There are many things that contribute to a good night’s sleep – stopping the use of sleep aids, restricting caffeine, alcohol and food/snacks too close to bedtime, and establishing proper diets and routines, but it really comes down to the type of mattress you are sleeping on. Enter the age old question of whether we should be sleeping on a firm mattress or a soft one. The answer is not so cut and dry.
With the invention of the waterbed by Charles Prior Hall in 1968, the entire mattress industry turned upside down. Whether you like them or not, the way you sleep today has been affected by the nearly 45-year old fad. Yes, waterbeds were hard to make, move around in and get in and out of, but people seemed to love and sleep well on these squishy soft mattresses.
Around the same time, the mattress and box-spring industry started to heavily advertise inflexible, hard mattresses. Many of the untrained sleep specialists followed suit by suggesting the addition of plywood between the mattress and box-spring for even more firmness; many still recommend this technique today (especially if you have a mattress that is too soft which you are unable to return or exchange).
A firm mattress contains 500 to 700 coils, whereas a plush mattress contains 312 to 450 coils. The wire gauge of the coils for firm mattresses ranges from 12 to 16, which is lower (thicker) than the wire gauge in a soft mattress which is typically 16 to 18. Firm mattresses often share similar components as their softer counterparts; however, they are stiffer with little-to-no give. Soft mattresses have plenty of give in order to support and contour to your body’s natural shapes and curves, but sometimes they have too much give. In the mattress industry, the term support means to hold up, mold and take shape to the body. Firm, hard, and non-giving does not lend itself to contouring or properly supporting the body. Also to be considered is that the coils in a soft mattress will lose resiliency faster than those in a firm mattress. Firm mattresses are typically suggested for bigger people and soft for smaller but again, it really comes down to the individual.
Too firm of a mattress may hinder circulation at various pressure points, causing discomfort and numbness. Remember when you sit on bleachers to watch your favorite game, without fail, your rear-end falls asleep. Due to the restriction of blood circulation, the area can even become numb and painful. And later, we realize that our backs hurt. To an extent, the same thing happens in a super firm mattress. Since there is no give, your spine is forced to bend at your hips and shoulders. A softer, plusher mattress can allow your hips and shoulders to sink into the bed slightly, keeping your spine straight while you sleep on your back or side. But if a mattress is too soft, such that we sink into it one second after lying down, similar back and sleeping issues will arise.
Finding the perfect mattress is a hard task, especially if you are shopping with someone else and you both have different interests. We suggest speaking with one of our specialists at one of our many locations (available on our website).
Contributor: Greg Longmuir