At the end of a hard day at the office or in school, there’s something we all look forward to, regardless of how our day turned out to be – a deep restful sleep. But it is also no secret that there are many factors that affect the quality of your sleep, including personal stress levels, comfort and room temperature among others. However, perhaps the most important way of improving your sleep is using the right kind of mattress.
If you recently started or even just thought of looking for a new mattress, then you must have discovered that there are so many varieties to choose from as a consumer, whether you’re shopping online or in brick and mortar stores. The challenge is, therefore, choosing the right mattress for your needs.
Let’s hear what the experts have to say.
According to Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, you should choose a mattress that neutrally supports your whole body. This neutral position refers to when your head, shoulders, buttocks and heels are properly aligned with the bed and your spine also has a healthy curvature.
“You should avoid mattresses that are too firm as those push on your body’s pressure points, thus affecting your alignment,” Arya says. “Likewise, when you use a very soft mattress, you do not offer enough support for your pressure points, which means your body will flop back.” These two scenarios will eventually result in back pain.
In general, one brand or type of bed is not better than another – i.e according to Michael Breus, PhD, a posture expert nicknamed “the Sleep Doctor.” But even so, he still believes that using a firmer mattress will be useful for people suffering from back pain. Researchers have even proved that people who sleep on firmer mattresses had considerable less back pain in their lower back region compared to those who use soft mattresses.
In addition to the right mattress, you should be using the correct foundation or support, which can make an enormous difference.
How to Tell You Are Using the Right Mattress
“If you normally wake up and have some level of back pain, which you can eliminate in around half an hour after stretching, then that means you are using the wrong mattress,” Breus says. “When you use the correct mattress, you will likely feel as if you are floating since you do not feel any pressure,” he then adds.
When searching around for a mattress, experts recommend sufficiently testing it inside the store to ensure it is the right fit. Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes laying on every mattress in the store. Breus even recommends bringing your pillow to the store. The better you replicate your normal sleep habits, the higher your likelihood of choosing the correct one.
That said, here are some of the major types of mattresses available today plus their accompanying pros and cons.
The innerspring mattress is one of the more commonly used mattresses. It supports your body using coil springs, with most of using individually enclosed coils. In effect, the mattress can withstand several years of usage, and it also guards the coils against popping outside the mattress. And placed above the coils are an assortment of different materials to provide comfort. These materials range from latex to pillow to memory foam. It all depends on what you prefer.
Salespeople often try selling consumers on the belief that a mattress with more coils will be more comfortable. However, both Breus and Arya say that this is not factual. “A good mattress should not have a higher coil count than 390,” Arya says. If you go beyond that limit, there is a very little difference you are going to experience.
Advantages: Due to their popularity, you will find that innerspring mattresses will have several varieties available. They differ in the fluffiness and the firmness of the coil covering, and in prices as well to nearly fit every pocketbook and preference.
Disadvantages: In as much as there is seldom a direct relationship between comfort and price, but Arya suggests avoiding the cheap innerspring mattresses as long as you’re intending to use the bed for several years. If there are not enough cushion and springs, you will end up waking up with a sore back as soon as the mattress begins to wear down.
Conditions: Spring mattresses are great for overweight people as they provide a better, firmer support. Nevertheless, these mattresses are suitable for nearly everyone.
Memory Foam Mattress
The memory foam mattress is comprised of different layers, each with its density that responds to temperature and weight. They are well known for providing comfort since they curve to the unique shape of the user’s body.
Advantages: Through curving to your body’s weight as you shift your weight all night long, memory foam helps in reducing pressure points, thus relieving pain. It also accommodates and absorbs movement, which means that you will not be disturbed by your partner when they toss and turn.
Disadvantages: The fact that a memory foam mattress is temperature sensitive can also be a disadvantage. You will likely feel hotter as the night progresses besides experiencing an unpleasant chemical odor in some varieties.
Conditions: According to Breus, people with difficult getting comfortable or muscle pain and even chronic fatigue should get the memory foam mattress provided you do not have any issues with temperature.
A latex mattress is made from synthetic or natural rubber, and it is known for offering a bouncy, firm support, which is uniform across the bed.
Advantages: “Frankly, I believe latex is the best mattress material,” Breus says. What he finds most appealing with this mattress is the support and firmness, while offering the same kind of comfort as memory foam.
Disadvantages: People who want soft mattresses should look elsewhere since latex is quite firm.
Conditions: For effective back pain relief, use a latex mattress as it offers a good combination of support and comfort.
The air mattress, particular the high-end varieties, resemble the normal spring mattresses, but instead of using coils, air-filled compartments are used. Arya notes that the air mattress has long been recommended for spinal cord injured patients who are in bed for most of the time. These mattresses can be easily modified so that they do not continue pressing on the same parts of the body, which is crucial for preventing skin breakdown for immobile patients.
Advantages: This is best for couples with huge differences in preference for firmness on comfort levels. The air mattress allows for adjustments on either side of the bed so that each person can customize it to their need.
Disadvantages: The common problem is that people forget to make these mattresses firm enough, thus resulting in back pain.
Conditions: The air mattress is very useful when two people have different sleeping needs because of their flexible configuration, and they are the choice for patients with spinal cord injuries. You can adjust the firmness and softness on your side without affecting your partner. If you suffer from back pain without serious injuries, make sure to read our Best Mattress for Back Pain review.
Adjustable beds can elevate and bend at different angles. In effect, the type of mattress you use on these beds must be flexible. There are many kinds of mattresses that are recommended for adjustable beds, including latex, air mattress, and memory foam. However, avoid using spring mattresses since springs do not handle bending well.
Advantages: This is best for people with difficulty accessing the bed and also those who prefer watching TV in bed.
Conditions: People with sleep apnea usually have problems with sleeping flat as it makes the situation worse through closing airways and can benefit from adjustable beds. Likewise, those with acid reflux many also gain from adjustable beds.
The sofa bed is a very convenient solution for when there are guests staying over for a couple of nights. The mattresses used in sofa beds are usually quite thin, which makes them flexible to fold easily into your couch. While sofa beds are very handy, they are not very comfortable
Advantages: The sofa bed is highly convenient, especially for people with limited space. However, regarding the impact on your health, Breus and Arya do not see any benefits.
Disadvantages: Spending a couple of nights on the sofa bed is okay. However, this is likely the worst type of bed that you can think of sleeping on for a long time. The reason is due to the weak springs and thinness that results in a very uncomfortable posture. If you do not have enough space and are looking for a foldable bed, it is better to check out futons, as they offer more support that the regular sofa beds.
Conditions: According to experts, there is no condition for which using sofa beds would be helpful. If you already have back pain, then you will find these beds particularly prickly.
When Should You Change Your Mattress?
Nowadays, mattresses are being designed so that they last for many years. Nevertheless, you should probably plan to keep yours for a shorter period. Think of it this way, your body is constantly changing over time. Hence, that mattress that you enjoyed sleeping in at one point may feel very uncomfortable after a few years. Sometimes, minor adjustments can be made by adding a mattress topper, but you have to choose carefully.
Besides, mattresses are known for collecting fungus, germs and dust mites that can worsen allergies and affect your healthy sleep patterns. Aim for at least ten years and then start thinking of getting a brand new bed.
Finally, the experts note that the right bed and mattress is one that you feel most comfortable in when sleeping. Remember that there is no mattress that will save your body from pain when you only get a few hours of rest per night. If you want to feel and function at your best, it is vital to get sufficient rest, regardless of which mattress you are sleeping on at the moment.
If you are serious about changing your mattress today, have a look at our updated 2016 Best Mattress Guide, which will help you find the ideal solution.