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Choosing the Right Mattress

Some people are incredibly organized about the way they run their lives, and even keep track of their purchases and the anticipated lifespan of the product they’ve bought so that they know exactly when it’s time to go shopping for a replacement. These are the same people who change the oil in their car every three thousand miles on the dot, change the filter on their furnace based on a calendar entry, and never miss an application of their dog’s flea and tick medicine. Then there are those who pay no attention to these types of details. The oil gets taken care of when the red light goes on, the flea and tick medicine gets applied when we see it sitting in the cabinet, and as for their big investments, they get replaced when they’re falling apart.

These two types of people approach their mattress purchases in divergent ways too. The organized person knows that it’s been eight years since they bought their bed so it’s time to go buy a new one. The rest of us finally come to that conclusion after months of waking up stiff and sore, or worse — unable to sleep at all.

Whichever one of these categories you fall into, the purchase of a mattress is a daunting process. It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands to choose from. How can anybody possibly know which one is going to be the best and the most supportive? The truth is that almost everybody is looking for a bed that’s comfortable, and comfort is usually determined by how much or little you sink when you lie down. That’s also known as firmness, and knowing how firm your bed should be is the key to picking the mattress that will serve you the best.

Mattress suitability is all about support, and that is not the same as firmness. Support specifically refers to the extent to which a mattress keeps your spine in its proper position, and much of that has to do with whether you sleep on your side, your back, or your stomach. If you’re a person who sleeps on your side then you need a mattress that will allow your hip and shoulder to sink in so that your waist is still supported. This is not the same as softness. Having a bed with proper support not only helps you get a better night’s sleep, but also eliminates much of the risk of aches and pains. So the very first thing you need to know about yourself when you’re shopping for a mattress is whether you’re a side sleeper, a stomach sleeper or a back sleeper. If you do a little bit of all of them, then you’re what’s known as a combination-style sleeper. Sometimes (and especially if you’re a combination sleeper) it’s hard to know which style you prefer. If you have a bed partner you can ask them; otherwise it’s best to go with the position that you find leads to your falling asleep.

the purchase of a mattress is a daunting process. It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands to choose from. How can anybody possibly know which one is going to be the best and the most supportive? the purchase of a mattress is a daunting process. It seems like there are hundreds if not thousands to choose from. How can anybody possibly know which one is going to be the best and the most supportive?

The different sleep styles each demand a different level of support based on what will deliver the most appropriate spine alignment. If you sleep on your side you want to be able to sink a bit, as described above. That will leave your spine in a straight line, parallel with the floor. Without that sink, your spine actually curves up at shoulder and hip, and that leads to discomfort and pain. If you sleep on your back, you’re more likely to prefer a mattress that has less give and more support, while a stomach sleeper also is going to be more comfortable on a firmer mattress. Combo sleepers are going to prefer medium firmness that will conform when they’re on their side but still give them the support that they need when they’re on their back.

So is that it? You determine what kind of sleeper you are and can then just walk into a mattress store and tell them what firmness you need? Not at all. You still need your bed to feel comfortable to you, and in order to determine that you’re going to have to try several out. Understanding which beds feel bad and which feel good will go a long way towards helping you make the right choice, or at the very least if a bed just doesn’t feel right, you’ll know what characteristics you can start skipping over. That being said, it’s also important to remember that every manufacturer uses different terminology to describe their comfort levels and firmness levels, so you really can’t rely on descriptive language to help you find the answer you’re looking for.

Laying on a bunch of beds in the showroom is a great place to start. If nothing else, it gives you a sense of what the different bedding types offer. But you’re not going to be able to be 100 percent certain that a bed gives you the comfort you need until you’ve had the chance to sleep on it for a few nights in a row. That’s why it is critical that your purchase process includes looking into what the seller’s return policy is. Standard operating procedure for most reputable mattress sellers is to allow you a certain amount of time in which you can return the mattress, and at the very least to exchange it for another. These sleep trials are one thing that is imperative for having full confidence before investing in a mattress. If your retailer doesn’t offer you some kind of opportunity to return or exchange, find another company, because a mattress is a big investment that you need to be happy with for several years.

Take your time with your mattress purchase process. There is a lot to learn and there are a lot of options. Having the right bed with the right amount of support and comfort is an important way to make sure you get the sleep you

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