If you already suffer from back pain through a strain, muscular injury or disc problems, sleeping on a lumpy or hard mattress can make it ache even more. You will spend approximately half of your life in your bed, and those hours spent struggling to sleep with a bad back need not be wasted. If you find it difficult to get into a comfortable position to spend the night because of pain, choosing the right mattress can make all the difference. A good mattress adjusts to your body and supports the joints and muscles in a way which enhances the comfort when you are resting on it. If you choose a low quality mattress it can have a detrimental effect on existing conditions, you need one that is going to provide comfort for years to come. Your back pain may be a long-term issue or just a temporary one, whichever you are suffering from the right mattress will give you the firmness or softness you need to spend the night as pain-free as possible. Spinal problems can be aggravated on a cheap mattress, your spine can be twisted into awkward positions and you will only realize the damage in the morning- tense and sore.
Experts favor a medium to firm rather than a hard mattress as being easier on the back. At the Medical Center in Santa Monica, associate professor Arya Nick Shamie recommends a body supporting mattress, saying “your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment.”
Shamie believes that “if the mattress is too firm, it will create undue pressure on main points of the body and forces it out of alignment”. He always warns that if the mattress is too soft the points won’t be supported correctly and they will then go out of alignment anyway.
Soft mattresses are particularly bad for lower back pain at the base of the spine because if all of the back is not supported, and part of the back sinks into the mattress, the spinal area is often disjointed after a night on a soft mattress. Hard or rigid mattresses can also have a similar effect. When the back or spinal area is injured it can take a long time for muscular and nerve trauma to ease. Quite often, depending on the injury, those in the early stages of back injury may sleep on the floor or with a board, however the muscle and nerve trauma should eventually relax.
There are three types of mattresses. Conventional inner springcoil mattresses with different thickness of coil can balance the back with a neutral position supporting all the pressure points in the back. Mattress depth can vary considerably between 7 and 18 inches. The padding and depth is a matter of personal preference and the standard advice is to visit a store and lie on a mattress for a period of time to see if it is comfortable. However it is quite common to find that a mattress which seems good initially may not so fine when the next morning, when getting up is hard because you are stiff and sore. There is also a layered foam mattress which many claim is firmer and has a “memory” which can keep the impression of the back and so match its pressure points. There is also a latex mattress which some experts feel is firmer, however other opinions state that latex mattresses can be too warm and may emit a chemical odor.
The main way to ensure restful sleep at night is to achieve a balance between support of the back and comfort. Often serious sleep disorders or non restorative sleep can be due to a variety of causes, one of which is back pain,which is widespread, especially amongst the elderly. Some 65% of Americans report having sleep disorders and waking often during the night.
There are measures which can be taken, such as turning the mattress every few months so that the back support afforded by the mattress stays consistent. Expert advice also stresses the need to change the mattress every so often and the pillows, as there are mites which can cause discomfort and sleeplessness. Incorrectly positioned pillows are also a common cause of neck pain. Stress is a major factor in sleeplessness and the older someone gets, the less easily they sleep.
The general advice is to spend the money on a high quality mattress to give the purchaser the best chance of a restful night.