A mattress may be your best friend at night, but how do you know which one is right for you? Unfortunately, everyone is different, so everyone responds differently to different types of mattresses — soft, hard, bendable, reflexive, however you want to describe them.
And there is a science behind the role of the mattress in your sleep. Let Michael Decker, PhD, RN, associate professor at Georgia State University and spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, explain this science for you:
“When you lie on any part of your body for an extended period of time, the weight of it reduces the flow of blood through those blood vessels, which deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients.”
When your blood flow is reduced, the result is that nerve cells and pain sensors in your skin tell your brain it’s time for your body to roll over to get a fresh start. Though rolling over restores blood flow to the area, it also briefly interrupts your sleep.
What this means is that your mattress needs to reduce the pressure points in your body at rest, and what this further means is that you need to find a mattress that accomplishes this goal for you. This presents further challenges because, in picking a mattress, you usually get to recline on the different styles for a few brief seconds or moments in the store to see how they feel.
“You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it,” Decker says. “People should not be embarrassed to go into a store and lay on a mattress for 20 minutes.” Let’s face it: A mattress can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, so don’t hesitate in demanding a true “test drive.”
Televisions ads lately promote foam- or sleep-comfort beds that let two different persons’ bodies adjust to their own needs while sleeping. No science has shown that such beds offer better sleep, but what these types of beds do accomplish is to allow one person to sleep one way without disturbing the other person, who’s sleeping another way. That can be an advantage, certainly.
Basically, however, if you have back or neck discomfort at night, sleep specialists recommend a medium-soft mattress. Too soft and you sink down without enough support; too hard and the mattress only exacerbates your pain.
Another factor to consider is mattress age. Mattresses certainly wear out, and over time they develop a grove or body-shape indent from your sleeping pattern. When that happens, it’s time to go shopping. As expensive as buying new mattresses may be (shop carefully at discount outlets), new mattresses can do wonders for your night’s rejuvenation. And when you buy a new set of mattress and box springs, rotate the mattress monthly (flip it side to side) to prevent that “body mold.”