How to choose the right mattress

Are you having problems with your mattress?


Marianna Kilburn
@MariannaKilburn


09 September 2015

Problems with the wrong mattress

We often talk about going to bed at the right time, not working too late into the night and banning electronic equipment from the bedroom, but no matter how good our sleep routine is, if we don’t have the right type of mattress, our sleep will never be toss and turn free. Various problems can arise as a result of having the wrong mattress, including:

Back pain – if your mattress is not supportive enough this can lead to back pain, as well as aches and creakiness in other areas of your body. This is because it can allow your spine to bend in ways that it should not, putting strain on tendons and ligaments.

Discomfort – lumps and bumps on your mattress can not only lead to pain, but can make it difficult for you to sleep as your spend the night tossing and turning trying to find a comfortable position. Even if you do fall asleep relatively quickly, an uncomfortable mattress will make it harder for you to fall into deep restorative sleep, so that you do not wake feeling fully rested.

Allergies – including asthma and generalised allergic rhinitis, old mattresses in particular can harbour dust and bugs which can trigger allergic reactions. Certain materials can trigger allergic reactions too, so if you are finding yourself waking up coughing and blocked up in the morning, you may need to investigate hypoallergenic mattresses.

Temperature – our bodies need to be at the right temperature in order to sleep well, that is, not too hot and not too cold, though the ideal temperature varies from person to person. Certain mattresses store body heat more effectively than others, particularly memory foam mattresses, and for some, particularly menopausal women prone to night sweats, these can be too hot for comfort, leading to poor sleep and fatigue the following day.

Types of mattress

There are many types of mattresses available, each made with different densities, materials distribution and type of support, so it is no wonder that when we go mattress shopping and are faced with all the possibilities, we panic, agree to take the first mattress we see, then regret the choice every night for the next five years. To help avoid this, here are the four main types of mattress to consider:

Innerspring – this is the most common type of mattress available. The support in this type of mattress comes from sprung coils, which are often individually pocketed to ensure an even distribution of support across the mattress, and to help absorb movement so that one side of the mattress doesn’t pop up when you lie on the other side.

Air Chamber – certainly not the blow-up beds used for the odd night kipping on someone else’s floor, air chamber mattresses look like innerspring mattresses but with support coming from individually filled air chambers rather than springs.

This means that the firmness of the mattress can be adjusted to suit your preference, and often the two sides of the mattress can be adjusted separately, accommodating for the different preferences of sleeping partners. This type of mattress is, understandably, considerably heavier on the purse than more standard models.

Memory Foam – these mattresses, which mould to the shape of your body, are increasing in popularity. They respond to the temperature and weight distribution of the body, helping to reduce pressure points and absorb movement. The biggest complaint with these mattresses, however, is that they can cause you to become very hot at night.

Latex – made from natural or synthetic rubber, these mattresses are very firm and supportive. They often feel similar to memory foam mattresses, though firmer and sometimes more supportive, making them preferable for many who suffer from back pain.

They are also good for those who are allergic to certain natural fibres. Some prefer to top an innerspring mattress with a latex mattress topper as this provides a better balance of comfort and support.

How to test a mattress

When we try out a mattress, we tend to bounce up and down on it a few times, perhaps lie on it for a couple minutes, then make a quick decision about whether we like it or not. The reality is, however, that our body is very different when it is asleep than awake. When we sleep, our skeletal muscle tone relaxes so that we do not start acting out our dreams.

This means that our back is not supported in the same way it is when we are awake, so even when we test out a mattress for at least half an hour when we are awake, this is not a true reflection of how it feels when we are sleeping.

It is far better to take your time when testing a mattress. Many people feel self-conscious lying on a mattress for too long in a shop, so if possible, ask if you can take the mattress home to try.

Many companies allow you a couple of weeks to return the mattress if you decide you do not like it. Remember that you and your mattress will adapt in that time, so even if you have a restless first night, this does not necessarily mean that it is not the perfect mattress for you.

Test the mattress with the person you sleep with to check that it is supportive enough and you do not find yourself rolling into a gutter in the middle of the bed.

Wear comfortable clothing similar to what you wear in bed when testing a mattress, as lumps and bulges from keys, wallets and phones are not going to make the testing experience a comfortable one!

Follow these tips and before long you may be experiencing some of the best night’s sleeps you have had for a long time!

How long to keep a mattress

If you can’t remember the last time you bought a new mattress, this is probably a good time for a change. A mattress can last 5-10 years before it needs replaced, but it all depends on the type of mattress and how well you look after it. Certain factors, such as weight, will also affect how long you can keep a mattress.

If you are beginning to notice aches and pains on waking, then this is a good sign that it is time for a new mattress, particularly if these aches disappear after you get up and about.

If you spend much of your night tossing and turning, or struggle to find a comfortable position to fall asleep, then this also suggests that your mattress is not providing the support and comfort that it should. One of the best indications of a worn out mattress is if you regularly notice that you sleep much better on other mattresses, such as in hotels.

To get the longest lifespan out of your mattress it is worth looking after it well. Unless guided by the manufacturer, do not flip the mattress, but instead rotate it regularly, particularly when it is new.

This prevents the mattress from sagging at pressure points, giving you optimum support. Keep it clean by vacuuming it when you change your sheets, as this will prevent a build-up of dust, mites and other allergens.

How old is your mattress?

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The wrong sleep position can not only negatively impact the quality of your sleep, it can also have an impact your posture, your joints, your digestion and even your face by making wrinkles worse!

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