Business-to-Business (B2B) Networking and Negotiations -- a Key Role Played Out in the Specialty Sleep Association Showroom at Each Market

By  Dale T. Read, Former President of the SSA

When people think of the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) Showroom C-1565 located on the mattress and bedding 15th. floor of Building “C” of the World Market Center, they typically do not think of it as a center of manufacturing or supplier business-to-business marketing and sales.  In fact most people who are affiliated with or who visit the SSA “show within a show” know it for the 400 to over 500 retail buyers and visitors who walk through during each market. Many people have successfully reached sleep shops, furniture stores, department stores, big box stores and in recent years online e-tailors who walk through the SSA showroom.

Although not widely recognized, business-to-business networking and negotiations have played a major role in the SSA showroom since the first day. Although there have been countless examples of this over the years, I will mention a few standouts here for you.

About ten years ago when polymer gel was first making a splash as a new mattress/ bedding component for cooler comfortable sleep, the CEO of the soon to be number one mattress brand in the US visited the SSA showroom (then on the 13th. floor), and began negotiations with a new exhibiting gel supplier that later led to the gel supplier becoming a key vendor for this top-ten brand. Together the team that met in the SSA showroom helped make that brand Number One in impregnated gel and foam mattresses in the US.  

For many years regional sales reps who are long-time mattress and bedding veterans have met emerging manufacturers in the SSA Showroom, often leading to negotiations and business deals resulting in new markets and opportunities for both parties.


It is very common for new companies to launch their product offerings and brands in the SSA showroom, build a following, and then open their own private showroom. A few years back, there was such a company who introduced high quality, exceptional European foam inspired mattresses and pillows. They were going through major changes in product offerings, marketing, shipping outlets, and wanted a new sales team. They approached the leadership of the SSA, who recommended a prime experienced specialty sleep sales rep as a candidate for the position of national sales manager.  This union has proven to be very successful for both parties and today that rep still serves as the brand’s national sales manager.  

An internationally based inventor / designer of an ergonomic zoned adjustable bed base system came to the SSA showroom looking for retail customers, but then also used the venue to strategically reach out to manufacturing and supplier partners in North America. As a result of the most recent SSA Show, the company identified at least a dozen potential manufacturing /marketing partners. They are in the process of following up and negotiating a possible business deal.  

A growing entrepreneurial European company offering an innovative, unique all-natural innerspring technology introduced their new product in the SSA showroom and targeted over 50 prospective manufacturers and retailers. The company went on to expand its business to capacity level doing business throughout Asia , Eastern Europe and Northern Europe. Today the door is still open for possible expansion of this all-natural support system into the USA. 

 A fast-growing Scandinavian and US based mattress, bedding and top-of-bed accessories company with a prime location in the SSA Showroom has recently launched the company’s growing private label program offering B2B solutions to retailers and other manufacturers. They recently published a “Guide to Private Label”, which they have posted online and distributed at the recent SSA Show. 


A mid-western innovator focusing on offering health-based and ergonomic mattresses and bedding for sleepers who have pain or who are elderly, disabled, or physically challenged, showed several times in the SSA showroom. They approached the SSA leadership to find new sources for highly specified foams, cooling gel polymers, mattress materials and assembly. The SSA played a key role in introducing this ergonomic health-focused bed maker to eight different foam and latex suppliers, manufacturers and possible partners.  Over the past year a working partnership has evolved between the ergo-bed company and a leading latex and foam supplier. Patented bed technologies recently have passed both performance and burn tests. These beds are now taking off with older of physically challenged consumers.

Another form of business-to-business activities has also been occurring on the SSA show floor. Over the past several markets online marketers or e-tailer buyers have been looking in the showroom for innovators and sources in order to expand their lines. Many of the SSA exhibitors are now reaching online /e-tailers, not just the traditional sleep shops, furniture stores, department stores and mass merchandizers. 

SSA Executive Director Tambra Jones reminded me of several of the B2B deals that have been made between neighboring exhibitors in the showroom. Companies collaborate on new products, share raw materials knowledge, provide one another with private-label opportunities, and create team efforts in other shows or marketing opportunities. “The camaraderie within our showroom is palpable” says Jones.

 As change has occurred at a swift pace in the mattress and bedding world, the SSA showroom has led the way as a vital and powerful venue for business-to-business contacts. If you are interested in learning more about the SSA Showroom and the numerous business-to-business opportunities, I encourage you to reach out to Executive Director, Tambra Jones.
Tel: 559-868-4187

Each exhibiting company receives the list of buyer groups visiting the showroom

Each exhibiting company receives the list of buyer groups visiting the showroom

Member Spotlight: The Suite Sleep Story Has Been 16 Years in the Making

In 2003, Angela Owen started a little organic mattress and bedding wholesale & distribution business in Boulder, CO called Suite Sleep.

Over the next decade she became a voice for the natural and organic mattress sector through the SSA’s Green Initiative  and educational programs. As an industry pioneer, she has spent the past 16 years shaping this bedding niche and growing her distribution business into a boutique manufacturer of sustainable luxury bedding. Now, with almost 20 years' experience, she is committed to being a change-maker in sustainable mattresses.

The company has grown to include her husband Jim and daughter Kayleigh who manages the cut-and-sew department.


You can find their Suite Dreams mattress in over a dozen hotels in the United States and three more internationally.  The Little Lamb Organics Kids’ line got it start in the SSA showroom in Las Vegas and is featured in boutique bedding stores throughout the country. Designed by a mom just for kids! 


Angela is a proponent of sustainable products who generously shares her story and what she has learned with industry peers.

In her own words: “Suite Sleep specializes in latex mattresses using local wool from Colorado and organic cotton for boutique hotels that share our values of sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment. Hospitality offers a great opportunity make an impact on how we think about sustainable travel. Guests and hoteliers alike are beginning to appreciate businesses that share the values of luxury amenities with minimal environmental impacts. Suite Sleep is at the forefront of this movement in hospitality.

Angela at her local sheep ranch - “

Angela at her local sheep ranch - “


Our pillow collection features our customizable designs that empower the consumer to make it their own. Product innovation is tantamount to our success in the crowded bedding space an we offer customers unique features to give them the best possible sleep. The entire collection includes mattresses, toppers, pillows, and comforters all made in women-owned facilities supporting US manufacturing and sourcing. 

ssuite pillows.jpg

Because our mission at Suite Sleep’s is a fierce commitment to the environment , it drives us to continually evaluate product designs and processes, to bring the best sustainable, natural and organic products to boutique mattress stores and hotels. When one considers the vast amount of bedding and mattresses that end up in the landfills and the chemical off-gassing of these products in our homes, choosing a natural bedding solution is tantamount to good health and the health of our planet.” 

Explore what Suite Sleep has to offer at and


Beaudoin • Succeeding and Growing for 3 Generations

Longtime SSA member Beaudoin is a family owned company based in Quebec, Canada. Now with its 3rd generation at the helm, this leading manufacturer of metal bed frames, upholstered beds, and upholstered platforms is well poised for further success within its product categories.

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Starting in 1963 with metal bed frames and bed supports, Beaudoin quickly grew to be a leading supplier to the industry across Canada and the Eastern United-States.

Not only was company founder Julien Beaudoin creative, he was excellent at manufacturing products efficiently. In that era, Daveluyville, QC was a hot bed of solid wood furniture manufacturing. These manufacturers needed suppliers of components and Mr. Beaudoin saw an opportunity.

The Balance bed frame

The Balance bed frame

Diane Beaudoin and Brian Crochetiere

Diane Beaudoin and Brian Crochetiere

20 years later, when his daughter, Mme Diane Beaudoin took the reins, she expanded both the customer base and the product line. The company was servicing the furniture retail industry initially from coast to coast in Canada, then in the Eastern United States.

Her son, Brian Crochetière is now the President of the company. In the last 15 years, building on their strong manufacturing expertise and desire to provide other support options, Beaudoin has expanded into the upholstered headboards, beds and platform categories.

With 4 factories and more than 120 employees, Beaudoin focuses on providing its customers with a variety of products to support their mattresses. With the rise in popularity of the upholstered beds, and more recently platforms beds, they are a great source for everything that goes under a mattress.

