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Firm vs. Support - The Great Mattress Misconception

Mar 17, 2013

When I was growing up, our teachers were constantly telling us to stand up straight and stand up straight. They expected us to have proper posture, and as impressionable kids, it helped us to remember to maintain proper posture. But why? Why was proper posture so important?

Standing up straight, sitting up straight and maintaining proper posture ensured that our young spines would develop properly and that we would have good posture as we got older, as they helped set healthy habits.

The same proper posture is important when you are sleeping. Laying on a surface that encourages proper posture does the same thing standing up and sitting up straight does: it allows the muscles along the spine to relax. When the muscles in the back have to constantly work to try to keep the spine in proper alignment, they grow tired and eventually can strain, leaving you in pain. Proper posture ensures you will sleep soundly and stay asleep longer.

Customers come into the store all the time insisting they want a firm bed, but quickly understand that it may not be the right feel for them. I have had many customers want firm because their pillow top mattress broke down quickly and they think that by replacing it with a firmer model, it will prevent the body impression from forming, even though they preferred the comfort of the pillow top.

So, who wins the Firm vs. Support debate? The good news is that they are not mutually exclusive: You can have support in either a firm or soft bed. A board-stiff mattress is not necessary to achieve support or the cradling of the spine. As long as the materials are not too soft as to allow the lower back and lumbar to sink while laying on your back, and the same on the side, allowing the hips to become misaligned, you are going to find proper support on firm and soft mattresses. The trick with the soft mattresses is finding comfort in denser materials. For example, a big feather bed topper is very soft and luxurious, but want prevent your body from sinking in further where you are heaviest. Water and Air mattresses present the same issue, as they are incapable of supporting the mass of the center of the body, allowing the spine to mis-align. A good quality 3-5 lb density foam can provide comfort and support.

The good news here is that in order to provide a supportive night's sleep, you don't have to subject yourself to a hard mattress. Hard is not necessary to keep the spine in alignment. A good quality dense, non-toxic memory foam or latex organic mattress can provide you with support. Nest Bedding carries several models of each type of mattress, reasonably priced and long lasting. 

What types of beds would you want to avoid in general? Mattresses made with old-fashioned continuous wire-tied coils can make your back flatten out. Air and water beds lack the ability to prevent the lower back from sinking which can lead to improper support. Foam mattresses and coil and foam mattresses made with very low-quality foams which will quickly matte down and lead to improper support.

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