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8 Sleep Mistakes You Can Fix Tonight

How to ditch bad habits and start prioritizing sleep today.

If you’d like to get more sleep or think there is room for improvement, try avoiding the habits you may have slipped into. 

You’ve done it every night of your life (more or less). Yet when it comes to hitting our pillow, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect for all of us.

As many as 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. have some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to estimates from the Institutes of Medicine. More than a third of Americans reported regularly getting fewer than the seven-to-nine hours of sleep that is recommended per night for adults for good health, survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. And a 2014 survey from the National Sleep Foundation revealed that a whopping 45 percent of Americans said that poor sleep had affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.

Numbers like those make sleep experts cringe.

“Sleep coordinates brain and physical function, including hormone regulation, mood, appetite, immune function and alertness, among other things,” Ana Krieger, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells NBC News BETTER. “And optimizing our sleep can lead to an improvement in our overall health.”

“Sleep has been overlooked for many years, and we often find ourselves stealing time from sleep for work, leisure and travel,” Krieger adds.

If you’re not in the habit of prioritizing sleep (and taking steps to make sure your body is ready to get good sleep), it may feel a bit selfish, Krieger says. “But treating ourselves to a good night of sleep is a good way to start defeating this pattern.”

So what are we doing wrong? For starters, a lot of us may be guilty of these common sleep mistakes:


One of the most common mistakes people make about sleep is thinking there’s this switch that gets triggered as soon as you jump into bed that cues sleep, Krieger says. That is not how sleep works, she explains — “not even turning off your computer is that simple.”

Physiologically sleep is defined by the body’s key functions — brain wave activity, heart rate, breathing, body temperature and more — slowing down and decreasing. Those are complex processes that don’t happen instantaneously (or just because the episode you were watching on Netflix ended).

For some creating an environment that cues our body to sleep might mean reading, listening to calming music, taking a warm shower or practicing some gentle yoga stretches. Even if it’s just taking two minutes before you crawl into bed, take those two minutes to sit in the dark, do nothing, and quiet and calm your mind, Krieger suggests.

And an important part of creating that unwinding environment means NOT…


Cell phones bring the world to your fingertips wherever you go, which is great — except when you’re trying to signal to your body to shut down and power off. And the same goes for laptops, TVs, tablets and other electronics, Krieger says.

Studies show that the bright blue and white light waves radiating from these devices throw our body’s internal clock, our circadian rhythm, off kilter. Our brain likens this type of light to that from the sun, and signals to the body to stay awake by suppressing the body’s natural release of melatonin, a hormone the body produces that keep our body clock running on time.

Plus, all the information we’re absorbing, whether it’s from “just one more” episode of Law and Order, that irritating email from your coworker (you swear you’re not going to think about until you get to the office tomorrow), or your Facebook feed, stimulates the brain, Krieger says. “Now you’re engaged,” she says — which is opposite of what you want to do to create a sleep-friendly environment.

Bottom line: power down and keep it out of bed when it comes to electronics — at least 30 minutes before you turn in and ideally an hour.


Survey data suggests as many as 85 percent of Americans have at least one caffeinated beverage every day, with many of us consuming a lot more. And it’s that “lot more,” particularly of the late-afternoon variety, that can be really detrimental to our sleep, Krieger says.

Technically, caffeine is a drug. More specifically it’s a stimulant that temporarily makes us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. While it’s useful for many of us in the morning to help jumpstart the day, it can take up to six hours for the body to completely eliminate the caffeine in a cup of coffee. That means your 4 p.m. Red Bull break may be affecting your wakefulness well past dinnertime.

That said, everybody’s body is different to some extent, Krieger adds. Some people are affected by caffeine less than others. If you’re sleeping through the night (without other sleep aids) and feel well rested the following day, you shouldn’t necessarily worry about needing to change your habits, Krieger says.

