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Sleep. Need... sleep...


I'm shopping for a new mattress.

I've started going to sleep stores, lying down on new beds, trying to decide whether I like firm beds or soft beds, when in reality I have no idea what my preference is. At this point, I just want something that lays flat and doesn't sag in the middle.

It's cruel irony, then. A few months ago, I made fun of The Sleep Store and their Sleep Number, making it sound like some sort of pyramid scheme.

Now, I'm obsessed with how firm my mattress should be and whether it should have a pillowtop.

I didn't used to care. I've had the same mattress since college, a full set I didn't even realize was "full" until I bought a set of new queen-sized sheets. Over several weeks, I began to notice that the sheets fit really loosely. When I realized the truth, I felt cheated. All these years I'd been sleeping on a full-sized bed thinking it was a queen.

I envision vast vistas in queen-sized-mattress land. It's like a whole other world. I'll be able to roll over for miles. Suddenly, I'll be a grownup. Grownups have at least queen-sized beds, right? I could go for a king, but that would just be greedy.

The old full-sized mattress has been through a lot. I think people may have jumped on it at some point during college. And of course, there was nasty business I won't discuss. And late nights staying up reading in bed. Studying. Co-ed wrestling. Once, when my folks were helping me move to Tulsa, we strapped that mattress onto the roof of my parents' minivan.

Somewhere between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, a gust of wind picked up the mattress, flipped it up, and tossed it off the car. It hit the road hard and to this day, the box spring still had a dent in one of the corners courtesy the Oklahoma Highway System. We were very lucky it didn't hit another car's windshield and run a coil through someone's neck.

Over the last few months I've noticed that even with repeated flipping, the mattress sags badly in the middle. If I sleep in the middle, I can let my butt sink and pretend I'm lying in a hammock. If I'm sleeping toward one of the sides, my body lies at a 45-degree tilt. All the blood rushes to my right arm and leg. I have nightmares that somebody is rolling me sideways down a hill. When I wake up and try to stand and walk, I have vertigo and bump into walls.

Also, there are springs sticking up. If I try to move my hip to press one of them down, another one pops up a foot to the left. And they're noisy, too. They make this low honking springy sound, like someone sneaking by in clown shoes.

I'm bad about realizing it when something's afflicting me. Over the last few months, my sleep has been getting worse and worse, and I finally decided it was because of the fool mattress. So I started looking at new mattresses, trying not to think about all the good times I had on my old bed.

If you haven't been mattress shopping in a long time, you're missing lots of drama. There are huge debates as to whether foam, coils or air are better for your back. (Everybody agrees that waterbeds are bad, though.) Pillowtops are big now. Without one, mattresses look kind of chintzy.

So comfy, I get sleepy just looking at it..

The advantage that mattresses salespeople have over, say, arms dealers, is that people shopping for a mattress obviously are having a situation where they're not happy with their sleeping arrangements. They come in, bent over, bleary-eyed, bumping into walls like me, trying to figure out the difference between "Posturepedic" and "Comfort Zone." It's needlessly complicated because by the time someone is desperate enough for sleep to go mattress shopping, they know you'll believe everything they say and pay any price to hurry up and buy something.

"This mattress actually has a layer of magic between the foam and the springs," the salesman will say.

"Oh really? (Yawn)," says the customer.

"Oh yes. You gotta have a magic layer. It's custom built in a Keebler tree in the Black Forest of Germany. Little elves get in there and blow their noses all over that layer. That's what makes the magic."

"Huh. Yeah. We'll take that one. In fact, let me just lie here a minute and... Zzzzzzz."

"(To his manager) Boss, we got a sale!"

The first store I went to had queen-sized mattresses for more than $4,000! Can you believe that? Let me put that number in perspective: That's how much I paid to HAVE SURGERY TO REGAIN MY SIGHT. That's how much a mattress sells for. The price of my vision.

So I'm shopping for something a little bit cheaper. And in the meantime, I"m thinking of sleeping on my futon mattress, which is looking more and more enticing.


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