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Mattress Buying Guide - Part 2

Determining The Best Mattress For The Way You Sleep

One thing that people seldom consider when shopping for a mattress is in what position they sleep at night.  This is one of the most important questions a sleeper can ask themselves, but it can be difficult to determine as it can be difficult for a person to observe themselves while they sleep.  When it is time to shop for a new mattress, it is important to pay attention to the position of the body as the sleeper is lying while trying to get comfortable for a night's sleep.  Important clues can also be noted by being attentive to the body's position when the alarm goes off in the morning.

The reason for examining the position of the body is to consider the type of mattress needed in order to achieve the best night's sleep.  There are three basic positions for sleeping:  on the stomach, on the side and on the back.  Stomach sleepers typically need a firmer mattress.  Most stomach sleepers have spent their lives on firm mattresses, which has caused the need to sleep on the stomach.  When considering the alignment of the spine, this is the worst position a sleeper can adopt; in order to make up for the misalignment of the spinal column the muscles of the back and shoulders need to pull the vertebrae into place in order to keep the back straight.  This will lead to a sore and stiff feeling in the morning, and can lead to restless nights of sleep.  The softer the mattress, the more the stomach sleeper will sink into the fabric, and the more the muscles will have to work in order to achieve a straight spine.

Sleepers who rest on their back will want to look toward a medium-firm mattress.  A mattress that is not as firm will allow the body to sink into it some, and this sinking in will not only support the shoulder girdle and the hips, but also the lumbar region of the lower back.  People who sleep on their sides also will probably prefer a medium-firm mattress for similar reasons; the mattress that is slightly softer will allow the pressure points of the shoulders and hips to be better cradled by the fabric of the mattress, lending additional support and helping maintain a straight spinal column.

Matching the firmness of the mattress to the sleep type is an important first step when shopping for a mattress.  The next step is to assess the different types of materials used for mattress construction and how they match not only the position in which a person sleeps but also how a person sleeps.

There are three basic types of mattress materials, but among these three there can be several different variances.  By far, the most common type of mattress is the metal spring.  A spring is a coil of wire that can be compressed to support the weight of a body resting atop it; once the pressure is removed, the spring should return to its original state.  The more a spring is compressed over time, the less likely it is to return to its former shape.  Three things to look for when shopping an innerspring mattress is the gauge of the steel in the spring, whether the steel is tempered or not, and the coil count.

The lower the number of the gauge of the wire used to manufacture the springs in an intended mattress will mean a thicker wire was used to create the spring.  The thicker the wire, the more resilient it will be to deforming with time and use.  Tempered steel will also tend to be stronger and less likely to lose its shape, thus lengthening the lifespan of the mattress.  Coil count is more a rough estimate of comfort and motion transfer experienced while sleeping on an innerspring mattress.  The higher the coil count, the better the mattress will support a sleeper and the less likely they will feel their partner or pets moving around on or in the bed.

The Bonell coil is the oldest and typically the cheapest spring type offered.  The coils are tied together in helicals which are then fastened to a heavier wire frame; the coils and helicals are usually hooked horizontally across the mattress, which means that a lot of motion is transferred from one side of the bed to the other.  Light sleepers will find this annoying as they will be jostled whenever a partner moves during the night.  Not only that, but they also tend to make a lot of noise, which can add more frustration to a light sleeper's night.

A variant of the Bonell style is the "continuous wire," in which a single piece of wire is used to construct the entire mattress.  The springs and coils of these mattresses are typically run vertically, reducing the amount of movement transferred across the bed; they are also typically not made of tempered steel, and so can wear out faster than other types of mattresses.

The open-ended coil is the type of bed spring most people think of when imagining a bed.  The coil is typically shaped like an hour-glass--narrower in the middle, wider on the top and bottom--and are excellent for supporting the body.  Each spring is made separately, which helps to cut down on the transfer of motion.  The springs are typically made of tempered steel, which helps to increase support and comfort while also extending the life of the mattress.

The pocketed coil type of mattress is similar to the open-ended coil, but each individual spring is encased in a sleeve of fabric and then the springs are glued together.  The support and comfort of these types are usually higher, and the transfer of motion is minimal.  All types of innerspring mattresses will have varying layers of fabric on top of the mattress to maximize stability, comfort and support and to minimize the feeling of springs poking into the body.

