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What You Need From a Bed

These days, shopping for a mattress can be as complicated as shopping for a car – and if you’re not careful, it can be just as expensive too. One of the most luxurious options available comes with bells and whistles that you may have never heard of – and that you probably don’t really need – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t dream… or dream on it.

That Cadillac of beds is the Sleep Number X12.  The bed was revealed at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, and the list of options available for this bed sounds like the packages that come on luxury vehicles. You can give the bed instructions via its voice-activated internal computer that will modify firmness, elevation and other variables to ensure that your slightest comfort needs are med. The bed also tracks your sleep experience and provides you with feedback designed to help you get your best rest possible. You can also input activities and information about what you’ve had to eat or drink so that the bed can provide you with a complete analysis of how to improve your sleep experience.

For those who think that all that sounds good, the base model starts at $8,000. But sleep experts say that as intriguing as these offerings are, the rule of thumb is that you should find the best bed to fit your budget. Rather than focusing on the extras that a bed offers, it is smart to put your money into making sure you have the best of the basics: bedding materials make a real difference in comfort and how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Foam and latex beds are especially helpful if you have back, shoulder or hip problems, and can be purchased at reasonable prices, even if they don’t come with apps and voice-activated adjusters.  According to certified clinical sleep educator and lecturer Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ, “It is worthwhile to find an appropriate mattress due to the fact that sleep is critically important to our physical and psychological health and well-being. An investment in a mattress is an investment in your health.”

Other experts agree, and urge consumers to remember that when they are spending money on a mattress, they are buying the surface on which they spend one third of their life. They don’t need specialty mattresses, but they do need quality that will provide them with years of comfort.  Michael J. Cooney, DC, clinical director of Rutherford Allied Medical Group, also warns against buying a used mattress because mattresses do have a limited useful life, usually around ten years.

One of the best ways to make sure that you are getting a good value out of the bed that you purchase is to compare prices and benefits. Don’t make the mistake of simply purchasing the first mattress that seems like a good fit. Do your homework first and then go to a variety of stores, because some stores have bigger markups or more generous discounts then others. If you find a specific bed that you like, for example in a hotel where you’ve stayed, ask for the manufacturer information and then look for it – you may be able to get a great deal online.  And remember that just because a quality manufacturer gets a lot of attention for their expensive beds doesn’t mean that they don’t offer reasonably priced offerings too. The same company that sells the aforementioned $8,000 mattress also offers beds that have similar technology starting at $1,000.

When it comes to testing a bed, one of the most important things you can do is let go of your self-consciousness or anxiety about the process. Going to a mattress store and trying out different mattresses is an errand that requires time and patience. Today’s memory mattresses will conform to your body, but it takes a full ten minutes for that process to take place, so if you just lie on a bed for a minute and then pop back up because you feel silly lying there, you’ll have no idea whether the bed works for you or not. Allow at least fifteen minutes per bed that you try, and lie in whatever position you sleep in most often.  Pay special attention to how it feels to roll over, sit up in the bed, stretch out. Replicate your normal sleep routine experience as closely as you can.

When shopping for a mattress, one of the most helpful things that you can keep in mind is what your favored sleep position is. Medical science has shown that the most healthful position is to sleep on your back, and many physicians encourage their patients to try to train themselves to sleep in that position in order to minimize back pain and the symptoms of acid reflux. Sleeping on the back may also help to prevent visible signs of aging like wrinkles. But not everybody finds that position comfortable. Because softer mattresses have more give, they are often most comfortable for side sleepers – a firmer mattress puts too much pressure on the hips and shoulders.  For those who are able to sleep on their back, medium firm support is often best, as it supports the lower spine. If you sleep on your stomach, a firm mattress will keep lower back pain to a minimum.

Finally, when choosing a mattress, never go alone if you normally shared your bed with a sleep partner. It is important to be able to gauge not only whether a mattress is comfortable for both of you, but also whether the bed provides enough support to make sure that each of you can roll over or move in the middle of the night without disturbing the other.

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