The mattress world is a bit of a jungle. So many options! So many styles! So much range in pricing! How do you know which one is the best for your body? Namely, how do you know if it’s providing the support you need at night?
First, we should discuss the difference between firmness and support. Firmness measures the physical density and feel of the mattress. Support refers to how well the mattress keeps your spine aligned.
Ultimately, when we talk about support, it’s about keeping the spine nice and even. So getting the proper support doesn’t necessarily mean you need to opt for a firm mattress.
A too-firm mattress will push on your pressure points and cause misalignment. A too-soft mattress results in poor posture from sinking down while you sleep, which can lead to pain. You know you’ve found the right balance if your bed makes you feel as if you’re floating on a cloud.
Tell me where it hurts
One of the key indicators of a mattress that doesn’t provide enough support is body aches (although, there are many different reasons for muscle and join point). While your mattress might not be causing the ailment, it could be making it worse.
Generally speaking, if your back hurts when you wake up, your mattress is probably not cradling your spine the way it should. If your neck and shoulders hurt, this usually indicates that a) you’re a “side sleeper” (more on this below), b) your mattress is too firm, and c) your pillow may also be too firm.
The indent test
If you can see an indent of where you were sleeping when you get out of bed in the morning, this means your mattress is too soft. An indent indicates that your back is curving as it sinks down into the mattress (i.e., your spine isn’t properly aligned).
Still tired after a full 8 hours?
Feeling fatigued after a full night’s sleep can also be an indicator of a mattress that doesn’t provide enough support (i.e., if your muscles are straining at night to provide the support your mattress isn’t providing, you’re not going to get quality sleep).
Of course, there are many possible reasons for fatigue (sleep apnea, stress, drinking alcohol or caffeine before bedtime, chronic health issues, etc.). But chief among these options is a poor-quality mattress.
So how do you pick a mattress fitted for the specific support you need? There are a few things to consider:
Typically, heavier folks require firmer mattresses for some extra support. People who way less generally do fine with any style mattress.
Type of sleeper
Side sleepers usually fare best with softer mattresses to accommodate the position and help straighten the spine. Back sleepers do best with any kind of mattress as this is the optimal position for spinal support. Stomach sleepers usually require medium-firm mattresses to account for their stomach extending slightly downward, below the natural curve of the spine.
Some people love the plush, cloudy feel of a soft mattress where others enjoy the structure of a firm bed. Ultimately, it’s about what feels the most comfortable for you. Consider your lifestyle. If you’re very active, you’ll want to choose a mattress that helps rejuvenate your muscles at night so you’re not stiff or sore the next day. Even a desk job takes a toll on the body. The best way to refresh your body and mind is a quality night’s sleep on a quality mattress.
It’s important to note that 80% of the population responds best to a medium-firm mattress. So if all else fails, go with the porridge that’s just right (for 80% of people anyway). And memory foam is usually the best way to go as far as support. The best way to test a mattress is to try it out for a few weeks, feel your spine while you’re lying down to judge how straight it is.
Note: Take Zonkd’s quiz to find out which mattress we recommend. Or contact our knowledgeable sleep experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.