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Curator Finds Murphy Bed’s Place in American History


Inventor William Lawrence Murphy (1856-1957) began tinkering with hideaway beds while living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco in the late 19th century. He was falling for a young opera singer and courting customs at that time would not permit a lady to enter a gentleman’s bedroom. But according to family legend, Murphy’s limited finances and a strict moral code didn’t spoil his chance at love. His invention allowed him to stow his bed in his closet, transforming his one-room apartment from a bedroom into a parlor.

The couple married in 1900.

Today, the Murphy bed, a bed that can be folded into a cabinet, is a household brand. National Museum of American History’s Assistant Collections Manager Robyn J. Einhorn researched the bed’s place in American history for her second master’s thesis.

The Murphy bed’s increasing popularity came “because of a combination of good timing, a quality product, and an inventive marketing strategy,” Einhorn writes, “A housing shortage, brought on by large population spurts in the country resulted in the building of smaller homes.”

More often slapstick rather than theses, see Charlie Chaplin take on a finicky Murphy bed above. The bed continues to make us laugh in films like, Police Academy II (1985) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) as well as television’s “Family Guy.”

William Murphy first patented his bed in 1911. His design placed a full-sized mattress on a metal frame that hid in a closet during the day and easily converted a dressing room, sleeping porch, or parlor into an extra bedroom at night. Through the 1920s, newspaper advertisements for apartments used the Murphy bed as a selling point.

Though Murphy beds are often pricier than their normal counterparts, ” continue to fill a need in living spaces of today, whether it is for small city apartments or suburban homes of empty nesters turning a college student’s old bedroom into an office/guest space,” Einhorn says.

Additional reporting by Daniel Friend, Inside Smithsonian Research

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MICROSLEEP CAUSES AND DANGERS What Happens When You’re Awake, but Your Brain Goes to Sleep?


You’re driving home after a long day of work, and suddenly, you realize that you don’t remember the last mile. You can’t recall if the light was red or green when you went through the intersection. Maybe you even missed your turn. Sound familiar? If so, you’ve experienced microsleep. And the dangers it can bring.

What Is Microsleep?

Microsleep is a brief, involuntary episode of unconsciousness lasting anywhere from a fleeting moment up to several seconds.

During this rather bizarre state, your eyes may be open, you can be sitting upright and you might even be performing a task, but certain areas of your brain have gone completely offline. In other words, you may think you’re awake, but parts of your brain are actually asleep.

“We often use phrases like “zoned out” or “autopilot” to describe microsleep,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications for the Better Sleep Council. “That’s pretty accurate, since we’re not functioning at our full mental capacity during these periods of time.”

What Causes Microsleep?

Microsleep happens without warning, at any time of the day, most often when you are already sleep deprived. Research shows that even a single night of insufficient sleep can result in increased microsleep episodes.

But it’s not just fatigue from a poor night’s rest that causes our brains to check out. Microsleep is also closely associated with performing a boring, monotonous task. For example, one study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information had well-rested participants use a joystick to track a moving target on a computer screen for 50 minutes. On average, subjects experienced 79 episodes of microsleep that lasted up to 6 seconds each during the experiment. That’s a lot of zoning out in just 1 hour.

Why Is Microsleep Dangerous?

“The big issue with microsleep is that we’re much more likely to make critical mistakes in this half-awake, half-asleep state,” added Rogers.

During microsleep, scientists have been able to measure localized areas of the brain switching to slow-wave, sleep-like activity. The thalamus, in particular, becomes less active. Since the thalamus is responsible for interpreting incoming sensory signals, your reaction time and ability to pay attention suffers.

Many fatal accidents (2016 London tram derailment) and tragic disasters (1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident) have been linked to microsleep. That doesn’t include the host of minor fender benders and countless products that have come off the assembly line missing screws.

Can You Avoid It?

The best way to prevent microsleep is to get enough quality sleep each night for you to function throughout the day and not feel fatigued. But when you still have to do repetitive tasks, like drive long distances, operate heavy machinery or just work an 8-hour shift of data entry, you can try some of these tips to stave off potential misteps or accidents caused by microsleep:

  • Take a power nap. A short, 20-minute siesta can recharge your brain so you are more alert for a longer period of time.
  • Take a break. Changing what you’re doing for a few minutes every half-hour or so activates different parts of your brain to reduce the monotony. Better yet, get up and move around during your break to get your blood flowing.
  • Have a lively conversation. Chatting forces you to concentrate on the back-and-forth of a discussion. Plus, talking increases your breathing rate, which puts more oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • Turn up the tunes. Loud, upbeat music can lift your mood. If you’re alone or in good company, feel free to sing along.
  • Have some caffeine. Just remember, it takes about 30 minutes for the stimulation to kick in. And don’t have too much too close to your normal bedtime; you might not fall asleep and end up feeling even more tired tomorrow.

