DR. JAY LIPOFF: Choosing a Mattress, The Goldilocks Dilemma

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DR. JAY LIPOFF: Choosing a Mattress, The Goldilocks Dilemma


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By Dr. Jay Lipoff

“I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have
and I want to administer it intelligently.” – Ernest Hemingway


One of the most overlooked reasons people wake with aches and pains is that they are still sleeping on the same mattress they used in 1980. That old, lumpy sack has had its day and could be providing you with simply a surface to sleep on instead of proper support.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that participants in who sleep on a new mattress can immediately and significantly reduced pain in their backs.
Patients often ask me what mattress I recommend. First off it doesn’t matter if you sleep at the Taj Mahal or in the barn. If you sleep in an incorrect position then the result will always be the same and your bed makes little difference. My suggestion regarding mattresses is to get what is comfortable for you.
Someone could offer me a million dollars to advertise their mattress, but if I don’t use it regularly or believe in it, I won’t recommend it. I have only advised the use of products that I know to have helped my family and me personally. Hopefully you will have a similar response.
We all have our own preferences. Some people need to sleep on a warm cloud, while other people, usually the spouse, like to sleep on a cold boulder. Let’s discuss a few of the more common options in use today.
After about five to 10 years it may be time to re-evaluate your bed. If you have gained or lost weight then you have to take that into consideration. Maybe you have someone else staying with you and they are heavier. If you have grown or you need space, make sure you aren’t sleeping on a bed that is too small. Get yourself some space and “spread out.”
“A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner, so if one’s life is cold and bare
he can blame none but himself.” – Louis L’Amour


