Mattresses - The Goldilocks Principle
Picking a new mattress. Where to start?
First of all, if you are only getting 4-5 hours (or less) of sleep per night, there is no mattress that
is going to compensate for this. No matter what you’re sleeping on, you need to sleep enough
hours per night. “In order to feel your best, you need enough rest.”
Choosing a new mattress can be stressful! It’s usually quite an investment and in the next few
years you will be spending quite a few hours on it. Think about it, if you’re sleeping 6-8 hours
each night (you should be) this is 1/4-1/3 of your day!
When do you need a new mattress?
Your body changes over time, because of this, the mattress that you were getting great sleeps
on 5 years ago may not be appropriate for your body anymore. If you wake up in the morning
feeling stiff and achy, and this goes away within a few minutes, it is likely that you are sleeping
on an inappropriate mattress. Dust mites, fungus, and other allergens also accumulate over
time in your mattress and can adversely affect your sleep. If your mattress is 10-15 years old, it
is time to consider buying a new mattress.
What to look for in a mattress?
Choosing a mattress depends greatly on individual preference but any good mattress will
support your body in a neutral position. Your spine should maintain its normal curvature and
your head, shoulders, buttocks, knees, and feet should be adequately supported and in proper
alignment. If a mattress is too firm for you, it will put pressure on these points and will place you
out of proper alignment. On the other hand, if the mattress is too soft for you, these areas will
not be appropriately supported and your body will be put in a slumped position all night. When
you lay on a suitable mattress you should feel no pressure points; it should feel like you are
almost floating. Just like Goldilocks, you need to find a mattress that is just right.
There are a few different types of mattresses that you will need to be aware of before you go
shopping. In general, mattresses fall into the following categories:
- Spring Mattresses
- Rubber/Latex Mattresses
- Memory Foam Mattresses
- Air Mattresses
These mattresses are made from many coiled springs and are often combined with a variety of
top materials such as pillow, memory foam, or rubber/latex. There is a large variety of spring
mattresses to choose from, ranging in firmness, spring count, and material used for the top.
Because of this wide selection, an appropriate spring mattress can be found to fit most bodies
as well as budgets.
Memory Foam Mattresses
These mattresses are made of foam that responds to your weight and temperature, contouring
to your body as you lay down or shift your position. This will reduce any pressure points as your
weight shifts during the night. There are a couple problems with this type of mattress however.
Because the material gives way under the pressure of your body, any areas that need support
may not receive enough which can put your body out of alignment, even though the pressure
points have been reduced. Another common complaint with memory foam mattresses is that,
because they respond to your body’s temperature, they can cause you to feel too hot during the
night. These mattresses are also known for releasing an unpleasant smell for a period of time
after purchase. Although we generally will recommend rubber/latex over memory foam, when
used as a mattress topper, this material can help decrease pressure points and can be helpful if
you have chronic muscle pain.
Made from either natural or synthetic rubber, these mattresses offer firm, uniform support.
Unlike memory foam, these mattresses push back up on your body, providing superior support.
When used as a mattress topper over a spring mattress, this material allows for a very wide
range of firmness while maintaining comfort and is generally our top recommendation.
Before you get a picture of a blow-up mattress in your head, this is not what we are talking
about. These mattresses actually look and behave like a spring mattress but use air filled
chambers rather than springs. The air chambers can be inflated and deflated to allow for
individualized firmness and can even be separated in the middle to provide one side of the bed
with a different firmness than the other. This can be particularly beneficial for partners with
substantially different firmness requirements. Air mattresses can also be selected with topping
materials such as foam or pillow. Because of the higher amount of individualization and control,
problems can occur if people do not make their air mattress firm enough. Lower end air
mattresses without enough chambers can also pop out on one side when pressure is put on the
opposite end. Properly made air mattresses will usually come with a substantial price tag.
Picking your new mattress
Now that you’ve done your research, and know what questions to ask the salesperson, go to a
showroom where you are able to lay down on each mattress to test them out. Bring your
pillow and try to replicate the way you sleep every night. Take up to 10-15 minutes to lay on each mattress. This may seem like a long time but the closer you get to replicating how you will be
using the mattress, the better your chances are of picking a one that is appropriate for your