By Julie Barrett
Although sleep might be the last thing on newlyweds’ minds, buying a mattress that both partners find comfortable should be a top priority. If this is the first time that you and your sweetie will co-own a bed, “don’t make the mistake of bringing an old mattress to the marriage,” says Andrea Herman, executive director of the Better Sleep Council, the mattress industry’s consumer-education organization. “When one partner brings along his or her old mattress, usually only that partner gets a good night’s sleep.” After all, if you’re not getting your ZZZs, you won’t have the energy to enjoy what you’d really like to do once you hit the sack.
SizeEven happily married couples need their individual space. To make sure you’re not bumping into each other in the middle of the night, the Better Sleep Council recommends that couples purchase at least a queen-size mattress. This leaves your size options at the following:
SupportLike a good marriage a good bed must provide support and stability. A mattress set should maintain healthy spinal alignment. Basically, Herman says that it should support your posture as if you were standing, molding to the curves of your spine as well as to the full length of your body. A bed’s basic support system consists of the mattress innercore and the foundation.
The innercore can be made up of coils, air, foam, or water. For innerspring coil mattresses (the type most Americans purchase), there are several elements that work together to create a system of support, including coil count (the number of coils in a mattress), coil thickness, coil shape, and coil arrangement. Some experts recommend that for durability, a king should have more than 450 coils, a queen more than 375, and that the wire in the coils should be no less than 13-gauge. A good foam mattress will have a minimum density of two pounds per cubic foot. The vinyl of a waterbed mattress should be at least 20 millimeters thick.
The foundation , for most beds the box spring, serves as a shock absorber, and adds extra support and durability for the mattress. Always buy a complete sleep set—the mattress and its companion foundation—since they are engineered to work together to maximize comfort and support.
ComfortThe upholstery that surrounds the innercore enhances support and provides padded comfort. Despite what the Army (and maybe your spouse) says, mattresses don’t have to be hard as a board to be good for you, unless that’s what you prefer. Advanced new cushioning materials in a variety of fibers and body-conforming foams provide soft, plush comfort while supporting the spine and easing pressure points along the body.
Pillow-topped mattresses—those with a removable cushioned layer on the surface—are a popular (albeit pricier) option.
“Firmness is about feel, not support,” Herman points out. “Support begins with the innercore of a mattress, so you can get the necessary support from a plusher mattress as well as from a firm one.”
ValueYou can spend anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars for a queen or king mattress and foundation. The Better Sleep Council recommends that you buy the best that you can afford. Also, bear in mind that the warranty exists only to protect you against product defects, not against the gradual loss of comfort and support over the years.
Mattresses, unlike perfect marriages, aren’t meant to endure forever. Even the best mattresses should be replaced after about a decade. The following tips will help insure that your mattress lasts:
Avoid mattresses made with previously used materials, which don’t provide the same support and comfort as a new one. Check the mattress tags or ask your retailer if you have any doubts.
If you’re buying a queen size or bigger, you should also purchase a bed frame with center support. This will help prevent that dreaded pit in the mattress’s middle.
Remember to rotate your mattress regularly. In one rotation, twist the mattress around so that the foot is now at the head. A few months later, flip the mattress over. Keep up with this cycle for as long as you own the mattress.
Dust mites—microscopic insects that feed mostly on shed flakes of human skin—are a reality in every home. Unfortunately, they’re also a major cause of allergy symptoms. To limit the number of these critters staking claim to your mattress, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends topping your mattress with a zippered dust-proof cover, made of plastic or vinyl (effective, but uncomfortable) or special allergen-impermeable fabrics.
Taking a bed on a test-driveKeeping all of this information in mind, the only true way to tell if a mattress set is perfect for you is to take the rest test. “Just like buying new shoes,” says Herman, “you would never buy them without trying them on first.”
First and foremost, shop with your spouse, since you need to find a sleep set that meets both your needs. Wear comfortable clothes, and footwear you can easily slip off.
Take off your shoes, lie down on the mattress on your back, close your eyes, and stay there for a couple of minutes. Then assume your normal sleep position, and with your eyes closed, lie that way for a couple more minutes. As you lie there, ask yourself, “Is it comfortable?” “Do I feel like I’m sinking?” “Do I feel like I’m getting the support my back, hips and legs need?” “Do I feel like I have to move to get comfortable?” “Do I feel like I could drift off to sleep here and now?”
About the Author
A former editor at Elle, Parents, and Family.com, Julie Barrett has written for Woman’s World, Fitness, and Living Fit
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