Okay, so I don’t like waterbeds. If I were a fish then maybe I would change my mind. A waterbed displaces your weight and doesn’t appear supportive as they conform to your body. If your torso is the heaviest part of your body, then it sinks the most and water is displaced raising your legs and head. That can bend your neck to an unnatural angle or curve, with too much or too little pillow.
When you try to get out of bed your legs can move but it takes some work to get your backside back on to dry land. There is no resistance when you push to get out of bed, so if you have back pain you might have some difficulty getting up. Making sure the bed is always properly filled up with water and has available stabilizers can reduce these problems and provide better support.
You also need to take other considerations into account when getting a waterbed. First, can your house or building support the weight of the bed? No need to see you on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Next, if it ever springs a leak via a foreign object, you have a mad scramble on your hands. There’s no shut off valve so have a plan. You also will have a heck of a time rearranging the furniture or replacing a rug if it does leak.
There is some maintenance required with ownership. Occasionally you have to let air out of the mattress and add chemicals to keep it from becoming stinky and green. Also you should never let a child sleep on it, especially newborns. They can suffocate if they roll over because they can’t raise their heads.
The biggest reason I hear for not getting rid of them is that they are warm because of the heater. Well, wear some jammies, get an electric blanket, or adopt a few cats and dogs. That should help keep you cozy. I know they have channeled and wave-less waterbeds that are supposed to be better support, but you make the call. I have not tried the newer versions. People with allergies also seem to do better with these beds because they can’t be infiltrated with all kinds of nasty critters, mites and pollens.
There’s the Tempur-Pedic foam mattress or you can get the cheaper version and add it to your existing mattress. But, putting a foam layer over a bad mattress is like putting a new coat of paint over a rusted vehicle. It isn’t a good way to judge the foam pad. You could try it on a decent mattress or the floor and see how it feels.
I think the full mattress would be the way to go but it is expensive and about as heavy as a T-Rex. Make sure you don’t need a special I beam constructed box spring to support it. And if you want to put a new rug under the bed at some time you may need to call a crane operator to lift it. In fact make sure your house can handle a heavy mattress, like the waterbed.
Memory foam conforms to the shape of your body while you are in it and returns to its original shape when you leave. Its goal is to support the weight of your entire body and redistribute the force on the mattress evenly so you are almost floating.
Some patients love the fact you could dance on the mattress and not disturb the other person, not that they were dancing in the dark, but because movement is not transferred through the mattress. They also like the feeling of being cradled by the foam, which also keeps them warm.
I have had other patients who hated this mattress because the embracing foam kept them too warm or made it difficult when trying to loosen themselves from its grasp. Getting out of this type of bed with back pain is a bit of a chore as well. It is also hard to sit on the mattress and put your shoes on because it slowly gives away under the weight of your buns.
I have patients who have the adjustable air mattresses so one spouse can sleep on a cement slab and the other can sleep on fluffy clouds. Regardless of the benefits it may offer to keep you feeling great when you sleep, it may help to keep your relationship strong as well.
I’m a big fan of a firm mattress with a pillow top, but that doesn’t mean you will like it. This provides support while not pressing in too much on your body. Maybe we were supposed to hang from trees to sleep, but as long as I continue lying down I’m going to keep on using a mattress.
When you look at a mattress of any kind, ask to see the construc tion in regards to the gauge and number of springs or coils, the design, the box spring’s design, padding and warranty. Compare that to others you are evaluating. Many mattresses have 10-year warranties; and some become worthless before their time. You may be able to get a pro-rated refund because it didn’t last as long as the warranty stated.
It would be great if we could go to a mattress store and sleep overnight to see how a mattress feels. Even that really isn’t enough time to give a new mattress a chance. If you have been sleeping on a soft mattress and switch to a firmer mattress, then of course it will feel different and may be a little uncomfortable at first. Be patient.
Check with some stores as they may have a 14 day or 30 day return policy if you are not satisfied. Some give you 90 days. These options are more convenient so at least you have an option for exchanging your bed if need be. Otherwise you will be throwing it in the spare bedroom for me to sleep on when I come over and visit. Everyone knows there’s a good chance the uncomfortable one went in there. It’s okay.
When you go to the mattress store, lay on the bed for 15 or 20 minutes. Get a feel for it. Make sure you have support everywhere on your body when you lie down. Have your partner join you and relax together to see how it feels. Take your time in making your decision. There is no rush. Bounce on the bed a little and test how it affects the other side of the mattress.
A solution to this conundrum is to find a few really nice hotels and plan a night away from home. So for maybe $100 per night, you can try a really dependable mattress. If you slept well, check out what mattress they use and see how you feel the next morning. If it is really good, write down what kind it is and shop for a similar version. Whatever you do, don’t tear the tag off. You’ll never sleep again because the mattress police will be forever chasing you down. Just kidding.
A new quality mattress will probably cost around $1,000 or more. If that setup lasts you 10 years, it only costs you $100 a year for 365 days of pure heaven. Now we previously decided a hotel would be worth $100/night. Now you could be getting the same great sleep at home for $0.27 a night. If there are two of you, that’s 14 cents each.
Another option is to see how another bed in the house feels. Kick one of the kids out or try the spare bedroom. I have even recommended patients throw down some blankets on the floor to soften it slightly and pretend they’re camping. The whole family can have fun with this on a weekend. This can give the feel of a firm mattress with the pillow top softness. How does that feel?
You could go visit the out-laws, or in-laws, depending on how that whole relationship is going. Maybe stay at a relative’s house or a friend’s apartment. It doesn’t matter. This is a great opportunity to see how a different mattress feels to you before buying it. If all else fails, ask everyone you know what kind of mattress they use and why they like it or dislike it. Now you have an informed place to start from as well.
Different health conditions can also dictate which mattress may be beneficial to you. Patients with acid reflux or asthma may want to raise their heads while people with circulation troubles and congestive heart failure may need to raise their legs. Elderly patients need support but not too much pressure back into their body. Ask your doctor for some input. The adjustable bed that raises the head or the feet may be a good choice here but still look into what type of mattress is on it.
Regardless of what mattress you prefer, you should feel well rested, and not sore or tight when you first wake up. That is your motivation when selecting a particular mattress to sleep on. Sleep well.
These topics come from my book, “Back At Your Best; Balancing the Demands of Life With the Needs of Your Body.” It is available in book and Kindle format at Amazon, www.BAYBBook.com and at my office.

If you have any personal health concerns or questions, feel free to email me at DrJay@BackAtYourBest.com. I will answer them in private or in this section in a week or two.

Dr. Jay M. Lipoff is the owner of Back At Your Best Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, LLC, which is located in the Wildewood Shopping Center. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University in 1990, a Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.) from New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) in 1994 and he became a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) in 2005.

Dr. Lipoff is an Executive Board Member, International Chiropractic Association Council on Fitness and Sports Health Science; has a radio segment: Back At Your Best in 5 Minutes or LessCo-Founder, Drug Free Training USA; Member, NY Strength-promoting the importance of physical conditioning; Board Member of Public Relations Committee, Maryland Chiropractic Association; President, Wildewood Business Network-promoting better business relations and community outreach.

For more information, go to www.BackAtYourBest.com, find us on facebook or call 301-863-BEST (2378).


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