What is the best mattress?
I’ve been in the family mattress business since 1999. I bet I’ve been asked “What’s the best mattress?” every day since I started working here! The truth is that I can’t tell you what the best mattress is for you, but I can share with you some of the research I’ve done. I can also share with you some great tips about buying and trying out mattresses!
Hopefully, you get seven to eight hours each night in bed, getting the restorative sleep your body and mind need. Your sleep surface has a lot to do with ensuring that your night is restful. Ahem. If your sleep surface has gotten old/worn out or is not appropriate for your body type or size, you’ll start to wake up with aches and pains. In fact, when you start to wake up with aches and pains, it’s time to replace your mattress. That is, if you didn’t spend the past few days working in your yard, building a deck, or trying P90X for the first time. Don’t listen to the mattress industry that tells you to replace your mattress every eight years! If you are still comfortable, and you do not wake up achy, your mattress is FINE!
Common aches and pains you might experience if you have an old, worn out mattress: shoulder pain, neck pain, and stiffness. By far the most common complaint is lower back pain. This is the complaint that drives folks in to see their chiropractor, asking him or her, “What’s the best mattress?”
Scientific studies done in the last 15 years have focused on what effect changing the sleep surface had for people suffering from low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and stiffness. All the studies have a very limited sample size, but the studies basically reach very similar conclusions.
Effect of prescribed sleep surfaces on back pain and sleep quality in patients diagnosed with low back and shoulder pain
In this study of 27 adults with low back and shoulder pain, a mattress was designed specifically for each patient based on his or her dominant sleeping position, back, side, or stomach. The mattresses were “medium-firm mattresses specifically layered with foam and latex based on the participants’ reported prominent sleeping position”. Each patient answered questions about their pain and sleep comfort each night for 21 nights before they received their new mattress. After receiving their mattress, each participant rated his or her pain and sleep quality at intervals of four, eight, and twelve weeks. And guess what? “It was concluded that sleep surfaces are related to sleep discomfort and that is indeed possible to reduce pain and discomfort and to increase sleep quality in those with chronic back pain by replacing mattresses based on sleeping position.”
Better Backs by Better Beds?
This 2008 study was to test the notion that a firm mattress is always best for chronic low back pain. You’ve heard this your whole life, right? Get a firm mattress if you have a “bad back.” The study started with 160 participants, and each participant was randomized in to one of three groups. Each group was to receive 1 of 3 different types beds. The beds were: water, body-conforming memory foam mattress, and a hard mattress.
19 people dropped out before they even got their waterbed heaters plugged up. Another 27 people stopped before the one-month trial period. In conclusion, it appears that the waterbed and the memory foam mattresses were superior to the hard mattresses in providing folks with chronic back pain some relief. However, the differences were small. I think the point here is don’t choose anything too firm. This funny little study from 1981 should quietly disappear. It advocates a very firm bed for chronic low back sufferers, but if that doesn’t work, go ahead and get a waterbed! Bedding has come a long way since 1981, needless to say.
Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems
This neat little study published in 2009 set out to determine if replacing a mattress set, older than 5 years old could help a patient experiencing minor back pain, poor sleep, and stress. Each of the 59 participants answered a series of questions to assess his or her sleep quality, pain, and stress levels for 28 days before receiving a new medium-firm mattress. After receiving their new mattress, each participant filled out questionnaires about his or her pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress level. The conclusion of this study showed “new bedding systems increased sleep quality and reduced back discomfort, factors that may be related to abatement of stress-related symptoms.” All good news for a mattress seller.
The Goldilocks Effect
I highlighted “medium-firm mattress” above because Goldilocks was right, Baby Bear’s mattress was the best mattress. It wasn’t too firm, and it wasn’t too soft, it was just right. In my experience, customers are happiest when they choose a mattress more in the middle, too. But don’t listen to me! You have to try a mattress out to make sure that what is the best mattress for you. Weight, height, and body mass index are all factors that influence how a mattress will feel to you. When you decide that it’s time to shop for a new mattress, here are some of my handy mattress shopping tips to help you make the most of your shopping trip. If you live close to our store in Hudson, NC, please stop by. We’d love to help you find the best mattress for you.