If you awaken in the morning feeling achy and sore (as many of you do), your mattress may well be part if not most of the problem. Here are my conclusions after fairly extensive investigation into the morass of the mattress world. Incidentally, as we age we tend to lose subcutaneous tissue and padding, so we become more susceptible to pressure discomforts on our torsos and in our feet.
Characteristics of a good bed
1. A platform bed is fine: The traditional box spring serves no real purpose except to generate more revenue for the store. Recent designs make the box spring more or less vestigial. Current mattresses do well supported by a solid plywood sheet or by closely spaced slats.
2. The mattress interior should be mostly firm: That means that there should not be substantial sag when you lie down, which will give you a sore back. Many systems provide appropriate firmness and insulate one side of the mattress from movement on the other. This can be accomplished by interior springs or latex foam or memory foam.
3. The mattress surface 2-4″ should be soft: Your body needs to sink into a soft and resilient surface so that your weight is distributed along most of your body’s surface when you sleep. This is especially important for anyone who sleeps on his or her side, since then the shoulders, hips, and ankles will support your weight and feel undue pressure unless you have a resilient, soft surface. That top surface (the “topper”) can be latex foam, memory foam, or cotton/polyester materials, or a combination. You should feel that you sink into the mattress to adjust for your natural bony prominences, but there should not be a distinct sagging or sway in the center of the bed.
4. The edges of the mattress should be firm: That will assure that you don’t promptly slide off the bed when you sit toward the edge while getting off or on.
Practical suggestions for bedding
You should not have to spend multiple thousands for a good mattress. For example, the Simmons Becca model (12″ tall) has all four characteristics I outlined above, and retails for roughly $1300 for a king size. You can add a Carpenter’s “Ergosmart memory foam 2″ mattress topper readily available at JCPenney for perhaps $250 (less when on sale), or a 3″ Hotel Collection mattress topper at Macy’s with polyester fill that you sink into. That was available a year ago along with variants from other brands. You can even combine a foam and polyester topper.
My main point is that you want a bed that is firm underneath and soft on top so that your whole body supports your weight and not just your bony parts. You will have a more comfortable night’s sleep and perhaps awake more refreshed. And this can be accomplished without looking toward dramatically more expensive mattresses ($5K-10K) that I have investigated and which I did not find to manage the soft top/firm under any better than the much cheaper composite approach I just suggested.