Beds, Banks and Beyond

By Lloyd Graff

The economy is always hard to figure out, but we seem to be in an especially baffling period for both professional economists and amateur business people like me. The Federal Reserve has given the banks two .25% rate hikes recently, yet the 10-year U.S. Treasury has fallen back to 2.25%. This number dictates the mortgage rate and many other interest rates. The dollar has been steady versus other currencies. Unemployment is supposedly at 4.5%, yet there seems to be no upward pressure on wages, an apparent anomaly. The real estate market is steady generally. Home prices are going crazy in Toronto, but in Chicago, Detroit and Miami, not much movement.

Capital equipment is not doing much except in aircraft. Machine tools are scuffling. The oil and gas market is rebounding while cars and trucks are softening a bit, making things generally decent but nothing to have a party about.

I am looking forward to the Precision Machining Technology Show in two weeks in Columbus, Ohio. I hope it will give the precision machining folks a good excuse to issue some big orders.


How do you find a bed you love and a pillow that doesn’t crimp your neck? I’ve been struggling with sleep issues for many years. I fall asleep fairly easily, but a 3 a.m. bathroom call can often mess up the rest of my night’s sleep. I also tend to wake up at first light and struggle to fall back asleep. Add to that a case of sleep apnea to my slumber issues to complicate a night’s snooze.

I really crave a comfortable mattress and pillow to make my night less wakeful.

My wife Risa and I currently sleep on a Sleep Number bed. In my opinion, the bed’s real number is 3 out of 10. I sleep well on maybe 3 out of every 10 nights. Besides not really being able to calibrate the hardness of the mattress, my big beef with the Sleep Number is that I slip off the sides when I play Words With Friends on my iPad before going to bed, or when I try to tie my shoes in the morning. The Sleep Number company replaced the foam on both sides of the bed but the slippery slope problem persists. I cannot sit up in bed without getting back and neck pain, so I have to sit on the side of the bed to read my phone or iPad. Maybe I need to put pine tar on my sheets to stick on the bed.

The pillow is also a pain in the neck. Conventional pillows are always too hard or too soft. A hard pillow tends to make my neck crooked, culminating in numbness in my fingers. A soft pillow makes me feel submerged. I have a gel pillow now that cost $200, but it seems to be the best remedy for neck pain that I have found. The gel in the center of the pillow is depressed and is a good compromise between firm and “give.” The only negative is that I need to stay in the center of it to really get its benefits, which can be tricky for a side sleeper in the middle of the night.

The mattress market is now in a period of disruption by lower-priced, mail order entrants. I relish the competition for the old cartel of overpriced bed makers, but it is extremely difficult to pick one off the Internet. I look forward to your comments about success or failure in finding a mattress and pillow that really works (or fails) for you.

Question: Do you have a mattress and pillow you like?

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7 thoughts on “Beds, Banks and Beyond

  1. AvatarCatherine

    I too am miserable when it comes to my pillows. I have three “specialized” pillows and hate all three of them. They are all different and I will give them all a try now and then, but usually am unhappy over all. The two down and feather pillows i have are too fat and wrestling them down leaves me unhappy. The two down pillows I have have flattened so much they are now knee pillows only. So of the 6 on my bed, none are just right.

    I have a very good quality futon mattress on my bed (a futon) but it has the indents on top so I added a 5″ foam topper. This creates a wonderful firm base with a nice soft top BUT, the topper is oversized and it fights with the bedding.

    Futon sheets are not easy to come by and not sure they would fit anyway with the topper. Full size sheets are also not the best fits. I felt the standard pocket (not deep) sheets would work best on the undersized mattress but I still deal with daily slipping, bunching and more.

    Our main bed has a very nice newer mattress (my husband and I don’t sleep together anymore due to snoring and tossing and I fled months ago and it was totally worth it.)

    I am glad to read your article about the foam mattress. We had been wondering if we should have gotten one of those instead.

