Choose wisely when shopping for mattress and make your sleep environment your ally in getting more restful, pain-free sleep
The relationship between sleep, the right mattress and your health is a symbiotic one. You need a good mattress to help you get the rest you need to ensure your wellness. That comes as a result of a large amount of evidence between lack of sleep and chronic illnesses, from obesity and cardiovascular disease to diabetes.
But health issues may also play a role in what type of mattress you should be sleeping on.
One size doesn’t fit all and not every mattress is appropriate for every medical condition, whether it’s arthritis, back pain, chronic neck discomfort or even snoring. With some expert advice in hand, you’ll be ready to shop and find the perfect one for you.
Caitlin Hoff, a health & safety investigator with ConsumerSafety.org offers these five pointers:
- Everyone – those with chronic pain and without – needs a supportive mattress. Proper spinal support is essential to keep your body feeling good the next morning.
- Many people have a skewed perception of their needs. For example, we may associate support with firmness but for an arthritis patient, a firm mattress may only succeed in aggravating their painful joints.
- Be wary of a mattress that’s too soft. A good mattress provides overall support and offers a balance between firmness and softness. If a mattress is too soft and you sink into it, ease of movement may be hindered while you sleep. This inability to move easily in your sleep could stiffen your muscles and cause more pain.
- Seek professional advice for mattress buying, especially if you are someone with chronic pain. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional for recommendations and research online within specific medical community focused on your medical condition.
- Also ask the salesperson for their expert advice on what choices are available and are the most suitable for your health.
Best mattress for back pain
Back pain is on the rise across the United States – especially lower back pain. It’s the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to data from the Global Burden of Disease, 2010. About 80% of Americans will experience a back problem at least once in their lives. Despite its prevalence, some mattress buyers with back issues are unsure about what’s the best mattress for their bad back.
Keith Cushner, general manager, Tuck.com (a site that evaluates sleep products), offers his thoughts. “Medium firm to firm mattresses are usually the best for sleepers dealing with back issues,” he says. “It all comes down to support (spinal alignment) which, when achieved should help alleviate said back pain.”
Mattress types that work well for sleepers with back issues vary widely based on other factors (pressure points, weight, etc.) but experts recommend a medium firm mattress (5-7 on the firmness scale). Old-school thinking said that a very firm mattress was the way to go, but newer research says that’s not the case.
Don’t wait to change your mattress if you’re suffering from back pain. According to Jeffrey N. Katz, M.D., professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, changing your mattress can make a substantial difference in lessening back pain.
Best mattress for arthritis
Current estimates state that there will be 78 million Americans (about 26% of the population) living with arthritis by 2040. It’s a widespread condition, characterized by internal and external joint swelling, pain and stiffness, that affects men, women and children. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which sees pain caused by bone on bone friction after the cartilage between them breaks down. Other types of arthritis include: gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
According to Cushner, the right mattress really depends on the type of arthritis. If ease of movement is your key struggle, you’ll want to go with a mattress that doesn’t sink as much – such as an innerspring or a firmer latex mattress. Also be aware of how your sleep position affects your discomfort by putting more pressure on specific joints. Side sleepers, for example, may need a slighter softer mattress, to alleviate stress on common pressure points, like shoulders, knees and hips.
For fibromyalgia specifically, Cushner says that due to pressure point sensitivity – slightly softer mattresses may be better for sleepers as long as they still get the support they need. Memory foam and latex mattresses tend to be the best bet here.
Best mattress for obesity
Sleepers with a high body mass index should chose a mattress of high quality, made with superior quality materials. If you weigh more than 200 pounds, consider a 12-inch or thicker mattress to provide deep compression support. Larger sleepers will experience an additional 1 to 2 inches of sinkage, underscoring the importance of having medium to firm support.
Overweight people may also tend to sleep hotter so a premium mattress constructed with a gel layer will help provide some cooling comfort. Memory foam mattresses may cause overheating. Consider hybrid versions that combine the best of foam (good for pain relief) and latex, which will help keep you cooler at night.
Best mattress for neck pain
According to a 2015 survey by Chronic Back and Neck Pain in America, half of the respondents suffered from chronic neck pain. Of this group, 80% said their condition caused disrupted or poor sleep, along with less sexual enjoyments (35%). Since the neck provides support for the head and is the link to your spinal column, paying attention to neck comfort at rest is a vital step to better sleep.
“This is usually a combination of a pillow issue in combination with a mattress,” explains Cushner. “You’ll want to ensure your neck loft keeps the spine in alignment. With memory foam mattresses, you’ll want to pay attention to sinkage and get a taller pillow (or set of pillows). With coil mattresses, most sleepers will end up needing shorter pillows.”
Why it’s important to choose the right mattress
Choosing the right mattress can make or break your ability to get a great night of restorative sleep, which is really the focal point of your health and wellness.
“Finding the right mattress starts with understanding what you like and don’t like,” says Cushner. “My suggestions would be to look at your height and weight to see what kind of mattress components will work well for you and what you need from a firmness perspective. For example, do you like to sink and be “hugged” by a mattress or do you like to float on top of one? From there, decide on your budget and start looking at options.”
Look to truly unbiased sources to figure out what might work for you and don’t expect a salesperson or five minutes on a mattress in a store to give you a good idea of what will work. Lastly, know that about 80-85% of sleepers like a medium firm mattress (6-7 on the firmness scale) so start there and adjust accordingly.
What’s the cost of a good night’s sleep? If you spent $2,000 on a new mattress (for example) and slept comfortably on that mattress for 7 years, the cost of healthy sleep would be $1.27 per night – less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee in the morning…
If you’re ready for a new mattress, we’d love to help you find the right one for you. Visit our Find a Retailer page and we’ll locate a store close by where you can lie on our mattresses and talk to a trained sales professional.
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