What’s More Important: Food Or Sleep?

Heather Dessinger

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On your right is a piping hot breakfast full of your early morning favorites and a cup of coffee, and on your left there’s a snooze button with 120 minutes on the clock. You can have the breakfast or the sleep, but you can’t have both. What do you do?

WAIT – Before you decide, consider this: When researchers from Hospital University of Pennsylvania’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory deprived subjects of two hours of sleep for two weeks straight, they demonstrated impaired cognition that was equal to being drunk. (source) Even worse, the participants had no idea.

They admitted they were tired, but claimed to have adjusted to the lack of sleep. “Even 14 days into the study, they said sleepiness was not affecting them. In fact, their performance had tanked.” (source)

As a mom who co-sleeps with a baby starfish ninja I was not thrilled to read about this study. I mean, I’m a MOM. Sleep deprivation is part of the job description, at least temporarily. However, if I’m being honest my sleep debt has always been about more than the baby – it’s about my “to do” list. You know the list I’m talking about. Maybe it’s on paper, maybe it’s not, but either way you need an extra hour in your day to get it done . . . or do you?

The Productivity Myth

“We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity,” writes Tony Schwarz of the Harvard Business Review. “In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity.”

Unfortunately this myth doesn’t just cost us our productivity. The side effects of try to squeeze in one more hour of productivity – and the resulting chronic sleep deprivation  – are more tangible than that. Poor sleep is associated with an increased rate of:

  • autoimmune disorders
  • heart disease
  • depression, mood disorders
  • weight gain
  • hormonal problems
  • impaired immune function

(source 1, source 2, source 3)

Also, according to Dr. Rapoport, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program, “A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids.”

“Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do,” he told Health.com. “Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive.”

better sleep webinar

Want To Thrive? Sleep Is The Secret Ingredient

Studies show that sleep makes us smarter, more creative, stronger, happier, more productive, and it even keeps us looking younger. I wouldn’t say it’s more important than food, even though it’s possible to live longer without food than sleep. But it’s every bit as important as food when it comes to experiencing vibrant health. (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5, source 6, source 7)

We know that, and yet most of us are sleep deprived – why is that? I’ve done quite a bit of research on this as I work to heal my tired adrenals, and I’ve found that there are several reasons. I’m going to discuss all of them in the coming months, but the one I want to mention today is the type of mattress we sleep on.

You see, three months ago I got a new bed. Yes, me, the person that researched and wrote an entire post about how to buy a non-toxic mattress, then couldn’t find one that was both comfortable and made with non-toxic materials. (At least not one that was affordable.)

So anyway, I got this bed, but because I am a natural skeptic I insisted on keeping my old, expensive one while we tested it out. The company has a 60 day money-back guarantee, and they pay for return shipping, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

You guys, it has been a game changer, and that old bed is GONE for good. I’ve had the bed for a few months, but a few weeks ago I implemented some changes that helped me fall asleep easier. Now that I can do that, I’m going to bed earlier and logging some of the best sleep of my life – how is that even possible with a baby sleeping beside me?

Free Mommypotamus Sleep Webinar

If you’ve thought about buying a non-toxic mattress and wondered if it is worth it and/or affordable, I recently recorded and interview with intelliBED’s co-founder that you may find helpful.

Topics Covered:

  • My personal story of sleeping on a toxic mattress
  • Tips I’ve found helpful for getting deeper, more restorative sleep
  • An interview with Intellibed’s founder about their non-toxic bed that supports proper alignment like a “hard” bed but cushions better than a comfy foam mattress.

Click the play button below for the replay.

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding Mommypotamus.com in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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53 thoughts on “What’s More Important: Food Or Sleep?”

  1. Without even reading I answered, “sleep.”
    When hubby & I first married, I cried out of frustration every night because hubby snores; i could not sleep. About 2 months later, and since then (8 yrs.), we have separate bedrooms. Sleep is precious.
    2 1/2 yrs ago, we had a bebe. Bebe & I co-sleep.
    My deepest desire is to find a soundproof room, go away for the weekend & sleep. Cept, I’d worry the whole time & have a difficult time sleeping without my bebe.
    Oh how I remember those long ago mornings after a full night’s rest.
    God bless all the mommas.

  2. Looking forward to webinar. I also co-sleep, but honestly I am totally burned out. My 11 month old, who is exclusively breastfed, wakes up almost every hour. Nurse to sleep is the only thing that works with him, but I am so tired. My doctor told me that I need more sleep because of the adrenals, but I just dont how to make that happen. I go to bed around 9:30 , but due to so many interruptions I wake up feeling tired everyday. I know my little guy is capable of slepping long hours – he was slepping between 10 to 12 hours straight at 5 months old. But, since them things changed dramatically. Heather, do u have any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

    • Hmmm. That is a lot of waking for a baby that old. By this age, I would expect a five-hour stretch out of him. Is he teething? If he’s a slow teether, it might be the case that he’s got a constant ache. There are some chamomile-based teething gels out there you could use to see if that helps the situation. Has anything changed in his environment or your diet? Obviously an upheaval in the household (moving, new job, etc.) will change a baby’s patterns and make him seek comfort more. If you can’t pin it down, you might try a glass of wine (or your alcohol of choice) before bed. At least, that’s what I would try.