Beaudoin’s customers know them best for their great reliability as a supplier, their flexibility as a manufacturer and the value they can offer consumers. With a wide catalogue of products, Beaudoin can help any retailer maximize their offering and profits! You can find out more at

Pascal Roberge

Pascal Roberge

Pascal Roberge, Director of Sales at Beaudoin for more than 10 years, is an active member of the SSA Board of Directors. He tells us, “The Specialty Sleep Association is a fantastic group of suppliers to the industry. The Las Vegas market has been key, but also all year there are many opportunities between markets to work together and with retailers make this association a great resource.”

In-store display of Beaudoin products

In-store display of Beaudoin products

Reflexx Platform

Reflexx Platform

How to Fall Asleep Fast (in Five Minutes or Less)

by John Breese,

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Every person at least at one point of their life has had difficulties with falling asleep. And we all know that when insomnia episodes become more regular, it can seriously affect our quality of life.

I’ve also been there.

And when this problem started to bother me hard enough, I decided to get my sleep back.

In this article, I’ve collected the most effective, science-based techniques that will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.

So, set the timer and let’s do it!

Routine, Ritual, Rhythm: Rebuilding Your Sleep Habits

According to different studies, one of the most common causes of sleep onset insomnia (read: troubles with falling asleep) is anxiety.

Remember those nights before your sister’s wedding, an interview for a new job, or an important test?

I am sure that you didn’t get a wink of sleep.

But you could avoid that if you knew this:

Our brain quickly becomes attached to rituals.

When some things are associated with calmness and relaxation, doing these things can reduce stress levels, which makes it easier for us to fall asleep.

Therefore, it is quite important to build healthy sleep hygiene that makes you relaxed and puts you in the mood for sleeping.

Here are some ways to help you calm anxiety.

Stick to the Timing

Circadian rhythms are a thing. 

Like any clock, they sometimes require adjustment.

The easiest way to do this is to tie your sleep and wake time to the specific hours. Thus, when the evening comes, the body itself will help you fall asleep faster, and awakening in the morning will also become easier.

“If you spent the night without sleep, it is better to wait for the evening and go to bed a few hours earlier than to nap during the day. The thing is, daytime sleep can only make it worse by adding excessive alertness in the evening, which can result in an insufficient amount of sleep for one more night.”

Relax and Wind Down

The things we do before bedtime are as important as the night rest itself.

Therefore, dedicate 20-30 minutes before bedtime only to yourself. Drink chamomile tea, take a bath with candles or a hot shower, change into comfortable pajamas, or meditate.

Or, all of that together.

Or, do something completely different if this something is able to relax you and set you up for sleep.

Use Bed Only for Sleeping

Again, it's all about associations.

If you are sitting in bed looking through emails or working, if you use it instead of a sofa when watching movies, if you eat there, then the brain loses an association between a bed and sleeping very quickly.

To avoid that, organize the space around you so that the bed would be a sacred place for sleep.

Go for a Walk

Physical activity and fresh air increase the production of endorphins known as natural painkillers. It helps your muscles relax and reduces your stress levels.

Slow pace walking for 30-60 minutes will help you clear your head from heavy thoughts. Plus, you will spend a little more energy (hence, get a little more tired and sleepy).


Professional massage therapy is a great way to relax. But self-massage can also have a good relaxing effect. Use pressure in a hot shower, special heat or vibratory massagers, or just knead your neck and shoulders with your hands — all of this will do.

Sleep-Friendly Environment 101


Home is where your bed is.

But sometimes your bedroom may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.

I have a few tricks will help you create a healthy environment in your bed and around it.

White Noise

It’s a proven fact that white noise helps you relax and tune in to sleep by increasing drowsiness. Pop up the headphones and turn on the white noise track in the player. You can also use special white noise machines that are widely available on the market today.


The temperature of our body drops at night, and some scientists consider this to be the key to falling asleep.

Although this happens naturally, you can aid this process.

The optimal temperature for sleeping is 60-67°F. So, adjust your thermostat and enjoy a good night’s sleep.


Aromatherapy can also help reduce stress and induce sleepiness. So,  it’s a great idea to get a bottle with one or more of the following essential oils:

●      lavender;

●      rosemary;

●      sandalwood;

●      jasmine;

●      ylang-ylang;

●      rose.

Rub a few drops in your temples or just put a diffuser on the bedside table.

And you’re good to go.


Our body depends on light and its absence more than you think.

By dimming lights 30 minutes before bedtime you help your body produce melatonin also known as a sleep hormone. The peak of its secretion is tied to the total darkness in the room. And if you like to check your social media in bed, say hello to insomnia.

“You can use high luminosity lamps to suppress melatonin during the morning hours, which will aid in waking you up. These lamps mimic the natural morning sunlight, thus inhibiting melatonin production.”

Science-Powered Hacks to Help You Travel to the Land of Nod

So, you’ve made your bedroom sleep-friendly and are practicing healthy sleep habits, but it still does not improve your sleep?

Or, the improvements aren’t as noticeable as you’d expect.

Don’t worry!

I’ve got science on your back!

Breathing Techniques

You probably heard about the 4-7-8 method.

So why don’t you try it?

The 4-7-8 method is basically a breathing technique that consists of four steps:

●      exhale completely via your mouth;

●      close your mouth and inhale via your nose while counting to 4;

●      hold your breath on the counts from 4 to 7;

●      exhale slowly out of your mouth on the count of 8.

It is important to place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth throughout the exercise.

Those who have tried this method refer to it as a technique that is taking only 60 seconds to fall asleep.


Imagination is a powerful tool.

Visualize an environment that makes you feel calm and happy. The key to success is thinking of a scene that’s engaging enough to distract you from your thoughts and worries for a while.

If this seems a bit unlikely to you, here’s an Oxford University study where participants were asked to imagine different pleasant scenes before bedtime and, as a result, fell asleep 20 minutes faster.

At least, you can try.

Check Your Diet

The quality of your sleep can be directly impacted by the food that you had on your plate a few hours before bedtime.

Thus, spicy and heavy foods, such as a chilli taco or a steak, won’t do you any favor.

What should you eat instead?

Many scientists agree that tryptophan-rich foods — such as turkey, eggs, nuts, and salmon — will work best as a late dinner.

Also, you can indulge yourself with dark chocolate and bananas since they can boost your magnesium levels, which in turn increases the levels of melatonin.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Danican® = Danish + American

Our spotlight member this month is Thomas Frismodt and his company, Danican. Thomas and his wife Naomi introduced their company to the U.S. Market in the SSA Las Vegas showroom about 5 years ago, and have become anchor exhibitors. Thomas is now the Vice Chairman of the SSA Board of Directors.

Let’s hear their story, in their own words (what they call their rags to redemption story) and how they’ve gone 100% private label.

Hi Res Danican Logo.jpg

Who is the little Danish company that grew its business over 500% in five years?  If you guessed Danican® – you’re right!

Thomas Frismodt and his wife, Naomi, created Danican® (a name that blends their Danish/American heritage) in 2000. They adventurously moved Danican® from its roots in Aarhus, Denmark, to America in 2012. Their goal was to supply the market with affordable luxury in bedding.

 “It hasn’t always been easy”, admits Frismodt recalling that first year in the states, “We lost our biggest account within months of arriving – and with our three kids to feed.”

He persevered and looked for creative ways to expand their client base. They were offering a suite of products from their inventory line, which at that time included mostly mattresses and pillows.

Thomas visited the SSA portion of the Las Vegas show in 2013 and realized this was a great place to showcase his products. He liked the volume of foot traffic he saw and the flow of many companies exhibiting side by side in one showroom. By the next show he was exhibiting there with several other building brands.

“The foot traffic was always great,” he shares, “buyers always make sure to cover ground at the SSA portion of the show.”

Naomi works with a showroom customer at Market

Naomi works with a showroom customer at Market

Little by little, things began to turn around for Danican®. They began providing cooling fabric to a large American mattress manufacturer. Then they were asked to supply a mattress protector program for a 2500+ European based chain. And not long after that, they began providing private label mattresses for multiple clients in the U.S. and Canada. Today their products are in more than 30 countries around the world!

Thomas attributes this success to two things:

1. Factory relations and trust. He has spent much time in Asia building relations and sourcing technologies. Over the years he has broadened his manufacturing relations to Europe and America. He believes trust is a key element when finding the right factories and he’s learned that the hard way. “I want our customers to benefit from my lessons. Our current factories are trustworthy, timely, and deliver quality.” he says.

