For most, shopping for a mattress can seem like a daunting task because you’ll be faced with hundreds of options: ultra premium this, ultra soft that, angel feathers here and super coil density there.
When it comes down to it, all most of us want is a good night’s sleep on a comfy bed, but what makes one comfortable can be an uncomfortable nightmare to another, which often begs the question: How do I know if mattress A, B, or C is the right one for me?
Since pain reduction and prevention is going to be different for each one of us, there are some important terms to understand when looking for the perfect mattress: Support, Conformability and Firmness.
The Importance of Mattress Support
The word “support” tells us how well a mattress allows the sleeper’s body to lay flat on a level plane, compared to mattresses that allow part of the body to be lower or higher than the rest of your body.
Support really is an important factor in preventing and alleviating back pain. Consumers in the market for a new mattress often look for support before any other feature.
Extreme mattress softness is one possible way mattress support can be undermined, however, sagging mattresses are the number one contributing factor to back pain with 20% of mattress consumers reporting this as quite a significant problem.
When part of a mattress—often the middle—starts to compress and sits lower than the rest of the mattress, this is called “sagging”. A sagging mattress forces a person’s back and body to lay in a very unnatural position. Stomach and side sleepers suffer the most. It’s common for sagging mattress owners to develop severe back pain—both in and out of bed.
An important fact to note: Many people will experience moderate to severe back pain with less than 1.5 inches of sagging depth. Most mattress warranties only cover sagging depth that is greater than 1.5 inches. When buying mattresses that come with warranties, make sure you understand how much sagging depth is actually covered.
Why You Need Mattress Conformability
Mattress conformability tells us as how well a mattress conforms or molds to the contour’s of a person’s body when they are sleeping. If a body is equally supported by a mattress, then the mattress has good conformability.
When conformability is reduced, gaps in body support result. This can cause a lot of pain in the shoulders and hips of side sleepers due their body being placed in unsupported and unnatural position, causing a lot of stress and pain in different parts of a person’s body while sleeping.
The Three Levels of Mattress Firmness
As you can see in the illustration above, mattress firmness is essential when it comes to our mattress’s ability to conform to our bodies. There are three levels of mattress firmness and you should carefully consider the importance of having the right amount of firmness to help prevent or alleviate pain and discomfort.
Medium mattress firmness is the most
effective in relieving/preventing pain and discomfort. It has just right amount
of support and softness and provides much-needed pressure point relief. You can
find excellent medium mattress support in
a variety of mattress types.
- FIRM mattresses provide support, but offer little conformability for your body. Second to sagging, mattress owners often complain that their mattresses are too firm. Pressure points such as shoulders and hips are often affected and side sleepers suffer
the most with a overly firm mattress.
- SOFT mattress firmness provides inadequate support and causes back pain. It does relieve pressure points and provide good conformability, but proper support is absolutely essential.
Firmness and Common Sleeping Positions
Each person has a personal preference when it comes to their chosen sleeping position. We’re not going to tell you which position you need to sleep in, rather, we are going to tell you what the most common sleeping positions typically prefer in a mattress to help sleepers get the best sleep possible.
The three common sleeping positions:
- BACK sleepers: Typically prefer medium firmness to a very firm mattress because the pressure on the body’s different pressure points is more evenly distributed. Back sleepers that have differently proportioned bodies or who carry extra weight in certain areas may prefer a medium firmness in their mattress to help minimize pressure in other areas.
- SIDE sleepers: Depending on the size of the side sleeper, they typically prefer medium to soft mattress firmness since there is more pressure on their shoulders and hips. Side sleepers often develop shoulder pain and this is largely due to the fact that they are probably using a very low pillow. It is suggested that side sleepers try and use body pillows to help relieve some of the stress that is placed on certain pressure points.
- STOMACH sleepers: A.K.A. “front sleepers” often prefer medium firmness. When their mattress is too firm, they tend to put a lot of pressure on their knees and their hips. If the mattress is too soft, stomach sleepers will sink too far into the mattress possibly interrupting spine or neck alignment or could cause breathing problems.
The diagram below illustrates what most sleepers prefer: A mattress with the right amount of firmness of and softness. Each person is different when it comes to their mattress firmness level and their favorite sleeping positions.
Mattresses and Pain
There are many different types of mattresses, but not all of them have the ability to reduce or prevent pain. Based on the experience of most mattress owners, the best kind of mattresses provide support and don’t sag. Conformability is key for most sleepers because they are often looking to reduce pain and pressure on certain areas such as hips, shoulders, and back.
According to a survey conducted with 21,700 mattress owners, the graph below demonstrates mattress types and their pain-relieving ability. The information in the chart may not be the same for every company, product and design, or other mattress owners.
Know Your Mattress Types
If you’re going to buy the perfect mattress, then you it is paramount that you understand more about what each type of mattress offers in terms of support, conformability, and firmness.
We’ve provided a breakdown along with a chart below. Think of it as your personal “mini guide” to buying a mattress.
Often perceived as firm and offering very little in the conformability department, futon mattresses are not usually known for comfort. This is due to the number of cheap models available. Similar to mattresses, there are some futon companies that offer different levels of firmness and create better quality futon mattresses. Be sure to buy not just based on price but consider how and what materials are used for construction.
Innerspring mattress will be comfortable when new but some tend to sag over time. Some models do come with a pillow top or memory form layer to give you some conformability, but a lot of models offer little in terms of comfort layers. As a result, your innerspring mattress will provide little in conformability.
It’s hard to imagine the kind of support a waterbed would provide. Sure, they offer a lot in the conformability department, but as previously discussed, there needs to be some support. According to 15% of waterbed owners, their main complaint is that they experience back pain due to a waterbed’s lack of body support.
Hybrid Mattress (Memory Foam/Spring)
Most hybrid mattresses provide a lot in support and conforming ability. However, sagging is a common problem with some hybrid mattress brands. Hybrid mattresses come in a variety of firmness levels.
Latex mattresses can help reduce and prevent pain because latex moderately conforms to the body. Firmness does vary, but they tend to be either medium or firm. Most owners complain that they are excessively firm.
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam mattresses are dream come true for some because they are known to effectively reduce or prevent pain. Sometimes these beds can develop sagging, but they are not as common or as serious as with most other mattress types. Memory foam mattresses are so popular that a variety of memory foam futon mattresses are currently available on the market as well.
Most airbed users report that air mattresses being effective in preventing and reducing pain, especially back pain. Airbeds typically don’t sag or lose support compared with most other mattress types. Airbeds have air chambers inside that allow users to adjust firmness levels to suit their needs. If you are a side sleeper, this bed may offer little to no comfort layer for you.
Whatever your comfort level and preferred sleeping position, there is a perfect mattress solution for everyone. Use this guide to help you buy your next mattress the smart way.
FutonCreations.com is an online retailer of futons and has been the trusted source of high quality futons for thousands of customers since 2002.