Article courtesy of Better Sleep Council

Feeling Sleepy after Sleeping? The causes of groggy mornings and strategies to avoid them.

You know the feeling. Your alarm goes off, you (yawn) force yourself out of bed, and you spend the rest of the morning in a (yawn) complete fog. It’s a struggle just to (yawn) keep your eyes open, let alone (yawn) focus on anything.

You’re not alone. In research conducted by YouGov, 40% of Americans say they wake up feeling poorly rested at least once a week.

So, let’s talk about ways to minimize the chances of feeling like you need to crawl back under the covers the minute you get out of bed.

You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

If you wake up feeling tired, you might actually BE tired. Simple, but true. What you think is sufficient time for a restful sleep may simply not be enough.

A joint statement by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults between the ages of 18-60 get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. But the latest Gallup Poll reveals that nearly half of all Americans (42%) report getting less than that amount.

Many of us don’t make sleep a priority. Only 26% of Americans would choose sleep if given an extra hour in the day. – Better Sleep Council Survey, 2017.

So, tell Alexa to remind you it’s bedtime or set an alert on your daily calendar. Your goal is to establish a routine where you go to bed at approximately the same time every day – a time that allows for 7+ hours of sleep – so your body and brain both get in the habit of turning down at the same time you need to.

You May Not Be Getting Good Sleep, Either

You may not realize that you go through four different stages during sleep. (You’re asleep, how would you know?) Stage 3, also called slow-wave sleep, is the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning. In this stage, your heart and breathing rates drop to their lowest levels, your muscles relax and your brain wave activity slows down.

Some major restorative functions of the body and brain, including muscle growth, tissue repair and glucose metabolism, happen only during deep sleep. – Harvard Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine

Unfortunately, many things can disrupt your sleep cycle and rob you of that precious deep sleep: your bed partner, noise, light, a room that’s too hot, an old mattress or pillow, and that recurring nightmare where you’re stranded in the Fresno airport with your boss that wakes you up in a cold sweat. Truly frightening. But if you practice good sleep hygiene and set up your bedroom to promote sleep quality, you’ll do your part to get the best rest you can.

You Snooze? You Lose.

That buzzing, beeping alarm may feel like your mortal enemy, but the snooze button is really the one plotting against you. When you wake up, your brain shuts off melatonin (your sleep hormone) production and boosts cortisol (a natural steroid) output. This hormonal switchover gets you up and going. When you hit the snooze button more than once, the process goes awry. Your body gets confused as to which mode you should be in, which leads to a prolonged half-awake, half-asleep state.

To break the snooze habit, try setting your alarm for just 10 minutes later and putting your alarm clock across the room so you’re forced to get out of bed to turn it off.

You Might Need to Be More Active

When you’re already feeling tired, exercise isn’t the first thing you think of doing. (Is it ever?) But research shows a correlation between exercise and sleep.

One study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that a 4-month exercise regimen led to significant improvements in both sleep efficiency and sleep duration for adults diagnosed with chronic insomnia. Conversely, several studies have found that adults with poor sleep are less active than peers who have no sleep complaints.

So, consider a morning run or an early yoga class. Moving can help to re-energize you when you feel tired. Then, remember to step away from those screens and get up throughout the day. Over time, regular exercise can lead to getting a better night’s rest.

You’re Eating All Wrong

Let’s dish about food and sleep. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can work wonders in lots of ways, including helping you fight fatigue. That’s probably not surprising. But beyond what you eat, there are also a few strategies you can employ around when you eat:

  • Cut off the caffeine. International Coffee Day is September 29, yet many of us celebrate the wonders of coffee 365 days a year – especially for that morning caffeine boost. But beware. Caffeine can linger in your system long after you consume it. Try to avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine after lunch to be sure you’re not sabotaging your nightly sleep.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. After hours of sleep, your body needs energy intake to tackle the day. Plus, mild dehydration could be the culprit of the fatigue you feel in the morning. Kick off the day with a tall glass of water followed by a nutritional meal.
  • Dine with the early birds. It takes about three hours for your stomach to empty after a meal. Try leaving at least that amount of time between dinner and lying down to reduce the chances of having acid reflux or heartburn disrupt your sleep.

