. People with spinal cord injuries need to carefully analyze the source of their involuntary rapid muscle contraction or tightness.
It is amazing how the quality of sleep during the night affects the quality of our lives. Since this bed made such difference in our lives, we wish we would have had this bed 13 years ago. We found the winning combination of the adjustable frame bed and the pressure reducing mattress.
Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is building a national model universal design home in metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. She is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and writer. To contact Rosemarie go to: www.RosemarieSpeaks.com. To learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory go to: www.UDLL.com.