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Sleeping beauty.

IT may be National Bed Month, but before you snuggle up for a bedtime story, be warned, there could be a few nightmares lurking in your boudoir.

Apart from the dust mites that might be nestling in your mattress, did you know that we lose more than a quarter of a litre of sweat every night, and shed almost half a kilo of skin over the year?

So even if you air your mattress regularly and run a vacuum cleaner over it, after a few years it literally becomes a hot-bed of bacteria and other undesirables!

According to The Sleep Council, your bed should be replaced every eight to 10 years, by which time the mattress will have deteriorated by around 75 per cent.

And apart from hygiene problem, beds made before 1986 don't meet the UK's basic fire safety regulations.

The problem is, when you decide to improve your sleep cred and buy a new bed, there's such a wide choice on offer, with prices ranging from under pounds 100 to more than pounds 10,000, you end up having sleepless nights deciding which one to buy.

In years to come, experts predict the bed will become the hub of the home, with a pop-up screen at the bottom of your sleeping area to cater for your every need.

They even suggest this communications centre will allow you to key in your choice of dreams, while you lie back on a cushion of air in an invisible cyber-bubble, adjust to every minor change in your brain waves.

When it registers a drop in body temperature, it will automatically increase the temperature of the air flow to that part of the body.

And by reading your mood at the time, it will also deliver personalised aroma- therapy scents and soothing sounds to ensure a swift descent into sleep.

While the scientists dream on, top sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski reckons you can still enjoy the land of nod NOW if you give yourself a healthy 10-point MoT.

1 Do you do three 20-minute bouts of exercise each week? It might only be a brisk walk, but it should be enough to get your heart working a little harder, while fresh air and exercise help you sleep.

2 Do you tend to try out all the latest fad diets? Short sharp shock diets never work in the long term and they upset your sleep, so adjust your everyday eating habits.

3 Still on food, would you describe your diet as varied, with lots of grain, vegetables and fruit, but little fat, sugar and salt? A few small changes can make a huge difference.

4 Your body and general well-being will benefit for a bedtime routine that allows you a good 7-8 hours sleep each night. Try to go to bed and get up each morning at roughly the same time.

5 Do you rely on alcohol to relax you? Drinking in moderation is something most of us enjoy, but too much of it can seriously upset your sleep.

6 Do you smoke? Then stop! Apart from being the single most preventable cause of death and ill-health, smokers also take significantly longer to get off to sleep.

7 Is your glass half full or half empty? Positive thoughts will help fight niggling worries and the kind of stress that keeps you tossing around in the night.

8 Do you take time out for yourself each day? Whether it's spent being active or relaxing, take time out to mentally unwind during the day rather than lying awake worrying at night.

9 How much caffeine do you drink each day? Too much coffee or tea, particularly close to bedtime, will kick-start the meta-bolism and make it difficult to nod off.

10 How comfortable is your bed? An old sagging mattress doesn't just mean you wake up with backache - it also means you probably get nearly an hour's less sleep a night. So buy a new bed rather than pop a sleeping pill.

And when you go shopping for that perfect sleeping partner, remember size DOES matter. Nearly 70 per cent of couples still opt for a standard 4ft 6in divan - and while it's nice to be close, that works out at only 2ft 3in per person, which is less than a baby has in a cot.

Also, since you're likely to be spending a third of your life in bed, buy the best you can afford.

And when you go looking for your bed, literally shop till you drop - before you decide on a bed, lie down and try it in the shop. It might be a bit embarrassing, but a few blushes are a lot better than hot flushes of temper because you can't get a good night's sleep.

To check if you are getting the correct support, lie on you back and slide the flat of your hand into the hollow of your back. If your hand slides in easily and you feel pressure on your hips and shoulders, the bed is too firm. But if it's hard to slide your hand in at all, and you feel as if you're sinking into the mattress, the bed's too soft.

If you want to make sure your bedtime story has a happy ending, there's a really useful guide on offer free to Home Record readers. For a copy, send an s.a.e. to Bed Buyers Guide, The Sleep Council, High Corn Mill, Chapel Hill, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 3EL.

MEANWHILE, we've been snuggling down in the shops on some of the dreamiest new beds around.

Forrest Furnishing have more than 7000sq ft of bedding displays at their Glasgow and Dalkeith stores. One is an elegant Charles Rennie Mackintosh-style bedstead by Jay-Be. Complete with free Sheer Comfort mattress in white damask ticking, the Nouveau bed is priced at pounds 450.

If you're short of space, home shopping catalogue Kaleidoscope has some nifty solutions, including an inflatable sofabed for only pounds 39.99. Tel: 0345- 220 330 quoting reference W2002 for a free catalogue.

Dunlopillos' new Millennium bed has a five foot super-comfortable divan base with soft textured latex mattress for pounds 1799. For a copy of Dunlopillo's brochure, free- phone 0800 783 3821.

Space technology developed by NASA scientists has been used to develop a revolutionary new mattress which makes the sleeper feel almost weightless.

Stocked by Forrest Furnishing, the foam-based Tempur mattress claims to reduce black and neck pain, as well as being impermeable to bacteria, which makes the price tag of around pounds 799 for the double bed size seem quite painless. Forrest also have Tempur pillows, which, apart from being germ-free are also supposed to be noise free by cutting down on snoring, priced from pounds 54.95. Tel. 0141-300 7400.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Ensor, Nan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 11, 2000
Words:1131
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