Over the summer I spent some time in Vermont. My days were filled with walks in the woods, floats down bucolic rivers, and dips in bracing, ice-cold swimming holes. At night, I slept like a baby, far more deeply and restfully than I typically do at home. I thus made a mental note to see what kind of mattress I was sleeping on at our Airbnb, so that I might get the same one for myself.
Then I spent a day on the trip that was closer to my life back home: more sedentary, more indoors, more time sitting around. That night, I slept just like I do back home — more fitfully.
It was, of course, not the mattress that had improved my sleep after all — it was the fresh air, nature, and physical activity.
In the modern age, we seek better sleep with an unprecedented rabidity, and the mattress industry has exploded to meet this yen, introducing an ever-mounting menu of options which promise a night of restful slumber. There are mattresses made of special foams; mattresses that allow you to electronically fine-tune the firmness; mattresses that cool you, warm you, even track your sleep.
Yet the problem with the quality of most people’s sleep has little to do with their mattresses, and nearly everything to do with the fact that they aren’t getting outside and aren’t exerting their bodies.
This “I-Need-a-New-Mattress” fallacy, in which we think a new/different product, tool, or relationship will solve our problem, when there’s really a much bigger underlying issue that requires fixing, occurs outside the bedroom too.
Turnkey solutions are alluring, but rarely what we most need. Rather than reaching for an easy-to-apply Band-Aid, the essential answer is to engage in the effortful task of addressing the wound which lies beneath.
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