Or is it something else?

If none of these strategies seems to be helping, consult a sleep professional to ensure your morning grogginess isn’t a result of a more serious sleep disorder like sleep apnea, narcolepsy or insomnia.

Buying a mattress that matches your sleep preferences can also go a long way toward improving your sleep, so you’re not groggy in the morning.

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9 Symptoms & Signs of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are a nasty and uncomfortable problem. Signs and symptoms of bed bugs can be hard to detect at first, and even trickier to treat. To the untrained eye, bed bug bites can be confused with those of other biting insects.

Here are nine easy signs help you know if you have a bed bug problem.

    People don’t often consider bed bugs until they’ve left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don’t spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.
    Bed bugs are most often found in the bed, where humans spend most of their nights. It makes logical sense for bed bugs to be most active at night while humans are in bed with them. Should you find yourself developing those itchy welts while laying in bed sleeping (or trying to sleep), it’s likely bed bugs are the problem.
    Bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin such as that on your arms and shoulders, which you may tend to leave uncovered while sleeping. This is different from, say, fleas and chiggers, which tend to bite around the ankles.
    The first sign of a bed bug problem is obvious: the bed. After bed bugs feed on humans, they’ll leave behind blood stains resembling small rust spots. These will usually be found near the corners and edges of the bed. Bed bugs also shed their skin, or molt, several times as they mature, so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons during your search.
    A strong, unpleasant, musty odor like that of a wet towel is another common bed bug symptom. Bed bugs release pheromones, and when in large numbers, the smell can be quite strong. Should you find your bedroom smelling like a dirty locker room, you may want to perform an inspection.

    Remember, bed bugs aren’t confined to your home. They can be found wherever you sleep, including hotel rooms.

    Here are some quick inspection tips to help you avoid a serious problem, whether on the road or at home:

    Strip the mattress and box spring and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight. You’re looking for rust-colored, reddish-brown blood stains and/or small brown ovals (molted bed bug skin).
    After searching the bed, it’s time to move to the rest of the room. Check anything upholstered, including chairs, couches, curtains and the edges of the carpet. Look in and behind dressers, underneath the bed and if possible, behind the headboard. Always be on the lookout for the signature reddish-brown spots.
    Bed bugs can also cling to clothing, which is how they can travel and spread so adeptly. Be sure to look in your closets and check your clothing thoroughly. Bed bugs on clothes means bed bugs on humans.
    As stated above, one way detect bed bugs is their smell. The scent of their pheromones can be quite strong. It’s often described as a musty odor.

Since it’s possible for people to go for long periods without being aware they have a bed bug infestation, knowing the key bed bug symptoms and how to find these pests will go a long way in combating them.

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Between the Sheets

 The material you choose for your bed sheets is all about personal preference. But be prepared to sleep on them 8 hours a day!


  • Cotton: The best quality (highest price tag) is 100% Egyptian, which has extra-long-staple fibers that produce luxurious, yet extremely long-lasting sheets.
  • Pima or Supima cotton: A medium-to-extra-long staple fibers material is known for its softness and sheen.
  • Linen: Ideal for hot climates, linen sheets are some of the most expensive out there, but they last for decades.
  • Poly-blend sheets: Long lasting and resistant to wrinkles, but they tend to trap heat.
  • Bamboo: Extremely soft to the touch and breathable. Many people prefer this over cotton, however they wrinkle easily and take some care to look good over time. They are my personal favorite.


The way sheets are woven have a direct impact on how they feel.

  • Percale, is lightweight and tightly woven, which results in crisp, cool, bedding,
  • Microfiber’s super-tight, dense weave makes it wrinkle-resistant, extra-soft, and resistant to water.
  • Sateen is cotton cloth made with a satin weave, a weave that produces a very soft, lustrous feel but can be somewhat less durable than a tighter weave.
  • Flannel, cotton with a nappy texture perfect for cooler climates.


Thread count isn’t an indication of quality anymore. Unless it’s an incredible and very expensive fabric, a high thread count is just a numbers game: many companies cheat the numbers with double twist yarns in a cheaper fabric.  I would buy at least a 400 count, but over that I am not sure there is a marked difference.


