Is it time to change your mattress?
Are you waking up with pain or stiffness in your back, neck or shoulders? Do you get a better nights’ sleep anywhere but in your bed? Does your mattress sag or have lumps?
If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s probably time for you to think about buying a new mattress. When it comes to picking the right mattress, here are a few things you should consider.
It’s a common belief that a firm mattress is best choice for low back pain. This is not necessarily true! A recent study that looked at the effect of mattress firmness on chronic low back pain showed that a new medium-firm mattress relieved chronic lower back pain better than a new firm mattress.
What’s important to understand is that although a mattress should be firm enough to support the spine, an overly firm mattress does not mold to the curves of the spine enough and will tend to leave parts of the spine unsupported. With an overly firm mattress, pressure points (areas where pressure cuts off blood flow) are created on the parts on the body that have contact with the mattress, as there is less area to distribute the weight of the body. The discomfort from pressure points and the extra tossing and turning to seek relief from painful pressure points interfere with proper sleep.
What position do you sleep in?
When choosing mattress firmness, it’s also important to consider your sleeping position. Side sleepers may need a slightly softer mattress to allow the shoulders and hips to sink in enough to avoid pressure points. Back sleepers may be able to tolerate a slightly firmer mattress (but this may vary if you’ve had a back problem in the past). Keep in mind that a mattress that is too firm can be softened up with the addition of a mattress topper but a mattress that is too soft cannot be firmed up. The padding in the comfort layer will soften up during the first few months of use – even in good quality mattresses.
There are other structural and alignment characteristics in your body that should also be considered when determining how firm your mattress should be. This is information that a physiotherapist or chiropractor would be able to provide for you.
Foam, Innerspring, or Memory Foam?
When it comes to choosing what kind of mattress is best for your back the question of whether to buy foam, innerspring, memory foam is a common one. There is no single type of mattress that is best for everyone, and no single type of mattress that is better for your back. The choice essentially comes down to your personal comfort. A memory foam mattress feels much different than a coil mattress and some people find one more comfortable than the other. The most important thing is to ensure that the mattress is well made and supports you properly. A mattress that is comfortable and provides adequate support will promote a sounder, more restorative sleep, which is beneficial for back pain. If you do choose an inner coil mattress I recommend a pillow top for greater comfort. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that all pillow tops are soft enough – pillow tops are made in varying firmness and can be too firm for your back.
Remember That You Get What You Pay For!
Beware of the very inexpensive mattresses. They cost less for a reason – a reason that can contribute to your pain! The more inexpensive mattresses are usually made with inferior materials that will provide less padding, wear more quickly and provide less support.
Test it out
It is generally recommended that you test a mattress by lying on it in your preferred sleeping position for at least ten minutes. Testing it in other positions is also recommended. Don’t just rely on labeling and don’t just sit on it. It can sometimes take a few nights of sleeping on a mattress before you know it it’s right for you. Some retailers offer a 60-day guarantee where you can exchange your mattress if you find it’s not comfortable.
One final piece of advice – don’t forget about comfort! An uncomfortable mattress can disrupt your sleep by causing you to wake frequently or to come out of deep sleep to light sleep. This type of disrupted sleep will not be as restorative and will actually increase your perception of pain.
Hope this helps you get a better night’s sleep and a healthier spine!