Ep 10: The Atmosphere of Sleep with the Sleep Sherpa, Ben Trapskin

Ben Trapskin is Founder of The Sleep Sherpa, a website dedicated to educating people about the importance of sleep and how to get a better night’s rest. He was inspired to start the site when he was 36 years old and going through some major life changes. Between kids and moving and other life disruptions, he found he and his wife were only getting a few hours of sleep a night.

Ben saw multiple medical professionals without much luck until he found a psychiatrist with an expertise in sleep medicine. “The healthcare system in the US is such that usually things have to escalate before you see a specialist… by being persistent I was able to get teamed up with the right professional.”

Sleeping pills got him on the right track. “Sleeping pills have their place,” Ben told me. “Obviously you don’t want to be dependent on those, but they addressed the situation at the time until I was able to find the tools and resources that allowed me to get better sleep on my own.”

The Sleep Sherpa reviews all kinds of products meant to enhance sleep, with a focus on mattresses. I asked Ben whether I’m crazy or are mattresses rarely or barely mentioned in discussions of insomnia.

“The medical community, they don’t always look to ancillary products outside of, say, pharmaceuticals or medical devices,” Ben said. “Mattresses, very generally speaking, are classified as furniture. But we know that they’re so much more than that. When you spend a third of your life on this quote unquote piece of furniture, you really want to make sure you’re investing in the right product. And you want to invest in something that’s going to address any pain you might have, any discomfort you might have so you get quality, uninterrupted sleep. We know that if you are frequently waking up over the course of the night because of soreness, maybe your back isn’t aligned properly, you’re not allowed to get into that deep sleep phase, which is the most restorative part of sleep. And really, at the end of the day, most simply put, that’s really what is cleaning up your brain and allowing your brain to kind of defragment. If you were to think of it as a computer, it’s going through a defragmentation process where you can be your best the next day.”

When it comes to insomnia, how much does a mattress matter?

“Usually what people will do is they’ll sleep on a mattress until they absolutely can’t stand it anymore,” Ben said. “What I would like to see is people becoming more aware of their body and how their mattress feels.”

Multiple studies have shown that a regular meditation practice is associated with more and higher-quality sleep. I wanted Ben’s thoughts. “I’m a very firm believer in meditation before sleep,” he said.

I also wanted to ask about the role room temperature plays in sleep. “Having a room easily below 70, you probably want it in like the mid 60s is your ideal sleep temperature. Some people will say it’s too cold, but you’re also want to put blankets on.”

Other sleep tips from Ben:

“I believe in what they call sleep hygiene. Quality sleep hygiene means a dark room, having a cool temperature, having the right mattress. I use a sound machine, I use a fan. So I have a lot of white noise as well. That really conditions my body to say, hey, it’s time for bed. I try to keep electronics out of the bed as much as possible.”

“I love weighted blankets. I’m just naturally prone to anxiety. Getting the weight {on a weighted blanket] can be tricky. Some people prefer the 20 lb and others prefer only 10 lbs.”

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to sleep. But quality sleep is accessible. You can get better sleep in increments.”

“I think it’s fine to use sleep supplements, but look at the root of the sleep issue.”

Never miss an episode! Subscribe on YouTube, iTunes, SoundCloud, or our newsletter. Would you like to test a better mattress or many other wellness products and get help assessing how well they work for you? The Biomarker app offers products at steep discounts and connects with your wearables to objectively measure the effectiveness of your wellness choices. Download today on the iTunes app store. Questions? Email me at cathy@biomarker.io.

Cathy Reisenwitzpodcast