Worksite Wellness

A Pillow Instead of a Pill: A New Approach to Sleep


To go without sleep is a no-go. To go too many days or weeks with too few hours of sleep is to weaken the body and worry the mind; to grow weary from the physical cost and psychological consequence of not having enough rest; to grow fat from changes in sleep—to develop belly fat—as a result of lack of sleep, leading to other complications such as high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and early onset of Type 2 diabetes; to grow depressed and anxious, too, because of a downward spiral in a person’s sleep cycle.

Companies must not, therefore, close their eyes if their workers do not get sufficient shut-eye. Put another way, it is better to be in the company of workers who sleep well than it is to run a company staffed by workers who need more sleep.

The challenge for companies is one of choice. Or rather, choosing what works best to improve sleep—which is not an easy choice. Not when the choices (plural) include pills, supplements, tinctures, oils, balms, and creams. Not when the choices include sleep masks, fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, noise-cancelling headphones, and white noise machines. Not when the choices include treatments from the East and tests from the West. Not when the choices total $28 billion in sales.

What if the choice is an item whose name is a disyllabic word of four consonants and two vowels? What if the item is a 6-letter word known as a pillow?

What if, indeed, because the right pillow can be the best investment toward achieving and enjoying consistently good sleep. According to researchers at Kozaye, a pillow is indispensable not only to how well we sleep but whether we can sleep at all.

What, then, makes for the right pillow?

To ask the question is to know why the question matters. Which is to say research—the research of studying sleep—reveals why sleep is not only a state of mind but a statement of math; a quantity that determines quality; a point of qualification regarding health and wellness; the point being: We need 7-9 hours of daily sleep.

Maintaining that amount of sleep depends on what we do to accommodate how we prefer to sleep, as sleep preferences (back, stomach, and side) vary.

Understand, however, that accommodate does not require us to appropriate massive funds on accommodations. Meaning: Expensive mattresses and sheets, handmade beds, blankets, furnishings, and lifestyle accessories—all of these things photograph well, but few if any improve health and wellness.

Looks, in other words, are not proof of anything more than a good-looking bedroom.

Look, instead, for features that aid sleep. Look, for example, at how a pillow can regulate sleep by regulating the surface temperature of how a person sleeps. Look at the design and construction of a pillow.

Look by touching, so as to feel the way a pillow ventilates air, stays cool, and absorbs moisture. Look at the materials, or rather, look for should not be there: junk.

Look for natural fibers, not cheap (in terms of quality) stuffing. Look for value, which is visible in the stitching, style, and strength of any health-related product.

We must not rest—we cannot rest—until we resolve the challenges that deprive us of rest.

We cannot continue to be awake but not alert. Not when the price of prolonged restlessness is dangerous in general and deadly in particular, of deathly significance to the person whose lack of sleep may lead to his loss of life. Not when the price is an irrevocable loss, leaving a child without a parent, a partner without a spouse, a family without a provider. Not when the price is impossible to pay but too prominent to ignore.

What we cannot ignore is the fact that sleep deprivation is the enemy of wellness. An enemy in the guise of a thief, stealing people’s strength; atrophying muscles and minds; erasing memories altogether, until there is no muscle memory for exercise and no ability to recall the most basic of facts; preventing people from exercising judgment, in or outside the workplace, which leaves everyone—including the proverbial man (or woman) on the street—vulnerable to injury or death.

We deserve to luxuriate in sleep.

We also need to stop treating sleep as a luxury, because we cannot afford to ruin our health and shorten our lives by going for weeks or months without sleep. A deficit of that kind is inescapable, deepening each minute of each waking hour

We deserve the benefits of deep sleep.

We need companies to emphasize these benefits as much as we need workers to enjoy these benefits.

The two, employers and employees, must unite to, pardon the expression, turn this dream into a reality; so we may all sleep better, and finally enter the dream state of optimal sleep.

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