2. Innovation and problem solving. NOBODY wants bed bugs – and this was a real problem for certain clients. That is how Thomas came upon the idea of creating a detachable “extra” layer on a 6-sided, fabric treated mattress encasement. This alleviated much suffering in the hospitality industry where housekeepers were constantly lifting mattresses to change protectors. Danican’s® encasements/protectors are also a lifesaver in the rent-to-own furniture sector where millions of dollars were previously lost on used furniture they couldn’t resell due to hygiene issues.



Organic Linens

Organic Linens

As a true leader, Thomas joined the SSA board in 2018. As CEO of Danican®, he sees this membership as a way to give back, and to build stronger relationships with leaders of other exhibiting companies. He has a lot of experience to share and looks forward to building an even stronger market for all.

Thomas Frismodt - Danican CEO Photo.jpg

Spirits and Attendance Were Up Up Up at the Las Vegas 2019 Winter Market

The mood at Winter Las Vegas Market was an upbeat one. The companies working the in the SSA showroom were very busy, and many said they were able to close deals this Market that they have had in the works for years - a fact they attributed to the dealers feeling much more positive to plan and move forward with new programs. Overall traffic was up at Las Vegas Market, which was certainly reflected in the SSA showroom, where the buyer attendance was up 7.5 % over January 2018 (from 529 buyer groups in 2018 to 571 buyer groups in 2019). More significant than the number of buyers shopping in the SSA showroom was the upbeat attitude in the room. We suspect the dismal past July Market made this January Market seem exponentially vibrant.

The first 3 days were filled with presentation after presentation.

The first 3 days were filled with presentation after presentation.

Auntie Anne’s was in the house, and they were a HIT.   “Auntie Anne's pretzels were not only great to eat, buyer could take and go,” said exhibitor Butch Craig at Sleep and Beyond. “Awesome idea! Buyers loved it. Was real food for hunger,” from Brice Hata at TMI Products. Kyle Borreggine at CULP said, “Hard for me to sneak away for a “full lunch”, this made the hunger easier .”

Auntie Anne’s was in the house, and they were a HIT.

“Auntie Anne's pretzels were not only great to eat, buyer could take and go,” said exhibitor Butch Craig at Sleep and Beyond. “Awesome idea! Buyers loved it. Was real food for hunger,” from Brice Hata at TMI Products. Kyle Borreggine at CULP said, “Hard for me to sneak away for a “full lunch”, this made the hunger easier .”

Bill and Shana from I Love My Pillow

Bill and Shana from I Love My Pillow

The Swiss Bliss team doing presentations

The Swiss Bliss team doing presentations

Once again we did an exit poll of our exhibiting companies. We partner up with our exhibitors to create a positive and profitable market experience, and so we are eminently interested in everyone’s feedback after Market.

Here are the comments that came back to us this time.

Shana Hughes, pillow manufacturer I Love My Pillow:  I Love My Pillow had their best market yet. SSA always does an outstanding job & we’re looking forward to showing again at Summer Market. The layout of the showroom is extremely smooth for everyone inside. The flow of traffic works perfect not only for the vendors but retailers are able to see what all is offered without walking from different buildings or floors.

Brian Phillips - mattress manufacturer Swiss Bliss: This was our best market to date.  Not only did we open new customers but we also engaged with more than one well known industry individuals about new projects and future collaboration.  We have lots to accomplish between now and July and look forward to designing our new expanded showroom.

Kyle Borreggine, softgoods manufacturer Comfort Supply Co by CULP: Specialty Sleep is the best bang for your buck at Las Vegas Market.  High traffic and great destination for retailers.  It really can’t be beat.

TFS/Honest Sleep and Sleep and Beyond are showroom neighbors

TFS/Honest Sleep and Sleep and Beyond are showroom neighbors

Butch Craig - organic softgoods manufacturer Sleep and Beyond: Vegas 2019 Winter Market was # 14, for Sleep & Beyond and the best market ever. As I always say, 80% of success is showing up, and the 20% is follow up. Not showing up you are know as being absent, and therefore you have no % of being successful. The Specialty Sleep Association do an outstanding job of making buyers feel welcome and provide coffee, food & drinks. We as exhibitors have to do our homework of inviting and selling and follow up. Remember the 80/20 Rule.

Suzanne Diamond - natural and organic mattress manufacturer TFS Solutions: Excellent support from Tambra, everyone in all the showrooms were friendly and kind and we all worked together very well.

Peter Laurens - mattress manufacturer/distributor Baltica Naturals: This market show was the best that we have experienced so far; we received an unexpectedly large number of visitors and serious buyers.  The SSA showroom is literally the best place to be in the entire LVM for small- to medium-sized bedding companies.  There are other locations where a showroom feels isolated and off the beaten path--but the SSA is ideally located to attract traffic.  

Brice Hata and Tania Lopez from TMI/Remarkable Pillow

Brice Hata and Tania Lopez from TMI/Remarkable Pillow

Peter Laurens at Baltica Naturals

Peter Laurens at Baltica Naturals

Brice Hata - pillow manufacturer and foam supplier TMI Industries: I have to be honest with you.  With the tremendous decrease in foot traffic at the previous Summer Market, along with the continued challenges that smaller retail store fronts are experiencing, we considered pulling out of Vegas and investing in other foam trade shows.  We were pleasantly surprised with a better quality of traffic and buyer this Winter.  We finally got traction on an account we have been working on for years with our Rep, and opened up quite a few smaller size retailers as well.  We realized that sometimes you have to believe in building your customer base for the long haul.  Even if that means sacrificing a slow Summer Market to get there. 

SSA Showroom Hosts 34 Exhibitors - Including 6 New Manufacturers and Dozens of New Product Introductions

…not to mention the fresh warm pretzels for buyers as they shop.

The Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) showroom will be booming during this upcoming winter market according to Executive Director Tambra Jones. “We have 34 exhibitors in our showroom for the January market; 6 of whom are brand new. The changes we’ve made in the showroom have allowed for more companies to display products and services and will add to the depth and diversity of offerings to mattress and bedding retailers.” At the last winter market, Jones points out, the SSA had over 500 individual retail buying groups visit the showroom, and she hopes for the same or more at this winter market.

“We have noticed an increase in online e-tailers and big box stores coming through our showroom along with the traditional sleep shops, furniture stores and department stores,” notes Jones. “We see an increasing diversity in both buyers and manufacturing exhibitors.” 

The six new exhibitors at the winter market include, Comfort Supply Co. by CULP, I Love My Pillow, Signature Sleep, Sleep-Ezz, Sleep in Motion and Ultra Comfort America. These new exhibitors bring to the showroom floor a wide spectrum of new sleep products for retail buyers starting with Comfort Supply Co. by CULP® who will showcase their line up of aggressively priced top-of-bed sleep accessories featuring their eLuxury bamboo mattress pad, which they report is the Number 1 selling mattress pad on Amazon®. I Love My Pillow is featuring their updated and colorful packaging along with prototypes of in-store retail displays and samples of possible new pillow style additions.

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When it comes to cutting edge mattress technology designed to allow the sleeper to wake-up restored, Signature Sleep brings to the showroom their new Signature Sleep Reset 12-inch Nanobionic® Pillow-Top Hybrid made with Nextgen bio-functional material.


Retailers interested in marketing specialty and leisure beds should stop by Sleep-EZZ to learn more about the ALL-IN-ONE adjustable and Power Lift bed. And speaking of unique adjustable features, Sleep in Motion will be introducing their unique specialty adjustable bed that rocks you gently to sleep. This product could change the way many people sleep for many years to come. Finally rounding out the new SSA exhibitors, Ultra Comfort America will be showing their power recliners which are equipped with their patent-pending Eclipse Technology tilting motion that cradles the body allowing for a rejuvenating night’s sleep.

“Many times,” says Jones, “the products and services we feature in our showroom are being presented for the first time in any market. They are brand new to the industry.  Our SSA showroom has been branded ‘an incubator’ for new innovations and technologies over the years. Educating and informing retailers and consumers is a key part of our SSA mission. We continue to serve as a platform for new and emerging companies in the mattress and bedding industry.” 

Returning SSA Showroom exhibitors cover the full gamut of mattress, bedding and sleep related products as well as motion furniture, ergonomic furniture, bed support and foundations, futon covers, top of bed accessories, natural and organic sleep products, smart-beds or app-driven comfort systems, heating and cooling applications and retail store support systems from software to display solutions.  