      • Thanks, Lacy!

        I dropped dairy & gluten yesterday completely and I must say that last night was much easier πŸ™‚ Thanks again!

    • Giovanna, have you checked him for tongue/lip ties? I had the same experience with my first two kids. As it turns out, they weren’t all that efficient at nursing. When their tummies were small it wasn’t much of a problem, but as they grew they had to wake more frequently than normal to compensate for the fact that they didn’t get as much at each feeding. You can find info on identifying tongue ties at home here: https://mommypotamus.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-diagnosing-tonguelip-ties/

      • He does have lip tie. Thanks to your post I had him evaluated about three weeks ago and it was confirmed. Today the insurance company finally approved the procedure so by the end of the week the procedure should be done by one dentist trained by Dr. Kotlow πŸ™‚ I guess that combined with food allergies maybe the reason. This mamma can’t wait to get some sleep – I am expecting my third baby. This too shall pass πŸ™‚ Thanks!

        • Oh, I’m glad he’s getting a revision. Something to keep in mind is that he still may wake frequently because his cycle has been disrupted for so long. That’s what happened with my daughter. But then again, it may not. My older son had his tongue/lip ties corrected at 8 months old and he started sleeping long stretches immediately. With my daughter, my husband had to take over nighttime care to help her break the cycle. She was 24 months, though, so she didn’t need to nurse at night. I hope you find relief soon!

  3. Intellibed seems to be picking up speed in the natural circles, it sounds amazing. We have a horrible queen size Tempurpedic that stank and was too soft and small for co-sleeping, a HUGE mistake we made with our first-born. There are a number of Intellibed softness options, and because it’s an online order it’s not possible to know which model would be safe for co-sleeping. Do you or the company happen to know which model would be safest for co-sleeping, while also not being rock-hard since I have hip pain?


    • Great question, Lea! We got the intelliBED 30 Deluxe mattress because we cosleep with our baby and I wanted the mattress least likely to disturb him when Daniel and I are getting in and out of bed πŸ™‚

  4. I would like to watch the webinar but I am working on Monday. Will there be a way for me to listen later or read a transcript?

      • Heather, I’m also interested in reading the transcript or watching/listening the webminar at later time, as I just read the article, and have apparently missed it πŸ™ Please keep us posted. Thanks!

        • Due to a technical issue we lost the first video, but I re-recorded it with a second group and will be posting soon! πŸ™‚

  5. I, like ANA, said ‘sleeeeeeep!’ before even reading the article. As a woman who used to sleep like a rock and now sleeps very restlessly, I am really looking forward to this webinar! It is a subject that resonates with Mommies evidently. I have been wanting so badly to at least LEARN about mattresses for well over a year now. I wake with back and hip pain. Our sleep number bed has to be re-pumped every month or so to stay firm. The problem is that I am unwilling (& unable) to spend the large amount of money for a mattress only to find that it does not help. How can one choose the right one without first sleeping on it for a couple of weeks?!? Looking forward to this! Thank you, Heather!! πŸ™‚

    • Shanna, that’s exactly perspective intelliBED has, which is why they have a 60 day trial. If at the end of the trial you don’t like it they will take it back, and they will pay the shipping!

  6. Sounds super interesting! We’ve got a 2 month old baby, so sleep is a constant topic of conversation around here!
    When I try to register, it “asks” me to enter a valid e-mail address. My e-mail address is valid. So, now what?

    • Hmmm, that’s so strange! You might want to try a secondary email address if you have one, but make sure to check it on Monday because that is where the link to access the webinar will be sent.

  7. Sleep definitely. If I could turn back time to mid 2013 with what I know now when a shoulder injury caused my sleep pattern to change to sleeping on my back rather than the side the injury was on, this brought on Apnea for the first time in my life and for the next 14 months I suffered chronic sleep depravation, my sleep studies showed wake arousal 28 times per hour average . It cost me so much in terms of mental health and personal relationships, my life was at a stand still and now post diagnosis and shoulder operation (which hid the apnea cause of sleep problems from the surgeon and GP at first) I am struggling to rebuild relationships and a career. The incredible part is the symptoms of being out of control of my own faculties and emotions literally disappeared in a single night of unbroken sleep on a CPAP machine. Do not take a lack of sleep for granted and seek professional advice if you cannot explain why your are losing sleep, it really is not worth the potential fall out.

