Recently I was in a mattress store for work, when a couple walked in looking for help. The sales associate was with another customer and they approached me assuming I worked there. The husband informed me they had recently purchased a bed, and then exchanged that mattress because it was too firm, and now needed to exchange their new mattress for yet another mattress because it was too soft. I could see the exhaustion and frustration on both of their faces. The wife looked truly demoralized as she said to me “I feel like this shouldn’t be so hard. It’s a mattress. How hard does is it to find a decent bed in a store full of beds?” To which I replied with a smile, “That’s a good question.”
I told them that I’d be glad to help but so they knew I didn’t work at the store, but rather worked for one of the bedding brands in the store. When they asked which company I worked for I smiled and suggested we keep that information temporarily a secret because I didn’t want to influence their decision. I went on to inform them that I worked for years in retail selling many of the mattress brands in this store, so I still knew a fair amount about each of them. The couple looked at me slightly amused as I challenged them to let me help them find the perfect bed, saying “Once we narrow it down to one or two I’ll fill you in then turn you over to the sales associate.” Although the husband seemed apprehensive, they both agreed.
After a few quick qualifying questions about what they didn’t like about the other beds and what positions they preferred to sleep in, I gave them the same advice I’ve been giving people who are in the market for a new bed for years:
Picking a mattress can seem difficult and overwhelming, but all you need to do is focus on two simple things: Natural Spinal Alignment & Pressure Relief
It became pretty obvious to me why they were having issues; they didn’t like their first mattress because it ended up being too hard. Many people, like this couple, somewhere along the line hear and believe the old wives tale that you need a “firm” bed to get a good night’s sleep. But if that were true then we should all be sleeping on pool tables. If you’ve ever actually slept on a pool table (not speaking from experience or anything) you wake up to that awful and agonizing “pins and needles” sensation. Which happens when too much pressure overtime is applied, just like sleeping on an overly firm mattress.
Then, they had the opposite problem, and their second mattress was too soft. Super soft beds can “feel” comfortable for the first few minutes that you lay on them, but over time beds that are too soft don’t provide enough support to maintain proper back support and natural spinal alignment. As a result, you wake up feeling stiff and sore. The reason being that when you’re not awake and your body is out of alignment, your subconscious gets to work trying to “correct” being out of alignment by tossing and turning, or rather searching for a more comfortable and natural position. Therefore, your muscles remain stiff while you sleep and don’t get the chance to heal or rest properly.
I spent my time with them having them focus on natural spinal alignment and pressure relief. The perfect mattress will have the right balance of both. So, how do you pick a mattress that is going to have that balance?
Step 1: Test Spinal Alignment
The closest thing to a “trick” when trying out beds is to lie down on your back and focus first on back support. A bed too firm will push your hips up and out of a natural position. A bed too soft will feel like a hammock. When you find a bed that checks those two boxes roll to your side and repeat the same process.
Step 2: Focus on Support Not Features
Instead of focusing on what foams, types of coils, or covers that make up a mattress, focus instead on how your body is reacts to the support, or lack of support, each mattress provides. I always point out to people that many of us remember a time we went on vacation and stayed in a hotel or rental home and got a killer night’s sleep! Lots of people have said to me “Oh I once stayed at the “FILL IN THE BLANK” hotel and loved that bed. I slept like a baby! Do you know what type of bed they have there?” I don’t of course, but it’s easy to relate to that feeling of a good night’s sleep. Coil count, gel infused memory foam, mattress thickness, and type of stitching fabrics didn’t matter one bit. And they don’t really matter when picking a mattress.
Each one of our bodies is unique, and all of us have subjective definitions of comfort. I told this couple that they were overthinking this. You don’t need to know everything about every mattress, because you already know everything about the one thing you need to know when mattress shopping: yourself. Does this bed put you in your natural position? Does this bed feel comfortable in that your muscles are relaxing, you don’t feel any sensation to toss or turn, and does the amount of pressure the bed is applying feel comfortable? Find the bed that check these boxes the best and you’ve found your winner.
Pitfalls of buying a mattress usually start when people try to buy a mattress based on questions like:
- Does this mattress feel firm enough?
- Does this mattress have memory foam, or latex, or pocketed coils, or no coils, or any other type of raw material I read about on the internet?
Avoid these mistakes and follow my two easy steps to end up with a mattress you love rather than one you regret and later return. I won’t tell you which bed they purchased, other than it was a top name brand, but I’m optimistic that the third time’s a charm for a good night’s sleep.