Your age and your health are just two factors to consider when choosing a mattress. Find out which type of mattress may help improve your quality of sleep.
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, your bed can make a big difference. That’s why it’s important to understand that choosing a mattress is not a “one size fits all” endeavor. In fact, research shows that selecting a mattress is extremely personal. Your age, your health, and whether you sleep alone or next to someone can all play a role in determining which mattress is best for you.
Choosing a Mattress: Getting Personal
Good sleep and mattresses go hand-in-hand. Rather than focus on brands, price tags, or aesthetics, research suggests it’s more important to consider what feels right, particularly when deciding on mattress firmness and support.
The first thing to consider when choosing a mattress is how you sleep. “If you sleep on your back, your weight is evenly distributed,” says Sunita Kumar, MD, medical director of the Sleep Program of Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. “If you sleep on one side, all your body weight is being support by those joints. So your mattress should be comfortable but provide adequate support to the spine and the joints.”
A 2011 research report examined how well 128 people slept on a variety of different mattresses over the course of four weeks. After analyzing more than 16,000 nights’ sleep, the study revealed even small changes in mattress support could influence sleep quality, morning pain, and daytime sleepiness. Although the mattresses that produced the least amount of motion were associated with better sleep, desired firmness varies from person to person.
Best Beds: Think Like Goldilocks
When choosing a mattress, Dr. Kumar says you should think like Goldilocks. “The firmness of your mattress should not be too hard or so soft that you sink into it,” she says. “It should be just right.”
The age of your mattress can also affect your quality of sleep. Over time, mattresses can lose their support. “If the surface is lumpy or not comfortable, it might be contributing to why people wake up during the night,” notes Kumar. She recommends replacing your mattress after 10 years.
Certain medical conditions can also play a role in which mattress is right for you. Although innerspring mattresses, which offer various levels of support from internal steel coils, are most common, there are a number of other types of mattresses that can address specific needs:
These mattresses allow you to sleep in a reclined position or elevate your entire upper body from the waist up. This type of bed also provides you with the option to keep your legs elevated. Raising your legs at night can improve circulation and help reduce swelling in the lower extremities. When your legs are raised, your hips are slightly flexed. This reduces pressure on your back, Kumar says. She notes that people with the following conditions should check with their doctor to see if this type of bed could help ease their symptoms:
- Acid Reflux or GERD
- Sleep Apnea
- Lower Back Pain
Memory Foam Mattresses
This type of mattress is manufactured with polyurethane to increase its viscosity. Memory foam, which can be can be higher or lower in density, is made to soften and mold to your shape in response to your body heat. Kumar says memory foam mattresses provide good support to the body and the joints, particularly if you tend to sleep on your side. This type of mattress may be beneficial if you:
- Are older
- Wake frequently during the night due to the motion of your spouse or partner
Have arthritis or joint pain
These mattresses are designed with an air-filled core, rather than a core made from innersprings or foam. They can be adjusted to suit your individual needs. You might benefit from such a mattress if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, which can result in poor circulation and increased risk for pressure sores, Kumar says. This is also an option if you’re:
- Recovering from an illness or injury that has you often confined to a bed or a wheelchair
Paraplegic or quadriplegic
People with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, are at greater risk for dislocations, pain, and degenerative joint disease. A review found an adjustable air mattress or a memory foam mattress could increase support, improve sleep quality, and reduce pain for people with these symptoms.
Other Factors to Consider
Your mattress should provide support to your entire body. If there are gaps between your mattress and certain parts of your body, you may not be getting the support you need. On the other hand, if you experience discomfort in your shoulders, hips or lower back, your mattress may be too firm.
It’s also important your mattress is big enough. Whether you are sleeping alone or with your partner or spouse, you should be able to move and roll over during the night.
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas, HealthDay News – Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH