Can A Mattress Improve Your Health?

Does A Good Mattress Improve Sleep?

Are you looking out for something that will give you relief from arthritis, back pain, hiatal hernia, asthma, varicose veins, heartburn or insomnia? The best thing you can gift yourself in such a situation is one of the newer “Sleep Systems” like adjustable beds, sleep number beds and memory foam mattresses that have become quite popular these days. Still, the question remains – Are they capable of delivering anything better than a traditional bed? Or should you be taking the money and going on a luxury cruise?


“What is your priority –health or holiday?” If a salesman shoots this question to you, be pre-warned. WebMD claims it has spoken to four experts who say they do not know of any independent studies which show that any bed or mattress has healing powers.


"Consumers shouldn't be lured by claims of therapeutic benefits for beds," says Dr. Charles Cefalu, spokesman for the American Geriatrics Society. According to him, the only beds that can claim to be therapeutic are the ones prescribed by doctors for home use and which has the same technology as therapeutic beds that are used in hospitals for the treatment of burn victims. Such beds are specifically designed to prevent bed sores in people who are unable to move by themselves and may pose a risk of skin breakdown. Dr Cefalu added, “Other than for patients at risk for skin breakdown or who already have skin breakdown, there are no studies of beds I know of that are independently and scientifically done without commercial bias."


What is Possibly Wrong with A Flat Bed?

A manufacturer of adjustable beds says that since our legs are curved and our back is “S” shaped, flat beds can create wide gaps causing a state of tension to the support muscles. As per our manufacturer, it is because of this reason that when we sleep on our back on a bed that is flat, we keep moving continuously to find a suitable and a comfortable position.


But According to Roger Herr, PT, "Normally body padding and the give of the mattress helps us adjust, and moving about is just normal sleep." Herr is president of the American Physical Therapy Association Home Health section. "We need to be able to roll over and change sides. To program a bed's position might be good, but it also might not be your natural rhythm."


Adjustable beds are more like hospital beds that enable you to elevate the position of your legs or your upper body. Patients who generally use them are mostly those who are suffering from conditions like hypertension, decubitus ulcers, circulation issues or congestive heart failures; such people have difficulty sleeping on a flat bed.


As per Jeffrey K. Bergin, DC, Dean at the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Ill, one can even mimic the features of an adjustable bed by bolstering it with additional pillows of good quality. But we feel lazy and opt for an adjustable one because it is easier to push a button.


"If a special bed does allow elevation, that would be one scientific reason to recommend it," says Cefalu. According to him, people who suffer from asthma, acid reflux disorder, heart failure or chronic lung disease need to elevate the head of their bed in order to get some relief and be comfortable. The best thing an individual can do is to consult a physician and take his opinion on what would suit best. Cefalu went on to say that he literally knew no studies that could testify the benefits of special beds which can’t be accomplished by making a few modifications with a regular bed.


Another frequently asked question is - Does the sleeping surface make a difference in sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, snoring, fibromyalgia, or insomnia? Dr. Clete A. Kushida, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Human Sleep Research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, answered that the only group that could probably be affected would be people who are already suffering from insomnia since they are highly sensitive to distractions.


He also added, “If you feel you've selected a comfortable bed, but your sleep is disrupted, talk with your primary care physician or a sleep center. You could have sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome or periodic leg movements that cause your sleep to be fragmented."


Heat and Massage

Heat and Massage are the added value attractive features of the bedding lines. One manufacturer has even made claims of temporary relief from symptoms of low back pain, poor local blood circulation of the legs, edema or swelling of legs, minor aches and pains due to muscular fatigue or overexertion, nighttime heartburn and simple tension. “That's probably true," says Cefalu. "Anytime you add heat or vibration it does change circulation, whether you're doing it with a mattress or sitting in a chair and using a heating pad and vibrator. The effects of heat and vibration are the same no matter where you do it."


The Myth: The Firmer The Mattress, The Better

Anna Johnson, moderator at sleepaider mattress forums says “Some people simply love a hard mattress and can even get comfortable on the floor. But if you wake up feeling all thumped and worn out, then you are not doing your body any favour. There is no truth to this age old saying – the harder the bed, the better the back. Especially as people get older, they need support and relief from pressure.”


Earlier people thought that waterbeds were the best bed and for a lot of people, they probably are. They have proven to be good for those individuals who are suffering from diabetes and have high chances of developing ulcers because of pressure. But as an individual gets older, a water bed is not capable of providing the required support.”


As per Bergin, the memory foam mattress is best for those individuals who are suffering from back pain or osteoarthritis. The usage “memory foam” is misunderstood quite often. It does not mean that the particular mattress remembers your body contour; all it means is it goes back to its original shape once you get up. Memory foam is made from materials that are heat and pressure sensitive, so it responds to your body temperature and complies with near perfect pressure, weight distribution and support.


"It gets as close to weightless sleep as possible," added Bergin. "It supports the entire body at all the pressure points as though you're floating. It really is a remarkable discovery!! But unfortunately a high-quality mattress that will last 20 years without being flipped is high priced, about $1,800 to $2,500."


Bergin recently purchased a Tempur-Pedic mattress, which makes use of the memory foam developed by NASA. NASA had it put in seats in order to absorb G-forces so that it doesn’t hurt. When G-forces push the astronaut into the seat, the material gives. We're bombarded by G-forces when we sleep, and memory foam allows the heavier or denser parts of the body to sink into the foam.


These days there are a number of manufacturers who make memory foam mattresses or top conventional mattresses with a layer of it. Just like foam, air is also capable of absorbing rather resisting pressure in order to provide a surface that welcomes your body outline and distributes equal amounts of pressure. "Sleeping on air does offer good support, and if you can adjust the firmness, that's even better," says Bergin.


Firm rather than soft is generally better for people with disc pathology or arthritis, as per Cefalu. "You want them to be on a fairly firm mattress to prevent laxity in the joints. A standard Posturepedic mattress will provide what they need. And people with cervical arthritis should avoid using too many pillows."


Rules of Comfort

Kushida says, “What we generally recommend is for people looking at new mattresses to try as many surfaces as possible because of too much individual variation in preferences.”


It is a good idea to invest your precious time as well along with money while selecting an ideal mattress for yourself. You should give yourself plenty of time to shop. Lie down for a minimum of 15 minutes on the mattress and find yourself a comfortable one.


If you happen to have a bed partner, then it is important that you try out the new mattress together and go in for one which is ideal for both of you.


If the mattress you are currently using is uncomfortable but serviceable at the same time, then memory foam or a down-filled topper should do the trick. Most of these products are advertised for sale by calling an 800 number. Ensure they offer a comfort guarantee so you can return the product for a refund if you're not totally satisfied.


Finding a mattress that is ideal for your body and friendly to your pockets is a challenging task and one might need a lot of patience to fight the right one. As per a University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter article, the thought there's one best bed exists mostly in advertisements. The article even goes on to state, "There is no scientific consensus on what makes a good mattress. This is one category in which what feels good is good."