Last week the wife and I finally decided to take the plunge and get a new mattress. Now, in case you have not had to buy a new mattress in recent year (which means you probably either have a really nice one or you should actually be getting a new mattress), there’s a whole science to the mattress technology. Do you want coils or do you want memory foam? Are the coils spring or some polycarbonate material? Or better yet, do you want a hybrid? How cool does your mattress need to be? And most importantly, how firm does your mattress need to be?
The whole firmness thing goes to another level. Some mattress companies claim that their mattress relieves pressure points on the back. Some say firmer mattresses are better for your spine. It’s all very medical you see.
Let me tell you how this went down. We made our trip to purchase our mattress and did the whole try out every mattress thing. We eventually chose some medium firmness mattress and even grabbed some nice pillows. The mattress arrived and we were so excited to sleep in our brand new mattress. Got ready for bed, laid down on the bed, and…something’s wrong. This does NOT feel comfortable. Not only am I not getting sleepy, I’m actually more uncomfortable than whatever I was doing before I got in bed.
“Maybe we just need more time?” I say to my wife. They did tell us to wait 30 days to allow it to “break in.” Clearly, time was not going to morph this mattress into something worthy of comfort, though, and the thought of 30 days of no sleep did not seem appealing.
We decided to be those people that return the mattress after one day and made our way back into the mattress store and picked out a soft mattress and what do ya know, I actually slept. Like really slept. In fact, I would venture to say I may have had the best sleep of my life. I have now had the mattress for 30 days and am happy to say I am very pleased with it.
Mattresses and Spine Health
When researching mattresses, one of the most common things I came across was these mattress companies talking about how their mattresses were good for your spine and your “pressure points.” Apparently, these magic mattresses are able to target the pressure points on your spine and heal all your spine ailments. Now as an osteopathic sports medicine doctor certified in acupuncture, I’m familiar with several different types of points. There are trigger points, tender points, acupuncture points, and even Chapman’s points. Not sure really what a “pressure point” is, though. Maybe I missed that class.
The other discussion seems to revolve around firm mattresses being better for your back. This was a point that not only the salesmen and women promote but which seems to be a pretty popular notion. I was told that if I had back problems a firmer mattress helps the alignment of my spine. Once again, given what I do, I can’t help but do a mini raise of the eyebrow when I hear this stuff. Out of worry that perhaps I was not privy to some advanced knowledge of spine alignment beyond my education, I decided to comb the research journals for the truth.
So it turns out that sure enough, there is some research indicating that individuals who slept on medium-firm mattresses had less back pain and less overall disability than individuals who slept on firm mattresses. There was no mention of pressure points of spine alignment, though. That’s probably because we don’t really talk about pressure points in medicine and mattresses don’t actually do anything for the alignment of your spine.
So what about this notion of the mattress “supporting your spine.” I hear lots of folks saying that they absolutely need a firmer mattress to support their spine. In my opinion, this is all subjective. Some people feel a sense of support when they lay on a certain mattress. Others don’t. Since we know that spine alignment isn’t really affected, then there is no real support offered by a firmer mattress.
As I said to the mattress guy, what is really good for your spine is SLEEP. Poor sleep will do more damage to your spine, your brain, all your other organs, your marriage, your work, your Facebook photos…and no amount of mattress support will change that. In the end, make sure that whatever mattress you choose is the mattress that can sleep on.
As for proper alignment and spine health…you might want to consider getting an appointment with your friendly neighborhood osteopathic sports medicine doctor
Til next time…sweet dreams