Retail buyers looking to carry bio-based, natural and / or organic products should stop in to visit Baltica Natural Products, Bio Sleep Concepts, Coolist Sleep Technology, The Futon Shop , Palm Pring Organic Coconut Mattresses and Sleep and Beyond. Baltica will be showcasing their Arcusbeds line of certified natural and organic handmade beds from Europe. Coolist Sleep Technology with their bio-based Coolist foam and unique nanotechnology will display the Coolist Blue, Coolist Silver and Coolist Pink pillows: all designed to be heat dissipating, breathable and temperature independent.


The Futon Shop will be featuring their 100% Natural Sofas and Loveseats, as well as their mattresses and futons. Customers can choose from natural wool, latex, or coconut fiber – or organic wool, latex and natural coconut fiber with 100% linen and choose from a selection of 100 different fabrics for the cover.


Sleep and Beyond, manufacturer of organic and natural bedding will be introducing their new myDual® Side Pillow, the ultimate 2 in 1, 100% natural, adjustable and washable dual side pillow, which provides extra support and pressure relief for the neck, shoulders and the spine.

Sleep retailers will find adjustable, ergonomic, heat and cooling control, sleep surface adjustable, medically driven, and Smartbed technologies in the SSA Showroom. ERGOLife, founded on the principle that beds should contour to the requirement of an individual’s spine, will be demonstrating their new ERGOLife iBed , which can be adjusted to provide individually targeted and tailored support to the lumbar area , as well as pressure relieving zones for the shoulders and hips. Controlled by a remote or by a newly introduced app, the iBed contours to each unique individual spinal structure by adjustability and targeted zoning.  Orthex of Canada will be featuring their healthcare inspired Posture Cushions and Posture Pillows, designed to help with back, shoulder, neck and leg pain, as well as sciatica, breathing, digestive and blood-flow issues. 



Sleep Research Technologies will demonstrate their “AURIA Climate Controlled Sleep System” delivering cool crisp, clean filtered air so the sleeper no longer experiences heat related discomfort and loss of sleep. The system is designed to give the consumer a perfect night’s sleep. Supernal (Transfer Master Products, Inc.) supporting the “Aging in Place” movement will be presenting their Hi-Low adjustable bed specifically designed with the option to vertically elevate the bed up to 20 inches to assist getting in and out of bed.


W Silver Products will be highlighting their comprehensive line of adjustable bed bases, bed frames and folding foundations which are made in North America and not subject to the current import tariffs.

Focusing on products and services designed to make the retailer’s business life easier, Select-A-Mat mattress showroom display systems returns to the SSA showroom offering unsurpassed display convenience on the mattress store floor.  Another great service, SmartWerks from Tyler Net will be in the room to take you through their point of sales software program designed to help retailers increase sales, optimize inventory and “make better decisions across the board.” 

Private label, OEM and international import programs are growing in popularity. Long time SSA exhibitor Axiom Sleep Products (formerly known as Rest-Medic) has moved its operation from China to Southeast Asia enabling them the capacity to ship 300 containers a month. Axiom is looking to expand their Original Design and Equipment Manufacturing business with memory foam and hybrid mattresses and sleep products.  Danican, an emerging international private label partner will be presenting their retailer and OEM custom, focused private label programs, which offer container load or less than container load shipping options. They will also be introducing new designs of mattresses, pillows, mattress ticking and packaging designs. One of their new designs will be the Duck feather pillow with the option of either a laser cut or a solid memory foam core. Swiss Bliss Mattress Company will be debuting three new models of Swiss Made sleep products as well as introducing a new mattress cover scheme at the winter market.

Top of bed, pillows, toppers, protectors and all kinds of sleep accessories are on display throughout the showroom.  Bedding Technologies will be featuring their new line of pillows, along with protectors, comforters and bedsheets, as well as their RTA mattress foundation, which can be shipped by UPS.  Royal Heritage, a national leader in the bedding, mattress protection and futon cover industry offers their drop ship program and will showcase their 18 color Solid Collection of futon covers.

A full array of furniture, mattresses, massage chairs, foundations, adjustable bases and a variety of accessories will be shown by SSA veteran exhibitors: Arason Enterprises, Dreamzy Mattress, Electropedic/Body Sense, Grand Rapids Bedding, Innerspace Luxury Products, J P Products, NCFI Polyurethanes, Remarkable Pillow / TMI Molded Foam Tech., U.S. Sleep Products, and uKnead Massage Chairs. 

At this market, the SSA will offer retailers the famous and delicious Aunt Annie’s Pretzels in the showroom handing out fresh, warm pretzels to attendees. “We invite all sleep products retailers to C-1565 on the 15th. Floor in Building C to experience what is new and innovative in the sleep industry, to take in the energy of the room and enjoy our hospitality.  It’s a must-see and fun shopping experience for retailers,” says Jones.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: InnoMax Corporation gives us an idea of their journey into and through their success in the specialty sleep category

Longtime SSA Member InnoMax® Corporation, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is our Member Spotlight feature this month.  We asked them to send us a company summary, and give us an idea of the steps it took to get them where they are today.  Here is their write-up.

Today one of the largest sleep products manufacturers in the industry, InnoMax was originally founded in 1975 as Rocky Mountain Inflate-A-Bed.  InnoMax began its 43 year journey in a very modest fashion. Knowing there was a better way to sleep than on a set of cold steel springs, founder Tom Lavezzi filled his van with basic vinyl air mattresses and began visiting local bedding retailers to promote the idea of air suspension sleep. Early success offered encouragement, but the “butt-seam” construction on the mattresses proved to be less than ideal for daily use. Necessity is the mother of invention, so to keep the airbed business afloat, waterbed sealing technology was used to repair the air mattresses. This quickly led to adding a complete line of waterbed products to the mix, allowing retailers to join in the specialty sleep boom of the 1970’s. With each new challenge, a product design was improved and more new ideas were brought to life. The company name was changed to InnoMax due to the company’s “Maximum Innovation” mission for product evolution and development.

Waterbeds are ALIVE and well at InnoMax

Waterbeds are ALIVE and well at InnoMax

InnoMax was proud to be a part of the early days of the airbed and waterbed revolution. The company moved to larger facilities and expanded production into all aspects of specialty sleep. With the fervor of the waterbed craze, all types of alternative sleep systems were gaining in popularity, including adjustable airbeds. Soon memory foam and natural latex would join the category and then variations of all types were created.

InnoMax decided long ago to get direct feedback from the consumer to offer real time information to help their dealer network successfully promote these non-traditional products. The retail sales associate in a specialty sleep showroom had to have an immense amount of product knowledge and training to help consumers understand the benefits of specialty sleep products. The specialty mattress and bedding sales floor could not simply be a “pick one and we’ll deliver it Saturday” kind of experience. The products were complex and needed to be explained. In order to assist dealers to be better promoters, InnoMax remodeled some warehouse space and created a testing environment called the Retail Laboratory in Denver, armed with market-tested products, sales presentations and marketing strategies. If the innovative products could be effectively sold in a warehouse district far away from high-end malls, then InnoMax was confident the dealers would find success as well. The term “Hard to Find and Tough to Beat” became a marketing slogan for these products and the great benefits and high values offered to the consumer who searched them out.

The Denver Retail Laboratory

The Denver Retail Laboratory

Effective marketing campaigns were also tested in the Laboratory. For instance, to promote a product with a less-than-favorable set of beliefs surrounding it, a new approach was developed. The company replaced the high energy “Mattress Man” advertising with trustworthy local celebrities whose love of flotation sleep broke down the barriers and myths, and paved the way for a whole new generation of consumers eager to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of sleeping on a waterbed. The company created the name “Mud Bed” to alter the perception many consumers had with the term “waterbed”. Customer after customer would enter the showroom asking to see the famous Mud Bed, not really knowing it was a waterbed. Only after the customer had reclined on the bed to enjoy the relaxing massage and video presentation, would the sleep consultant reveal the true identity of what they were experiencing. The looks of shock and ear-to-ear smiles on the consumer reinforced the viability of this sleep option.

Mark Miller, SSA Chairman and InnoMax CEO

Mark Miller, SSA Chairman and InnoMax CEO

Based upon the premise that air and water can be refined to create some of the most comfortable and exciting products produced to date, InnoMax continues to develop both categories. Mark Miller, InnoMax President/CEO and current Specialty Sleep Association Chairman, continues to focus on product innovation.  One example is the InnoMax Waterbed Day Bed, called the Seaside youth bed, with all six drawers facing one side. This design created a new space saving bed that would fit in smaller rooms yet provide ultimate storage and comfort. They introduced Convert-A-Fit linens that wouldn’t come off until you took them off, solving some customer complaints with early waterbeds. Wooden waterbed frames moved over for the InnoMax Frame Free Sponge Bed. The creation of the Drain Hero Waterbed Maintenance Kit brought long term flotation owner’s the benefit of easy mobility with an electric drain pump and all the accessories needed to move a waterbed without hassle. The Convert-A-Bed modular support system allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to the individual sleepers own comfort level with the choice of Memory Cell, Latex, InnoCoils, Fluid or Air suspension. InnoMax’s latest development is the fully assembled Rolled N’ Ready Freedom Air system that allow dealers to drop ship, directly to the consumer, a fully assembled air bed that is plug-and-go instantly.

Many adjustable bed choices

Many adjustable bed choices

Maximum Innovation is still alive and well at InnoMax. The fast paced heyday of the waterbed may be long gone, but the benefits of specialty sleep are very much alive. In their never ending quest to provide sleepers with the best rest of their life, InnoMax continues to usher in specialty sleep products that offer their dealers a competitive advantage with unique selling propositions, and innovative sleep solutions that allow today’s consumers to enjoy the amazing benefits of specialty sleep for a healthier and happier lifestyle.

 It takes a real passion to love an aardvark, but at InnoMax, the idea of being different just means being better.

This is just one of the fun videos you’ll find on the InnoMax site - click above to watch

This is just one of the fun videos you’ll find on the InnoMax site - click above to watch

The Squishiest, Sweetest Sleep

The inventor of the water bed is reprising and updating it for a Casper world.
By Penelope Green for the New York Times Dec. 6, 2018

The original design for the water bed by Charles Hall. Credit via Charles Hall

The original design for the water bed by Charles Hall. Credit via Charles Hall

He used Jell-O and cornstarch at first, but the squashy gunk, poured into a vinyl bladder, was too heavy to move. And it began to stink after a few days. Then he tried water. “Rancid Jell-O Led to First Water Bed,” a newspaper headline proclaimed at the time.

It was 1967, the Summer of Love, and Charles Hall, a student at San Francisco State University, was experimenting with flotation furniture, as he called it then, for an engineering class. (He got an “A.”) The following year, after some tweaks, his eight-foot-square heated “Pleasure Pit” debuted at a gallery on Leavenworth Street, as part of a show called “The Happy Happening.”

Mr. Hall was living in Haight-Ashbury, in an apartment in a listing Victorian that rented for $67. It was August, a slow news cycle, Mr. Hall recalled, and the Pleasure Pit made news around the country.

It was Mr. Hall’s idea that the contraption was both bed and chair, the only piece of furniture you’d ever need. Mattress companies rebuffed him in those early days, as did department stores, so he sold it himself, using his Rambler station wagon to deliver beds to local head shops, a member of Jefferson Airplane, a Smothers brother (he can’t remember which), a nudist colony (which bought two) and, inevitably, Hugh Hefner, who ordered one for the Playboy Mansion, upholstered in green velvet.

“I think it got a lot of use there,” Mr. Hall said. But he himself was no sybarite; he was earnest about his invention’s benefits: how weightlessness contributed to health and well-being. “I was trying to make a better sleep experience,” he said.

Eventually Mr. Hall and a partner found investors, and their company, Innerspace Environments, opened more than 30 stores throughout California. Though Mr. Hall patented his heated, lined version, which he sold on a sturdy redwood frame, there were many, many imitators, offering cheaply made, leak-prone knockoffs for a fraction of the cost. The first “Pleasure Bed,” as Mr. Hall called his model, went for $350.

Mr. Hall remembered one shady seller whose product line also included “orgy butter” and fake theological doctoral degrees. There were rumors of electrocutions, and floors collapsing from the weight of all that water pouring out of defective mattresses (a king-size bed might weigh as much as 2,300 pounds, some newspapers reported); landlords got the jimjams. (In New York City, they remain leery: Most standard leases still contain a “no-water-bed rider,” said Zach Gutierrez, a consultant at, which collects real estate data.)

Sweet dreams: Charles Hall, the inventor of the water bed, on an Afloat Water Bed in his home on Bainbridge Island, Wash.  Credit  Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Sweet dreams: Charles Hall, the inventor of the water bed, on an Afloat Water Bed in his home on Bainbridge Island, Wash. Credit Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

By 1975, Mr. Hall’s company was in bankruptcy, not because of the competition, he said, but rather mismanagement by his investors, and he had moved on to other ventures like solar showers, inflatable kayaks and camping mattresses.

The water bed evolved nonetheless, shaking off its sleazy associations as a lame sexual prop and sight gag. By 1984, Waterbed Magazine fretted that its customers were aging, “edging toward the 40-year old category.” In 1986, according to the Waterbed Manufacturers Association, water bed sales reached nearly $2 billion — between 12 and 15 percent of the American mattress market — and retailers like Waterbed City, based in South Florida, were making millions of dollars.

While Mr. Hall was always touted as the father of the industry, he did not share in those riches, though he continued to advise a number of companies, and to design improvements to the original product, as did others. Gone were the shin-nicking wooden frames, and the early sloshings, as water beds went waveless and mainstream, encased in soft-edged mattress forms that looked just like their coil-filled cousins.

You could buy baby water beds, and suites of water bed furniture, including one wince-making number in dark wood paneling, the “Captain Pedestal,” that looked like a high boy married to a schooner.

By 1991, one of every five mattresses sold was a water bed. That same year, Mr. Hall won a lawsuit against a Taiwanese manufacturer for patent infringement. A jury awarded him $4.8 million, plus interest, which he shared with investors who had chipped in for his legal fees. “It was about the principle of the thing more than anything else,” he said.

‘They Last Forever’

Yet only a few years later, water beds had lost their luster. Traditional mattress companies figured out how to approximate the comforts of a water bed with pillow tops and foam, and most people turned away, though there were stalwarts who clung to their vinyl oddities like gear heads with an eight-track.

Water-bed manufacturers found other markets, like dairy-cow farmers, who had discovered that the soft structures protect their generally prone animals’ joints (dairy cows do their best work lying down). Wistful articles began to appear about the dwindling number of water-bed salesmen, and their loyal, aging customers. Last year, someone started a GoFundMe campaign to buy a bed from a dealer in Tampa, Fla., who was planning to shutter his 46-year-old business, raising $167.

One staunch holdout is Roland Formica, who opened his water-bed business, Odds-N-Ends, just north of Berkeley, Calif., in 1969 (he also sold antiques, leather goods and head shop accouterments). Though he closed his physical storefront in 2016, he continues to sell water beds online, nearly 50 this year, along with parts.

“A lonely soldier,” is how Allen Salkin, a New York Times reporter who had grown up on a water bed (a bar mitzvah present, and it vibrated), described Mr. Formica in a 2003 profile. (Six years ago, Mr. Salkin broke down and bought a water bed from Mr. Formica for his Lower East Side apartment; it is currently for sale, however, since his girlfriend has vetoed its move to their new home in California.)

“If I sell you a bed,” Mr. Formica said the other day, “you’re not going to need another for 10 or 15 years. They last forever. Who the hell would go into a business like that? It’s a predicament.”

On a recent stormy afternoon, Mr. Hall, now 75, sat in the glassy living room of his pristine bungalow on Bainbridge Island, Wash., overlooking Puget Sound and showed off his water-bed scrapbook, a kitschy trove of vintage print media.

There were brochures for Innerspace Environments that promised in purple prose that the water bed, its photo accessorized with the requisite female nude, was “a friend in love with you, beckoning you to grovel in rapturous sensual splendor.” There was a copy of Maxim magazine’s history of sex — “four billion years of quality nookie” — which noted Mr. Hall’s patent application. Playboy’s May 1971 issue showcased his velvet upholstered number, along with a glowing Lucite version made by Bloomingdale’s.

Soft sell: brochures and advertisements from Mr. Hall's collection.  Credit  Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Soft sell: brochures and advertisements from Mr. Hall's collection. Credit Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

It was the 50th anniversary, more or less, of the water bed’s beginnings, and Mr. Hall, a soft-spoken man in a gray fleece and bluejeans, was newly bullish on his invention, which he has reprised and updated for a Casper world.

