Healthy Back Tips

January 2011

Considerations For Bed Mattress Purchase

One of the basic laws of nature many of us ignore relates to the reality that the quality of our night affects the quality of our day. Most often a good day begins with a good night’s sleep. Yet the fact is most people get less sleep than what is actually needed for normal physical and mental function. One reason for sleep deprivation or interruption is improper bed mattress support. In this back tip suggestion, guidelines for selecting a mattress are discussed to help you make an informed decision on a sleep system that you may spend up to one third of your life on. 

If you wake up each morning and your back is sore or more uncomfortable than when you went to sleep, you most likely need to change your mattress particularly if the mattress is more than 10 years old. If you were initially comfortable when your mattress was new and woke up well rested you may want to stay with your previous mattress since switching is sometimes difficult. A comfortable mattress is typically firm, but supportive to the body contours of the individual. Upon awakening after sleep, you should feel a sense of health restoration. 

Sleep position 
The majority of people are side sleepers and need more cushioning since weight is being supported by a smaller surface of the body which tends to create pressure points. Stomach sleepers prefer harder mattresses so as to prevent excessive low back arching. Back lying sleepers have the widest range of preference in regards to cushioning. 

Impressions after lying 10-15 minutes on a mattress have been found to be highly consistent with long term satisfaction, but not always, therefore, purchase your mattress from a company that has a return policy. Be sure to take note of the mattresses used in motels/hotels that have provided you a good nights

Comfort preferences of partners 
Always purchase a bed mattress that suits the firmer preference, since it is easier to soften the firm mattress with padding (pillow top) than harden a softer mattress. 

Motion separation features 
To reduce movement transfer from one side of the bed to the other, choose a bed that has pocketed coils or memory foam. 

Body type/Spine curvature 
In general, heavier individuals require stiffer bed mattresses to maintain spinal alignment. People with accentuated spinal curves and less mobile spines, however, may need a less firm (but not soft) mattress.People with straighter spines or reduced spinal curves often prefer harder mattresses. 

Good mattresses should last at least 10 years with regular use. Mattress edge breakdown, middle area and body impressions in a mattress are more common in pillow top mattresses. A good foundation is as important as the mattress. Do not put a new mattress on an old boxspring, since the mattress and boxspring are designed to work together. 

Innerspring vs. Memory foam 
There are positives and negatives to both innerspring and memory foam mattresses. The following information may help you decide which mattress is best for you. 

Memory foam mattress 
Memory foam mattresses provide balanced, even support by contouring to the shape of the body. Restless sleepers find that memory foam mattresses minimize movement from the other side of the bed. High quality memory foam is durable and has less tendency to pack or break down over time than the padding used in less expensive innerspring mattresses. Memory foam mattresses may also be more resistant to bacteria, mold and dust mites than innerspring mattresses.

On the other hand, memory foam mattresses are warmer than innerspring mattresses. The foam fitting quality of memory foam places more of your body in contact with the mattress which results in less skin breathing and possibly perspiration. Initially, some individuals find memory foam to possess a chemical odor similar to the smell of paint. People with back pain or individuals who are active sleepers sometimes report of difficulty in changing positions because of the mattress conformation to the body. 

Innerspring mattress 
Innerspring mattresses represent over 80% of the mattress market. The firmness of the mattress is determined by two factors – the number of coils and the strength of the coils. On the average, mattresses contain between 300 to 1000 coils. 500 to 800 coils are considered firm for a queen size mattress. The type of coil must also be considered when selecting an innerspring mattress. Lower coil gauge numbers indicate stronger, thicker coils. A 12.5 gauge innerspring coil with a coil number count of 400 in a double mattress may feel rock hard. Coils in the 14 to 15.5 gauge range are found in many high quality mattresses, but the number of coils needs to be much higher than 400. 

One additional feature to consider is how the coils are connected. To prevent sagging, good mattresses possess sufficient numbers of interconnecting wires (helicals). The problem is that manufacturers typically do not publish the number of helicals. Other mattresses utilize pocket or independent coils whereby eachcoil absorbs the weight placed on it without transferring load to the other coils. Pocket or independent coils are the preferred choice for active sleepers who toss or turn while helical coils are usually best for heavier or less active sleepers. Many premium innerspring mattresses now feature additional padding in the form of memory form for more cushioning. 

Air mattress 
Air mattresses possess air filled chamber(s) made of tight sealed vinyl or rubber. The air chamber(s) are connected to an electric air pump which is operated by a remote control. By increasing or decreasing the amount of air in the chamber, air mattresses can be adjusted to a desired firmness. If a person’s comfort and support changes over time the air mattress firmness can be adjusted to accommodate to this change. Mattresses with 2 separate air chambers allow for customized air pressure and motion separation on each side to accommodate to the preferences of sleeping partners. In higher end models, extra layers of cushioning such as pillow tops or memory foam pads are added. 

More than likely you will not need to own 413 beds like King Louis XIV of France in order to deliver mandates. One bed usually suffices for most non-kings. However, if you still have questions regarding a sleep system do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your physical therapist to get further information regarding your specific needs. Please call (770) 491-6004 or contact the Atlanta Back Clinicfor more information.