We spend around one-third of our time on earth in bed. That’s about 3,000 hours each year. Yet how many of us are sleeping (or not sleeping) on mattresses which are uncomfortable or positively harmful?
If you’re thinking of getting a new mattress, the choice can be almost overwhelming. Should your new mattress be pocket-sprung, latex, memory foam or none of these? Here’s a guide to help de-mystify some of the terminology so you can hopefully find the best possible mattress for you.
Do you really need a new mattress?
If your mattress is over 10 years old then the chances are that it is no longer offering you the comfort and support which it once did. To test whether your mattress is sufficiently firm lie on your back without a pillow and place a bunch of keys in the small of your back. You should not feel the keys.
How many hours sleep do we lose each week trying to get comfortable on a mattress which is too hard, too soft or too lumpy? Comfort is important but it’s not the only factor. If you’re one of the estimated 50% of the population who suffer from some type of lower back pain, you’ll know that a night spent on the wrong sort of mattress can make the aches and pains feel far worse. You should be aiming for a mattress which gives your spinal column the best possible posture whilst you sleep.
Types of mattress
Spring mattresses have metal spring coils inside, surrounded by fabric. At the lower end of the price range you will generally find Open Coil Springing. Posture Springing, made from a continuous spring unit where the springs are generally closer together, tends to give more support and flexibility than the cheaper types. Pocket Spring mattresses are filled with small individual springs encased in a fabric pocket. Each spring moves individually, helping the spine to stay in the right position and preventing you from disturbing your sleeping partner every time you move.
Latex mattresses are made from a natural material extracted from the rubber tree. Latex is resistant to house dust-mites and fungi, although a very small percentage of individuals are allergic to latex itself. Latex mattresses recover their shape immediately when you lift off the mattress. Generally speaking, the thicker the layer of latex, the more comfortable the mattress will feel.
Memory foam mattresses leave and imprint of your body after you have moved off the mattress. Some individuals love the feel of sinking into memory foam. Others find it too restrictive to movement.
Gel mattresses are a relative newcomer to the field. They have very good thermo-regulatory properties and offer good support.
So which is the best?
There is no single type of mattress which is best for everyone. You need a mattress which is suitable for your body-type, sleeping position and budget. You want a mattress which supports good spinal posture but which allows you to turn easily in bed. If you sleep with a partner who is a lot lighter or heavier than you, you want to avoid a mattress which does not support each person separately. For those with a bad back, most specialists would recommend a medium-firm mattress. But at the end of the day, if you test a mattress and it feels right then the chances are that’s the right one for you. Never buy a mattress from an outlet which does not let you spend as long as you like trying them out. And it’s important to bring your sleeping partner along with you. The mattress might feel completely different with a second person on it with you.