While it’s useful for many of us in the morning to help jumpstart the day, it can take up to six hours for the body to completely eliminate the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

But if you are looking for ways to improve sleep, limit caffeine to the morning hours, Krieger says. (Recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are slightly more lax, recommending you should avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.)


Alcohol can make you drowsy and may send you to sleep quickly. It’s a sedative. The problem is that that’s an artificial way of falling asleep, and your brain goes straight to deep sleep and stays there, rather than cycling through the other stages of sleep (like REM sleep, the stage of sleep during when we dream), which all play their own role in rejuvenating our bodies and minds for the next day. Plus the effect wears off later in the night, so your body will spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep later in the night, during which you’re more likely to toss and turn and wake up (and dream).

Go ahead and enjoy that cocktail during happy hour rather than too close to bedtime and stick to one or two drinks to avoid it messing with your slumber, the National Sleep Foundation recommends.


Part of the body’s process of falling asleep is decreasing its temperature. (Physiologically, that’s part of what happens during sleep!) So keeping your bedroom temperature cool just helps this happen faster, Krieger explains.

Ideally keep your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If that feels chilly, cover with a light blanket (or keep one nearby) that you can shove aside as needed, Krieger adds.


It’s kind of like skipping meals. If you skipped lunch for a week, most of us wouldn’t necessarily be able to eat five lunches on Saturday to make up those calories (at least not the nutritious quality calories our bodies need). Similarly, if you’re a poor sleeper during the week, you can’t make up those lost hours of shuteye on the weekends (or another day you’re able to sleep in), Krieger explains. “The body is very resilient. We make up just enough so that we feel better.”

That means you might feel better the day after you get a good night’s sleep, but you can’t store up sleep for the coming week. And over time, being chronically sleep deprived has been linked to increased risk of some pretty severe health problems, like weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and memory loss.


“I’ll just power through tomorrow…” Yeah right. In general we don’t have a good perception of how much sleep we need, Krieger says. Again, the body is resilient. It’s the same effect as when you go too long without eating and grab a snack or just ‘get through’ the next hour until you’re ready for a meal. “You’re body’s not going to shut down,” Krieger says. But you’re probably not feeling and/or functioning at your best.

In a similar way, your body isn’t performing at its best when you’re under-rested. And that’s even if you don’t realize it, Krieger says.

Individuals do vary in the amount of sleep they need per night, though clocking between seven and nine hours every 24 hours has been linked to the most health benefits, which is why those are the sleep recommendations for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Want to know more specifically where you fall within that range? If you are well rested overall, you should be able to wake up consistently at the same time without an alarm clock, Krieger says.


It may sound contradictory given all the well-touted sleep recommendations and guidelines that exist (not to mention the seven points above), but another important way to sleep better is just to not stress about it too much. “Sleep isn’t something you can tell your brain, ‘ok, now shut down and go to sleep,’” Krieger says. “It’s not a voluntary phenomenon.”

And the more you stress and worry about having just the right sleep routine or following the rules so exactly, the tougher it is for your body to relax, which is what initiates all the internal chemical processes in the brain and the rest of the body that initiate sleep.

The bottom line, Krieger says, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If you’re sleeping well, no need to change your routine. If you’d like to get more sleep or think there is room for improvement, try avoiding any or some bad habits you may have slipped into. And remember, listen to you and what works for your body.

by Sarah DiGiulio /  Oct.16.2017 

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Poor Sleep Associated With Higher Risk Of Chronic Pain

(Reuters Health) – People who sleep poorly may be more likely to develop a chronic pain condition and have worse physical health, a study from the UK suggests.

A general decline in both the quantity and quality of hours slept led to a two- to three-fold increase in pain problems over time, researchers found.

“Sleep and pain problems are two of the biggest health problems in today’s society,” said lead study author Esther Afolalu of the University of Warwick in Coventry.

Pain is known to interfere with sleep, she told Reuters Health by email. But the new study shows “that the impact of sleep on pain is often bigger than (the impact of) pain on sleep,” she said.

