Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well, staying safe, and sleeping well! We spend a quarter (sometimes even a third) of our lives sleeping. The importance of quality sleep cannot be understated, and becomes more essential to our well-being as we age. Many of you may be suffering from insomnia or neck tension because of a bad mattress. These problems can spill over into the daytime and make you more irritable and less energized. As a chiropractor, I want you to sleep on a mattress which supports your body and facilitates quality sleep. Therefore, today, I’m going to share with you a few tips which will assist you in selecting a good mattress.
One indication your mattress is ill-equipped for sleeping on is if you go to sleep feeling spry and wake up feeling wrecked. If you struggle to climb out of bed in the morning or find your back pain worsens after sleeping, these are also signs your mattress is the problem. Old mattresses can develop dips or kinks which, when we sleep, negatively affect our bodies.
Now, what’s “good” as far as a mattress is concerned can vary. Each of our bodies is different. As you’ve probably seen on mattress commercials on television, some people prefer firm mattresses while others prefer soft mattresses. I’ll discuss the implications of each preference, as well as the effects each can have on your body later.
The goal of any “good” mattress is to maintain spinal alignment throughout the night. As we toss and turn, our mattress should adapt to our bodies, cradling our hips and other stress points.
There are three basic types of mattresses. The first is the traditional box-spring mattress. Associated with the box-spring mattress is the innerspring mattress. These mattresses contain metal coils, or springs, which compress and expand as we move. Underneath the mattress is a study box which supports the weight of both the mattress and our bodies. While an innerspring mattress contains the springs within itself, a box-spring mattress contains the springs within the underlying box. The innerspring allows airflow within the mattress, which is good for individuals who easily overheat during sleep. These types of mattress have been around for years and tend to be less expensive than some of the options we’ll discuss later.
You can expect to utilize a box-spring mattress for an average time period of six to eight years. However, during this time period, the quality of the underlying box-spring will degrade. After months and years of sleeping (usually in the same position), most springs will struggle to spring back. This can lead to sinkage and loss of support. The wonderful thing is you can always replace the box spring with a platform or wooden foundation, both of which will not lose their form over time.
Sleep Number, a popular mattress company, provides the second type of mattress: the air mattress. Combined with technological capabilities, an individual has the option to adjust the firmness or softness of these mattresses by adding or decreasing the amount of air held inside. These mattresses tend to have longer warranties, ranging from ten to fifteen years. The flexibility of these mattresses is a major selling point. However, their various moving parts increase the chances of malfunction. If something breaks, someone has to come fix the problem and you might be left with subpar sleep in the meantime. Air beds can be expensive and are susceptible to trenching (which occurs when the middle of the mattress has sunk).
The third common mattress type is memory foam. Memory foam mattresses like Tempurpedic gained popularity among sleepers due to their plushy texture and ability to mold to the exact shape of our bodies. However, memory foam also traps heat. This can lead to overheating during sleep, which results in middle-of-the-night sweating and bad sleep. For this reason, it’s recommended you buy a memory foam mattress with a layer of cooling gel. Most recent iterations of the memory foam mattress have this layer built in.
Memory foam mattresses are sold in a variety of thicknesses and firmness levels. Compared to automated air mattresses, the maintenance for a memory foam mattress is very minimal. The mattress is delivered to your house rolled up and shrink wrapped. After cutting the plastic off, you can simply unfurl the mattress and watch the memory foam expand before your eyes. Similar to the Sleep Number, the warranty on a memory foam mattress ranges from ten to fifteen years. You do not need to flip memory foam, as the mattress will retain its original shape indefinitely. Foam mattresses come in varying levels of density, which equates to firmness. The lowest density is less than 4 PCF (pounds per cubic foot) and has limited durability. Medium density memory foam is 4 to 5 PCF and is middling in terms of breathability and price. The highest density memory foam is more than 5 PCF and is the most expensive and likely to trap heat.
You’re likely to see more and more mattresses which combine aspects from the previous three types mentioned above. These mattresses can have springs as well as thick layers of memory foam or latex. They come in a variety of densities and firmness levels. However, like box-springs, these mattresses are liable to sag over time.
Of course, when choosing any mattress, you need to try sleeping on the surface. Most companies will allow you a sixty to ninety-day trial, during which you can send the mattress back and receive a full refund. Give yourself as long as you need to determine whether the mattress is providing the support you need. If you’re still on the fence after a majority of the trial period has passed, do not hesitate to send the mattress back. After waking up on a quality mattress, you should feel refreshed and limber.
Now, let’s discuss firmness. Everyone is entitled to their preference, but in terms of my recommendation, you’ll want to choose a mattress with adequate firmness. This means, you do not want a mattress which allows your body to sink too much. When heavier parts of our bodies sink into the mattress (e.g. our head, our hips, etc.), the rest of our body is thrown out of alignment. Ideally, a mattress should comfortably support your spine and keep your body mostly level. This lends itself to optimal spinal health.
Men tend to prefer firmer mattresses, while women tend to prefer softer mattresses. The Sleep Number mattress is likely the best option for couples who disagree on their ideal firmness. Both individuals will be able to tailor their side of the mattress to meet their specific needs, ensuring great sleep for both.
As far as sleeping positions, as I’m sure you know, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. Sleeping on your stomach causes one side of your neck and back to hyperextend, while the other side is compressed. When the body stays in a position such as this one for an extended period of time, muscle tension and cramps are sure to follow.
For side sleepers, ensure your neck is supported by a pillow. This support keeps your head from tilting and placing strain on the neck. Slightly bend your knees and keep from crossing your legs over one another. Most people find placing a pillow between the legs in this position helps keep their pelvis aligned. Foam mattresses are considered the best option for side sleepers as the mattress cushions the shoulders and hips, improving spinal alignment.
For those of you who are naturally back sleepers, good job! Keep your head in a neutral position (i.e. not too far back or forward). Placing a pillow beneath your knees will give flexion to your spine. You might want to give that a try!
Now, finally, what do you do when you’re in chronic pain and switching your mattress just doesn’t work? Well, then it’s time to see a chiropractor. A good mattress is not a suitable replacement for chiropractic care. It is merely a foundational aspect of overall wellness. Chiropractors are trained to treat misalignments within the spine, some of which can be caused by years of sleeping on a terrible mattress. After an adjustment, you may find your sleep quality vastly improves, because your body is no longer fraught with misalignment and tension.
If you are currently struggling with pain issues and are wondering what else to do, reach out to us at Lowcountry Chiropractic. There’s no need to suffer unnecessarily when there is an opportunity for healing. When you’ve emailed us, we’ll email back as soon as we’re able and set you up with an appointment. At the appointment, we’ll assess your condition and formulate a plan to help. Let’s get you back to feeling (and sleeping) your best! As always, I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered! Until next time, take care!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.