If you’re experiencing a major drain-in-the-ass, which is lost sleep, and you can’t seem to figure out why, it might be that your mattress isn’t the pillowy-soft palace of slumber that you once thought. Different types of mattresses suit different needs, and finding the right one is an under-appreciated factor in getting a good night’s sleep.
So let’s break it down (the facts, not the mattress) and see what options are out there, including the pros and cons of each mattress type to help you decide what you should be lying on.
A mattress is a mattress, right? How much variation can there be from one to another?
It turns out that there’s actually quite a lot! And get this: if you’re living with certain medical or sleeping conditions, your mattress type could potentially make all the difference.
Who hasn’t slept on one of these at some point in their lives? And while you might associate these metal spring-filled old faithfuls more with grandma’s house than your sleek modern apartment, they actually still have a lot of things going in their favor.
Pros: Spring mattresses offer great support — those metal coils inside are designed to hold your weight, and support it at every turn. So if you dislike the “sinking” feeling of foam mattresses, or if you find that foam actually tends to press on some sensitive/sore areas of your body, you may find that a traditional spring mattress might suit you better.
They’re also a lot cheaper than most mattress types. Who can complain about good support on a budget?
Cons: Springs naturally have a lot of movement — great if you dislike the motionless feeling of foam, but awful if your partner is seemingly dancing the tango in their sleep. You can be innocently snoozing away, only to be woken multiple times by your partner’s movements. And that can lead to a grumpy, sleep-deprived you.
Mattresses that are made purely from memory foam are actually a fortunate by-product of NASA’s research — it was originally intended for use on pilot’s chairs. These days, you can easily find a whole host of memory foam mattresses that promise to have you snoozing under the stars, rather than among them. But what are they best for?
Pros: Experts widely agree that foam mattresses are brilliant for those of you with back pain, or looking to avoid it in the first place. Low back pain has been pinpointed as one of the leading causes of poor sleep quality, and sleep boffins are now fairly convinced that a medium-firm foam mattress can be one of your best bets for dealing with it.
Foam conforms to your body, reducing pressure on the spine and joints.
Cons: The problem with foam mattresses is that they’re kind of… foamy. That legendary support can actually be more of a hindrance than a help if you like to move around a little in your sleep, and you can feel like you’re being swallowed up by your bed. Plus, air tends to not flow well through foam, so if you’re someone who typically feels warm at night, foam might not be the best option for you.
Can’t decide between the support of springs and the comfort of foam? Rejoice, for hybrid mattresses are a thing! An inner core of springs, lovingly wrapped in foam — surely these are the best thing since sliced bread?
Pros: The biggest pro of hybrid mattresses is that they take the best attributes of spring and foam mattresses, and make them their own. All the support of a spring mattress along with more airflow (meaning that you won’t get too hot)? Check! All the comfort of foam plus that good back support? Check!
On top of that, they’re also budget-friendly.
Cons: Unfortunately, hybrid mattresses also take the not-so-good of spring and foam mattresses (yeah, you saw that coming, didn’t you?) Springs combined with the bounciness of foam means you’ll likely be getting woken up by a restless partner much more than you’d like. Also, hybrid mattresses tend to be very heavy — definitely worth noting if you’re already experiencing back pain, and considering buying one.
Okay, so they might conjure up images of 1970’s bunny mansions, but water mattresses are still popular — simply because they’re extremely comfortable, and they can give you all the pressure relief that a foam mattress does.
Pros: They’re relaxing (love the sensation of being gently rocked to sleep on waves? Water beds are the one for you!). But even more awesome, they can be heated.
That’s not just a pro for those cold winter months when you’re determinedly clinging to your dog/partner/hot water bottle for that extra warmth, but if you have probs with joint pain, it could well be the relief you needed.
Cons: Got back pain? This definitely isn’t the one for you. Water mattresses offer practically zero back support, which means that any back pain you’re experiencing isn’t going to be helped, and might actually be aggravated. Add that water mattresses are reasonably prone to leaks — meaning potentially soaked and ruined floors.