  8. I listened to the webnar. I did enjoy it. However, I am one of those who freak out over everything. I hear the word off gassing and diseases and I’m afraid to go home and sleep on my bed. That thought lingers in my head as I lay down at night. I did get a new mattress about 3-4 years ago and I worried about the smell. However, we couldn’t afford an expensive mattress. I would like an article on how to reduce the off gassing if you have to buy a non organic mattress so that I may put other actions toward improving my heath. Worry makes you just as sick as the off gassing of the mattress.

    • Someone I know who is studying to be a homeopath said to turn up the heat in the house to mid 80’s for several hours and that will stop the off gassing. She said she had googled it, so maybe try googling and see what you find. She was having headaches and such after moving into housing with new paint and after she turned up the heat for a few hours (maybe days?) the headaches stopped. Hope that helps.

    • Several webinars, including ours, were affected by a recent technical glitch between two companies. We are hoping to offer a replay, but we’re not quite sure when it will be available. πŸ™

      • It’s ok, looking forward to see it, when ever:)

        I haven’t paid too much attention to my sleep before, but when I start thinking, I don’t even remember when I got a really good night sleep. Just so tired. I guess it’s a sign that I should start to educate myself in this area:)

  9. Hi Heather,

    I just watched the webinar and I have two questions:

    Do you know how the intelliBed 30 Deluxe or Posture Perfect compare to the Soaring Heart organic latex mattress (http://soaringheart.com/collections/organic-latex-mattresses/products/organic-natural-latex-mattress)? This is the mattress we currently have and we have no complaints about it, I am just curious about the differences for when it is time to replace it (for example, I found the information in the webinar about maintaining proper alignment and reducing pressure points on the hips interesting). I am also curious about what, if anything you learned about Soaring Heart in your research.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Gretchen, I did research Soaring Heart a couple of years ago, but back then they were using boric acid as their fire blocker. I think they’ve phased that out now, so yay! Though it’s been awhile and I don’t remember details of how their mattresses are constructed, I remember thinking that they seemed to take great care in sourcing their materials overall. However, for alignment support and pressure relief I haven’t experienced anything that comes close to what I’m sleeping on now πŸ™‚

      • I am very interested in how intelliBed could help maintain proper alignment. Both my husband and I thought the Soaring Heart mattress was very comfortable at first, but I now I realize that part of the reason I’m waking up at night is from frequent tossing and turning and I DO actually have low back and hip pain again (it went away at first when we got the mattress 2 years ago). And I didn’t know until this morning when I asked my husband, but evidently he HAS been having hip pain after sleeping. I guess we both just still had the “this mattress is very comfortable” assumption so we had never checked with ourselves periodically to see if we were STILL comfortable. What an eye opener! Thanks for the information and coupon codes!

        • Okay I think I know what the problem is. We have the basic latex mattress as opposed to the “zoned” mattress which is supposed to provide more appropriate support for the shoulders and hips. Sigh. I wish I would have known that two years ago. Also we changed beds and no longer have the mattress on slats like we’re supposed to. Will switch back to slats and hope that helps. May also possibly get the 4″ wool mattress topper in the hopes that it can be a temporary solution until we can afford to buy a whole new mattress. Just thought I’d update in case anyone was curious.

  10. Thank you so much for the sleep webinar!!! I listened to it today and as I too am working to recover from adrenal fatigue I found it all very helpful. I know my inability to sleep is one big thing holding me back.

    There are many things I will be adjusting but I am wondering if you would mind sharing the tea that you drink at night. I wasn’t able to write it all down fast enough as far as what you add (coconut oil, salt, honey, gelatin…?) and in what amounts.

    Thank you!!!!

    • Of course! I usually drink a cup of chamomile tea with 1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, honey to taste, 1-2 teaspoons of gelatin and 2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.

  11. I was just wondering if you’ve ever tried earthing sheets for your bed? What do you think about using them for better sleep?

    • Hi Melody, I have and I found them helpful. The electricity in our farm house is wired in such a way that they won’t work (it’s “grounded” differently) so I don’t use them anymore, but I do think they’re beneficial.

      • What do you mean about the electricity being “grounded” different? I use an outside rod for my earthing sheet but my children are on a second level so I use the all grounded port. I use the tester to make sure it’s grounded.
        I have found the earthing sheet to help some but I have also found that I am very sensitive and have had issues if I sleep on them too much. I’ve had to go very slow.

      • 1. This third party non-toxic mattress guide was very helpful:(http://media.wix.com/ugd/a2c2a6_9e5481ea8ac1b48caefc9a0a0c125a1f.pdf).

