- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

What will $59,750 buy? Well, let’s see. Possibly, it could procure a hammer over in the Pentagon, a lagniappe for Paris Hilton’s chihuahua or one-sixteenth of a condo on the shores of scenic Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., where the water is clear and the loons went to finishing school.

It could also buy a mattress.

The aforementioned $59,750 is the current asking price for a Vividus mattress set, the most expensive mattress set in the known universe, handmade in Sweden by elves, or maybe Valkyries. This is not the average Sealy Posturepedic. The mattresses in question are lined with flax and buttressed with solid pine and oiled oak. There are secret layers of cotton, wool, steel and horsehair.

Yes, horsehair.

“The horsehair in the Vividus is hand flailed. It makes sure that the bed is going to maintain its comfort and shape for a long time,” the company notes. “The springs are fixed with a durable yarn. The hand-tied spring system means the Vividus is pliable and soft.”

Hand flailed. See? Isn’t that what elves and Valkyries do when they’re, oh, spinning straw into gold or thatching a cottage?

Oddly enough, Vividus means “full of life” in Latin, a name that seems somehow counterproductive when considering that a mattress is supposed to be a calming bastion of sleep and relaxation rather than vibrancy. But no matter. Maybe the Swedes know something we don’t. Tom Cruise owns a Vividus, along with a few celebrities and kajillionaires who are not content unless they doze off on a mattress expensive enough to shore up the economies of several Third World countries.

Meanwhile, the Vividus is also billed as the ultimate “boomer” bed for all the old, rich hippies who once were quite content to sleep in the back of a VW bus. Now they need hand-flailed horsehair. But no matter. Maybe the old hippies know something we don’t.

Pillow-topped, memory-foamed “exclusive” mattresses, apparently, are here to stay.

According to Furniture/Today, an industry publication, sales of luxury mattresses costing about $3,500 and up are increasing, sales rising 37 percent in the past seven years. The operative term here is “and up.” Hypnos, a British-based company that supplies Queen Elizabeth and her family, offers single mattresses priced from $8,000 to $20,000. Their sales in the U.S. are climbing by about 20 percent each year.

Duxiana, another Swedish manufacturer, now has 32 stores in America peddling mattresses that range from $4,045 to $7,525. Two store locations in Manhattan alone sell at least 30 a week, according to a recent account in the New York Sun, which called them appropriate “for the city that never sleeps.”

We will delicately interject here that once these fairy-tale mattresses are in place, it is reasonable to assume that 200-thread count cotton sheets from the Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart just won’t cut it. But of course. A Vividus mattress calls for Porthault designer linens, all the way from Levallois-Perret, France.

Oo-la-la.

Sheets, pillow cases and pillow shams start around $2,400. And a nice Contessa pillow from Scandia Down might be a good idea, too. It is filled with Siberian goose down and ranges in price from $440 to $750.

Let us do the math, now. The price of this ultimate sleep spot, with all the trimmins’, would be close to $63,000. And imagine that our well-heeled mattress connoisseur — let’s make it a gentleman — is ready to turn in for the night, wearing a pair of $4,500 footie pajamas. He flicks off the light and snuggles into all that flailed horsehair and Siberian goose down, ready to drift off into dreamy slumber.

But other numbers may get in the way. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 40 percent of adults are troubled by insomnia. The Washington-based National Sleep Foundation (NSF) puts it up around 58 percent, and has gone so far as to identify five distinct “sleeper personalities” among Americans, including the “healthy, lively larks” and the “dragging duos.”

Not to be outdone, the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association reports that if one’s spouse snores, than one loses two years worth of sleep over a lifetime.

Hmm. Even a $63,000 bed can’t get around that.

But the NSF has a possible way around this. In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the group is offering a “Sleep Challenge” through March 31 to anyone willing to analyze their dysfunctional sleeping patterns, keep a journal about all that tossing and turning and consider some practical remedies.

“Are you tired of feeling tired?” they ask.

The grand prize, awarded randomly to some lucky insomniac, is serendipitous, perhaps: a luxury bed consisting of a $2,800 Rhapsody Bed by Tempur-Pedic and a set of $300 “Velvet Toast” bed linens from Wamsutta. It’s not Vividus and Porthault, but it’ll do.

For information, visit the NSF Web site (www.sleep foundation.org).

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and flailed horsehair for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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