Low back discomfort, pain or stiffness and shoulder pain may be corrected by the right mattress. Photo: Sealy
When to Buy a New Mattress
Sleep systems don’t come with a timer that tells you when to change up. That decision rests on factors like usage, original quality and changes in the user’s lifestyle. But researchers at BetterSleep.org say you may need a new mattress if:
- Your mattress is five to seven years old.
- You wake up with stiffness, numbness, aches and pains.
- You had a better night’s sleep somewhere other than your own bed (such as a hotel or friend’s guest room.)
- Your mattress shows signs of overuse (it sags, has lumps, etc.).
To appreciate the importance of finding the right mattress and getting a good night's sleep, you must understand how critical it is to get in all stages of sleep. The mechanics of sleep include two states called Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep and non-REM sleep. In healthy humans, sleep is broken into roughly 4-5 cycles of REM and non-REM sleep that run in 90- to 110-minute increments.
First come the four stages of non-REM sleep:
- In Stage 1 we doze. Muscles begin to relax and breathing slows.
- In Stage 2, sleep officially begins. Body temperature drops and heart and breathing rates become very regular.
- By Stage 3, the sleeper is difficult to roust from slumber.
- Stage 4 sleep is the point when the body repairs itself. Tissues growth takes place and hormones are released.
Following Stage 4, REM sleep begins. According to research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in REM sleep muscles are temporarily paralyzed. The eyelids flutter and the eyes move very quickly. Blood pressure rises, breathing becomes shallow. REM sleep is the stage at which dreaming begins.
The Science of Slumber
How your mattress affects your sleep and health.
- by J.D. Walker
Oh, the bliss of peaceful slumber! Poets sing its praises. Insomniacs crave its embrace. When we sleep, we heal. We uncouple from the world for the ultimate “me” time.
We spend, on average, one-third of our lives asleep. But do we really understand what happens when we close our eyes—and what part our bedding plays in the search for blissful slumber?
Scientists are certain of one fact. Without proper sleep, humans cannot survive. According to Dr. Bert Jacobson at Oklahoma State University, sleep acts in a restorative manner to aid in healing and repair. Jacobson is a researcher and head of Education Studies whose studies on sleep have appeared in medical journals and on the website of the Better Sleep Council.
Jacobson’s research shows that while stress or injury can be the root cause of sleep deprivation, many sleep problems are related to an uncomfortable mattress or sleep surface. A bad mattress can cause low back discomfort, pain or stiffness and shoulder pain. These are problems that can be solved by finding the right bed, whether it is an innerspring, foam or air mattress.
“Sleep deprivation impacts us physically, which can negatively affect our coordination, agility, mood and energy. For the ‘average’ person, our research shows that better sleep quality can be as simple as a new mattress,” Jacobson says.
Selecting the Right Mattress
Unfortunately, no one has hard and fast rules when it comes to picking the right mattress, says Karin Mahoney, director of communications for the International Sleep Products Association, (ISPA). “It’s all very subjective,” she says. “You really have to test a number of different products to find the one that feels right to you.”
Even Dr. Jacobson notes in his research “no formula exists for recommending bedding systems for the purpose of reducing sleep disturbances and increasing sleep quality.” ISPA recommends you start with a sleep system that:
- Maintains spinal alignment.
- Reduces pressure on the hips and shoulders.
- Supports the recessed parts of the body.
A good mattress gives uniform support all along the body. Gaps at the waist are an indication that the sleeper may have pressure points that restrict blood flow—an irritation that wakes the sleeper and interrupts that all important sleep cycle.
The Better Sleep Council points out that your rest—the amount and quality of your sleep—is a critical factor in your overall well-being. This makes your mattress one of the most important pieces of furniture in your home.