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Tips for choosing the right mattress

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06 Feb 2013

Getting a good night’s sleep is important in maintaining your wellbeing, and your choice of mattress is the first building block to ensuring a restful slumber.

Getting the right amount of comfortable rest is fundamental to your wellbeing and your choice of mattress is the foundation of it.

However, with the variety of mattresses on the market, choosing the best one for your individual needs can be overwhelming.

Anton Odendaal from furniture and mattress supplier Rochester offers pointers on how to select the perfect mattress.

Why is having a good mattress so important?

A mattress needs to provide you with sufficient support while you are asleep, says Odendaal. A mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, where your spine, buttocks, heels, shoulders and head are in proper alignment. If this is not achieved, you will wake up feeling stiff and tired.

When is time to replace your mattress?

Depending on the quality and make of the mattress, mattresses have a lifespan of around 9 years. Odendaal says if you wake up with lower back pain and after stretching, it dissipates after 15 to 30 minutes, it is a good sign that you are not getting adequate support and it is time to replace the mattress.

He says over time, mattresses tend to collect dust mites, fungus and other germs, which can exacerbate allergies and impact negatively on your sleeping patterns. After 9 years of regular use, he advises homeowners to consider buying a new mattress.

He says with regards to quality structured mattresses; there are three main contenders.

“Bigger is better” when it comes to the size of your bed. The bigger your bed, the more comfortably you can move around in it without disturbing your partner.

The innerspring mattress remain the most widely used mattresses. They have a centre core of springs made from tempered steel, which provide buoyancy and resilience. The coils are surrounded by a protective casing for insulation and padding purposes. Firmness and durability is dictated by the kind of wire used for the coils and the number of coils included in the design. This means the higher the coil count and the stronger the wire, the firmer the mattress will be. Quality innerspring mattresses have individually enclosed coils that prevent them from popping through the mattress and improve the overall durability of the mattress.

The memory foam mattress is more common in Europe. They are available in South Africa but are considerably more expensive. They are made from varying densities of polyurethane foam which responds to weight and temperature. The foam softens when it comes into contact with heat and it is pressure-sensitive, which allows it to mould to the shape of your body and negate pressure points for added comfort. They come in varying degrees of firmness with memory foam toppers available.

The Latex mattress is manufactured from synthetic or natural rubber, and provides firm, buoyant and uniform support. These matresses provide comfort that has been likened to memory foam, but the difference is that Latex pushes back and therefore provides better support. They are not widely available locally, due to the high prices.

Getting the right tension

Mattresses tend to collect dust mites, fungus and other germs, which can exacerbate allergies and impact negatively on your sleeping patterns so be sure to clean and turn your mattress regularly.

It is essential that the mattress is the right firmness. If the mattress is too hard, your body will try to compensate by frequently changing positions. A good mattress should offer firm support without putting pressure on various pressure points, as well as help circulation, decrease movement and minimise disruption.

He says if the mattress is too soft, your body will sink into it hammock-style, causing the shoulders and hips to pinch in, which will lead to the spine curving – putting undue pressure on joints and muscles.

The position you sleep in will influence the rigidity of the mattress you choose. People who sleep on their sides will need more cushioning as their weight is supported by a smaller surface area of the body. Those who sleep on their stomachs prefer a firmer mattress, while back sleepers tend to fall in the middle. "As a general rule, orthopaedic experts recommend those who suffer from back pain choose a very firm mattress for optimum lumbar support.”

Size counts

“Bigger is better” when it comes to the size of your bed. Odendaal advises you to choose the biggest bed possible considering the size of your bedroom and your budget. When you are sharing a bed, large mattresses can accommodate the movement of one party, without disrupting the other. For very tall people, it is best to invest in a mattress with extra length. Ensure the mattress you choose fits your bed.

Try it out

Odendaal suggests lying on the mattress and pushing your hand under your back. If there is a large gap, the mattress is too soft, and if there is no gap, the mattress is too hard. Just being able to pass your hand under your back suggests it is just the right firmness for you.

“Remember, in order to feel your best, you need to get your rest – so be kind to your body and invest in a good quality mattress suited to your particular needs,” he says.

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