Having the proper mattress can help reduce, prevent, and alleviate neck and back pain. Individuals spend around one-third of their life sleeping. However, when it comes to the mattress that we sleep on, there seems to be no consideration of how the mattress will affect our spines. No other piece of furniture in the house is used more often or affects overall health more than our beds.
Down to sleep
Everybody needs to sleep, as the proper amount of rest is an essential part of life. When there is a lack of sleep or sleep disorder, this contributes and leads to health issues of all types and increased/exacerbated pain.
Specifically, the spine benefits tremendously from a proper sleep cycle. The spine works all day supporting the body and its functions. Rest is essential to maintain this level of activity day in and out. But when the surface that we sleep on does not support our body and spine in the correct form, then proper sleep can be impossible to achieve.
Proper Mattress Selection
The mattress we sleep on can make a significant difference in the quality of sleep we are getting on a regular basis. A mattress that does not provide optimal support for the spine can lead to muscle fatigue and sleep deprivation.
A proper mattress keeps the spine in the same natural alignment as when standing. When the body can rest in its natural position, the muscles are relaxed and the sleep is healthy following the five stages of a full sleep cycle.
Healthy sleep means the individual needs to cycle through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4, and rapid eye movement or REM sleep. A full sleep cycle takes around 90 to 110 minutes to complete. Once the five stages have finished, it starts over at stage 1. Here is a look at the stages:
This is the lightest stage and is characterized by slow eye movement and relaxed muscle activity.
Eye movement stops and brain waves slow down.
This is the first stage of deep sleep where brain waves appear but are extremely slow. It can be quite difficult to wake someone from this stage.
This is the second stage of deep sleep with no eye or muscle activity. Just like stage 3, it can be more difficult to wake someone in this stage.
This is the dream phase where breathing quickens, heart rate, blood pressure increase, and eyes begin to move around in different directions. REM sleep could be considered the most important stage, as researchers believe REM sleep contributes to storing memories, learning, and regulating mood. Most adults spend half of their total sleep time in stage 2, 20% in REM sleep, and 30% in the other stages.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Type of mattress include:
- Memory Foam
- Water bed
- Air bed
Innerspring mattresses can offer more variety in terms of firmness and support. However, individuals find other types of mattresses just as comfortable. What makes a proper mattress the best is that it is the one that offers you the most support and the most comfort.
This is usually called the box spring, which is just as important as the mattress. The box spring absorbs the weight along with the added stress of movement etc, from the mattress. Having the proper foundation extends the life of the mattress.
If possible try to purchase the box spring designed for the mattress. Using no box spring, an old box spring, or mixing the mattress and box spring can have a negative impact on the level of support and durability of the mattress.
The belief that the firmer the mattress is the better is not exactly true. A too-firm mattress does not support the body in a balanced fashion. Which means that only the body’s heaviest parts are supported. A too-soft mattress can sink, preventing the spine from keeping proper alignment. Too firm or too soft does not allow the muscles to relax and rest, because they have to keep working to find a comfortable position just to maintain correct posture.
Make sure to take the time to lie on the mattress and test it out when shopping. Lie down and position yourself the way you would when sleeping. Take turns turning/moving from side to side. If sleeping with a spouse or partner, try out the mattress together to make sure there is enough space to move around comfortably. Be sure that the mattress can support the spine and maintain its natural curve.
Beware, mattress manufacturers use different terms for comfort and firmness that could be confusing. Mattress makers will use a term like orthopedic but it does not have any actual medical merit or benefit. That is why trying out the mattress before buying is the way to go. It will definitely help to tell which one is the most supportive and comfortable.
How long the mattress and materials that it’s made of will last determines the durability. Top-quality materials are what to aim for. Especially, the core and the cover. Prices are determined by:
- What the mattress is made out of
- The quality of the construction
- The size
A proper mattress and box spring should last for around 8-10 years. Therefore it is an investment in your spine and quality health. Don’t automatically go for the mattresses on sale or that are the cheapest. Instead, search for the best quality and value.
Flip or Rotate
Keeping the mattress in top form means flipping or rotating the mattress on a regular basis. This will ensure even wear and tear giving you optimal spine and body support.
Time for a new one
Even proper mattresses don’t last a lifetime. But like most of us, we wait way too long when it comes to replacing. For those who’ve had the same mattress for 10 years or more, it is definitely time for a new one. There are other signs letting you know it’s time to replace including:
- Waking up tired and aching could signal that the mattress is no longer providing enough support for proper rest. Not feeling refreshed after sleep could be the sign it’s time for a new mattress.
- If the mattress looks old, worn, or strained, and the box spring rocks and squeaks are all signs that the mattress and foundation are worn out.
- The bed is no longer comfortable with the mattress sagging/sinking or leaving an impression where you sleep. Slipping or rolling toward the center along with the inability to find a comfortable position means it’s time to think about a new mattress.
Sleep position makes a difference
Sleeping on the side, with knees bent or with a pillow between the knees is considered the best way to maintain proper body posture. However, if you must sleep on your back, place a pillow under the knees to support the normal curve of the spine.
Sleeping on the stomach or with the head elevated on an oversized pillow creates an unnatural arch of the spine. This increases pressure on the diaphragm and lungs. These positions usually lead to restless tossing and turning and loss of proper sleep.
If there is difficulty getting the right amount of sleep or you are waking up exhausted then this could be the time to take a look at where and how you sleep. A proper mattress and box spring will generate proper comfortable rest all the while maintaining posture and protecting the spine. Remember that sleep is an essential nutrient for our bodies. Therefore, the bed that we sleep on can make a significant difference.
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