Sealy’s ‘Better Six’ ad campaign is in conflict with proper sleep hygiene

Mattress manufacturer Sealy is running an advertising campaign that seemingly suggests less sleep is acceptable for Americans. In that campaign, Sealy notes most Americans no longer get eight hours of sleep each night, but rather closer to six hours. The ads, promoting Sealy’s mattresses, could also have been used to help push the message that Americans need to get a full night’s rest, not just six hours.

Sealy could have used the ads to suggest people need — and should get — a full eight hours of quality sleep each night. The company could have suggest that could be done on a new mattress made by the Trinity, North Carolina-based bedding manufacturer. Instead, Sealy used the ads to suggest people simply get "a better six" hours of sleep.

In a in the British journal , researchers noted that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as those of someone who has been drinking but not yet legally drunk, based on blood alcohol limits in the United States.

Lack of proper rest leads to a condition far too prominent in American society: sleep deprivation. Sleep deprived drivers may be more prone to falling asleep at the wheel.

More than one study has demonstrated that a person who has been awake for just 17 hours performs worse on a driving skills test than a person with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. In the United States, blood alcohol limits (BAC) for drunk driving range from .08 percent to .1 percent.

"It’s truly a sad day for consumers when a corporation such as Sealy, focused intently on the sleep habits of consumers so it continues making profits, promotes poor sleep habits while seemingly implying "a better six" hours of sleep is healthy," said Awake In America’s President Michele Narcavage.

In a June 30, 2008 press release, the company said it’s "Better Six" campaign would help reinforce Sealy’s commitment to drive retail sales.

Philip Dobbs, Sealy’s senior vice president of marketing was quoted in the press release as saying:

"Connecting directly with consumers and delivering a strong and compelling brand message is a core part of Sealy’s growth strategy. The Better Six campaign will deliver an insight-driven message and change the dialogue with consumers because it centers on a common human truth and emotional connection that has not been touched before."

Businesses remain in business by continuing to improve the proverbial bottom line — profits — by supplying quality items at a price consumers are willing to pay. Businesses that have an impact on consumers’ sleep — and as a result, the overall health of the consumers using the products, and by extension, the workplace performance of these same people, as well as their performance on the nation’s roads, highways, and byways, and interpersonal interactions with others — should feel a greater responsibility. That responsibility should be focused on helping promote proper sleep hygiene, which includes getting a full eight hours of sleep each night.

Sealy opted in its press release to say "most Americans no longer get eight hours of sleep", then noted immediately afterward, that "studies show they’re (Americans) lucky to get six (hours)." For marketing purposes, the press release touted, that the company’s new national advertising campaign, launched on television on June 29, "taps that truism and asks Americans, ‘If you can only get six (hours), then why not get a better six (hours)?’"

Continuing, the press release reads:

The light-hearted advertising campaign profiles over-the-top fictional characters who get as much sleep as they want, and then begs the question, "But what about the rest of us?" The ads continue, "In the real world we’re lucky to get 6 hours of sleep. So let’s get a better six." The advertising campaign delivers a strong message – the reality is that most of us don’t get eight hours of sleep each night.

There is nothing light-hearted or humorous when suggesting that people "in the real world" should get – or accept as healthy – six hours of sleep each night, Awake In America’s Board agreed.

Promoting a message about sleep

Instead of using an advertising campaign to encourage getting less sleep than needed for a proper night’s rest, Sealy targeted the ad to push its products. The ad also seemingly reinforces that sleep deprivation is acceptable in society and that there’s nothing anyone should do to improve their sleep, aside from purchasing one of the company’s products.

Ms. Narcavage said she was distressed when she first saw Sealy’s commercial, saying that "it seemingly encourages people to sleep but six hours each night. I couldn’t believe that a company profiting from the sleep habits of its consumers would launch a commercial such as this." Continuing, she said: "It’s especially disheartening when you consider all the research findings in just the past decade focused on sleep deprivation and the importance of getting a full eight hours of sleep each night."

Narcavage said non-profit organizations, including Awake In America, have limited funds to help get the message out about the importance of proper sleep and sleep hygiene to the masses. Large companies, she noted, such as Sealy often run advertising campaign, such as the "Better Six" campaign, that can overwhelm and silence the message, and voice, of sleep advocates, as well as the sleep community as a whole. Some ad campaigns by large companies can even undo a good deal of progress that’s been made in various areas, Ms. Narcavage said.

