Universal Design Living Laboratory and the Rosemarie Rosetti Story

In 1998, Rosemarie Rosetti and her husband Mark Leder were bike riding when a tree fell on her, crushing her body and paralyzing her from the waist down. After months of therapy, Rosemarie finally went home, only to find out that most of her house was inaccessible to someone who is wheelchair-bound. Today, Rosemarie, a nationally known lecturer, trainer and author is building – along with her husband Mark – the type of home that will be accessible to all. Using the principles of Universal Design, the house will allow access to all persons, whether young, elderly or physically challenged, and it will serve as a living laboratory for those who wish to learn more about such construction. To read more about Rosemarie’s compelling story, Click Here


Article: A Better Bed Leads to Better Sleep
Action Magazine January 2009
By Rosemarie Rossetti Copyright © 2009 Rosemarie Rossetti Publication copyright©

2009 United Spinal Association http://www.unitedspinal.org/


A Better Bed Leads to Better Sleep 

In October 2002, I was speaking at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL at the Young Presidents Organization conference. Sitting poolside after my presentation with my husband, Mark Leder, we were enjoying the ocean view. Kim Knopf, President of Innovative Mattress Solutions, came up to our table to introduce herself and told me she was inspired by my presentation.    She arranged to have me deliver a motivational program to her employees in Winfield, WV the following December. In my presentation, I spoke about my life story and how a spinal cord injury in June 1998 forced me to make a quick life transition. I shared lessons to live by with this audience. A business relationship had begun. Mark and I were impressed with Knopf and the company she built.

In September 2004, I contacted Knopf and told her about a new home that Mark and I were designing and planning to build in Columbus, OH that would be a national demonstration home. This home, the Universal Design Living Laboratory www.UDLL.com would be open to the public as a fundraiser for spinal cord injury research at The Ohio State University. It would showcase universal design, green building and healthy home construction features. Throughout the home design process I kept in contact with Knopf. I asked her for advice on selecting a new bed to replace our current nine year old mattress. She wanted to help out and invited us to go shopping at her Sleep Outfitters www.sleepoutfitters.com Columbus, OH showroom where we tested many beds.

My need for comfortable sleeping is based on special needs that I have due to my spinal cord injury. My paralysis limits me from walking so I use a wheelchair for mobility. I need a bed that is about the height of my wheelchair seat to make transferring easier. I also want a bed that doesn’t transfer my movements so as not to disturb my sleeping husband.

The new mattress and bed frame were delivered in April 2008. The mattress was the Kaymed gel mattress www.kaymedworld.com. This 12” thick, pressure reducing mattress is made of the following layers: high density visco foam, gel honeycombs, visco-elastic, and energy absorbing foam. Visco-elastic is unique because it is body-responsive, softening under contact points with the body. It molds to your body by reacting in a few minutes to your body heat. The ability of the mattress to contour and conform to your body gives you a feeling of comfort — like you are riding on the mattress or floating.

For the base of our bed, we selected the Leggett & Platt Lifestyles S-cape adjustable bed www.lpadjustablebeds.com.  We had two extra long twin mattresses that when positioned side by side, were as large as a king sized bed. By sleeping on two separate mattresses, we did not disturb each other when we moved in bed. In order to make transferring to and from my wheelchair easier, we lowered the frame about two inches by taking off the wheels under the frame. The top of the mattress was 25” from the floor.

This bed has two cordless remote controls that can be independently adjusted to elevate and lower the head and foot of each mattress. A feature we really enjoy is the two variable speed therapeutic body massagers in the “wave” motion. This feels great on my hips and lower back.

When Mark and I awoke that first morning after sleeping on the new bed, Mark said, “Oh Boy! Pretty incredible! Aaaaah!”  We both said we could have slept another three hours because the bed was so comfortable.

I didn’t find myself flopping from side to side that first night like I used to, trying to get comfortable. Previously I could only sleep on my sides which put lots of pressure on my hips. That first morning, I woke up less stiff with fewer aches and pains than when I slept on our previous mattress.

