How to choose the right mattress

Most people sleep for 6-8 hours per night, which means we spend about a third of our lifetime lying in bed!  Research shows that a poor mattress could deprive you of up to an hour’s sleep per night. There are a few considerations to make when looking for the right mattress, especially to help and/or prevent back pain. We won’t be talking about any particular brands, but instead give you information on what technical elements to look out for. It is not a one size fits all when it comes to finding the right type for you. Read on to find out more… 


Soft or Firm?

Doctors have often previously recommended firm mattresses, these are often marketed as orthopaedic beds. Some studies have shown that back pain sufferers get the poorest sleep quality when sleeping on an orthopaedic mattress. If your mattress is too firm,  you can try adding a memory foam topper on top of the firm mattress.

A mattress that is too soft can also cause problems. Soft mattresses are good in terms of conforming to the natural curves of your body, which can help maintain your joints’ proper alignment throughout the night. If the mattress is too soft, your body will sink deeply into the bed causing your joints to twist and become painful during the night. Something you could try, in this scenario, is putting a plywood board under the mattress to dampen the movement from the bed springs.

Mattress pocket springs come in three different tensions; soft, medium and firm. When buying a new mattress, you should choose a spring tension based on your body weight. Firm tension, such as ‘1.6 gauge’ spring, are usually suited to people over 16 stone (>100kg). Medium spring tension, such as ‘1.4 gauge’ spring, are suited to those who are 9 – 16 stone (or 57 – 100kg). Soft spring tension mattresses are reserved for light weight sleepers who are under 8 stone, (or 50kg).

If your mattress is 7-8 years old and you find yourself waking up with a stiff and sore back – a new bed may help.

What about sharing with your partner?

What if one person requires a firm mattress, but their partner prefers a softer mattress? In this case, it’s worth considering that two extra long single mattresses make up a king size bed, so you can each choose the appropriate type. There are some companies who will do ‘split’ or ‘dual tension’ mattresses, which offers a perfect solution for two different weighted sleepers.

Height also plays a role in choosing the correct spring tension. If you have two people who weigh 80 kilos, but one is 5 foot and the other is 6ft 4” in height, for example, they may require different tensions due to weight distribution relative to their height. Specialist advice is sometimes appropriate, so it can be beneficial to ask the manufacturer.

It’s good to start with the right spring tension according to weight, and then choose upholstery to suit comfort requirements. Then try adding comfort layer of memory foam, viscogel or latex. Viscogel has particularly good qualities for temperature control, comfort and support.

“I originally came with  lower back pain and neck stiffness. Both are now better with regular chiropractic & massage. In particular, from years of sleeping badly, I can now sleep soundly.”  Ann Pear

Try before you buy

Make sure you have a good feel for the mattress you’re looking at getting.

Have a lay down in a showroom.

A lot of companies offer a trial period with a purchase, giving you time to appreciate whether or not you have made the right choice.


Other considerations

  • Temperature control: there are some mattresses that have cooling features. For example, some come with ‘breathable construction’, containing breathable chambers for air or with spring construction to help prevent heat from staying trapped around your body. Memory foam mattresses tend to be poor when it comes to cooling, as the material is more dense, so there is less air flow.
  • Hypoallergenic options: a hypoallergenic mattress helps to reduce the effects of allergy triggers including dust mites, mould and bacteria. Hypoallergenic mattresses typically prevent dust mites from penetrating the mattress and are usually made up of dust mite-resistant materials and anti-allergy covers.
  • Vegan materials are available, such as coir (coconut husk, which has similar rebound properties to horsehair), flax (usually a good insulator layer and often replaces cashmere), natural latex from the sap of a rubber tree (used as a comfort or replacement wool layer), bamboo fibre (a soft luxury fibre used in the top comfort layers), hemp (a firmer layer used as an insulator) and cotton (softer than polyester and also used as a comfort layer)

Most people sleep for 6-8 hours per night, which means we spend about a third of our lifetime lying in bed! Research shows that a poor mattress could deprive you of up to an hour’s sleep per night



In conclusion:

 Chronic back pain can be extremely debilitating when it comes to sleep. Whilst the correct mattress can go a long way, it might be worthwhile to seek help in managing your back pain before choosing a new mattress. 



Article is written by  Dr Penny Clark D.C Chiropractor at Spinal Care Clinics
Dr Penny believes in addressing key aspects of lifestyle to help reach your optimum health potential.
She enjoys running with her dog, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Crossfit and Yoga.

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