Surviving Mattress Wars


Author Rachel Bosworth tries out a mattress at the Bliss Sleep Center in Water Mill. Michael Heller photos

By Rachel Bosworth

The average person spends one third of their lifetime asleep. For me, that’s a lot of hitting the snooze button and trying to steal the occasional nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need seven to nine hours per night, though 40 percent of Americans get less. Just minutes missed over time can add up, and can raise your risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and memory loss. With sleep being so vital to our physical and mental well-being, it’s pretty important what you sleep on.

Endless options of mattresses in stores and online can make it tricky to decide what’s best for you, especially if you have a sleep partner. The East End has a few places to choose from, so I made three appointments to learn about my own potential new bed.

At Mattress Firm, formerly Sleepy’s, in Bridgehampton I am greeted by friendly but not pushy salesman Frank Cusimano, who is to take me through the mattress buying process. He asks me about my sleep habits, and I tell him I typically sleep on my stomach but toss and turn often. I have a firm queen size mattress with a foam topper that I love, and share with my boyfriend who seems to sleep through the night without moving much.

“If you’re tossing and turning, you’re not comfortable,” he says kindly as he hands me a softer pillow suited for my sleeping position. “We start with the Comfort by Color gallery,” he adds, referring to the yellow, green, and blue strips of fabric on each bed.

“One pillow is not good for everybody; it depends on how you sleep. Twenty-five percent of your sleeping surface is a pillow,” Cusimano explains as we try the different levels of mattresses. “It keeps your spine in alignment and is very important.” With couples, he suggests leaning towards the choice of the person that needs more support.

Bliss Sleep Center in Water Mill is a boutique shop owned by Beth Schlendorf offering 100 percent organic and sustainably sourced products, and has a mission of promoting healthy sleeping. “I was upset when I learned the mattresses my family and I slept on had all of these toxic chemicals,” Schlendorf says. “I had no idea.” With this information, she began her own search for a healthy alternative, which ultimately lead her to open her own store.

Schlendorf asked me several questions about my sleeping habits and those of my boyfriend as well.

“A firm foundation doesn’t mean you need a firm mattress,” she offers after I tell her about my mattress. “Wool or organic cotton toppers help create a cushion feel without affecting lower back support.”

Author Rachel Bosworth tries out a mattress at the suggestion of Beth Schlendorf, sleep specialist at the Bliss Sleep Center in Water Mill.

The thought of wool didn’t sound appealing at first as I tend to get hot and throw the covers off. Schlendorf then told me that wool is a natural temperature regulator. It wicks away moisture, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

I was handed a silk pillow and protective slip to test some of the beds while learning about the benefits of organic materials. Natural latex, made of organic Dunlop/natural Talalay, keeps your spine aligned all night while you sleep. Unlike traditional or memory foam mattresses, natural latex changes shape as you change sleep positions. The benefits of natural and organic products include being mildew resistant, dust mite repellent, hypoallergenic, and antimicrobial. These products naturally meet flame retardant requirements.

As for the shopping experience, Schlendorf explains customers typically don’t make a decision the first time they visit the store. “We keep all of your preferences stored and you can call anytime,” she says. “It’s a very customizable and personal experience.” Each mattress is made to order, and firmness can be adjusted to suit each sleep partner’s needs.

The afternoon was spent lying down, and my last stop was PC Richard and Son. Offering a number of appliances and housewares, the family owned and operated business has 18 super-sized showrooms on Long Island, including two on the East End.

Director of training and development, Pat Dehner, met me at the Riverhead showroom to take what felt like my third nap of the day. “We fit for the pillow first,” Dehner tells me. “Then we find your comfort level before trying different mattresses.”

As with my earlier experiences, we start with a firm mattress. Dehner explains there are three different technologies; inner spring, Tempurpedic, and a hybrid. “Inner spring has individually wrapped coils,” he says. “It prevents motion transfer and waking up your partner. The average person tosses 80 times per night.”

Tempurpedic is memory foam, which also has no motion transfer. The hybrid is a combination of the two, giving the support of inner springs and the foam top. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Dehner explains.

With these options, plus others like dual adjustable bases, full body massage settings, outlets, and lights, there are a number of options to choose from. “People need to be happy with their mattress. We often ask, ‘What’s a good night’s sleep cost to you?’’ Dehner tells me. “It’s an investment in your sleep and your life.”

When asked about how online shopping affects mattress buying, all three retailers agree it makes for a savvier customer. Cusimano calls it “beducation,” as customers research different products on the Internet ahead of time. Dehner says people will likely make purchases online for guest rooms over beds that are slept in nightly. For mattresses sold online only, like those at Hampton Bedding Company, typically one brand of memory foam mattress is offered, and is condensed in a box to ship easily. As for Bliss Sleep Center, Schlendorf says clients may make purchases online after visiting the store.

For most, it’s an experience to be had in person. Traditional mattresses need to be replaced every eight to 10 years, whereas natural and organic brands can last up to 20 years. Now that I have determined my comfort level, pillow needs, and sleep style, all I need to figure out is which linens to buy for my new bed.

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