In the second part of our guide to getting a better quality of sleep, we look at the variety of mattresses available on the market. The irony of a good mattress is that the more suitable it is for you, the less you notice it – yet the composition of the mattresses we sleep on has a significant effect on the quality of rest we get during the night. Rather than compromising on a model that is ‘more or less’ suited to you, to find the right mattress, you should pay close attention to your own body type, age and physical condition – before matching your needs to the qualities of the product.
Broadly speaking mattresses are available in sprung and non-sprung varieties. Sprung mattresses have rows of coiled springs built into a steel frame – the springs are linked to give the mattress the firmness and bounce you feel when you lie down. Non-sprung mattresses forego springs for high-density foam interiors, including modern latex and memory foam varieties. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each mattress type – and which is the best fit for you?
Spring-coil or sprung mattresses are a traditional and popular variety, available at a range of prices. Coil mattresses also provide a range of support levels during the night: some are fragile and poorly-supported while others are very firm. If you shift around during the night, or sleep next to a spouse or partner, coil mattresses may be unsuitable: the coils are linked together – any movement on the mattress transfers across its entire frame. Spring mattresses are available in un-linked, ‘pocket-sprung’ varieties, but these are more expensive than traditionally sprung models. Coil mattresses are also particularly prone to wear and tear – suffering damage and ‘dips’ with increasing frequency as they age. If you have a particular medical concern, a damaged coil mattress may exacerbate it during sleep.
Foam mattresses are particularly comfortable since the latex rubber the mattresses tend to be made from is designed to flow around the body. The elasticity of foam mattresses means they are useful for anyone with joint pain (or similar conditions) since the foam core supports the frame throughout. The elastic quality of foam still ‘pushes back’ on the body during sleep, however, meaning more sensitive problems may persist during sleep. The latex also helps the mattress ‘breathe’ keeping you cooler in higher temperatures. While more expensive than coil mattresses, foam mattresses tend to last a lot longer.
The difference between latex foam and memory foam mattresses is largely in the material each is made from: memory foam, made from artificial visco-elastic chemicals tends to be softer than its latex equivalent and more suitable to chronic conditions, like back pain or neck injury. Memory foam doesn’t push against the weight of the body meaning the pressure placed on you while you sleep is greatly reduced. It’s important to consider the specific materials memory foam mattresses are made from – while most are hypo-allergenic, some varieties include chemicals which can irritate skin conditions and contribute to restless, poor-quality sleep.
Pay attention to your own needs
As you get older, your body’s sensitivity increases – along with any injuries and medical conditions you may pick up. Factors which seem minor or unnoticeable in other contexts may be significantly hampering your sleep during the night and an unsuitable mattress will only exaggerate those problems. A mattress is an important part of a healthy and fulfilling sleep pattern and, more often than not, it is the case that you get what you pay for – sparing expense in the short term could leave you spending more later on.