"Six hours of sleep every night simply isn’t enough, as many studies have shown over the years," Ms. Narcavage said. "Awake In America encourages people everywhere to get the proper rest they need — every night. It’s my sincere hope that the Sealy advertising campaign doesn’t skew the message health care providers, other organizations, including the and Awake In America, promote each and every day of the year. It would be a sad shame for that message, important on so many levels, is diminished by an ad campaign for mattresses. The bottom line profits of a corporation are never worth more than the health and well-being of any person."

While sleep researchers haven’t been able to define exactly what sleep is, nor why we, as people, need sleep, we do know that we need it in order to survive. During sleep, the body is given a reprieve from the activities of life, allowing us to wake refreshed, at least when we have a full night of restful sleep. It’s also been shown through research that people who sleep fewer than six hours each night also do not live as long as people who sleep seven hours or more each night.

Most people would say they never get enough sleep, except, of course, for a long weekend when they sleep in, spending up to 12 or more hours sleeping in one morning. While that helps overall restfulness, it doesn’t help for the rest of the nights, especially those in the future, where these same people will not get enough sleep. There is a small percentage of people who do seem to thrive with only a few hours each night, but those people are, by far, clear exception, not a standard to follow.

Costs of sleep deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation may not only decrease your energy level — and increase your crankiness — but can negatively impact your overall quality of life. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which was based on data from Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Rhode Island. The findings indicated that 10 percent of adults reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day in the previous month.

Lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (cholesterol-clogged arteries), heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and obesity. At least one study has indicated that inflammation may be the common thread holding everything together.

The lack of sleep — sleep insufficiency or sleep deprivation — can be expensive. The has estimated that sleep deprivation costs at least $150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity. In 2006, ‘ morning show, , provided an estimate as to . If you wanted to make things simple, the show pointed out, you could buy:

To help understand the impact of the lack of sleep Americans deal with each year, in less than effective ways, the National Sleep Foundation’s 1997 poll on Sleepiness, Pain, and the Workplace demonstrated that as a result of worker fatigue, work performance alone costs U.S. employers around $18 billion in lost productivity.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to personal and public tragedy. Many single vehicle accidents, as well as many auto accidents involving stationary objects, such as street lights, traffic lights, parked or stopped vehicles, and buildings. Sleep deprivation has also been implicated, at least as a causative factor, in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Just over 100 years ago, Americans sleep nine to 10 hours each night, with sleep cycles tied to sunrise and sunset. Thanks to a man by the name of Thomas Alva Edison, electric lights slowly began extending our concept of "day," while work, television, social activities, and in the past 15 years or so, the Internet, has managed to chip away some of those hours formerly reserved for sleep.

Many people are too tired for sex

According to this year’s Sleep In America poll, released by the , Americans are not getting they sleep they need, and if the annual poll of the state of sleep in America is an indicator, people are willing to forgo sex just to be awake a little longer each day.

Americans are not getting the sleep they need which may affect their ability to perform well during the workday. More than one-fourth (28 percent) of those polled say that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days each month. And interestingly, though on average people say they need to get seven hours and 18 minutes of sleep per night to be at their best during the next workday they report only getting an average of six hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night on weekdays.

Working too much and sleeping too little takes a serious toll on people’s professional and personal lives. The poll results showed:

  • 29 percent of those polled fell asleep or became very sleepy at work in the past month;
  • 36 percent have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, with;
  • 32 percent reporting that they drive drowsy at least one to two times per month and 26 percent drive drowsy during the workday;
  • 20 percent have sex less often or have lost interest in sex because they are too sleepy;
  • 14 percent have missed family events, work functions and leisure activities in the past month due to sleepiness;
  • 12 percent were late to work in the past month because of sleepiness.

In response to the Sleep In America poll results, Ms. Narcavage noted that "nearly 50 million Americans chronically suffer from sleep problems and disorders that affect their careers, their personal relationships and safety on our roads."

"Sleep is a key factor to our health and safety," Ms. Narcavage said. "Instead of telling people others may get eight hours of sleep each night, and then adding that you likely only get six hours of sleep, you should get the best six hours of sleep you can get is simply the wrong message."

Continuing, she said, "We already have a generation of young adults who grew up using the Internet, cell phones,  and other communication tools — all of which encourage them to engage in ’round-the-clock communication and updates of their activities. In society, those sending messages to the masses should always act with responsibility. We, as a society, need to send positive, reinforcing messages to Americans that sleep is not only good, but essential. We need to reinforce the message people heard as young children, telling them eight hours of sleep is good — and healthy — not only for children, but for all of us. Any message suggesting less sleep is better simply obliterates science, but also promotes less-than-responsible behavior."