Sleep disturbances, she added, contribute to problems in the ability to process and cope with pain.

Afolalu and colleagues reviewed 16 studies involving more than 60,000 adults from 10 countries. The studies looked at how well people were sleeping at the start, and then evaluated the effects of long-term sleep changes on pain, immune function and physical health. Half the participants were tracked for at least four and a half years.

Overall, sleep reductions led to impaired responses to bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances, more inflammation, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and other biomarkers related to pain, fatigue and poor health. Newly developed insomnia doubled the risk of a chronic pain disorder and hip fracture problems, the study authors wrote in the journal Sleep Medicine.

Deterioration in sleep was also associated with worse self-reported physical functioning.

At the same time, researchers didn’t find links between increased sleep and less pain or arthritis, although they did find that improvement in sleep was associated with better physical functioning.

One limitation of the analysis is that the studies relied on participants to recall their own sleep patterns. Also, the studies didn’t all use the same tools to measure sleep quality and quantity.

Future studies should look at sleep patterns for different groups of people and how that affects health, Afolalu said. Her team is now analyzing data from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey to understand sleep, insomnia and health for people with arthritis.

Additional studies should also investigate how sleep deficiency leads to chronic pain disorders, said Dr. Monika Haack, who studies sleep, pain and inflammation at Harvard Medical School’s Human Sleep and Inflammatory Systems Lab in Boston.

Haack, who wasn’t involved with the new research, said in an email, “It is also important to identify whether there is a specific sleep pattern that is most dangerous for pain. For example, does sleep disruption (with frequent, intermittent awakening throughout the night) have a higher impact than a short but consolidated sleep?”

Haack and colleagues recently reported in the journal Pain that restricting sleep on weekdays and catching up on the weekends led to more pain. Furthermore, people who caught up on weekends had a tougher time dealing with pain than those who slept eight hours every night.

“In those already suffering from chronic pain, it is of critical importance to incorporate sleep improvement strategies,” Haack said. “And to have sleep specialists as part of the pain management team.”

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017    Carolyn Crist
SOURCE: bit.ly/2xcwb8b Sleep Medicine, online August 18, 2017.    www.reuters.com

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men. This is mostly due to the hormonal changes that women often experience.

  • 40% of people who are rejected in a romantic relationship slip into clinical depression.

  • Dogs can see sadness in humans and often attempt to make their owners happy by initiating cuddling.

  • Having sex only 3 times a week, has proven to make you look 5-7 years younger.

~ Happy Friday!~

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Treating Insomnia First Can Help With Mental Health Problems

New research has found that treating insomnia with online cognitive behavioral therapy could in turn help treat mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

Carried out by researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford, the team set out to try to improve sleep in a group of university students with insomnia to look at sleep’s effect on paranoia (excessive mistrust), anxiety, and depression.

The study, which involved 3,755 participants, is thought to be the largest ever randomized controlled trial of a psychological treatment for mental health and the first study large enough to determine the effects of treating insomnia on psychotic experiences.

Participants were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for insomnia while the other group received access to standard treatments.

The six sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy included behavioral, cognitive and educational components, such as learning to associate bed with sleep, encouraging people to put time aside to reflect on their day before going to bed, and facilitating a pro-sleep environment.

The interactive program also used information from the participants’ daily sleep diaries to tailor the advice.

Participants’ mental health was also monitored through a series of online questionnaires at 0, 3, 10 and 22 weeks from the start of the treatment.

After analyzing the results the team found that participants who received the CBT sleep treatment showed large reductions in insomnia, as well as small, sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences.

CBT treatment also helped improve other mental health problems including depression, anxiety, nightmares, and psychological well-being, as well as daytime work and home functioning.

“Sleep problems are very common in people with mental health disorders, but for too long insomnia has been trivialized as merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of psychological difficulties. This study turns that old idea on its head, showing that insomnia may actually be a contributory cause of mental health problems,” commented the study’s lead author Daniel Freeman.