Get the thought of those tiny air mattresses you’ve slept on while camping out of your mind — we’re talking about the real deal here.
Pros: The big advantage of air mattresses is that you can set the firmness exactly how you want it — after all, what’s medium-firm for the mattress manufacturer might not necessarily feel medium-firm to you. Plus, even better, a lot of double air mattresses are constructed so that you can have a different firmness on each side of the mattress. Your partner likes it soft? You like it hard? Simply set your preference on each side!
They’re also surprisingly durable. In some cases, PVC air mattresses can outlast spring or foam.
Cons: While it can be considered a pro that air mattresses have a portability factor that other mattress types don’t, the flip side of that coin is constantly having to keep them pumped up (and the noise of the pump). If you already roll your eyes at the idea of regularly making your bed, keeping it inflated can get annoying.
And as that’s generally the reason you buy a mattress, it’s a pretty heavy con.
Loving your sleep, but still worry about your mattress potentially having been treated with chemicals? Organic mattresses are made with materials that have been certified by organizations such as USDA Organic Seal, the GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). They’re often a little more expensive, but are they worth it?
Pros: Aside from the peace of mind that having fewer chemicals in your home will bring you, some organic mattress users find that they’re better for allergies, and cause less skin irritation. Owning one also means you’re doing your best for the environment.
Cons: You’ll pay a premium for your eco-friendly ways — an organic mattress can cost up to $2000. Ouch. It’s also considerably harder to source them: most mainstream stores don’t stock them yet, and you’ll have to carefully check the manufacturer’s claims to make sure that it’s a genuine, certified organic mattress.
As you can see, it’s important to do your research before you go shopping for your shiny new mattress. Get the wrong one, and it could do nothing for any sleep or pain conditions you might have — or even make them worse.
Fortunately, mattresses are pretty easy to track down — depending on what you’re after. Chances are there’s a store near you with exactly the type of mattress you want from a brand you can trust.
Here are a few tips on where to start your search:
Innerspring, foam, and hybrid mattresses are ubiquitous — check out your local branch of Walmart, Mattress Firm, Big Lots, Ashley Homestore, or Macy’s. Basically, wherever mattresses are sold, you’ll find these puppies.
Air mattresses are a little harder to track down. Pop along to Walmart, Sears, or Sleep Number/Sleep Collect, and you should find what you’re looking for.
Water mattresses are harder still, but Sam’s Club is probably your best bet. Otherwise, unsurprisingly, Amazon will have what you need.
Organic mattresses are the hardest of all to find, and you’re unlikely to find them in a brick-and-mortar store. Go online, and check out brands such as Avocado, Saatva, or Awara.
And don’t forget to check out the return policy when you get your mattress! You want to give your new buddy a thorough test drive — what feels comfy on night 1, might not be feeling so good by night 20.
Has a brand new mattress not made a dang bit of difference to your sleep? Then it might be time to go to your healthcare pro and find out what’s what.
If it’s a pain condition, discuss it fully with your doctor — it may be that you need medication or a change of medication, or that you have an undiagnosed injury of some kind. The sooner you get yourself seen, and the issue gets identified, the sooner you start having a good night’s sleep.
Some treatable sleep conditions include:
- sleep apnea, which can cause daytime fatigue and problems with concentration
- DSWPD (a circadian rhythm disorder)
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Let’s emphasize that sleep issues are not a guaranteed sign of a sleep disorder, but your rest and well-being is worth getting yourself checked out anyway.
Just like types of shoes, different mattress types are good at different things. It’s worth taking the time to thoroughly research what type of mattress is actually a good fit for you — whether you’re looking for support, comfort, durability, budget-friendliness, or all of the above.
And once you’ve got your mattress, put it through its paces. Don’t feel like you can’t take it back because you’ve been sleeping on it for a couple of weeks; this is a big decision. And remember that a trip to the doctor may be needed if you still don’t find any relief.
Get your mattress shopping down, and you’ll be down for the count before you know it!