Find the Perfect Mattress

Six tips for choosing a new mattress

The type of mattress you sleep on plays a key role in the health of your spine, says Marleen Caldwell, PT, MS, Cred MDT, a physical therapist specializing in spine wellness in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health.

But one style does not fit all when it comes to mattresses. “Your body weight, shape and personal preference determine whether an innerspring or a foam mattress will be most comfortable for you,” says Ms. Caldwell.

Clues that you may need a new mattress include:

  • Morning pain or stiffness
  • Restless sleep
  • Sleeping better when you’re away from home
  • Visible mattress sagging or lumpiness

Here are six tips for selecting the right mattress:

Take time to find the right one. Spend at least 15 minutes lying on a mattress you’re thinking of buying. Lie on your sides, your back and your stomach (if you sleep prone), to make sure the mattress is right for you. It will be a wise investment of time, and your back will thank you for it!

Foam vs. innerspring. Innerspring mattresses support you with coils that exert an equal force opposing the weight placed on them, creating pressure points on the back of the skull, tailbone, shoulder blades and heels. Foam mattresses contour to the entire body but can make it more difficult to turn and get out of bed.

Consider body type. If you’re a side-sleeper and 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 and waist are in a relatively straight line, a more rigid surface offers better support.

More coils are better. If you select an innerspring mattress, more coils mean more support and firmness. The thicker the coil, the firmer the mattress, with heavy-gauge coils being the firmest. There are no magic numbers for coils, but steer clear of mattresses with few of them. They’ll quickly become lumpy.

Spring for a good foundation. The box spring creates a softer mattress and significantly increases mattress life by absorbing nightly wear and tear. It also helps maintain mattress shape. Consumer Reports estimates that a new mattress lasts 10 years on a new box spring, but just three to four years on an old box spring.

Pillowtop upholstery can be deceiving. Fabric layers provide insulation and cushioning between your body and the mattress springs. Wool or silk padding over a foam or cotton mattress may feel luxurious. But these layers are easily compressed and can make your mattress feel as though it is sagging long before the springs give out. Foam mattress toppers are inexpensive alternatives that can be changed easily when the foam wears out.

“If it’s time for a new mattress, take the extra time to shop for the best fit for you,” says Ms. Caldwell. “It will pay for itself in the way you feel.”

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