Three years ago, two of Mr. Hall’s long-ago colleagues, Keith Koenig of City Furniture (né Waterbed City) and Michael Geraghty, a former water-bed manufacturer whose company was bought by Sealy and who has sent water beds to burn victims in Russia, decided, as Mr. Koenig said, “that it was time. I said to Michael, ‘Get Charlie!’”

Mr. Hall’s next-gen water bed is called Afloat. A queen-size bed costs $1,995 to $2,395, which includes a heater, a kit to fill it up and drain it (a 25-foot hose is included) and a metal frame. A canvas sling helps to heft the deflated mattress around. (An unfilled queen weighs about 40 pounds; with water, it’s about 1,200 pounds. All Afloat beds fall within building-code floor-loading requirements, Mr. Geraghty said, adding that 1,200 pounds is roughly equivalent to six or seven people sitting around your dining room table.)

Since July, Mr. Koenig has been selling Afloats out of three of his South Florida stores to test the market. “The first order was maybe 100,” he said, “and they sold out pretty quickly.”

Next month, Mr. Hall and his colleagues said, you’ll be able to buy Afloat online. They promise a 100-night guarantee with a full refund, as Casper does, and free shipping. Mr. Hall said that he hopes Afloat’s market will be not just aging, achy boomers, but Gen Xers and millennials. “It’s like salmon,” he said. “They’ll return to the place where they were spawned.”

No Critters

And so, to bed.

Mr. Hall, who has spent most of his adult life sleeping on a water bed, lives alone with two Afloats: a dual mattress in his guest room, with side-by-side bladders you can heat or cool to your taste, and a king-size, single-bladder bed in his own room, a lofty extension he built a few years ago.

With 40 patents to his name, Mr. Hall also has houses in California (Sonoma and Santa Barbara) and nine sports cars, including a 1966 E-Type Jaguar Roadster, an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and a silver Mercedes coupe. He has two grown daughters; their mother, Suzanne, died 25 years ago of ovarian cancer. “She was my soul-mate,” he said.

Afloat’s logo on a bed in Mr. Hall’s home.  Credit  Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Afloat’s logo on a bed in Mr. Hall’s home. Credit Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Both Afloats looked perfectly normal, set upon low-slung platform beds. Mr. Hall, a collector of post-Mao Chinese art, whose taste runs to West Coast minimalism, had dressed them nicely. I took my shoes off and lay down, as Mr. Hall extolled a water-bed benefit I’d never considered: no critters.

“If you weigh a regular mattress after it’s been used for a few years, it will be heavier than when you bought it,” he said. “That’s because it will be filled with your sweat and skin cells, and the dust mites and bedbugs that feed on them.”

Moving right along, the bed felt great: There was a bit of motion, a kind of floaty up-and-down sensation.

“It’s got full cradling,” Mr. Hall said with pride.

“Two things are better on a water bed,” an early ad once announced. “One of them is sleeping.”

But wasn’t water-bed sex rather a challenge, I wondered, given the instability of the surface?

Mr. Hall blushed. “Because this water bed fills in any open spots, the motion is suppressed substantially,” he said. “The cuddling and position aspects are far better than anything you could imagine.”

I asked about his marketing plan: sex or comfort? “I think for our generation, it’s comfort,” he said. “Maybe sex for the millennials.”

A model atop the “Pleasure Island” water bed designed by Aaron Donner in a photo from 1971.  Credit  Heinz Kluetmeier/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

A model atop the “Pleasure Island” water bed designed by Aaron Donner in a photo from 1971. Credit Heinz Kluetmeier/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

In the mid-’70s, David Rockwell, the designer of hotels, hospitals and playgrounds, Broadway shows and a couple of Oscar ceremonies, slept on a water bed in his attic dorm room. He was in architecture school at Syracuse University then, and he chose the bed mostly because it was low and fit the look he was after: He had wrapped his room in red burlap, and the décor included a fish tank, a butterfly chair and a pair of Mexican huaraches.

“A bed that comes with its own climate is interesting,” Mr. Rockwell said in a phone interview, noting Afloat’s temperature control. “A microclimate! When it’s hot, you want an ice-cold drink. There is something kind of fabulous about being able to cool or heat the mattress. In a hotel context, I don’t know if it checks the box of dependable and affordable. It certainly checks the box of being different and quirky.”

There are still fortunes to be made in the bedroom. Mattresses are a $15 billion industry, according to Furniture Today, a trade publication. Last week, as it happened, David Perry, Furniture Today’s mattress editor, was in Orlando, Fla., for a conference, and he and his colleagues spent an afternoon at a City Furniture there, rolling around on the new water beds. He took notes.

“One retailer said, ‘The ’80s are calling, they want their water bed back.’” Mr. Perry told me. “Another said, ‘This is retro, and how hot is retro right now? Vinyl records are back, why not water beds?’”

“Obviously I’ve laid down on maybe thousands of beds over the last 30 years,” Mr. Perry continued. “These felt great. You could feel the water. You’re literally rocking in the water. That might be a ‘love it or hate it’ feeling. They harken back to the glory days of water beds, but modern technology makes them more comfortable than the water beds of yesteryear. These are positioned as premium products, a smart move, as consumers really want better sleep, not cheaper sleep. I think the timing is fantastic. Water beds were the original disrupters. They used to call inner springs ‘dead beds.’”

Warren Shoulberg, a retailing journalist and consultant to the home furnishings industry, also thinks the time is ripe for the return of this aqueous sleep aid.

“This generation doesn’t have the association that water beds eventually got as a place where lonely single men slept, in hopes of luring young ladies into their homes,” Mr. Shoulberg said. “The other thing is that consumers have no idea what’s inside most mattresses. It’s all gobbledygook. It’s this great mystery, and the industry loves it that way. It thrives on that confusion. The water bed is simple. It’s a big bag that holds water.”

Penelope Green is a reporter for Styles. She has been a reporter for the Home section, editor of Styles of The Times — an early iteration of Styles — and a story editor at the Times magazine. @greenpnyt • Facebook

Sleeping Well in the Age of Stress

By Bridget Cassidy, September 25, 2018, for Consumer Advocate

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It’s 3:00 a.m. and you’re wide awake.

In six hours you’re going to give the biggest presentation of your career. That is, after you get your kids out of bed, dressed, and off to school. Oh, right. You have to drop your husband at the airport. What else? You start your to-do list. Did you pay your water bill? What about the kids’ camp fees? Did you buy cereal yesterday?

Stop! If only you could nod off. You close your eyes, hoping that action in itself stops the wheels in your brain from turning. Suddenly, you hear a drip of water. Your tired mind turns toward the leaky bathroom faucet.

Pause. Wait for it.

We’ve all been there right? It’s terrible. On the other hand, we know what a big night of sleep can do for you. Our energy levels reset, allowing us to invite new possibilities into our lives. There’s nothing like it, especially when you can get the big sleep every night.

Unfortunately, many of us are not getting enough sleep. The American Sleep Association estimates that as many as 70 million adults in the United States could suffer from some kind of sleep disorder that either shortens the duration of their sleep or makes them wake up unrested.

Sleep deprivation can have several different causes, including health conditions, lifestyle choices, and stress. Stress is a big one. There are now different treatment options based on scientific research available for various sleep disorders. Sleep hygiene, for instance, suggests establishing a bedtime routine and schedule, and adopting other good sleep habits could improve the incidence of sleep disorders like insomnia. Bear in mind, however, that sleep hygiene alone may not be enough to treat such conditions.

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We Learned From The Best

We wanted to find out more about the world of sleep and how it regenerates our bodies, as well as the common causes of sleep deprivation and available treatment options. So we spoke to a leading expert in the field of sleep medicine.

Dr. Rohit Budhiraja is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the director of Brigham and Women's Hospital's sleep clinic, and a faculty member in Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in Boston, MA.

Budhiraja’s main field of study is sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing disorders. However, he was able to go over everything from how sleep helps regenerate the body and mind. He also explained how temperature, light, and calming (what he calls TLC) is so important to get a good night’s sleep. “On average, most people need seven or eight hours of sleep,” says Budhiraja.

Let us share what we learned with you, starting with the basics.

What is Sleep?

Animals as small as the honeybee and as large as the blue whale fall asleep every day and perform noticeably better when well-rested. But what exactly causes us to feel sleepy and doze off? And how did most of the animal kingdom evolve the need for sleep in the first place?

Here’s the succinct definition of sleep taken from the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, “...the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored.”