Foam mattresses are another type of mattress available on the market, and they too come in three main varieties.  The first is polyurethane, which is a continuously-poured foam mattress.  These are typically only temporary or short-term solutions and are rather inexpensive.  Some hotel chains use polyurethane foam mattresses because they are cheap and easy to replace, something hotels are required to do often for hygienic reasons.

Latex foam is an all-natural foam derived from the sap or "milk" of the latex tree.  These can be nice if a person is sensitive to vapors released from the petroleum-based chemicals used for polyurethane or the third type of mattress, the "memory foam" mattress.  The one risk run by a latex foam mattress is the potential for sensitivity to some of the proteins found in natural rubber.  If a person has a latex allergy, it is advisable for obvious reasons to not look at latex foam mattresses.  Most latex foam mattresses, however, are sealed in several layers of padding and fabric.  If sensitivity issues arise, it is advisable to see a doctor and to look at different types of mattresses immediately.

 

The most popular of the foam mattresses is the memory foam mattress.  It is a petroleum-based polymer and, like all foam mattresses, small pockets of gas form during the chemical reaction that forms the foam.  These pockets of gas are what offers the support by the foam comprising the mattress.  Typically, the memory foam mattresses will arrive firmer than the mattress experienced at the show room, and this is because a support chemical has been sprayed on the foam to keep the tiny air chambers within the foam matrix from breaking down before arriving at the buyer's home.  Once the mattress arrives, it is advisable to begin breaking down the chemical support either by turning up the heat in the bedroom or by crawling around on the mattress on hands and knees.  Other methods may also be effective in breaking down and releasing the tiny air pockets trapped within the foam.

Light sleepers may find a foam mattress, especially a memory foam mattress, difficult to adjust to.  The body will sink into a foam mattress, leaving an indentation of the material where the sleeper was lying.  If a person moves around much during the night, it might be necessary to lift oneself out of the cavity in which the body was cradled in order to shift positions.  This can rouse a light sleeper from their sleep; it can then take another ninety minutes after the person has fallen back asleep to achieve the deep sleep the body needs in order to feel rested in the morning.

The third type of mattress is the air-chamber mattress.  These types of mattresses are similar to waterbeds, but instead of water supporting the body, there is a massive air bladder within the mattress.  The air bladders are typically swathed in foam supports and cloth.  However, the air within the bladders are refilled by air pumps; again, light sleepers may experience issues with waking when the pumps kick on during the middle of the night.  The cost of air-chamber mattresses are also somewhat prohibitive for most consumers.

Softside Waterbed Softside Waterbeds look just like traditional mattresses with an inner water bladder. This internal bladder can be adjusted to provide the preferred amount of water motion and support.

Finally, the waterbed provides an often overlooked choice for the hard to please consumer. Contrary to popular belief, there are still several vendors that manufacture waterbeds, and there is a die-hard consumer fan base that will sleep on nothing less. Waterbeds come in two primary styles: The softside waterbed mattress looks just like a conventional mattress, so if you think that you have  to deck out your room in a 70's wood frame to enjoy the comfort of a waterbed, think again. The hardside waterbed is the type of water mattress that comes to mind when one generally thinks about a waterbed. These are generally framed in a wooden box frame that supports the waterbed bladder. Both of these mattresses utilize baffles that can be adjusted to support and motion needs. The more layers of the material utilized, the less amount of motion that is generated when getting in, out, and tossing and turning. This allows the consumer to have everything from a free flow full water motion experience to a more restricted, or almost motionless experience.

While on the topic of cost, it is usually important to enter the mattress showroom with a ballpark figure for a budget.  Things to consider when buying a mattress are the amount of time spent in bed; one third of a person's life is usually spent asleep.  When considering the amount of money spent on a mattress, it is also important to consider how long the mattress is expected to last.  A set costing $2000 but that lasts for fifteen years will equal out to $133.33 dollars a year for the lifetime of the mattress.  Breaking it down further, that's approximately $2.56 a week or about $0.37 a day.  That is cheaper than a cup of coffee!  Just remember that a mattress is a long term investment, but that investment is also going to reap benefits in all other aspects of a person's life, all based on the quality of a good night's sleep.

Continue to Mattress Buying Guide - Part 3

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