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A Good Night's Sleep

Chiropractors are often asked by their patients what is the best kind of bed from a spinal health perspective. This question is not a simple one to answer. Much depends on personal preference and individual needs. There are some guidelines, however.


If you like sleeping on a fairly firm surface, a medium to firm mattress is an excellent choice. There are many brands which are suitable in this category. A pillow top adds to the comfort and support they provide without compromising firmness. A good quality foam mattress with a memory foam topper is also a good choice. 

If your preference is for sleeping on a soft surface, a soft mattress is not the recommended solution. A firm surface can be used with a layer of softer material on top of it; this will provide good spinal support without allowing sagging in the middle. A hard mattress can be softened with a variety of toppers, depending on your preference. Examples include memory foam, natural latex foam, a sheep's wool pad, or a feather bed. 

One factor to beware of is the current fad for "non-flip" pillow top mattresses. If your mattress has a softer layer on top, that soft material will wear out faster than the core underneath. And if you can't flip the mattress over, you get an uncomfortable dip in the top layer that you can do nothing about. (Many conventional "visible height loss" warranties will not cover a depression in the mattress that you can feel but that springs back into place when you're not on it, as most foam does.) A flippable mattress will double the lifetime of your sleeping surface, allowing you to distribute wear evenly over both sides.

Many people are unaware of spinal problems because their muscles are in a constant state of tension to compensate for faulty joint movement and to protect the body from pain. The result is that after sleeping, even on a good bed, they become aware of a back problem they didn’t realize they had. The best approach to such a problem is not to immediately change beds, but to correct the spinal problem. Not only is it less expensive, but it will save a lot of pain, disability and joint deterioration a few years down the line.

The type of bed you prefer is an individual matter, but it should provide support for your spine for the one-third of your life that you spend sleeping while your body is preparing for the next day’s challenges. If you wake up with back pain, don’t automatically assume you need a new bed. Consult with Dr. Mattern to make sure your spine is functioning well and discuss with her whether you need a change of sleep surface.

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