There is evidence that sleep was handed down to most animals from a common ancestor nearly 700 million years ago. According to a New York Times profile on a 2014 study, “our nightly slumbers evolved from the rise and fall of our tiny oceangoing ancestors, as they swam up to the surface of the sea at twilight and then sank in a sleepy fall through the night.”

There are many reasons why this adaptation evolved. For one, it’s possible that sleep is meant to keep animals inactive at times when they were unlikely to find food and when their predators were most active. Sleep also affords the benefit of repairing and restoring the body, which allows animals to avoid predators more effectively and find food in their waking hours. Take a look at honeybees, which perform a “waggle dance” to tell other bees where food can be found. When bees are sleep-deprived, their dance is not as precise, making it more difficult for other bees to follow their directions.

35.2% of adults 18 and older report sleeping less than 7 hours every night.
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)

“Some historians and researchers believe that, centuries ago, humans followed biphasic or polyphasic schedules,” says Budhiraja. Biphasic sleep is when someone sleeps two separate times during a 24-hour period whereas polyphasic sleep is when someone sleeps multiple times (more than twice) in a 24-hour period. “Industrial Revolution and artificial lighting may have forced people to adopt monophasic schedules.” He went on to clarify that there is little evidence to suggest a polyphasic schedule is a good idea. As for biphasic sleep, there are several countries and cultures which still practice an afternoon nap or ‘siesta’. 

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While the exact mechanism for how sleep happens in humans is still unclear, the broad strokes are these: the hypothalamus generates the circadian rhythm—the inner clock that says we should sleep at night and be awake during the day—and triggers the release of melatonin, a compound that signals to our brain when we should be asleep.

Meanwhile, as our brain works hard during the day, another compound called adenosine is released by astrocytes. Adenosine accumulates in the brain and eventually reaches levels that trigger drowsiness. Melatonin and adenosine work together—and sometimes independently—to make us feel tired and crave sleep. When we’re asleep, adenosine levels decrease while melatonin stays high. When the circadian rhythm says it’s time to wake up, melatonin decreases and we become alert.

Why We Sleep


We know much more about why humans need sleep than other animals. One of the benefits humans get from sleep is the consolidation of memories. When we’re awake, we’re receiving sensory input from the things we see, hear, feel, and our brain forms connections between what is happening to us in real time and what we remember. According to Budhiraja, when we fall asleep our brains work on reclassifying the information we received during the day and cataloging our memories.

Much like a librarian takes the books in the return cart and places them in the correct shelf, the brain sorts through the events of the day and classifies the information into new areas. Not only does the brain place the information in the correct areas during sleep, it also removes unnecessary information by getting rid of those superfluous neural connections.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, And I have promises to keep, But neither the woods nor those promises Are as important as some restorative sleep. - Dr. Budhiraja's variation on Robert Frost's poem


Another reason we need sleep is to restore our bodies. “During sleep,” says Budhiraja, “our bodies relax and muscle tone decreases.” And when our muscles relax, the damaged tissue regenerates more efficiently. That’s why a good night’s sleep feels so good after an exhausting workout session.

Budhiraja goes on to explain that research points towards REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep as the stage where much of the muscle recovery and memory consolidation happens. REM sleep—also called Stage R—is characterized by being the stage at which we dream. Typically, REM sleep happens 90 minutes after we first fall asleep.

First, we cycle through non-REM (NREM) stages of sleep—N1, N2, and N3—which bring us deeper and deeper into rest as our brain activity slows down. Once the REM stage is over, the cycle from stage N1 to stage R restarts, in a repetitive process that lasts approximately 90 minutes and happens multiple times per night.

“Your genes decide if you’re a 6-hour sleeper or a 9-hour sleeper,” says Budhiraja. Though doctors do recommend getting between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The body loses its rhythm without a fixed sleep and wake-up schedule.
-Dr. Rohit Budhiraja 

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Common Sleep Disorders

Though there are dozens of sleep disorders, as listed by the third edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3), below we will discuss the three most common sleep disorders: insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.


An individual is said to suffer from insomnia if they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, if they wake up too early in the morning, or if the sleep they have is non-restorative. Almost 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia every year.

While primary insomnia—that is, insomnia that doesn’t appear to be caused by another disorder—is a problem for many people, in most cases, it is caused by or appears alongside a wide range of conditions, such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. 

Dr. Rohit Budhiraja with patient

Dr. Rohit Budhiraja with patient

Treatments for Insomnia Bad habits or poor lifestyle choices are some of the main causes of insomnia. Stress, no bedtime routine, irregular work schedules, and side effects from prescription medications can be the primary causes of this sleep disorder.

Sleep Hygiene is a collection of lifestyle changes that can improve sleep. These include: establishing a bedtime routine, eliminating the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and certain foods close to your bedtime, getting regular exercise and losing weight, limiting daytime nap times to 30 minutes, creating a welcoming sleep environment, and getting a lot of natural light during the day. 

If you continue to suffer from insomnia, other treatments include cognitive therapy such as light therapy or relaxation techniques. Finally, prescription or over-the-counter sleep medications can help you get to sleep but may also bring on other side effects.

One in three over 30 year olds have sleep apnea.

– Dr. Rohit Budhiraja

Sleep Apnea

Budhiraja then discussed sleep apnea. About one in three people over the age of 30 may have some degree of sleep apnea, with 13% of men and 6% of women having moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing. “During an apnea episode, the muscles at the back of the throat and the tongue block the airway, causing the sleeper to stop breathing for seconds at a time,” says Budhiraja.

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School reports obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, raises your heart rate and increases your blood pressure, putting stress on your heart.

One of the most notable symptoms of OSA is snoring. “It’s extremely rare for this condition to be fatal,”says Budhiraja. However, OSA is related to a host of other issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, increased traffic accidents, depression, anxiety, and, of course, insomnia. Treating sleep apnea, affirms Budhiraja, can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Treatments for OSA The treatments for mild cases of sleep apnea focus more on making lifestyle changes that may be interrupting your sleep. These include losing weight (if you are obese or overweight), exercising on a regular basis, reducing alcohol consumption (if not stopping altogether), and quitting smoking. Other suggested treatments include changing your sleep position and using a nasal decongestant or allergy medication. The most common treatment for severe OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, prescribed by your physician. The CPAP machine facilitates the constant flow of air into your throat so your airway remains open while you sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome

The third sleep disorder is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) that frequently disrupts sleep and affects 2-15% of the population. Sufferers describe an unpleasant and sometimes painful tingling or cramping sensation in the legs when resting or falling asleep at night. Moving the legs alleviates the symptoms but they quickly return when the movement stops.

The pain and discomfort often keeps people from sleeping at night. Researchers are still investigating what causes RLS, but there may be a link to iron deficiency, diabetes, high blood pressure, and ADHD, among other conditions. “Some types of antidepressants may also cause RLS,” says Budhiraja. 

Treatments for RLS 

Budhiraja recommends massaging your legs, taking a warm bath or shower, and doing light exercise and stretching to relieve the symptoms. More strenuous exercise, however, can worsen RLS symptoms and sleep quality, and should be avoided within 5-6 hours of bedtime. He also recommends making certain lifestyle changes including the elimination of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes from your daily routine.

There are prescription medications available to treat RLS. One class of such medications are dopamine agonists that mimic the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the brain. 

Sleep Deprivation in Adults

In 2014, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified sleep deprivation as an epidemic in the United States with more than 70 million adults currently suffering from the condition. That’s one third of the U.S. adult population.

Groups with the highest percentage of sleep deprivation are Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders at 46.3% and Blacks at 45.8% then Asians at 37.5%, Hispanics at 34.5%, and Whites at 33.4%.


Sleep deprivation can affect all aspects of our lives, and some effects are much more serious than simply nodding off at work or being irritable. For one, there is evidence that losing sleep regularly is associated with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, arthritis, depression, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes occurrences were higher in U.S. adults who suffer from sleep deprivation or what CDC calls “Short Sleep Duration,” which is less than 7 hours of sleep per night.

Recently, John Hopkins published an infographic with four categories of effects of sleep deprivation. They are: weight, health, brain effects, and safety. For instance, did you know the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is three times as high for those who are chronically sleep deprived?

Health & Weight

Some study findings show that lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from all causes including cardiovascular disease.

You are also more at risk for obesity due to the hormonal imbalance introduced by sleep deprivation. You crave sweet, salty, and starchy foods because you have higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of leptin, the appetite-control hormone. Sleep deprivation can also affect your brain. You have a 33% higher risk for dementia if you suffer from lack of sleep.


