What problem are we talking about? Too much variety!
There are so many different kinds of mattresses to choose from today that the options can seem overwhelming—even if you have the time and energy to do your homework.
Familiar innerspring mattresses are just one alternative. What about memory foam, latex foam or inflatable? Maybe a futon or even a waterbed? Manufacturers and retailers like to talk about differences in design, construction and materials. They also like to talk about differences in adjustability and personalization. Some of this is just marketing, but some of the differences are real. But do any of them actually matter? Do any of these things really add up to a “miracle mattress?”
The truth is that all of the options have their pluses and minuses when it comes to comfort, durability, maintenance, flexibility and price. How big these pluses and minuses actually are will depend on your own priorities. One type of bed or mattress is not inherently better than any other, and several types can probably provide the proper support your body needs for a good night’s rest. The key is to understand your own preferences, carefully review the available options and to “field-test” them before buying.
Remember—your body is different than anyone else’s and the chances are good that you’ll be living with your decision for many years to come. If you have a specific health problem–especially one that involves your back or neck—you should check with your chiropractor about the kind of mattress that might be best for you.
Think Sleeping Posture First
When evaluating a mattress, the single most important factor to consider is proper sleeping posture. When you are lying on your side, your waist should be supported by the mattress and your shoulders and hips should sink in. No matter what material the mattress is made of, the goal is for your spine to remain aligned (or “neutral”) from top to bottom when your body is at rest. This simply won’t happen if the mattress is too soft or too hard. For this reason, it’s worth keeping two things in mind:
- A firmer mattress often provides more appropriate support for heavier people.
- If you have a partner, it may be challenging to find a mattress that offers a “just right” solution for both of you. If you sleep with a partner, both of you should test mattress options. This will help you understand each-other’s firmness preferences as well as how movement is transferred across the bed by different types of mattress. Depending on what you and your partner learn, you may need to consider bed or mattress options that allow independent adjustment or that isolate movement.
Test, Test Test
Whether you sleep alone or with someone else, testing a variety of mattresses is critical. Some experts even suggest that you need to test 30 mattresses just to get a proper idea of your needs! One good way to get exposure to lots of different mattress types without spending hours in retail showrooms is to ask friends and family if they’re happy with the bed they sleep on. If so, they may let you test it out yourself in their home. If you decide to use this “friends and family” approach to comparing mattresses, be sure to lie on the mattress for at least 15 minutes—5 minutes on your back and 5 minutes on each side of your body. And be a gracious guest!
Many retailers also offer to let you “test drive” different mattresses in your own home over a certain period of time. This can be a great option provided that you understand exactly how the test-drive program works and that you’re willing to go through the effort of trying different mattresses until you find the right one—including the potential inconvenience of opening your home to teams of installers every few weeks or months.
In addition to test-driving different mattress options, be sure to compare prices (including incidental charges for delivery, installation and take-away) at different retailers. The Internet makes it easier to do this, though you may also want to make a few phone calls. Remember that mattresses are often significantly marked up and then discounted during sales. In addition, ask the salesperson about a comfort guarantee, and be sure to get the details in writing. That way you can return an unwanted mattress or exchange it for a different one if necessary.
Your overall health and wellness is the result of many things—including lots of little lifestyle decisions you make every day about exercise, nutrition and (YES!) sleep. As chiropractic physicians, we work closely with our patients to help them develop healthy habits that can prevent many types of disease and injury. Whether you have general questions about wellness or more specific health concerns, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. We’re here to help!