Top Tips for choosing your bed:

Mattresses need to be turned regularly – between every 6 weeks to 3 months. Get someone to help you turn them over, especially the heavier ones!If you live on your own your may prefer a foam or latex mattress that requires no turning. When you are turning the mattress, make sure you vacuum / wipe down the top surface of the bed BEFORE it is turned and re-assembled. It keeps the dust and dust mites at bay!

The mattress should be supportive enough to take the weight of the body without sagging. If you are used to a soft bed, don’t suddenly change to a very hard bed; the difference may prove to be too difficult to adapt to. However, the mattress does need to be firm enough to allow for shifts in posture as you turn during the night. This is necessary to lessen the fatigue and relieve the prolonged stress on soft tissues – it is not easy turning on a really soft “giving” service.

You need extra support for your shoulders, hips, pelvis, knees and ankles. The mattress needs to be comfortable to lie on and soft enough, with sufficient “give” to support and cushion the body’s curves eg like provided by a pocket-sprung” mattress. Sometimes if you find that your mattress is too firm, or when travelling, and the pressure points require more give and support, if you put a summer weight duvet or some blankets under the sheets you may find that it will be just enough to ease things.

Don’t be  embarrassed to lie on the bed in the shop for 20 minutes or so, for each mattress. Lie on your back as well as your side. This gives your body time to adjust to each one and for you to properly assess how well it will support you.

Afterall, this is not as long as a night, and you will be buying an expensive item that will make a fundamental difference to your health for the next 10 years or so.

In one study 85% of Doctors believed that allergic disorders – asthma, aczema could be aggravated by sleeping on beds that harbour house dust mites. So, hygiene and ventilation of the bed and covers is VERY important. Invest in some good protective mattress covers and wash all the skin-contact bedding regularly – at least once every 10 days.

The mattress needs to allow for easy evaporation of perspiration. The body loses between 1-2 pints of perspiration per night! A divan or slotted base allows for air circulation. If you need to put a board under the mattress (to give you more support, make sure that it has holes for ventilation. The residue of the perspiration will otherwise result in early rotting of the repeatedly “damp” fillings. A good, heavy mattress will need to have a strong base.

It is usually better to buy the base and mattress at the same time, but if you are buying them separately ask the shop assistants advice about the best combination, and get this in writing as otherwise the guarantee on either the mattress or the bed may be invalid. Don’t forget that you won’t get a true idea of how they will feel until they are together.

The bed itself should, of course, be soundly constructed and represent good value for money. Cost considerations are understandable but the cheapest beds will simply not last so in fact cost you more in the long run. The base may need to be dismantled in order to move it when you move house. Some are much easier to dismantle than others!

Beware! Beds come in different sizes.

  • A “standard double bed” is 4′6″ wide but a
  • “standard single ” is a generous 3′. So, even if you know your partner well, it makes sense to buy a
  • large double (Kingsize) especially if one partner moves about a lot. This is 5′ wide.
  • A Super Kingsize is 6′ wide. A larger bed is often slightly longer too.
  • The Americans go larger still – Queens etc but as they don’t fit well into British houses we won’t go there.

Make sure that the duvet or blankets are appropriate sizes for the bed size or someone will get cold, and wake achy and miserable. If you and your partner are of different sizes and weights, consider a zip-link bed. This matches two different mattresses or firmness / other properties to each individual. Choose what is right for you. If you are of average weight and height, but your partner is heavier they may require a firmer mattress.

Other options are a water bed. These are much more down to personal taste. Manufacturers claim that they support the body without distorting the spine and will last many years without sagging. They are reported to not have any pressure points, (hence they are comfortable) and they generally have the facility for internal heating. Plus there is less opportunity for dust mites.

However, as with many things, they are popular with some but others find them very hard to relax on. Also, they are VERY heavy, so the building construction must be taken into consideration! Make sure you try one out for a few weeks perhaps before you pay in full.

There is no absolute best choice for a bed. Be satisfied it is right for you before you buy however as it may be difficult to change it afterwards, if nothing else than it may not be due to poor workmanship or other fault but your subjective “comfort”.

Also remember that the words “Orthopaedic” is often pretty meaningless, but is usually taken to imply “firm”. I hope that these tips will prove valuable to you. Perhaps my best advice is consider that buying a bed / mattress is an INVESTMENT. In the same way that you would not take buying a car lightly, for something that you will spend approximately 1/3rd of your life on, make it the best quality that you can afford. Also, try plenty. Sometimes the more expensive pocket-sprung options with loads of hand-sewn pockets in it is not ideal for you.

  • Take your time.
  • Do NOT be hurried.
  • Walk away, come back a few days later and reconsider the shortlist of choices.
  • Lie on them for a longish period again.
  • Then select.

Good luck and sweet dreams!

© Gayle Palmer, Cranial Osteopath Feb 2010-19

If you wish to forward this article on, please do, but include this information: Gayle Palmer works at the Living Elements Clinic near Chichester as an Osteopath. Her particular interests are obstetrics and gynae work, paediatrics and the long-term chronic pain sufferer.
If you wish to see her for a consultation, please call the clinic directly now on 01243 641665

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