        “There are three types of certifications: First party certifications are made by companies themselves. These self-certifications tend to be designed to fit a product, rather than the other way around. Second party certifications are made by trade associations. These also tend to be designed to ensure eligibility of existing products. Third party certifications are developed and run by non-profit organizations or government bodies with no financial stake in the outcome. In general, third-party certifications are the most health protective and address the broadest range of concerns. They tend to evolve over time along with the trend toward safer products.”

        IntelliBed is certified by CertiPUR, which is a trade association, not a third party certification. As fas as I can tell they hold no third party certifications such as Greenguard, GOLS, or GOTS.

        Furthermore, IntelliBed uses soy foam. “‘Soy’ or ‘plant-based’ foam: polyurethane foam with a low percentage (between 5-20% of plants like soy and castor bean oil replacing petroleum based inputs. Pro: Apparent reduction in petroleum. Con: Same as polyurethane foam… Burns easily, may contain toxic chemicals including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic flame retardants. Chemicals used to make polyurethane can pose health problems. Catalysts and additives may also be toxic. VOCs come out of materials into the air, which can make concentrations of VOCs up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. VOCs used to make polyurethane are not revealed, but they commonly include isocyanates and toluene which can cause asthma, and may cause cancer. VOCs can irritate the eye, nose, and throat, cause headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea, and damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some VOCs may cause cancer, after prolonged exposure. Some companies certify that the final product emits low or no EPA listed VOCs…See ‘Avoid Greenwashing’ below [on page 15 of the mattress guide].” Soy is also an endocrine disruptor and is genetically modified.

        I see IntelliBed offers a mattress using talalay latex instead of soy foam. I have not confirmed if this is 100% natural or “all natural” (i.e. up to 95% synthetic) latex. I did confirm they also can make the mattress toppers using the talalay latex in place of the soy foam.

        2. I also found the educational articles about mattress support, comfort, materials, and construction on mattressunderground.com very helpful.

        According to this site, the intelliGel is non-toxic and a high quality, pressure relieving material.

        3. The last source I found useful was Dr. Mercola, whom cautions against using metal innersprings in mattresses because they can conduct EMF and contribute to cancer. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/08/18/your-box-spring-mattress-could-be-acting-as-a-gigantic-cancercausing-radiation-antenna.aspx)

        IntelliBeds uses innersprings.

        I absolutely support each person making their own informed choice to suit their unique needs. After reading the above three resources, if I were going to use an IntelliBed product, I would order the mattress topper with the talalay latex instead of the soy foam (after confirming if it is 100% natural latex and not synthetic). But for right now we’re going to try an organic latex and organic wool mattress topper because when I called IntelliBed they were going to “call me back in 15 minutes” and that was over 2 days ago…

        • So happy to have some fellow research geeks on this thread, lol! Here’s is a good video to add to your collection. It’s from one of the most well-respected sleep doctors in the world:


          Here’s some info that addresses a few of the concerns you’ve mentioned:

          Also, when intelliBED identifies foams in categories they are doing it for a few reasons.

          1. Foams, although there is a variety of them, seem to have the same attributes when it comes to relieving pressure.

          2. intelliBED does use polyurethane foam but does not add any synthetic materials, like the additives for memory foam, or use any dangerous fire blockers. These are the two factors behind the concerning aspects of off-gassing.

          IntelliBED has been in business for over 16 years and has 1,000’s of positive reviews, a lot of which come from chiropractors and other healthcare professionals. They have actually increased their warranty over the years opposed to decreasing it, which I think says a lot πŸ™‚ I wonder if they wrote your number down wrong, because they have been very responsive in my experience.

  12. Thanks for the comment about raising the heat. I wish I had known about that when I got the mattress about 3 years ago. I never got headaches but I often wondered how it was affecting me.

  13. So…hearing your story on the webinar was a watershed moment for me, because it was as if I were narrating. Bought a Tempurpedic 4 years ago, the smell nearly killed me and my immune issues accelerated rapidly. Was too soft for co-sleeping so night nursing was a disaster. Now I have debilitating tailbone and back pain every morning, and am ready to not feel like I’m 80 every morning. Your webinar was quite a deal-closer!

    So, we took the plunge and will be inviting Intellibeds into our bedroom and our toddler’s new bed. My question to you is, do you recommend any topper for waterproofing that is non-toxic? Do these mattresses require a wool puddle pad or the like for protection? We’ll be potty-training soon (using Lora Jensen’s method, thanks to you for the recommendation!) and want to make sure we don’t ruin our investment in the first month.

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Lea, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of your new bed! The mattress cover that you’ll be receiving is waterproof, so you’ve got that covered. (Sorry it took me awhile to respond. I thought for some reason your question was on FB and I’ve been looking over there for it.)

    • Hi Cristin, can you please clarify what kind of app you are thinking of? If it’s the one I mentioned that filters out blue light from the screen, yes it’s f.lux πŸ™‚

      P.S. I have a post going up tomorrow with more sleep tips!