Mark Dowen is the owner of Cambridge Futons and the designer of Slumber Support - a sleeping aid for hip replacement patients.
Pamela: I know you've been involved in futons and bedding for a long time now but what made you branch out and produce Slumber Support.
Mark: Well Pamela, at the end of 2009 I had a hip replacement. The surgeon was great and everything went well and in a few days I was able to walk and start my exercise programme. I had been told I would need to sleep on my back with a pillow between my legs for the first six weeks post-op. At first this wasn't an issue probably because I was in the post-anaesthetic phase. Once I got home though things changed dramatically.
Pamela: Why was that?
Mark: I simply found it impossible to sleep on my back. I understand totally why I was asked to do this and that should I sleep on my side there was a serious risk of dislocating my new hip but however much I tried I just couldn't get any sleep.
Like nearly everyone else I naturally sleep on my side and my nights were filled with a longing, an obsession even, to turn over and get into my natural sleeping position.
After a week I was suffering from sleep deprivation. I knew something had to change so I returned to the physio to ask for advice. She suggested using pillows between my knees to keep the top knee from crossing over.
Pamela: How successful was that for you - it didn't work at all for me!
Mark: No, me neither. Normal pillows are just the wrong shape and the wrong size. They're not big enough to support the entire leg and they slide out of position really easily. There's also not a lot of room on a pillow so its hard to move your leg about without falling off. Just to alter my position a small amount meant a whole lot of readjustment - which was hard to do because conventional pillows are just too soft (even the hard ones are soft compared to something like Slumber Support).
I tried the pillows for a week and became somewhat adept at pillow wrestling and managed to get a few hours sleep but no where near enough.
I looked on the internet for an alternative but didn't find anything suitable so I decided to take action and design one myself.
Pamela: So you first of all identified the problems you had in using conventional pillows to support your leg and then worked out what was needed?
Mark: Yes, I looked at: -
the optimal size for support - this included width, length and height
the firmness needed to offer adequate support
a strap to stop the cushion "roaming"
a handle to help adjust the cushion
Pamela: And so Slumber Support was born. What is it made from?
Mark: We use special vertical weave polyester which gives maximum support and yet is still comfortable. It is stiff enough to allow it to be moved easily.
Pamela: Did you get advice from anyone about the shape and size?
Mark: Yes, throughout the process I consulted with my physiotherapist who was very informative and supportive.
Pamela: Have you any plans to change the design?
Mark: Some people have asked us to make it thinner but I'm concerned that this will increase the risk of adduction. It is possible to remove a layer of padding but I really don't advise that.
Pamela: Is it only suitable for hip replacement patients?
Mark: No not at all. It's helped people with knee, hip and back problems and is being considered for use with pregnant women. However we always advise people to seek a professional opinion before using it to ensure that it's suitable for their particular medical condition.
Pamela: Is the design registered?
Mark: Yes, it's got a European CE mark and is registered as a medical cushion. The design itself is protected by ACID (a company that deals in design protection).
Pamela: How widely is it available?
Mark: It can be bought over the internet and delivered directly to your door. Sadly we haven't got the insurance to sell to the USA market although weve had loads of enquiries from there as well as from England and the rest of Europe.
Pamela: Any final words?
Mark: It would be good to know that we've helped people through what is a really difficult time.
With thanks to Mark Dowen for sparing time from his very busy schedule to be interviewed.
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