Simple tips for choosing the perfect mattress

We spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping, so shouldn't we be comfortable? Too often, the wrong mattress or pillow can make sleep difficult, and morning aches and pains worse. Fortunately, science has been hard at work discovering the best bed essentials for ache-free snoozing. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect mattress.

Simple tips for choosing the perfect mattress

Is a firm mattress best for a bad back?

It's time to rethink conventional wisdom about mattresses for aching backs. A little give, it turns out, is a good thing.

  • Three out of four orthopedic surgeons — the specialist docs who operate on the spines of people with the most excruciating cases of back pain — think a firm mattress is best for nighttime relief of an aching back, surveys show.
  • But if your doctor suggests that a hard-as-a-rock bed is best, show him this: in a study of 313 people with back pain, a mattress with a little "give" to it eased aches at night, in the morning and all day long. While 77 percent of volunteers had some pain improvement on a hard bed, 85 percent felt better on a medium-firm bed. Medium-firm mattress sleepers also had 40 percent less pain during the day.
  • Why? Some experts suspect that a slightly softer mattress offers better support for people whose muscles and joints are stiff.
  • In contrast, an extra-firm mattress doesn't allow your shoulders and hips to sink in; instead, your spine ends up bending into uncomfortable positions.

Will I sleep better on a high-tech mattress?

High-priced mattresses are loaded with gimmicks, from double innersprings to astronaut foam. But get smart: a mid-priced bed may be just as comfortable.

  • If you've ever walked into a mattress showroom, you may have felt as if you were at a car dealership, complete with salesmen ready to take you for a ride. The fact is, mattresses are big business, and every manufacturer wants you to believe they're offering something special with the unique ability to transform your sleep — for a price, of course.
  • Yet despite the hoopla about layered innersprings, "viscoelastic" polyurethane foams (also known as memory foam), latex and air-filled adjustable chambers, the best mattress is still the one that feels right to you. And that's a very individual thing.
  • While some back experts recommend these high-priced new mattresses, especially for people with back pain, no mattress emerged a clear winner in a consumer test.
  • The choices are tantalizing. Viscoelastic, originally created by the US space program to help absorb the G-forces in astronaut's seats, promises to conform to your personal dimensions and support every "pressure point" on your body. Yet in one test, some users said it didn't cushion or support their bodies.
  • An air-filled mattress that can be adjusted for each bed partner was deemed heavenly by some and not worth the money by others.
  • A mattress with layered innersprings got similarly mixed reviews.

How should I choose my mattress?

  • To find the best mattress for you, put on loose clothes and shoes you can kick off, then visit a mattress store.
  • Plan to spend 15 to 20 minutes lying on each mattress: five minutes on each side and five each on your back and your stomach, if that's how you sleep.
  • You may need a new mattress if your current bed is over 10 years old (or just five to seven years if you're over 40 — muscle and joint changes with age mean you may need different support) or if it's saggy.
  • Sleep better in a hotel bed? That's another sure sign that your home mattress needs an update.

Before you go to the mattress store, keep these tips in mind and make sure you know exactly what you need to have a restful sleep.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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