“A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to people’s psychological health. Helping people get better sleep could be an important first step in tackling many psychological and emotional problems,” he concluded.

The results can be found published online in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Relaxnews   Friday, September 8, 2017

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Lack Of Rem Sleep Tied To Increased Risk Of Dementia

(Reuters Health) – People who spend less time in deep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may be more likely to develop dementia than individuals who get better quality rest, a recent study suggests.

Patients with dementia often have difficulty sleeping, but previous research has offered a mixed picture of which comes first – the cognitive decline or the sleep deficit.

For the current study, researchers examined data from overnight sleep studies for 321 adults age 60 or older who didn’t have dementia. After an average follow-up of 12 years, 32 people developed dementia.

Each percentage reduction in the time people spent in REM sleep was associated with a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia, researchers report in Neurology.

“We observe an association between sleep and dementia but cannot determine whether reduced REM causes dementia,” said lead study author Matthew Pase of Swinburne University in Australia.

“It is unclear whether increasing REM sleep reduces dementia risk,” Pase, who did the research as part of the Framingham Heart Study at Boston University, said by email. “However, good quality sleep is clearly important for overall health and well-being and the emerging picture suggests that sleep and dementia may influence each other.”

Overall, study participants spent about 20 percent of their sleeping time in REM sleep, the sleep analysis found. But the subset of people who went on to develop dementia spent only 17 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep.

Out of all the dementia cases found in the current study, 25 percent occurred within the first 6.6 years of follow-up. The total included 24 instances of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Reduced REM was associated with similar increases in the risk of both Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases.

Researchers also looked at what’s known as sleep latency, or how long it takes to fall asleep, and didn’t find this related to the risk of developing dementia.

The study is small, and the results would need to be confirmed by more research in larger groups of people, said Dr. Eric Larson, vice president for research at Kaiser Permanente Washington and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But that doesn’t mean people should ignore the importance of REM sleep.

“REM sleep is considered the part of the sleep cycle where our brains get rejuvenated,” Larson, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It’s considered the best part of sleep from a perspective of gaining the rest that restores well-being.”

Other research has linked both insomnia and a nighttime breathing disorder known as sleep apnea with an increased risk of dementia, noted Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatry and neurology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who wasn’t involved in the study.

“This adds to the growing science that sleep health or quality is related to brain health,” Yaffe said by email. “It is important to tell your doctor about concerns about your sleep and follow good sleep hygiene practices.”

Lisa Rapaport      SOURCE: bit.ly/2xMYjve      Neurology, online     August 23, 2017     reuters.com

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Eating chocolate makes you happy because it contains phenylephylamine – the same hormone the brain triggers when you fall in love.

  • Not having enough sleep per day leads to a desire for sex, depression and alcoholism.

  • Stomach rumblings are caused by air moving through your digestive tract and doesn’t always mean you are hungry.

  • Soda is so corrosive that without a liner, the liquid would eat through the aluminum can after three days.

Happy Friday!
 source:   factualfacts.com   https://twitter.com/Fact   @Fact

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10 Former Insomniacs Share the Trick That Finally Worked for Them

There are almost as many insomnia treatments as there are insomniacs. Here’s what some now well-rested folks did to overcome those sleepless nights.

Listen to your inner cave man

Former attorney and current health coach, Jeff Hughes, had insomnia for most of his life. It started when he was a child, and lasted well into his 30s—that was 25 years, and a lot of trial-and-error insomnia fixes ago. “How did I move beyond it? Unfortunately, there was no quick fix. I tried and tested lots of things, until I developed a routine, that worked for me. The main elements included not drinking alcohol right before bed, not having caffeine in the evening, meditating regularly, and using blue-light filters on my electronic devices, since blue light suppresses melatonin production,” he says. All those habits are highly effective bedtime hygiene techniques, but for Hughes, the most important change was learning to respect his circadian rhythms. “Humans evolved to wake up when its light outside, and to fall asleep when it gets dark. In modern times, we create our own schedules, often staying on our electronics 24-7. The body is more comfortable with the Stone Age pattern, which I now follow, on both weekdays and weekends,” he explains.

