Buying a mattress can be quite a daunting task. With an endless amount of options, materials, and features available it can be difficult to determine which mattress is right for you. The average adult sleeps for eight hours a night; this means that you could be spending up to a third of life lying on your mattress, making this purchase all the more important.
The first question to ask yourself is, do you need a new mattress? The average lifespan of a mattress is 5-10 years. Many manufacturers will have warranties that extend beyond the 10-year range, but for most the 8-year mark is when it is time to look at replacing their mattress. However, if you wake up every morning feeling sore or with back pain that tends to resolve within 15-30 minutes of being awake, this could indicate that you should be looking to replace your current mattress.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all for mattresses. Everybody has a different body type, a different way to sleep, and experiences comfort differently. Some people will require a softer mattress and others will prefer a firmer mattress. In the end, this is personal preference and very subjective. We will provide you with some general guidelines to consider when testing out mattresses but there is no replacement for going to the store and testing out different options yourself. We recommend when testing mattresses, you lie on them for at least 10 minutes as this will give you a much clearer indication to its comfort level and how your body responds to its level of support.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a mattress is whether your purchase has a comfort guarantee. Even after doing all your due diligence and testing it in the store you may notice after a couple night’s sleep you will realize the mattress you selected simply is not right for you. Some companies offer a comfort guarantee in the event you decide you are not satisfied with your mattress (typically within 30 or 90 day periods). Every guarantee is different, and some have fees associated with the return. Therefore it is important to understand the fine print associated with any specific guarantee. This guarantee will protect your purchase and ensure that you will not be spending the next eight years waking up with a sore back from sleeping on the wrong mattress.
It is also important to understand the cost associated with mattresses. Prices vary widely and range anywhere from $200 to $5000 +. Unfortunately, price does not always correlate with quality or the right mattress for you. It is recommended that you budget at least $800-1000 for your new mattress. This budget should be enough to purchase a quality mattress that fits your needs but also one that is built to last you the 8-10-year range.
Once you determine your budget the next step is to figure out which style mattress best suits your needs.
Innerspring mattress: The innerspring mattress is also known as a coil mattress. It is arguably the most traditional style of the mattress and currently one of the most common mattresses on the market. It is typically a firmer mattress style, and the individual coils can offer quality support for your back. The “coil counts” on innerspring mattresses tend to indicate better comfort and support as the number increases. With that in mind as long as you have a minimum coil count of 400 the difference in higher count mattresses is typically nominal.
Memory foam mattress: Memory foam mattresses mold to the contour of your body better than any other type of mattress. This results in fewer pressure points when you are sleeping. These mattresses tend to be by and large a softer mattress, but that still depends on the model you purchase as some brands make firmer memory foam models. It can also serve to absorb movement, helping decrease the disturbance of sleeping with a partner. One of the main drawbacks of a memory foam mattress is that it tends to absorb heat and can be a very hot mattress to sleep on.
Latex Mattress: Latex mattresses tend to be firmer, with bouncy support throughout the mattress. One of the main features of a latex mattress is that the material remains cooler as the latex foam does not absorb heat the same way that memory foam does. Latex mattresses are often considered to be a good option for a patient suffering low back pain due to their combination of softness and support. A latex mattress will also provide the same feeling of a foam surface similar to the memory foam however it the contouring of a memory foam mattress.
Pillow Top: A pillow top mattresses do not indicate a type of mattress rather, it describes the addition of soft layer sewn on top of the mattress. They can be any one of innerspring, latex or memory foam mattresses underneath the pillow top layer. This results in a softer, more cushioned top surface with a firmer base of support.
These are the main categories of mattresses, but there are many other variations on the market. One final style to consider is an adjustable mattress. These mattresses can change the firmness from firm to soft at the touch of a button. This provides you with the ability to try different levels of firmness until you find the right amount for you. Many of these beds also have adjustable bed angles which can further customize your sleep experience.
Now that we’ve discussed what styles of mattresses exist, the next step is determining whether you need a firmer or a softer mattress. Everyone’s preference is different however there are several factors that we can look at to help guide our decision.
The size of the individual sleeping on the mattress is the first important factor. If you are a lighter person, then a pillow top mattress is likely not a good fit. To maximize the pillow top, you must be heavy enough to compress the top layer to be supported by the underlying material of the mattress.
If you are a lighter individual, you will look for a softer top layer. That way you can benefit from the lower supportive layer of the mattress. Typically, the denser the top layer, the more uncomfortable a lighter person will be.
If you are a heavier individual, then you will aim for a denser top layer and a firmer mattress. This is the case where a pillow top mattress may be a good option. For heavier people who are still looking for that soft feel while they sleep, they can look at a pillow top mattress, which offers the soft cushion with a firmer coil supporting them under the top layer.
The next important factor in choosing your mattress style is your sleeping style. Everyone sleeps differently, from side sleepers, to back sleepers, to belly sleepers (although this is not recommended for the health of your back) everyone sleeps in a different position.
For a side sleeper, it is typically recommended that you look for a soft to the medium mattress. The mattress must be soft enough for you to sink in but also offer enough underlying support that prevents having pressure points in the back and neck. Your body has curves, and you want your new mattress to support all those curves while you sleep to eliminate any risk of soreness when you wake up.
Back sleepers, on the other hand, tend to require a medium to a firm mattress. When sleeping on your back, it is essential that the mattress offers an adequate amount of support and firmness or you will run the risk of sinking in and sleeping in a poor posture. The worse your sleeping posture is the increased likelihood that you will wake up with back pain.
Finally, stomach sleepers tend to need the most support. This sleeping position puts the spine in a vulnerable position as the slightest angle from sinking into the mattress can lead to sleeping associated back pain. Therefore, if you must sleep on your stomach, aim for a firm mattress that avoids any pressure points. If you are a stomach sleeper who constantly wakes up with back pain, we recommend trying to slowly change your sleep posture to your side or back. Although, it is never easy to make such a change often this is the best option for the long-term care for your back.
These are simple guidelines that you can use to help decide on your new mattress purchase, but it is not a replacement for physically trying the mattress yourself. Comfort is always subjective, and you will not know what your style preference is until you try one for yourself. Remember to take your time and test as many options as possible, not only is it a financial investment but it is also an investment in your long-term health and well-being.
Dr. Tyler Armsrong
Doctor of ChiropracticContact Me