Sleep Well – Sleep Healthy Outreach Program

A Joint Public Health Education Initiative From The International Chiropractors Association And King Koil Sleep Systems

How To Select The Correct Mattress For Your Best Healthy Sleep


The quality of our mattress, which provides the surface on which we spend approximately one-third of each 24-hour day, is a vital element on which our good health depends. Healthy sleep is universally recognized by scientists and health experts as one of the key aspects of overall wellness and vitality.  Considering the importance of healthy sleep, it just makes good sense to take the time to fully understand how to select the best mattress for your maximum comfort and support because those factors are the basis of a sound, healthy sleep environment.

Look at the investment in a mattress as a major investment in your health and quality of life since healthy sleep or the lack thereof impacts all dimensions of how you feel, your productivity at work or at school, and your level of enjoyment in leisure activities.  Higher quality mattresses, those offering innovative designs such as wrapped coils and special edge supports and high quality, natural fiber coverings, will certainly be more expensive. A higher quality mattress, however, will almost certainly last longer and deliver a better night’s sleep over the years, offering important added value in healthy sleep.  This is worth the extra investment by every measure.

Mattress shopping can be confusing at first since most mattresses look similar on the surface and it is impossible to see what is inside or to tell just by looking the nature and quality of the fabric and other covering components they contain.  It is always best to seek out a retail location that is established and has a reputation for service and reliability. Like in all major purchases, customer satisfaction comes from a store whose representatives provide good information, answer your questions knowledgably, offer good service, offer a long-term warranty and offer well-known, high quality products.  Look for educated salespeople who can answer your questions about sleep and sleep issues and talk intelligently about your personal needs, as well as guide you through the many product choices. If you don’t feel your salesperson is straightforward, knowledgeable or helpful, you may want to shop elsewhere.  You are making an important commitment to your family’s health needs and you deserve the support necessary to make an informed decision.

It is important to consider your personal needs in a mattress.  Do you have a partner who needs adequate room to share on a new mattress? Do you have physical challenges, needs or conditions such as circulation problems or a bad back that might impact your mattress selection?  Are you a large person in need or extra space or firmer support? These are all factors that should be considered before you begin your search for the best sleep system to meet your needs.

Once you have identified a retail location and determined your mattress needs, you will want to address several key elements of mattress construction and design. These are:

 SIZE:  You need to identify the right size mattress for your personal needs.  This means providing room for easy, comfortable movement for yourself, without disturbing your spouse /someone you share the bed with if you have a sleeping partner/ if you have one.  Too small a sleep surface puts you on competition for sleep space and risks disturbing both you and your partner’s slumber since most healthy sleepers move from 35 to 60 times a night.  This usually includes at least a dozen full body turns that follow the various stages of the sleep cycle.

SUPPORT: Sound support is essential for healthy sleep. A good mattress and foundation will continuously support your body at all points and keep your spine in the same “straight line” configuration as a person with good posture in a standing position.  Pay special attention to your shoulders, hips, and lower back—the heaviest parts of your body.  The mattress should contour to those heavier pressure points, keeping your spine in the same vital straight line configuration. A mattress that is too firm will put pressure on the heavier parts of your body, particularly the hips, signaling your body to turn over and resulting in a night of tossing and turning. If there’s too little support, it will result in your spine not being properly aligned and your muscles will tense up and have to work harder to make up for the lack of support The resulting distortions that occur in your spine and supporting structures can lead to difficulty sleeping, morning stiffness and ultimately chronic back pain. Here you must test the candidate mattress yourself and not rely on what the label might say.  One brand’s “FIRM” might be too hard for your needs, or not firm enough.

Your goal is to identify the mattress that is right for your personal needs.

COMFORT:  How does a candidate mattress feel?  On top of the support level of a mattress there must be an appropriate dimension of comfortable cushioning materials that both offer a welcoming embrace and provide a breathable sleep surface that will help you maintain an optimal sleep-body temperature.  Wool and other natural fibers are the best “breathable” covering materials and will also help channel moisture away from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable while you sleep.  Natural latex emits no chemical residue as do some man-made fibers, and also helps maintain optimal body temperature.  Comfort and support are natural, inseparable partners in achieving natural, healthy sleep and neither needs to or should be sacrificed for the other.  In terms of healthy spine support, look for the firmest, most supportive mattress you find most comfortable.

