Save Your Back with Sleep

Mattress Selection Can Help Prevent Back Pain

Did you know that the average person spends approximately one third of their life in bed? Yet when it comes to where we sleep, we often do not consider how our mattress can affect our backs. No other piece of furniture in your house is used as often or affects your overall health more than your bed.
 girl sleeping on a comfortable bedNo other piece of furniture in your house is used as often or affects your overall health more than your bed. Photo Source:

Now I lay me down to sleep…

Sleep is essential for everyone. A lack of sleep can contribute to failing health and increased pain. The spine, in particular, greatly benefits from adequate sleep. The spine works hard all day supporting the body and its functions. A period of rest is essential to maintain this activity. An inadequate sleep surface, however, can make this impossible.

Why is mattress selection important?

What you sleep on makes a big difference in the quality of sleep you get every night. A mattress without enough support for your spine can lead to muscle fatigue and a poor night's sleep. A good mattress maintains the same natural spinal alignment you have when standing. When your body is allowed to rest in its natural position, muscles are relaxed and sleep is more refreshing.

What should I look for in a mattress?

When buying a new mattress keep the following points in mind:

  • Type: There are different types of mattresses including innerspring, foam, flotation (water beds), and air mattresses. While innerspring mattresses may offer more variety in terms of firmness and support, many people find the other types of mattresses just as comfortable. The best type of mattress is the one that offers you the most support and is the most comfortable for you.
  • Foundation: The foundation, often called a box spring, is also important. The box spring absorbs stress and weight for the mattress. The correct foundation can extend the life of the mattress; therefore, try to purchase the box spring designed to go with your mattress. Using no foundation, old foundations, or mixing mattresses and box springs can negatively affect the level of support and the durability of your mattress.
  • Firmness: It is not necessarily true that firmer is better. A mattress that is too firm does not support the body evenly, tending only to support the body's heaviest parts. A mattress that is too soft sags and prevents the spine from maintaining proper alignment. Neither situation allows your muscles to rest, as they must work throughout the night to find a comfortable position and maintain correct posture.
  • Comfort: When shopping for a mattress make sure you take the time to try it out. Lie down on the mattress positioned how you usually sleep. Turn over from one side to the other. If you sleep with a partner, try the mattress together to make sure there is enough space for both sleepers to move around. Make sure the mattress can support your spine in its natural curve.

    Keep in mind that manufacturers use different terms for comfort and firmness that may be confusing. Terms such as "orthopaedic" are often used by mattress makers, but do not have any actual medical meaning. By trying out the mattress before you buy it, you will be better able to tell which one is the most comfortable for you.

  • Durability: Durability has to do with how long the mattress materials will last. Look for quality materials for the core as well as the cover. See if the manufacturer offers a warranty on the mattress in case of defects. Mattress prices are determined by what they are made out of, the quality of the construction, and the size. A good mattress and box spring should last about 8-10 years. So consider it an investment. Don't just look for the lowest price; look for the best value.

Turn, Turn, Turn

It is important to turn your mattress frequently to maintain even wear and to give you the best support.

Do I need a new mattress?

Mattresses do not last forever. Most of us wait too long to replace our mattresses. If you have had the same mattress for over 10 years, chances are you need a new one. However, there are some other signs including:

  • You wake up tired and achy. This may be a sign that your mattress is no longer providing you with enough support to give you a good night's rest. If you don't wake up feeling refreshed, it may be time to get a new mattress.
  • Your mattress looks old, worn, or frayed. The box spring creaks and squeaks. These are all signs that the mattress and foundation may be worn out.
  • Your bed is just not comfortable. Does the mattress sag or leave an impression where you sleep? If you find yourself rolling toward the center or you can't seem to find a comfortable position to sleep in, it's time to consider a new mattress.

Does the position I sleep in make a difference?

Absolutely! Sleeping on your side, with the knees bent or with a pillow between the knees, is the best way to maintain proper body posture. If you must sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees to support the normal curve of the lower back. Sleeping on your stomach or with your head elevated on an oversized pillow arches the natural curves of the back, as well as increases pressure on the diaphragm and lungs. These positions can lead to restless tossing and turning and therefore a less refreshing sleep.

Rest easy…

If you are having trouble sleeping or find that you wake in the morning more tired than when you went to bed, you may need to take a good look at where and how you sleep. A good mattress and box spring will allow you to rest comfortably and protect your spine. Sleep is an essential nutrient for our bodies and where we sleep can make all the difference.

Read the following information on how your bed can save your aching back.

Updated on: 08/27/19
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