Combine M&Ms: meditation and melatonin

Jennifer Bright Reich, co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep, started experiencing insomnia herself, when her boys were five- and three-years old. Her theory is that her newfound insomnia was caused by a very-common combination of stress, and perimenopause. “Ironically, when my boys were little, and didn’t sleep well, I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Then, suddenly, I couldn’t. I started to do two things: take melatonin and listen to meditation tapes. Both worked wonders,” she says. Reich takes ten milligrams of melatonin, in the form of gummy bears, each night before bed as a treat, and now has sweet dreams, instead of sleepless nights. Here’s what science has to say about meditation’s benefits.

Consider magnesium

Movement specialist Janis Isaman is committed to helping people achieve health and wellness, but when it came to her own insomnia, she was at a loss. Isaman’s fatigue was unending, and partially explained by a rib that dislocates habitually, causing her physical pain. She also experienced random periods of unexplained wakefulness, which had her up for two-to-three hours a night. “I typically woke up between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., and stayed awake, unable to get back to sleep until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. It was basically misery, because at that time of night (and day), there’s nothing to do. I sometimes listened to yoga nidra, or Deepak Chopra meditations, and I sometimes read. But I also sometimes lay there, tossing and turning,” she says. Isaman’s physician realized she was consistently tired, after multiple checkups in a row, and asked if she was sleeping properly. Upon learning of her ordeal with insomnia, he suggested she try magnesium, essential for helping the brain to settle down, as a first line of defense. Isaman’s doctor suggested a dosage of three 100 mg. pills for her to try—and it worked. Even a slight lack of magnesium can have detrimental effects.

Try cognitive behavioral therapy

Like many people, Mary Kaarto’s unending bouts with insomnia left her too exhausted to exercise, or to work. An author, Kaarto found herself unable to put two words together, because her decision-making abilities were too compromised by her lack of sleep. “For years, I was treated solely by my primary care physician, who prescribed various sleep medications. Most of them worked for a while, until my body developed a tolerance for them.” Frustrated, Kaarto turned to a board-certified sleep specialist, with little success. Then, she learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on her own and started working with a CBT therapist who specialized in insomnia. CBT is a powerful form of therapy, designed to help patients identify, and change, negative thoughts, and actions. “My CBT therapist assured me I would be cured, and that she would make sure of it, no matter how long it took. The confidence she had helped give me the faith, confidence, and hope I needed so desperately,” says Kaarto, who has been cured of insomnia for two years.

I scaled back on coffee

Mary Ladd was cursed with a spouse who could sleep through anything. “My insomnia was so lonely, because I could hear him sleeping in bed next to me. The fact that he could sleep through the night, and I couldn’t, reminded me that my eyeballs felt dry, and tired. I begin to tally up the things I did wrong that day, or stress over what I needed to do the next. Ironically, my mom’s death brought some relief, because I had been worrying so much about her, while dealing with my own post-breast cancer symptoms,” she shares. The San Francisco native dealt with feelings of anger about her insomnia, and then, was able to create a change. “What works for me is visualization—picturing myself being cocooned in a nice, fleece blanket, and meditation, to decrease stress, and anxiety.” The 43-year old mom also keeps to a solid sleep schedule, which includes waking up when her body wants to wake up, instead of when an alarm clock says it’s time. “I also had to scale back on booze, and caffeine, many medical folks told me that my two-to-four bowls of daily coffee may have been seriously injuring my chances of a good night’s sleep. At least they didn’t take away chocolate ice cream, or runny Brie cheese, because then I would really have nothing to live for!” she laughingly adds.