DURABILITY: You want a mattress that is well constructed with quality materials.  These factors will determine the service life of your mattress (how long you receive maximum provide the comfort and support) more than any others.  The best assurance of continuous support and comfort over the years is to seek out and buy the highest quality sleep set you can afford.

CONSTRUCTION: There is one final technical element that requires the shopper’s close attention and that is coil count and coil construction.  Metal coils are what make a mattress supportive and at the same time responsive to the weight and pressure points of the body. Coil counts and how coils are configured are indicators of quality. The higher the coil count in relation to the surface area, the greater the strength and durability of the mattress.  You should be prepared to ask a salesperson or refer to the literature on any mattress line to determine the coil count.   As a basic guideline,a standard twin-size mattress should have 300 or more, a queen size mattress 375 or more, and a king should have 450 or more.

The number of coils is only part of what makes a mattress sound yet also responsive in the support it will offer.  Important advances in coil design and configuration include such innovations as wrapping coils in fabric, dual-gauge coils, and “zones” of support through which the coils are strongest where the weight of the body tends to be concentrated.  Another innovation is the clustering and connecting of coils, instead of each coil being independent of each other, where each row of coils is laced to adjoining rows with head-to-toe connecting wires.  This helps prevent motion transfer from one sleep partner to the other and provides optimal support which matches the contours of the body where it is most important.  These are features that every quality conscious shopper should not only look for but actively seek out because of the sleep quality enhancements they provide.

WARRANTY: Manufacturers of high-quality mattresses are not at all hesitant to offer a long-term warranty.    A top-quality sleep system should come with a minimum warranty of 10 years. Anything more than that is a sign of extra quality and confidence on the part of the producer.  Anything less is a red flag signaling the wary consumer to look at another brand or model.  A warranty period is not necessarily a guarantee of how long a mattress will last, however, nor is it intended to indicate when you should replace it. That depends on how a mattress is used and the environment in which it is housed.  A warranty is there mostly to protect you against product defects or design flaws.

Once you are in the store and have had your questions answered by the salespeople, the next phase of the decision making process should be the active testing of each possible mattress choice.  Wear comfortable clothes and plan for plenty of time to shop carefully.  Do not be in a hurry or at all shy about trying out each mattress for at least 10 to 15 minutes; that is why mattresses are there.

To put mattresses to the proper test, you have to lie down and move about as you would during a normal night’s sleep.  If you have a partner, have them so the same with you.   Try lying on the bed facing away from your partner and see if you can feel when he/she is moving, turning completely over and getting on and off the bed.  Take your time and relax.  Sit on the edge to test the edge support.  You will want to explore how a mattress feels in your usual sleeping position, thinking about comfort as well as support and how the mattress contours to your body shape and supports your spine. If you sleep on your side, lie on your side. Then lie on your back. Place your hand under the curve of your back. There should not be a space. The mattress should be conforming to the curve of your back.  If it does not feel right for you in the store, it is not likely to feel right when you get it home.

Here’s a helpful checklist for testing a possible mattress while you are there on the show-room floor:

  • Move around and test every pressure point, especially your natural sleep position: Support should be consistently comfortable (including hips, shoulders, knees)
  • Lay down on the mattress: Surface should accommodate your weight but also feel resilient
  • Sharing the mattress: One partner rolls over onto the side and/or back-lying position, while other lies still; does the mattress shake and shift, or remain stable and still?
  • Roll to outer margins, sit on mattress edges: Are the edges supporting your weight the same as at the center of the mattress? Are the sides of the sleep surface sagging, or are they reinforced and firm?

Take your time to test the mattresses and pick the best options for your situation and support needs.  A mattress that provides an appropriate level of support, including adequate buoyancy and high-quality ingredients and construction, will support your spine and allow for the important shifts in position during the night’s sleep cycles.

It might at first seem like a lot of work to study these points, understand how these considerations will help serve your needs, and then to go out and shop for the optimal sleep surface.  Always keep in mind, however, that you are buying a foundation not just for sleep, but for your priceless health and this makes it all worth the effort.


The International Chiropractors Association is presently engaged in a comprehensive review of sleep research with the aim of making those findings available to chiropractic practitioners worldwide.  We also believe that this review of the current state of sleep research will point to areas of where additional study is needed and, in cooperation with our affiliated educational institutions and with the support of our sleep products partner King Koil, we hope to help fill such gaps in sleep knowledge.  For more information contact ICA at chiro@chiropractic.org, TEL. 01-703-528-5000.




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