Time for a New Bed?

Some of the most frequent questions I am asked as a chiropractor center around beds and mattresses. Could my old mattress be causing my lower back pain? When should I replace my mattress? What type of mattress is best? With about a third of our lives spent in bed, it makes sense this would be a topic of concern for people looking to get the most restful, supportive sleep. Here are some tips to consider when it comes to mattresses:

  1. You should start thinking about replacing your old mattress after about 8 years of use, or sooner if you notice it beginning to sag where you sleep. Also, consider a change of mattress if you are chronically waking with hip or lower back pain and stiffness.
  2. Rotate your mattress head-to-foot every six months to reduce wear. If possible, also flip the mattress over. (Check with your mattress manufacturer to find out if your particular mattress is able to be flipped.)
  3. If you notice a little premature sagging in your mattress, try putting a thin sheet of plywood between your mattress and box-spring for extra support.
  4. When buying a mattress, take your time. Lie down on a lot of different mattresses, of different styles, to get a feel for each. Always lie down in the position you spend most of your sleeping time.
  5. The “feel” you are looking for from your mattress is one of supported weightlessness. You shouldn’t feel pressure being put too prominently on any one area of your body as you lie on it.
  6. Avoid mattresses that are too soft, or have too thick a pillow-top. Thick pillow tops do not allow you to gain the benefit of the supportive springs/coils of the mattress, and often lead to premature sagging of the mattress and eventual back pain. Remember- you can make a firm bed softer (via mattress toppers, etc), but it’s tough to make a soft bed firmer.
  7. While memory-foam style beds can provide great support, they can also keep you very warm at night. If you are prone to overheating at night, you may want to avoid these. Also, lighter-weight individuals sometimes complain that these beds are too firm for them. Lastly, ask about the chemicals used in the manufacture of these beds, as they can cause considerable allergy and off-gassing issues for some individuals.
  8. Try to opt for mattresses containing natural materials, whenever possible. Cotton and wool tend to breathe better than synthetics, and are better for the environment when it eventually comes time to dispose of your mattress.
  9. Consider a Sleep Number-style, air chamber bed if you and your spouse have vastly different mattress needs. These beds allow for individual firmness customization for each person. You will definitely want to try these beds out before purchase, however, as they do have somewhat of an “airbed” feel to them. And, if you and your spouse like to cuddle mid-bed, these mattresses often have an uncomfortable central barrier that can make this uncomfortable.
  10. Consider using two extra-long, twin-sized mattresses on a king-sized box-spring if you and your spouse prefer differing mattress firmness, but still like conventional mattresses.
  11. Avoid buying a waterbed, as they lack effective spinal support.
  12. Try to always buy beds from a retailer that provides a 60 or 90-day exchange or return trial period. It is the best way to ensure that your investment in a mattress was the right one.