Buying a New Mattress
If you are waking up tired, stiff and sore, if you are tossing and turning at night, it may be time to replace that old mattress. Sleeping on a saggy or lumpy mattress can cause back and neck pain. Ideally you should replace your mattress every 10 to 12 years, or sooner, if your mattress has been damaged or badly worn.
How to Choose the Right Mattress
Choosing a mattress is a very personal thing. The right mattress for one person, will not necessarily be right for another person. There are, however, some basic principles to help you.
A mattress should offer firm support that allows you to roll over easily.
It should be covered with a soft cushioning layer that contours to the shape of your body and reduces pressure areas.
Buy the best quality mattress you can afford. Better quality mattresses are usually made from materials that will give you better support and comfort and will last longer. Remember, however, it must be comfortable. Just because a mattress is expensive, doesn't necessarily mean that it will be the right mattress for you.
Go to a reputable retailer who has a large range of mattresses. Lie on as many mattresses in your price range as you can. Rule out any that aren’t immediately comfortable. When you have decided which is the most comfortable mattress, lie on it for at least 20 minutes (remember you are going to be sleeping on it every night for the next 10 years or longer, so it’s worth spending the time to get it right!) If you share your bed, make sure both you and your partner lie on the mattress together in your usual sleeping positions. Try rolling into different positions to make sure that it is easy to move on the mattress. Check that you are well supported and that there are no gaps between you and the mattress.
When you lie on your back, your back should be supported in a slight curve, without a gap between the mattress and your back. When your lie on your side, the mattress should hold your spine straight, without a gap between you and the mattress.
Which Type of Mattress to Choose
There are a number of different types of mattresses from which to choose. The most common type of mattress available in Australia is the inner spring mattress. Quality latex mattresses offer a good alternative to the inner spring mattress, especially for those with allergies. Lower grade foam mattresses and futons are generally recommended only for occasional use. There are specialty mattresses that can be constructed with different amounts of support on each side of the mattress and that can be elevated at the foot and head end. There are also multi-zonal inner spring mattresses that provide different amounts of support for different parts of the body.
Inner Spring Mattresses
Inner spring mattresses are probably the most common type of mattress and come in a huge range of styles and quality. They consist of the internal spring system and the outer layer of padding. The spring system determines the level of support of the mattress and the padding determines the level of comfort.
There are several different types of internal spring systems. Pocket springs are individual springs that can move independently of each other. These usually give a high level of comfort. Continuous spring systems have the springs interlinked to give good support. The quality and longevity of the spring system comes down to the quality and strength of the wire used and the number of springs.
Inner spring mattresses are covered in a cushioning layer of padding. In more expensive mattresses the padding will be made from materials such as goose down, latex, wool and good quality foam, whereas cheaper mattresses will use materials such as coconut fibre or less supportive foam.
Multi-zonal inner spring mattresses
Multi-zonal inner spring mattresses have five different zones of support that follow the shape of your body maintaining good posture as you sleep. Some ranges of this type of mattress have been tested and endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).
[Click here for information from the APA on endorsed mattresses]
Most inner spring mattresses available today are pillow-top or single sided mattresses. When purchasing a pillow-top mattress make sure that the pillow-top padding is of good quality and long lasting. Poor quality padding on top may compress quickly, compounded by the fact that you can't flip the mattress, so you are always sleeping on the same side. You may find that indentations form on the mattress where you normally sleep, making moving in bed more difficult. Make sure you rotate the mattress every month.
Memory foam is becoming more popular as a material for mattresses. It is a heat and weight sensitive visco-elastic polyurethane foam that moulds to your body shape to give even support. Memory foam can reduce tossing and turning at night and reduce pressure on the sensitive bony areas. As the mattress moulds to your body shape it can be harder to move in your sleep. Movement is needed while you are sleeping to maintain good circulation and joint mobility during the night. When testing a mattress with memory foam, try lying in one position for about 10 minutes, then see if you can still roll easily. If you can, then a memory foam mattress may suit you. There are now new memory foams that mould and re-mould more quickly, making turning in bed easier.
Good quality latex mattresses are now available in Australia. They offer excellent support and cushioning. They are low allergenic making them a good choice for those with allergies. Latex mattresses are expensive but will last longer than an inner spring mattress. They are heavier than an inner spring mattress, requiring two people to turn them over. They can be warmer than an inner spring mattress.
If you decide to get a waterbed, quality is essential. Choosing a waterbed with baffles to reduce water movement will minimise unwanted movement of the bed. You need to make sure that water levels are kept at the correct height to maintain good support. The warmth of the water can be soothing if you are in pain, but you may find it harder to roll over or to get out of bed.
Which Type of Base to Choose
If you are replacing your mattress, have a good look at your base. If it is sagging, damaged or worn you should replace it as well. Putting your mattress on a good quality base will improve the comfort of your mattress and make it last longer.
Ensemble Base: Good quality ensemble bases will have springs to support the mattress, whereas the cheaper ones may just be a wooden box with fabric covering.
Flexible Slats: Flexible slats allow a little movement and are better for foam or latex mattresses.
Fixed Slats: Fixed slats are rigid and provide good support for inner spring mattresses. Make sure you buy an inner spring mattresses that is suitable to sit on a slat base.
A mattress will last significantly longer if it is looked after. If you have a latex or double sided inner spring mattress it is important to alternately flip and rotate your mattress once a month. By flipping the mattress one month and rotating the next you are ensuing that you sleep on all parts of the mattress. If your mattress is single sided it should be rotated once a month. Mattresses are heavy and you shouldn't turn one on your own.
Choose the mattress based on comfort.
Buy the best quality you can afford.
Make sure your body is well supported in good alignment with no gaps between you and the mattress.
Make sure you can move around on the mattress with ease.
Lie on the mattress in the shop for as long as you can to make sure it is comfortable.
If you share the bed, make sure you and your partner both lie on the mattress at the shop.
Check the type and quality of inner support system.
Check the type and quality of padding.
Check the quality of the base.
At Sutherland Shire Physiotherapy Centre we have a special interest in the treatment of postural problems, headaches, neck, back, upper limb and jaw conditions. If you are waking with back pain, neck pain or a headache, why not give us a call?
Call today to schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.
Please note that the above information is of a general nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you have an injury or condition, you should always seek the advice of your qualified health practitioner to attain specific advice relating to your needs.