Sleeplessness is also connected to other severe consequences. It is estimated that drowsy driving causes 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the United States.

There is even evidence that sleep deprivation may make you less empathetic.

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Lack of Sleep in Kids and Young Adults

The Little One is Tired

According to the Children’s Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 1 to 4% of children suffer from sleep apnea, including kids between the ages of 2 and 8 years old. It is a common belief that children will eventually grow out of pediatric sleep disorders, but new evidence suggests that may not be the case. Studies have shown sleep apnea is linked to childhood obesity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cognitive functioning ability.

Some mommy bloggers made suggestions on how to establish and keep an ongoing bedtime routine with your youngsters. Most bloggers agree you should stick with a nightly schedule and sleep hygiene routine that includes taking a bath, brushing teeth, cleaning the bedroom, and dimming the lights.

We start our routine at 7:30 pm. I don’t like to rush them, so I try to get them to relax and wind down at least an hour before the desired kids take a bath or shower, have a snack (no chocolate or sweets!), brush their teeth, read, and then it’s time for me or Dad to tuck them in.
- Jeannette Kaplun, Mommy Blogger at Hispana Global and mother of two.

Sleepless in School

The recommended amount of sleep for high school and college students is 8-10 hours per night, with anything from 8½ (short sleep duration) to 11 hours considered appropriate. According to the CDC, nearly 69% of high school students sleep less than 8 hours a night, with an astounding 76.6% of seniors not getting enough sleep.

Additionally, up to 60% of college students do not get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Another study found that sleep-deprived students were more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior such as drinking, fast driving, and getting into physical fights. Sleep deprivation is also a good predictor of poor academic and athletic performance and drowsy driving.

College students who experienced even one additional night of poor sleep per week were more likely to drop a course (10%) and see a drop in their cumulative GPA (by 0.02). Sleep deprivation ranked the same if not higher than other factors that negatively affect academic success including binge drinking and drug use.

To get better sleep, it is recommended that high school and college students make the following changes:

  • Set and stick to a bedtime routine and sleep schedule

  • Practice sleep hygiene

  • Create a peaceful sleep environment

  • Eliminate caffeine three hours before bedtime

  • Avoid using mobile devices, computer, or tv 1-2 hours before going to sleep

  • Don’t go to bed hungry, instead eat a small snack

  • Avoid working out right before bedtime

  • Meditate or practice light yoga to relax

Other age groups affected by sleep loss include the elderly and people with certain diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Aging can affect our sleep patterns due to a number of factors including hormonal changes associated with aging and the increased likelihood of taking more medications and experiencing side effects. It is recommended that you work with your primary care physician to determine the best course of treatment.

Work Productivity Takes A Hit

The average U.S. worker loses 11 days of productivity per year due to insomnia. That’s $2,280 per year. The total loss is a whopping $63.2 billion per year. What this could mean for you is missing out on a promotion or a superior performance review.

Unfortunately, our corporate culture only contributes to this by promoting the idea that sleep is not a required commodity. In other words, we think sleep is a luxury saved for vacations and weekends, not something we need for proper health.

A few companies have begun to pay attention to the field of sleep medicine and recent research that has shown the negative effects of poor sleep on employee health, work productivity, and ballooning insurance costs. A recently Fatigue Cost Calculator developed by Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the National Safety Council can provide estimates of the cost of poor sleep health for an employer. Google, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson, to name a few, are some of these companies.

At Google, for instance, sleep experts have been invited to the company's locations to share information with employees regarding sleep deprivation, jet lag, and the restorative power of deep sleep.

Light is the enemy of sleep.
- Dr. Budhiraja

More From The Best

Budhiraja says that sleep works to regenerate our bodies including our brains and our muscles. The brain progresses through different stages of sleep every 90 minutes or so: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM stage, which is the dream phase of sleep.

“During sleep, muscle tone goes down,” says Budhiraja. “Relaxation of muscle is even greater during the dream stage of sleep.” He explains that many areas of the brain also relax during the sleep and the rate of brain metabolism decreases, except in REM phase, where the brain activity and energy use may be even higher than when awake. REM and non-REM sleep may be responsible for different aspects of memory consolidation.

A Little TLC

Based on his research, Budhiraja recommends you make three lifestyle changes scientifically proven to improve your sleep. He calls it TLC or temperature, light, and calming your mind to get better sleep.

The cooler your body, the better sleep you can get.
-Dr. Budhiraja

First, there is temperature. When you go to sleep, you do not want your room too warm or too cold. The ideal room temperature to promote better sleep is between 65 and 70 degrees.

Light is another factor proven to affect sleep. If there is too much light in your bedroom, especially artificial light, it can stop the production of melatonin in your brain, the hormone related to sleep. “Light is the enemy of sleep,” says Budhiraja. Cellphones and other mobile devices are blue light sources and major disruptors of sleep. “Smartphones are shown to decrease sleep by up to half an hour.” Budhiraja suggests putting your phone down one to two hours before you go to bed.

Calming your mind completes the treatment trio and is also something we can control, although it may be difficult for some to do. Meditating or deep breathing before going to sleep has been found to decrease anxiety and depression. In fact, studies report meditation is associated with decreased activity in the default mode network or DMN, which is a part of the brain related to mind wandering and thinking about the self.  

Finally, not having a regular sleep routine, i.e., going to bed at the same time each night, can throw off your sleep pattern. Our bodies naturally start increasing melatonin a few hours before our scheduled bedtime. If you keep changing that time, you can affect your body’s natural sleep hormone production.

Medication and Treatments


Some popular holistic supplements include melatonin, valerian root, and herbal teas such as chamomile tea. According to Budhiraja, melatonin is likely the most studied sleep supplement. As a sleep hormone produced naturally in the body, it tells the brain when it’s time to fall asleep. The dosage is up for debate—over the counter pills are usually available in 1mg or 3mg or higher doses—starting at a lower dose and increasing the dose if needed is a good idea. Melatonin is considered to be a fairly well-tolerated sleep treatment; however, it is not a cure-all for sleep disorders and may only be effective for certain individuals. It is more likely to be effective in individuals who have delayed sleep phase syndrome- a condition in which people fall asleep late and wake up late. It can be also effective in preventing or treating jet lag.

Other alternative solutions include making the bedroom as dark as possible and/ or the addition of a white noise machine to your sleep routine. It is estimated that nearly 75% of Americans said that a quiet room is important to getting good sleep. Lastly, there is taking your grandmother’s age-old advice: drink a warm cup of milk before going to bed.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a very effective therapy where a psychologist or another trained professional can help you identify and address your thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to poor sleep. It even can be delivered through online programs.


Over-the-counter medications include diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Aleve PM, etc.) or doxylamine succinate (Unisom). These sleep aids have side effects including drowsiness and leaving you feeling groggy the next day. Furthermore, the body can quickly develop tolerance to some of these medications.

Prescription Medication

Finally, there are prescription medications. According to Budhiraja, medications should generally be your last resort in seeking help to get better sleep, and if used, should usually be used over short-term. They can cause several side effects- drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, grogginess or feeling as if drugged. In addition, after taking some of these medicines, people may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that they do not know they are doing- including driving. The next morning, they may not remember that they did anything during the night. “The body can also develop tolerance to these medications, requiring progressively increasing doses or more potent medicines,” he says.

Before Turning Off the Lights

Most of us have faced a sleepless night or two in our lifetimes. We’ve laid awake and listened to a leaky faucet go drip, drip, drip into the wee hours of the night. Worse, we are one of the 70 million people in the United States who suffer from a lack of sleep or who have a sleep disorder.

We’re tired new parents, or college students cramming for an exam, or a software engineer who works 60 hours or more a week, or are getting older and are finding it harder to sleep.

Seventy million: that’s more than a third of the population across the nation.

Scientific studies have proven the health ramifications of sleep deprivation and what it does to our bodies, minds, and everyday lives. It is an epidemic that not only affects us as adults but is also affecting our nation’s kids.

We can take countermeasures to get more and better sleep, steps that have been proven to work by scientific studies. We can give ourselves some TLC to promote better sleep, which can, in turn, restore us to our full capacity. Because really, don’t we just want our best sleep every night, especially in this age of high stress? We want that great sleep where we wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Co-Authors: Scott Smith, Community Editor, and Mayra Paris, Associate Editor