Dear Dr. Wendy,
I wake up with achy pain and stiffness in my lower back every morning. I know I need a new bed, but I don’t know what kind of mattress to buy. What is the best bed?
— John C.
Since we spend about one-third of our lives in bed, choosing the right mattress is crucial. The ideal mattress should be supportive and comfortable, but it can be a challenge finding one that is both. The center of the mattress needs to provide support. If it does not have enough resiliency, the heaviest part of your body (the hips) will sag and create misalignment. Curving your spine into a C or banana shape due to lack of support can lead to pain.
The main categories of mattresses are: innerspring, memory foam, latex and air. Each of these has its positives and negatives. Many mattresses consist of a combination of them, such as an innerspring mattress with a foam top.
Innerspring mattresses provide support through the hips and keep the body in better alignment, but sometimes those hard springs cause pressure points. That firm pressure can be uncomfortable, especially for the shoulders and hips of a side sleeper. Many spring mattresses have a pillow top, and the newer varieties have foam or gel top.
Memory foam can be exceptionally comfortable because it molds to the body in response to both heat and pressure. It also traps heat, although newer mattresses include gels to dissipate that heat. Memory foams also come in different levels of density, viscosity and resilience, which can be combined for different effects. Most memory foam core beds are great in the beginning, but testing has shown that even the best ones can break down after a few years. Another issue to be aware of is the off-gassing due to the chemical composition of the bed.
Latex is made from rubber trees, a sustainable natural material. They have a really bouncy feel but they don’t trap heat or smell. They can be layered or blended with other materials like memory foam or gels. These mattresses can be pretty expensive, so they can be hard to find in showrooms for testing.
Air beds have adjustable air chambers surrounded by padding. The mattress can be inflated to your level of comfort, which makes it good for couples who have different preferences in firmness. Sagging and loss of support is usually less of a problem compared to most other bed types.
My personal mattress preference is an innerspring with a gel top. You should try several mattresses to see which is best for you. Think about what is comfortable for your body and for your budget. Bear in mind that you’ll be spending one-third of your life on this mattress and it is probably worth a level of serious consideration and financial commitment.
— Dr. Wendy
Do you have a question to ask us? Please email them to Askcoach@haydenhealth.com.
**This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
• • •
Dr. Wendy Cunningham is a doctor of chiropractic, certified acupuncturist, and has her master’s degree in nutrition.