Choosing the right mattress is crucial to getting the deep, restorative sleep that your body needs. The vast array of mattress styles available today can make choosing the right one a difficult task. The following are important considerations that you should keep in mind when selecting your next mattress.
When Should You Replace Your Mattress?
One sure sign that you are sleeping on the wrong mattress for you is if you wake up each morning with lower back pain that resolves within 15 to 30 minutes. A mattress that is too soft or firm for your body does not properly support the natural curvature and pressure points of your spine. Other signs that you should invest in a new mattress and foundation include
- waking up tired after a full night’s sleep,
- sleeping better on a bed other than your own, and
- a bed that sags or has other visible signs of wear.
Even if your mattress appears fine, the Better Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress approximately every seven years.
- The fibers, coils, and other components of the mattress no longer provide the same amount of support after years of wear and tear.
- Over time, mattresses collect dust mites and other allergens that can affect your sleep.
- Your body changes over the years, so you may need a different level of firmness to get the most recuperative sleep.
The Essential Elements of Support and Comfort:
The two primary considerations in choosing a traditional innerspring mattress are support and comfort.
- The support is provided by the coils. You should look for a mattress with enough coils to support the spine.
- The comfort of a mattress comes from the padding that covers the support structure. Although the amount of padding is a matter of personal preference, most high-quality mattresses come with thick, pillow-top padding.
Soft vs. Firm: Which Is Best?
Ideally, your mattress should support your spine in a neutral position so that it has the natural curvatures and alignment that it would have if you were standing with good posture. A study conducted by researchers in Spain found that most of the study participants experienced better sleep and less back pain using a moderately firm mattress.
Mattresses for Back Pain Sufferers:
If you have a back injury or chronic back pain, you should look for a mattress that relieves stress on the affected area of the spine. Although this can vary based on your personal preference and the type of injury involved, the following are a few general guidelines.
- Individuals with spinal arthritis or spinal stenosis often find it more comfortable to sleep on their side in a fetal position, which helps open the facet joints of the spine and relieve pressure on nerve roots. As a general rule, people with these conditions should avoid overly firm mattresses that can put too much pressure on the hips and shoulders.
- Individuals with degenerative disc disease or herniated lumbar discs tend to be more comfortable sleeping on their stomachs. A relatively firm mattress with a pillow under the hips and stomach usually provides the most comfort.
Pros and Cons of Different Mattress Types:
Traditional innerspring mattresses are affordable and come in a wide array of support and comfort levels to suit virtually every preference. While the cheapest models typically do not have enough coils to provide adequate support for the spine, you do not have to go for the most expensive mattress with the highest number of coils. Mattresses with a coil count above 390 generally do not provide enough of a noticeable difference to justify the added cost.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses reduce pressure points, which makes them well suited for individuals who find it difficult to get comfortable because of muscle pain or chronic fatigue. The mattresses also do a good job of absorbing movement from tossing and turning. The downside is that they can retain body heat and become uncomfortably warm if you like to sleep cool.
Latex mattresses offer comfort similar to a memory foam mattress but provide firmer support. The combination of comfort and support may make this a good choice if you suffer from lower back pain; however, side sleepers may find the additional firmness uncomfortable.
A quality air mattress looks similar to an innerspring mattress but uses air-filled chambers instead of coils. These mattresses work well for couples who have different firmness preferences since most models allow you to adjust the firmness of each side independently. It is important to choose a model with multiple air chambers so that one end does not pop up when you sit down on the opposite side.
The Bottom Line:
The best way to ensure that you have the right mattress for you is to take it for a test drive.
- Be sure to lie on the mattress for at least 10 to 15 minutes in your normal sleep position.
- If possible, try to bring your own pillow so that you can replicate your sleeping conditions as closely as possible.
- If you have a sleep partner, the two of you should test the mattress together.
Ultimately, the best mattress is the one that feels most comfortable to you and allows you to wake up feeling refreshed.