Sooner or later, we all have to buy a new mattress.
The choices are confusing: pillow top or cushion firm, springs or
foam? Being a discriminating shopper means climbing into the sack
in the middle of a crowded store while pushy salespeople hover. You
make a choice after that brief encounter, and you have to sleep with
it for years. At least theres been one comfortingly simple rule:
the firmer the mattress, the better for your back.
OR MAYBE NOT. While this axiom is widely held, it turns out there
isnt scientific evidence to back it up. The conventional wisdom
on firmness derives from the days when a good bed was a luxury. Physicians
used to advise people to put a board under the mattress to keep it
from sagging, says Dr. Richard Deyo, a back-pain expert at the
University of Washington. In fact, experts say the ideal bunk is not
a hard one or a soft onebut a comfy one. It turns out Goldilocks
was correct not to sleep in either the Papa Bears or Mama Bears
So how can you improve your chances of finding that bliss? Americans typically buy a new bed every 10 years. But dont go by the numberslisten to your body. Do you wake up stiff, sore or unrested? If you ache in the morningnot just after holding yourself upright all dayyour bed may be at fault. An uncomfortable mattress can also keep you active during the night, leaving you weary during the day.
How can you ensure that your new mattress is better than your old
one? Begin by abandoning the firmness doctrine. The ideal mattress
yields to your contours. But not too much. Side and stomach sleepers
tend to need more give than back sleepers. And a womans hips
will need to sink deeper than a mans.
When you shop, try lying on your back without a pillow for at least five minutes. The mattress should stay in contact with your body, so that your hand fits snugly into the small of your back. Switch to your side and make sure you dont notice pressure on your hips or shoulders. None of this is a
guarantee. Thats why you should buy with the option to return or exchangesleep shops like 1-800-MATTRESS and Mattress Discounters (1-800-BUY-A-BED) allow exchanges within 30 or 60 days.
Better yet, find a mattress you can adjust to the point of perfection. Flobeds (flobeds.com or 1-800-FLOBEDS) sells stackable latex panels that range from soft to superfirm. Stack two panels of different firmness for a truly customized sleep. And because each side of the mattress has separate panels, your partner can sleep on marble while you float on marshmallows.
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