Before receiving this mattress, since my injury in 1998, I had not been able to sleep on my back. I thought that this was due to my spinal cord injury — T12-L1 incomplete, spinal fusion and Harrington rods implanted along my spine. As I found out, I was wrong. It was due to my old bed. With the head and foot of the new bed slightly elevated, I was able to sleep on my back for hours. Doctors told me early on not to sleep on my stomach and indeed this sleeping position is not comfortable.

I also thought that for the rest of my life I would have to take Baclofen, an antispastic medication that left me tired during the day. Again I was wrong. With my doctor’s advice, I have gradually weaned myself off all Baclofen. Now I have more energy during the day.

I used to take 10 – 40 mg of Baclofen each day, including having to take pills during the night to stop my legs from shaking.  There were numerous nights during the first ten years after my injury when my shaking legs woke up Mark and me. Several nights a month, the spasms in my calves and feet were so severe that I left our bed in great pain and torment. I would lie on the couch in the great room for the rest of the night, hoping to fall asleep. It took an hour for the Baclofen to reduce my spasms so I could sleep. I would then sleep until the late morning and felt sleep deprived and lethargic the rest of the day.

This bed has made all the difference!

I was curious what my doctors would have to say about my new sleeping experience. Dr. William Pease, Chairperson of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University Medical Center is a leading expert in spinal cord injuries. He said, “Relieving pressure points on joints and putting joints in more comfortable positions at night reduce spasms.” We discussed the properties of visco elastic, also referred to as memory foam. He was aware that some people who used these mattresses complained that they felt hot in bed because they were sinking into the foam as they slept. I did not have this experience.

Dr. Sam Colachius, Director of SCI Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University Medical Center, is the doctor who treated me for five weeks after my spinal cord injury.  He has continued as my doctor to provide medical advice to me. When I asked him if other patients ever mentioned that their beds made an incredible difference in their quality of sleep, he said I was the first patient to bring this up. I asked him if he had read about any research on this subject. He said, “I’m unaware of any studies that have addressed beds in the management of spasticity.” He concurred with Dr. Pease, and said, “Certain positions make spasms worse. If a bed that conforms to you and doesn’t cause pressure areas, a bed can reduce spasms.”

From our conversation, one can conclude that a mattress with a pressure relieving surface which prevents pressure areas on the body could reduce spasticity at night. A pressure relieving mattress could also reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers.

Colachius also explained that a change is a person’s spasticity could be a manifestation of a pain or condition such as kidney stones, bladder infections, or a soft tissue injury pressure sore. People with spinal cord injuries need to carefully analyze the source of their involuntary rapid muscle contraction or tightness.

In May 2012 the time had come to move into our new home. Before we moved in, Knopf guided Mark and I back into her showroom to select a new mattress and frame. We selected the Tempur-Pedic http://www.tempurpedic.com Allura model pressure relieving memory foam mattress. The Tempur Advanced Ergo System base was selected with the adjustable bed frame and massage unit. We also selected the memory foam I Love My Pillow https://lovemypillow.com and Tempur-Pedic pillows.

This is the current bed that we sleep in and it is amazing how the quality of sleep during the night affects the quality of our lives. We found a winning combination of the adjustable frame bed and the pressure reducing mattress.

In June 2013, Knopf surprised us with an offer to replace the Kaymed mattress with her new private label uDream Beyond Collection “Bella Day” memory foam mattress. This bed is in our guest bedroom and serves us comfortably for the occasional nap during the day as well as when one of us doesn’t feel well and can’t sleep at night. On occasions when Mark and I have overnight guests we look at the clock and wonder why our guests haven’t gotten up by 10:00 AM. Then we look at each other and smile knowing that the mattress makes all the difference in their sleeping experiences too.

The other night when Mark and I were lying in bed in an upright position watching TV, I said, “This is too good!” Mark’s reply, “You’re worth it!”


Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. and her husband built the national model universal design and green home and garden in Columbus, Ohio. She is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author. To contact Rosemarie, learn about her services go to: www.RosemarieSpeaks.com  To learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory go to: www.UDLL.com

Copyright by Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. 2013