  2. AvatarDon

    Just some thing else to check. I’m 62 and have had sleep issues since I was 25 and here is what else to check. If you are waking between 11PM to 1 AM this maybe thyroid and if you are waking between 1AM and 3AM this can be liver issues, an I have both. I would fall asleep at the drop of a hat. In the evening after work I could not sit down or I would fall asleep in the chair. So I worked out an stayed active until exhausted, then fall asleep in seconds. Only to wake up at 11:30 and not sleep another wink. This has my eyes puffy on the top eye lid and dark bags under my eyes. Puffiness in the upper eye lid is a sign of thyroid and puffy or darkness on the under side of the eye can be liver issue, so ,they say in Chinese medicine.
    Don Frey
    V.P. / CFO
    R&D Mfg., Inc.

  3. AvatarVictor

    My wife and I have found that electronic screens (TV, computer, phone, etc.) before bed are very stimulating to the brain and exacerbate insomnia.

    I usually have pretty good night’s sleeps, and here are a few things that I try to do:I generally do not watch any screens at least an hour before bedtime. I try to get a lot of exercise throughout the week and every day if possible. Don’t eat much or at all after 5 PM, so main meal is in afternoon. And I try to never overeat. I think some medications and over-the-counter supplements disturb sleep patterns so whenever I take them I try to pay special attention to them and see if they have an effect.

  4. AvatarJim

    I also have the sleep number bed. Actually I have two of them (one at home and in at our cottage. I would rate them 9 -10. The key to making sure that they feel and perform correctly year after year is the support underneath the bed. I too have had the company out to replace and adjust the foam around the edges and in the middle without much success. I took a level to the bed frame and made sure everything was good there but that still did not get me to new, first-night feeling. Upon further examination I noticed that the wood slats under the bed were sagging in places. These sleep number beds with the plastic foundations are very heavy. I took some 4×4 pieces of oak and screwed larger pieces of 1×8 to the bottom of them to make support stands to place under the bed frame slats. That did the trick and I am back to total comfort. I have had these beds since 2003.

  5. AvatarMindy Mikami


    Funny you should bring this up, as we were just talking about this at our Easter lunch yesterday. My husband and I also have a Sleep Number bed. My husband prefers sleeping on something the softness of a concrete slab, and I like a softer bed since I sleep on my stomach. We have found the bed to be an excellent compromise. Jim mentioned the foundation… we bought the one from Sleep Number, just to be on the safe side. I do agree about the side of the bed. I like to sit on the bed as I get dressed… this is not the best place. I bench at the end of the bed is probably more user-friendly.

    Pillows… that’s another story. Since I sleep on my stomach, I need a flat and VERY malleable pillow. Think feather pillow after 15 years. I search and search and finally find something acceptable. Actually, Costco has a fake feather pillow that I really like. It’s still too puffy, but after some serious abuse, I can wrangle it into submission. I’m SO picky about my pillows that if I’m in a hotel and the pillows are too full/firm, I’ll slit them open and pull some stuffing out. Don’t worry… I put it back and sew the pillow back up! Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn have such good pillows, I’ve been tempted to “adopt” one!

    As we age, our bodies produce less melatonin, which controls our circadian rhythm, so we don’t sleep as soundly or as long. This could be part of what you’re experiencing. I also agree about eliminating pre-bedtime screen usage. A book (a REAL book) is OK, but Words with Friends, Facebook, and Candy Crush are no-nos!

    I hope you find the holy grail of mattress/pillow combinations! Let us know if you do!


  6. AvatarNancy

    I remember being shocked that about the recommended short length of life for a mattress: I won’t say how many years it was between our first and second set. It was far fewer between our second and third and probably less time in the future.
    I do wonder if the advent of gel mattresses bodes an even shorter life for mattresses than the insides of old. I know that when I buy shoes that have the gel filling, the filling’s life is one long vacation with miles and miles of walking and then they just don’t seem to provide the same cushion.
    Many years ago my father was a purchasing agent for Englander and Pullman Couch Company. He was a guru of mattresses. I think he would be turning over in his grave (not on any mattresses) if he saw the stuff that serves as stuffing today.


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