Keep a sleep diary

A sleep doctor gave Amy George, a former insomniac, life-changing advice. “Three years ago, I spent the summer seeing a sleep doctor—a psychologist, not an MD. I didn’t want to keep relying on drugs like Ambien, which is addictive, no matter what anyone tells you. She had me keep a sleep diary, so I could see that I was nodding off on the couch, when I should be going to bed! She also said something I still remember, and think of – ‘Don’t put sleep on a pedestal.’ In other words, stop making it so important. Tell yourself if you lose sleep it’s OK. You’ll still function. You’ll still get through the day. Sometimes that’s what you need to do to calm down and go to sleep.”

Try essential oils

Painkillers, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety medications..Lynn Julian Crisci had tried them all, and none could provide relief from her 10-plus years of insomnia, following a head injury. “I could only get a few hours sleep in a row, each night. Nothing helped. Last year, I tried hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a proven treatment for multiple medical issues.” Hyperbaric oxygen therapy refers to the administering of pure oxygen, in a pressurized room, or tube. Crisci feels confident that the treatment helped heal her brain tissue, starting her on her journey of sleeping through the night. But that’s not all she did, to get the result she was hoping for. “I added CBD oil, made from hemp, to my morning, and nightly supplements. CBD oil is a neuro-protectant which is thought to protect brain tissue, aiding the part of the brain that controls sleep. Recently, I added CBD oil made from cannabis, to my nightly routine. This has a low dose of THC in it. Since then, I sleep through the night every night and wake up rested. I live in Boston and obtained a medical marijuana card, to get the cannabis-derived CBD oil,” she explains.

Learn to recognize when you’re sleepy

Dr. Sally Nazari is a well-established psychotherapist, but her many years or practice were not enough to provide what she needed to conquer her own insomnia. “I had a significant amount of trouble falling asleep and none of the home remedies were working for more than two or three nights. I learned about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) which was only a six-session treatment,” she explains. Nazari’s sessions involved learning about cues that affected the way her brain and body responded to her bedtime routine, and rituals. Knowing this, she was able to make modifications that helped her structure her routine in a way that let her wind down, and notice that she was sleepy, instead of just tired. “CBT-I also focused on working through the thoughts related to how I reacted to the possibility of yet another sleepless night and, instead, be more ready for a better night of rest. Without those concerns, I can more easily settle into the night and let my body’s natural sleep rhythms take over,” she adds.

Focus on work-life balance

Marketing and publicity are hardly low stress fields. Even so, Jasmine Powers started not one, but two, agencies, doing that very thing. “Around 2010, I suffered terribly with insomnia, and also had trouble eating. The anxiety from my first year of full-time self-employment, and client demands, made it hard to relax, so I worked around the clock. What helped was taking anti-anxiety meds, and working with higher paying, and lower stress clients. Now, I work part-time, balancing that with lots of time outdoors, practicing mindfulness, and aligning my sleeping times with daylight,” she explains.

Invest in a new mattress

“In my experience, it’s not just one factor that must change when you are addressing insomnia in your life. Insomnia made me short with my kids,” says Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer, and former insomniac. “I was struggling at work, to keep up with demands. I got up every morning desperate for more rest. The desperation drove me to seek a solution. It turns out I had to change several things I was doing to finally get that coveted full night’s sleep,” she explains. For Thompson, those changes meant more daily exercise. “I found that if I didn’t get enough exercise every day, my body was just not worn-down enough to go to sleep. I also gave up having caffeine later in the day. When I chose to restrict my caffeine consumption to nothing after 4:00 p.m.. I was able to fall asleep at the time I wanted,” Her biggest change may have been her mattress. “My mattress was everything. I tossed and turned a lot, and was sore when I woke. I experienced low back pain, and realized that part of my insomnia was due to my inability to get comfortable. There are lots of mattresses on the market for different sleep issues and back pain. I chose a new one and added a Tempurpedic topper, and that’s what made all the difference.” Here are seven signs its time for a new mattress. 

source: www.rd.com