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Not just beauty sleep

Posted in Health

empty-bedI have been battling a cold for the last few days and the clogged nasal passages and sore throat have been interfering with my usual uninterrupted sleep. One of the things sofagirl and I have in common is our little tolerance for not enough sleep, which makes us cranky and generally unhappy with life, not to mention insufferable to be with.

Being married to someone who is a bit of an insomniac, I know full well how fortunate I am to enjoy an average seven to eight hours of peaceful sleep every night. But, judging from the statistics, my husband is not alone and the tribe of  the sleep-deprived is ever-expanding, at least in the US, where, if figures are to believed, 48% of adult Americans don’t get adequate sleep on a regular basis. According to the Sleep Foundation:

• 48 percent of Americans report insomnia occasionally, while 22 percent experience insomnia every or almost every night.

• Women are 1.3 times more likely to report insomnia than men.

• People over age 65 are 1.5 times more likely to complain of insomnia than younger people.

• Divorced, widowed and separated people report more insomnia.

We all know what the consequences of insomnia are – besides crankiness – but what caught my attention a few weeks ago was the news of a scientific report that linked not getting enough sleep with the onset, later in life, of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“Our study found that among older adults, reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with higher levels of β-Amyloid measured by PET scans of the brain,” said Adam Spira, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health. “These results could have significant public health implications as Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and approximately half of older adults have insomnia symptoms.”

That alone would make would make me worry if I were an insomniac. Magazines, online articles and our doctors all have the same suggestions on how to achieve a peaceful shut-eye, ranging from going to bed at the same time every night; not exercising before bed; avoiding a heavy dinner; de-cluttering our bedroom from electronic devices and so on and so forth – information that has been recycled a million times and that the majority of those who suffer from insomnia has, apparently, not heeded.

One way to ensure optimum sleep
One way to ensure optimum sleep

While I was delving into the causality between neurological diseases and insomnia, Manuela, our sort of European correspondent at large, sent us an interesting e-mail: “I just changed my  bed position and it feels like I’m sleeping better (could just be placebo effect or I’m still in honeymoon phase, it’s only been two nights ) and then thought bed orientation  would be a good piece for C&S to research and write about” Would we mind? No we wouldn’t*.

To answer the question we turned to the ancient art of Feng Shui which, while not exactly steeped in scientific data, has found mainstream appeal in the Western World. Real Feng Shui Masters, those who spend years getting trained, will tell you that applying Feng Shui in detail is not so simple. Especially the directions of where rooms or furniture should be facing are determined by calculations based on a person’s birth date. But there are some common sense rules that can be applied when trying to decide where to position our bed and what our bed should be like for optimum sleep:


  1. Invest in a good headboard, possibly of solid wood for protection;
  2. Never sleep on a used mattress – you don’t want to lie on somebody else’s energy;
  3. Keep the bed a reasonable height from the floor, with no clutter or, worse, drawers, underneath, to let energy circulate;
  4. Position the bed against a good supporting wall, with no electric appliances on either side of the wall;
  5. Having night stands on both sides helps grounding the energy;
  6. Try not to have any sharp angles pointing at you, from either wall corners or furniture;
  7. Avoid positioning the bed in line with the door or any other door (closet, patio etc);
  8. Ideally, you should occupy a position of “command” when lying on the bed, i.e. you should be able to see most of the room and the door. Not knowing who is approaching could create uneasiness.


Tried and true

 Doctors and sleep experts would also recommend good ventilation, not keeping the heat set on high and complete darkness but, even Feng Shui agrees that, at the end of the day, it’s what makes us most comfortable that will allow for the best sleep. Low levels of stress also help.

For me, counting sheep still works.

Sleep tight.

* We like to indulge topic requests from time to time, if we find the topic interesting enough. Both Sue and I have a knack for research and don’t mind wading through reams of electronic information nor calling on the occasional expert, so feel free to contact us with your requests.





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  1. I love to sleep! No headboard and our bed is on the ground, but I am thankful that the minute my head hits the pillow, I’m out! 🙂

    February 4, 2014
  2. Thank you, loved the post! Now I just need a new house so I can apply rules 6, 7 and 8. Have also told my family that I have to get at least 9 hours a night or I’ll be more ‘demented’ than ever.

    February 3, 2014
    • I will confess I slept 9 1/2 hours straight yesterday. It felt soooo good!

      February 3, 2014
  3. This is so interesting, especially the part on Fung Shui. Having a head cold with the accompanying congestion will detract from restful sleep like nothing else. I think the exception is technology. Checking emails, texting and reading through various social media formats doesn’t enhance falling asleep. I know, I have had it happen many times. I finally figured it out and have begun ignoring my phone after 9pm!

    February 2, 2014
    • I have resorted to turning off my phone at 9 pm although I am still managing my iPad, on which I have books. Baby steps!

      February 2, 2014
  4. If I were captured by aliens and deprived of sleep I would cave in in a nano-second and tell them everything they wanted to know.
    Lack of sleep really leaves me sick and shaky. As I have to fly intercontinentally regularly, I am frequently jet-lagged which is absolutely horrible. However, on my most recent flight from San Francisco to London on Virgin Airways I discovered a little piece on their in-flight entertainment channel. It was about how to sleep on a long-distance flight, and was produced by a chap who has a business called Headspace, it worked brilliantly. When back on terra firma I googled him. I have now been practicing his techniques for several weeks with such success I have passed the info on to family and friends. Check it out.

    February 1, 2014
    • This is so useful! I have never been able to sleep on long haul flights, not even with sleeping pills. Hope this makes the difference. Thank you

      February 2, 2014
  5. You are so right. What gets put inside or over a lot of furniture is so toxic. I have been sleeping on a natural futon-like mattress for ten years – now it’s time to change it and I am also looking at organic options. Thanks for chiming in.

    February 1, 2014
  6. Jen

    I am a warrior of sleep. Sleep is so so so directly related to my sanity. And recently found out related to migraines! (interrupted sleep leads to increased migraines). And lack of deep dream sleep leads to depression.

    I bought an organic mattress three years ago and while it’s not THE most comfortable mattress I have ever slept on, it is probably the best mattress I have ever owned. There is so much toxic crap inside mattresses and people who are religious about buying organic produce or scarfing down supplements don’t realize they’re sleeping each night, not just in the wrong direction, but on top of poison.

    February 1, 2014

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