Sleep is one of the single most important factors when it come to our overall health, happiness, and longevity. Simply: if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you aren’t performing optimally in terms of your alertness and focus, or in the gym. Lack of sleep leads to car accidents, arguments with loved ones, impulsive behaviors, impotence, high blood pressure, brain damage, and much more1. And while there are countless different hacks and strategies for improving sleep, the best option is still perhaps the most straightforward: invest in a better mattress. And exchange that mattress on a regular basis.
With the right mattress, you’ll be able to sleep far more comfortably and also more deeply. That means you’ll drift off faster, but also enjoy a more rejuvenating rest. You’ll jump out of bed feeling better than you have done in years.
This is especially true if you’re currently making do with the same mattress you’ve had for the past 10 years! (Which is roughly how often you should change mattresses as a minimum).
Why You Need to Change Mattresses
One reason it’s so important to exchange mattresses from time to time, is that they will lose their bounce and their original shape over time. There are roughly three types of mattress:
- Memory foam
- Hybrid (which combines both)
Some people will prefer memory foam, whereas others prefer spring mattresses. The issue to keep in mind though is that both types will degrade over time and become flatter and harder. Springs are particularly bad in this way, as they can eventually break through the mattress or lose their pressure. Either way, you end up with uneven support that can hurt your back – a particularly important consideration for more elderly buyers.
This loss of bounce and support becomes even more of an issue at the edges of the mattress. “Edge support” is a key consideration when choosing any new mattress, and a lack of it will result in a mattress that sags at the edges and causes you to roll off onto the ground!
Other issues can affect mattresses too. Memory foam mattresses can be prone to moisture issues and even mold for instance!
How to Choose a New Mattress
When you choose a new mattress, there are a number of things to consider. The first is whether you would prefer memory foam, spring, or hybrid.
Generally, memory foam will provide a little more support and will more evenly distribute that weight. The ideal mattress will allow the spine to remain aligned, while conforming to your natural shape. At the same time though, it should offer a little support for the lower back, to encourage the natural curvature2.
Another advantage of a memory foam mattress is that they offer minimal “motion transfer.” This means that when you roll over, the entire bed doesn’t wobble and shake, which means you’ll be less likely to disturb a partner. And that’s pertinent to you, because it means your partner is also less likely to disturb you.
Spring mattresses (look for pocket spring) do have their own benefits. For example, when you choose a spring mattress it will often come with superior breathability. Because there are more gaps and larger spaces between springs, this allows air to circulate naturally. That prevents the mattresses becoming damp or smelly, and it means that you’ll be able to maintain a constant temperature more easily, especially during summer.
That latter point is extremely important. This is because temperature is actually one of the most important factors in controlling our sleep wake cycle. Studies show that while indigenous tribes all wake and sleep at different times in relation to the cycle of the sun, they actually tend to be fairly consistent in rising and falling with the changing temperature.
More Factors to Consider
Edge Support: Edge support is the aforementioned ability of the mattress to maintain firmness at the edges. This prevents you from rolling out of bed, or from experiencing discomfort when you are at an angle.
Hypoallergenic: Particularly when choosing foam and hybrid mattresses, you can be working with a range of unusual polymers and substances. A hypoallergenic mattress is one that steers clear of any substances that might cause a reaction. Some are also antimicrobial!
Fire Retardant: A good mattress should be fire retardant for obvious reasons.
Eco Friendly Materials: If you want to sleep easy (see what I did there) knowing that the mattress you chose is kind to the environment, try to find one that is eco-friendly.
Firmness: Firmness is an extremely personal matter, and the perfect level of firmness for one person may be all wrong for the next. But finding the right level of firmness is very likely what will help you to find a bed that you feel comfortable in and that offers the best night of sleep. Firmness also relates to your level of discomfort and back pain however. This is why it’s always advisable to actually test the mattress wherever possible!
Box Mattresses vs Regular Mattresses
If you’re in the market for a new mattress, then you may have come across a number of advertisements for mattresses-in-a-box. These are mattresses that get delivered to your door and come flat-packed in a cardboard box. These mattresses often make a lot of claims in their marketing, promising to be the most amazing products for your back and for ensuring a good-night’s sleep. They also typically offer a 100-day trial period, and will even offer to take away your old mattress.
Should you consider these deals? Or choose your own mattress from a regular bed store?
The answer is often the latter. The reason for this is that boxed mattresses come with some issues and limitations:
- They come with a strange smell that can linger for weeks
- They take at least 24 hours and often much longer to adjust to the correct shape once removed from the box
- They are typically significantly more expensive than offline options
- The marketing hype often doesn’t amount to much
- Store-bought mattresses are delivered anyway!
- Spring mattresses and hybrid mattresses can’t be delivered this way
- You can’t lie on them in store – and returns are a hassle
In short, you will usually be better off simply trying out a mattress in store and speaking to someone there. You’ll have more option, and you’ll save money!
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
- Best Mattress for Bad Back