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When I had to buy a mattress, I went armed with all my extensive research. I knew great quality mattresses are expensive and I was willing to shell out good money for good sleep. I even lay down for 10 minutes on different mattresses in the stores—I admit, that was a little awkward. But what’s a little awkwardness for 10 or so years of good sleep? I picked the perfect one based on my research and practical experience. I was confident and happy.
It turned out to be the wrong one.
My research helped me pick the perfect one for me but more often than not my husband wakes up sweating and with some ache or the other. I, however, face no such issues. Here lies the very first mistake we make when buying a new mattress, Mathew Chandy tells me. “I like talking about sleep, how important it is and why people should take it more seriously. A lot of lifestyle illness are linked to poor sleep. We want to help people sleep better and the mattress makes up about 30 per cent of that,” he says. As a Sleep Evangelist and MD of Duroflex, he is the ideal person to help us understand not only how we should go about choosing the right mattress but also what errors we have been making along the way.
Chandy explains most of us start at the wrong place; he suggests a more effective approach. “When you’re researching, don’t start with what material is good for you because there isn’t one set standard. Everyone does latex foam, memory foam, springs, etc. slightly different for your bedroom. There’s such a huge.
variety even in just memory foam, for example, which can range from a low density (32) up to high density (80). Look at it as different thread counts in cotton. Another reason to not go straight into research on materials is because most mattress in the market today are hybrid—combining 2-3 different materials, in varying layers, for different outputs. There’s a comfort layer or two—usually memory or latex foam—with a support layer which is equally important to your comfort.” Chandy explains to us what we need to consider but he cautions that these are general guidelines; there are going to be exceptions to the rule.
“What suits you may not suit your partner,” he explains. If you are of a similar size, shape and constitution it could work, but more often than not, that isn’t the case. “How heavy or physically strong each individual is will affect how they sleep and what kind of mattress they need to be comfortable.” For instance, memory foam lets you sink into it, hence reliving pressure. A thick layer or very soft memory foam can be extremely comfortable for some like a younger person or someone who is physically fit. However, a heavier person might sink too much into it and not get the right kind of support their spine requires. Very soft memory foam also doesn’t work for those with back and knee issues as it makes it more difficult for them to get up.
“As older people tend to have more brittle bones, they should look at something that is medium firm. A very firm mattress will apply too much pressure and may hurt them while a very soft mattress will be difficult to get up from.” When it comes to kids for kid's bedroom, most mattresses work. However, you can consider hypoallergenic options like natural latex foam rather than synthetic foam. Chandy recommends steering clear of a very soft mattress for very young children between the ages of 0-3 years.
He also recommends the heavier one is, the more attention they should pay to how strong the support layer is, which can be made from materials like springs or bonded foam. Chandy suggests steering clear of Bonnel springs for couples and those who move/turn a lot in their sleep. “They are interconnected, so if one person is a restless sleeper, the other person will feel the movement as well. Bonnel springs work best for single mattresses.”
While you might find a mattress that works for both, if you don’t, there are also companies that customise half-and-half or dual mattresses.
Chandy says this is one important factor we don’t pay enough attention to in this country. Knowing your primary sleep position—side, stomach or back—plays in to choosing the right support for you. “If you are a back sleeper, you want a slightly firmer mattress. On a scale of 1 to 10, you should ideally choose a 7. The mattress needs to push your hips up a little and keep your spine straight.” A soft mattress won’t provide the right kind of support to your back and hips—a top comfort layer of latex foam might be what you need.
“We tend to have little bulges around the hips and shoulders which can add to pressure on these areas when you sleep. Side sleepers need a mattress that is slightly softer than what a back sleeper would need. Ideally, a medium firm mattress works. It should give in a little and not push back too much against the hips and shoulders. If there is too much push back, your hips will sit higher than they should,” he explains. Look for the level of firmness that allows your hips and shoulder to sink in a little (about an inch or so). Memory foam as the comfort layer might work for you as it allows you to sink in a little.
“Stomach sleepers should stop sleeping on their stomachs,” he laughs and tells me. “It puts a lot of pressure on your spine. So, if you can modify the way you sleep to your side or back, it will be better for you in the long run. Use a body pillow to help you transition to a side sleeper.” However, he goes on to say that it might be necessary for some people to sleep on their stomachs to help with issues like snoring or the more serious sleep apnea. Stomach sleepers require a very firm mattress.
Finally, comforter plays an important role too, a comfort layer made from natural latex foam works very well for those who have a combination of sleep positions. It is firm enough to provide the right kind of push back or support while also having a little give. It is also cool and hypoallergenic, making it perfect of very young kids and those prone to allergies.
“Some people generate a lot of heat when they sleep. This can be caused due to multiple reasons including consuming food or drinks too late. Changing your pre-sleep routine can help to some extent,” he says. In this case, you should generally avoid memory foam, especially if you sleep on your back. You tend to sink into the mattress and are cocooned by the foam which traps the heat your body is giving off. Either look for latex foam or a cooling memory foam in conjunction with breathable fabrics for your bed linen.
Comfort is highly individual and personal. “I get asked all the time what the best mattress is,” he smiles and says. “It’s whatever is best for you. Do not go for the easiest, cheapest or most convenient option. This is something worth investing time, effort and money in.”
In India, orthopaedic doctors tend to recommend very firm mattresses which could be related to the way we sleep in India. Generally speaking, orthopaedic mattress to tend to be on the firmer side. Yet they should provide enough give at the waist and shoulder. It could also offer a little bit of zoning at the top; the comfort layers would be zoned a little so that your get the right support at your waist and shoulder levels.”
From different kinds of memory foam to latex foam (both natural and synthetic), to coir, Bonnel and pocket springs, there are a lot of materials in the market. However, Chandy says that most of the good quality mattresses are actually a hybrid with a minimum of two-three layers of different materials which provide a mixture of support and give. It may not be called a hybrid as we focus on the primary material. “For instance, a memory foam mattress isn’t made entirely of memory foam. If it was you would sink into it completely and wouldn’t be comfortable. There are other support layers made from coir, support foam or springs which add to the comfort layer.”
The height of the mattress depends on how many and how thick the various layers are. The combined weight of the users does play into the ideal height of the mattress. “In general, thicker mattresses have more layers, hence, more premium. Again, this does not necessarily mean it is better for you. Six, eight and ten inches are good options but you also have to keep the height of your bed in mind. Ideally, based on your height, the total height of the bed plus mattress should be between 20 to 24 inches,” he says.
Pregnant women and parents of infants are some of the most sleep deprived individuals. Especially in the case of pregnant women, the requirements from the mattress for comfort keeps changing. Body pillows do help but Chandy suggests also looking to add a mattress topper in such situations. “It’s a good, cheaper way to experiment. You can get a memory foam, latex foam or fibre topper to add to the comfort benefits of your mattress. This is something the Indian consumer isn’t exposed to all that much but it can be very helpful for a particular phase in your life.”
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