How to Choose a Mattress


by Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar

Do you know what is the most important accessory in our lives? It is not our shoes, handbags or mobile phones. In fact, it is something that we pay very little attention to, even though it is incredibly important to us : our mattress.

We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, and of course, most of us sleep on a mattress. Yet we usually collapse on our mattress at the end of the day, too tired to think about this important accessory in our lives.



The type of mattress we sleep on makes a big difference to our quality of sleep. If you often wake up feeling stiff, tired, and with a backache, then your mattress may not be right for you.

What should you look for in a mattress? Is firm or fluffy better? What type of cushioning do you need? This article will guide you to take a good hard look at your mattress.



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Firm or Fluffy?

Your mattress actually plays a key role in the health of your spine as it provides support for your back when you are lying down. Poor support can lead to muscle stiffness as well as neck and back pain.

A good mattress should conform to the spine's natural curves and keep the spine in alignment when you are lying down. It should also distribute pressure evenly across the body, helping circulation, decreasing body movement, and enhancing sleep quality.

Some people think that a good mattress has to be soft and fluffy, while others swear by a rock-hard surface. The ideal is somewhere in between.

An overly squishy mattress will not provide your back the support that it needs, but a rock-hard one will put too much pressure on the shoulders and hips. Look for one that is gently supportive and firm, one that is able to mould to your body while supporting it.

Your body type also determines whether you need a softer or firmer mattress. If your hips are wider than your waist, a softer mattress can accommodate the width of your pelvis and allow your spine to remain neutral. If your hips are narrow and in a relative straight line with your waist, a more rigid surface offers better support.

At the same time, your mattress should not have bumps, valleys or depressions that allow your body to sag downwards.

Foam or Spring?

These days, mattresses are either made from innersprings or foam. Innerspring mattresses contain rows of tempered steel coils layered between insulation and padding. The coils exert an equal force opposing your body weight, creating pressure points on the back of the skull, tailbone, shoulder blades and heels.

The firmness and durability of an innerspring mattress depends on the thickness of the wire and the number of coils. More coils mean more support – do not go for mattresses with too few coils, as they will become lumpy.

Foam mattresses are made out of polyurethane foam that contour to the entire body. These come in different degrees of firmness but the material does not 'breathe' well so it can make you feel hot and sweaty while sleeping. If your room is well-ventilated or air-conditioned, this may not matter – otherwise, go for an innerspring mattress, which is cooler.

Some mattresses now are made from a combination of foam and innerspring layers to provide more support.

The bigger The Better?

Of course, a king size mattress is ideal as you do not have to worry about falling off the edge of the bed! A healthy sleeper moves around 15 to 30 times during the night, and this means there will be plenty of rolling and shifting around.

If you have a small mattress, you may not sleep well because you may be worried about being able to move around. If you are sharing the bed with someone, you may end up kicking, elbowing or pushing each other around. Therefore, it is wise to invest in the largest mattress that fits your bedroom and your budget.

Most good mattresses today are also made to minimise 'partner disturbance', which means that your partner will not feel any disruption even if you are tossing, turning or getting in and out of bed on the other side.

Cushioning

When you walk into a mattress store, you are greeted with mind-boggling options – not just in terms of material and size, but also the type of cushioning (or topping, as some stores call it). These upholstery or fabric layers provide insulation and cushioning between your body and the mattress springs, and is the no. 1 selling point when customers try out the mattresses.

Some mattresses are very expensive because they use wool, silk or cashmere padding. It certainly sounds luxurious, but is it necessary? Wool is good for keeping you dry while you sleep, but it can be easily compressed and make your mattress feel as though it is sagging.

Foam toppers are inexpensive alternatives, and they can be changed easily when the foam wears out.

When to Change?

You may think that you have a perfectly good mattress now, but remember that mattresses do not last forever. They will lose their firmness and support over the years – 10 years is the average life span of a mattress.

What are the signs that you need a new mattress?

* Morning pain or stiffness
* Restless sleep
* You find that you sleep better when you are away from home
* Sags or lumps in your mattress

When you go shopping for a new mattress, make sure you try it out properly. Lie on the mattress on your normal sleeping position, whether it is on your sides, your back or your stomach.

If you have a bed partner, he/she should join you on the mattress and try moving around to see if it disturbs you. You should try out several mattresses and spend at least 15 minutes testing out each mattress before you make your decision.

There is nothing wrong with being fussy about your mattress. Your back will thank you for it!

More info on MATTRESS here.






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