While Sealy wants indicates in its press release that its "’Better Six’ Campaign Reinforces Sealy’s Commitment to Drive Retail Sales," perhaps the focus ought be on providing a mattress, as well as consumer education to help Americans get better sleep every night. Six hours, as decades of research as shown, is not enough to ensure a proper night’s sleep.

The cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders represent an under-recognized public health problem and have been associated with a wide range of health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. (2006 Institute of Medicine Report: Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation—An Unmet Public Health Problem)

"It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting their health and longevity. The cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders represent an under-recognized public health problem and have been associated with a wide range of health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. Almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on direct medical costs related to sleep disorders such as doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications."

In working to educate consumers about proper sleep hygiene, as well as the many health and lifestyle benefits. Some benefits include possibly lowering blood pressure, being more alert behind the wheel, and reducing the risk of diabetes, Sealy could also help lengthen the longevity of its customers, which could help bring repeat business for a long time.

How much sleep is really enough?

The amount of sleep we need varies by age. Most newborns and infants sleep the better part of the day (12-to-18 hours), hence the phrase "sleep like a baby." Toddlers and children under five need about 13 hours. Adolescents, who need even more sleep than adults, often receive less due to a full schedule that may include after-school activities, a heavy homework load, and late-night Internet use or TV watching.

Sleep through the ages
  • On average, adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If they get seven-and-nine hours each night, they should wake up in the morning, feeling rested and alert, and generally without the aid of an alarm clock. If you’re using an alarm clock, that’s a classic symptom you are not getting enough sleep. In other words, you’re sleep deprived. Listen to your body.
  • Adolescents, between the ages of 11-and-17, required between 8½–to–9½ hours each night.
  • School children ages five–and-12 years old require nine–to-11 hours of sleep each night.

How to get restful sleep each night

Improving your sleep depends on the problem’s cause. For some people, simply adopting better sleep habits is the answer. Others find the solution by undergoing a sleep study.

Paying attention to good sleep hygiene is the most important thing you can do to maintain good sleep.


  • Go to bed at the same time each day.
  • Get up from bed at the same time each day.
  • Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning. There is good evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise.
  • Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in the late afternoon.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet when sleeping.
  • Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Take medications as directed. It’s often helpful to take prescribed sleeping pills about one hour before you plan to go to bed. This allows them to begin causing drowsiness when you lie down.
  • Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep.
  • Muscle relaxation, imagery, massage, warm bath, etc.
  • Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed.


  • Exercise just before going to bed.
  • Engage in stimulating activity just before bed, such as playing a competitive game, watching an exciting program on television or movie, or having an important discussion with a loved one.
  • Have caffeine in the evening (coffee, many teas, chocolate, sodas, etc.)
  • Read or watch television in bed.
  • Use alcohol to help you sleep.
  • Go to bed too hungry or too full.
  • Take another person’s sleeping pills.
  • Take over-the-counter sleeping pills, without your doctor’s knowledge. Tolerance can develop rapidly with these medications. Diphenhydramine (an ingredient commonly found in over-the-counter sleep medications) can have serious side effects for elderly patients.
  • Take daytime naps.
  • Command yourself to go to sleep. This only makes your mind and body more alert.

If you lie in bed awake for more than 20 to 30 minutes, get up, go to a different room (or different part of the bedroom), participate in a quiet activity (e.g. non-excitable reading or television), then return to bed when you feel sleepy. Do this as many times during the night as needed.

Signs of not getting enough sleep or sleeping poorly include consistently taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, awakening more than a few times or for long periods each night, feeling sleepy during the day, or having trouble concentrating at school or at work.

Keeping a daily sleep log, or diary, can help you track your sleep habits and identify what might be interfering with sleep. You may download a sleep diary. To download files from this site, you need to be registered as a site member to gain access. Once registered, simply login, and then download the files you’re interest in.

Links of interest

Have you had bouts of insomnia lasting two weeks or more? Do you walk around in a constant fog, feeling sleepy, fatigued, and as though you have no energy? Perhaps you "feel" older than you are, or maybe it’s all you can do to stay awake while driving. If any of that, or similar issues are familiar, or if you snore or have disrupted sleep, even if just a few simple, repeat trips to the bathroom during the night, check out these two online tests to help you get to the root of the issue. While they will not make a diagnosis for you, they will help you, your physician, or, more appropriately, a sleep specialist, find out what’s causing you the problem sleepiness.

/Health – Sleep Deprivation/sealy-better-six-ad-sends-wrong-message/2008-08-31.1801
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