I have had a lot of patients asks me about picking a good mattress, so I am passing this information along from the American Chiropractic Association.
A good night’s sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle; however, an estimated 70 million Americans complain of sleeplessness.
“Americans spend one-third of their lives sleeping, so it makes sense to invest in a sleep set that can improve your comfort and overall health,” says Scott Bautch, DC, DACBOH, spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. “Many people don’t realize the reason for their neck or back pain is literally right underneath them—it’s their mattress and pillow.”
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine showed that sleeping on a new mattress can significantly reduce stiffness and back pain. Researchers found that study participants reported immediate and sustained benefits after sleeping on a new mattress. This was especially true of participants who entered the study with back pain complaints, as they reported a 63 percent improvement in back discomfort with a new mattress.
When it comes time to purchase a new mattress, the ACA recommends the following:
Shop for Support
Look for a mattress that provides uniform support from head to toe; if there are gaps between your body and the mattress (such as at the waist), you’re not getting the full support you need. Mattresses can be too firm; pay close attention to uncomfortable pressure on prominent body features such as the shoulders, hips and low back.
Shop for Comfort
When mattress shopping, give each option a good trial run before you buy; lie down on a mattress for a minimum of five to 10 minutes to get a good idea of its comfort level. If you cannot find a comfortable position, you probably have the wrong mattress.
Shop for Size
Does the bed provide enough room for both you — and your sleeping partner if you have one — to stretch and roll over? The ideal mattress will also minimize the transfer of movement from one sleeping partner to the other, which means one person shouldn’t feel motion as the other leaves the bed.
Generally, a mattress should be replaced every 5 to 8 years to ensure proper support and comfort. Be aware that life’s changes can signal the need for a new mattress as well. For example, people who have lost or gained a considerable amount of weight, those who have a medical condition which has changed the way they sleep, or even those who’ve changed partners may need to consider a new mattress.
Pillows important, too
After investing in a quality mattress, don’t forget to choose an equally supportive pillow, advises ACA spokesperson Steven Conway, DC, DACBOH, Esq. “People will spend thousands of dollars on a mattress and then skimp on a pillow that doesn’t support their head and neck properly,” he observes.
When selecting a new pillow, ACA recommends selecting one with ergonomically-designed features, which will enhance comfort and limit pain. Look for pillows that are:
Designed to keep the spine in natural alignment. When lying on your side, your head and neck should remain level with your mid and lower spine. When lying on your back, your head and neck should remain level with your upper back and spine. Avoid pillows that are so thick or thin that they angle your head and neck away from your body.
Designed to support different sleep positions, including side sleeper or back sleeper. (It’s best never to sleep on your stomach, as it’s the most back unfriendly sleeping position.)
There is no such thing as a universal fit when it comes to pillows, Dr. Conway notes. “Find a pillow that is consistent with the shape and size of your body. If you find yourself sleeping on your side with one hand propped under your pillow, that’s a clue that you’re not getting the support you need from that pillow,” he explains.
If you continue to experience pain and discomfort at night or have difficulty falling asleep, visit your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to treat spinal problems that can interfere with a restful night’s sleep. They can also offer nutritional and ergonomic advice that can help improve the quality of your sleep.