The old standard, quality cotton with a higher thread count still gets the best reviews and leads the market, but if you are open for change I would give bamboo sheets a try, because other than wrinkles, I love the comfortable feel of them and after all is that not what this comparison is all about!

Choosing the right mattresses for you!

Sleeping peopleMattresses are designed to provide the support and comfort you need to relax and rest. If you have had your mattress for a while, you may be wondering if it is time to buy a new one. Research shows that people sleep better, suffer less back pain and experience fewer symptoms of stress when sleeping on newer beds. In general, your sleep quality improves if your sleep surface relieves pressure on joints and other areas of the body. Matching your specific comfort needs with the right product is a very subjective process. Mattresses are made with a variety of materials and technologies to deliver support systems that meet the broad array of consumers’ needs, tastes, and budgets.

Mattresses should be evaluated every seven years for quality and support. If you haven’t shopped for a new mattress recently, there are many options to choose from. The following provides basic information on the different types of mattresses available today so that you are better equipped to choose a mattress that meets your needs.

 Innerspring Mattress

An innerspring mattress uses a steel coil support system. Manufacturers offer several different types of spring systems, including units with springs connected into a single unit and individually wrapped pocketed coils. Spring shapes, designs, coil gauge, and number of coils in a mattress can vary. The innerspring is covered by padding or upholstery materials, which can include various foams, fiber, and additional layers of smaller steel springs. Coil count can be more arbitrary, but the idea is that the greater the number of coils, the more points of support and greater distribution, thus the better the bed can contour and support the sleeper.

Hybrid Mattress

A hybrid mattress combines a steel coil support system with one or more types of foam, such as polyurethane foam, memory (or visco elastic) foam, or latex foam, as well as foams that contain gel or other materials.


Waterbeds use a water chamber as the support system. Manufacturers offer two types of waterbeds: hard-sided and soft-sided beds. A hard-sided waterbed consists of a water chamber inside a rectangular wood frame. A soft-sided waterbed consists of a water chamber inside a rectangular frame of rigid foam, zippered inside a fabric casing. The water chamber is covered by padding or upholstery materials, which can include with various foams and fiber. Both types of beds usually rest on top of a platform. Waterbeds are designed to look like a conventional bed and fit existing bedroom furniture. The water chamber can be “free flow” (in which nothing obstructs the flow of water within the mattress) or “waveless” (in which fiber or baffles limit the water’s motion).

Foam Mattress

Foam mattresses use one or more types of foam as the support system. The foam may be polyurethane foam, memory (or visco elastic) foam, or latex foam, and can contain gel or other materials. The foam used in such mattresses can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and densities to offer consumers a mattress that has different comfort, feel and heat dissipation features.

Pillow Top Mattress

Pillow top mattresses provide an additional upholstery layer sewn into the top of the mattress. This layer can be made from a variety of fiber and foam materials.

Gel Mattress

Gel mattresses use a type of foam that contains gel in the product’s support system, upholstery layers, or both. The gel is added to the foam using deferent types of technology. The gel foam can offer consumers different comfort, feel and heat dissipation features.

Air Bed

Air beds use an adjustable air chamber as the support system. Unlike the type of air mattresses used for camping, the air chamber of a residential air bed is covered by padding or upholstery materials, which can include various foams and fiber. Air beds allow you to adjust the firmness, and usually allow each side of the bed to be controlled separately in order to meet the individual and changing needs of couples. Air beds are designed to look like a conventional bed.

Memory Foam (Visco) Mattress

Memory foam (or visco elastic foam) mattresses use a high density polyurethane foam as the support system, in the upholstery layer, or both.  This foam has properties that allow it to contour closely to the shape of the sleeper.

Latex Mattress

Latex mattresses use latex foam as the support system, in the upholstery layers, or both. Latex may be made from plant or petroleum-based materials.

Adjustable Foundations

Unlike a stationary foundation or box-spring, an adjustable foundation allows you to bend, elevate or lower various parts of the sleep surface.  Many adjustable foundations have dual controls that each partner can use to adjust the sleep surface elevation to meet their individual needs.  Most adjustable foundations are powered by an electric motor, but some are manually adjusted.  They are designed to look like a conventional foundation when placed in the fully horizontal position.  For best results, adjustable foundations should be used with a mattress designed for that purpose.

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