If we had a fiver every time someone asked us this…!
The first thing is, do you really need a new mattress? After all, they are not cheap. Good sleep is important with any muscular condition, as muscles regenerate during deep sleep. Deep sleep is also important for the immune system. If you find you’re dreaming a lot, you might not be getting deep sleep, and a good mattress might be what is required. Some other indications that you might need a new one are these:
- You often wake up in the morning with pain and stiffness. This symptom is not necessarily caused by a bad mattress, but if you find that your back feels less uncomfortable on another bed, that is quite a strong indication.
- Your mattress is more than 10 years old. If it’s a cheap mattress, it will probably not last as long. Also, if it hasn’t been turned regularly, it might lose its consistency prematurely.
- The mattress has lumps, or is dipping. It has definitely had its day!
So let’s say you do need a new mattress. Which one should you go for? An ‘orthopaedic’ mattress? Unfortunately, the term orthopaedic, when used in reference to mattresses, is just marketing hype. It does not mean it has been recommended by orthopaedic specialists, and it may well be too hard for you. It’s a myth that you should sleep on a hard surface if you have back pain. Some people may feel better after sleeping on a hard surface, but it is not a general rule.
How about memory foam mattresses? Opinions are divided here, and there seems very little independent research to support their use. In general, we don’t recommend them. They tend to make the body to ‘nest’ too much. In other words, the mattress moulds to the shape of your body making it more difficult to move into another position. If you see films of people sleeping, speeded up, you will see they move quite a lot. Also, many people complain that they make them feel too hot at night. Those who are predisposed to pressure sores, due to medical problems, may possibly benefit from a memory foam mattress.
So which mattress should you choose? The most important thing is to go to the shop and try it yourself. Generally we recommend a well-made, standard mattress from a good manufacturer. Look for a mattress that has a long guarantee. These are usually constructed using springs. Here are some tips when testing a mattress:
- Try leaning your weight on the edge of the mattress. A cheap mattress will not support your weight, and it can be difficult getting out of such a bed if your back is hurting.
- Lie down on the mattress for at least 30 seconds in your usual sleeping positions to get a good feel for it.
Roll from side to side. You should move easily without feeling your shoulder is pressing hard into the mattress (too hard), or feeling like you are trying to roll out of a dip (too soft).
- Lie on your back. Feel under your low back. If it is floating in the air the mattress is probably too hard. If it sags into the mattress, it’s probably too soft.