Choosing a Comfortable Mattress
Orthopedic mattresses – what are they?
Let us first explain the term “orthopedic mattress”. The word “orthopedy” is derived from the Greek words ortos meaning straight, correct, and pedia, meaning breeding, raising. This is the name of a field of that studies, treats and prevents curvature and deformation of spine and extremities. “Orthopedic” means “designed to treat and compensate various kinds of body deformations”.
In mattress manufacturing, the term “orthopedic” has been applied to mattresses by manufacturers, although it does not quite reflect the reality. You should clearly understand that mattresses are not capable of treating anyone. Therefore, do not expect orthopedic mattresses to perform miracles of treating serious spine disorders. However, a suitable mattress can relieve painful syndromes caused by incorrect position of the spine. You will have a better sleep at night and feel much better during the day.
A mattress can be considered orthopedic if it allows a humans spine to stay straight during the whole period of lying on the mattress. Consequently, no mattress can be called orthopedic. It is the complex “person”+”mattress”, rather that the mattress itself, that can be orthopedic.
Imagine someone overweight lying on a soft mattress. The mattress will sag in the middle, making the person feel the hammock effect: his waist will be lower than his legs and head. Meanwhile, a slim girl sleeping on a too-hard mattress will hardly enjoy it. . The mattress will not sag under her weight, keeping her spine arched and causing her discomfort and joint pain. Therefore, it is recommended to correlate your physique with the properties of the mattress. Only the mattress, selected personally for you and fitting your individual body features, can be considered orthopedic.
Let us now consider technologies ans materials related to mattresses.
Mattresses can be either sprung, or non-sprung. It is difficult to say which type is better – both of them have both advantages and disadvantages. The choice of a mattress is a highly subjective matter.
Besides, mattresses can be water of air-filled. Because water-filled ones require complex maintenance, they are not the most popular type. As for the air-filled mattresses, they are most suitable for temporary use (e.g. if you have guests).
A sprung mattress consists of a coil spine block and padding, separating the body from the springs. Spring systems can be either open, or pocket.
Open systems, used in many old mattresses, can still be found in modern low-cost mattresses. All springs are interconnected, so pushing one of them causes other springs to sag too. The properties of open spring mattresses are not the best for human health, though it is an acceptable option for its price. Certainly, it is just a mattress, with no pretensions of being orthopedic.
Pocketed coil springs is a totally different matter. Each spring is housed in a separate pocket. Pockets are attached to each other to form a row, while the rows are also attached one to another. Thus, a block of independent springs is made. As pushing one spring does not cause others to sag, such a mattress gives appropriate support for such problem zones as the waist. If there are two persons sleeping on the mattress, they will not roll to each other while sleeping. Today, pocket coil spring system is the best base for sprung mattresses.
As independent springs may have different diameter, there can be different number of springs in a square meter. The standard value is 220-260 springs for 1 sq.m.
The “Multipocket” spring blocks can have as many as 1000 springs in 1 sq.m. Such mattresses are excellent at fitting body contours; they have orthopedic properties and can support heavier loads. Its only drawback is its high cost.
When choosing a mattress, find out the maximum weight that the spring block can support. This is a key factor.
Atop the springs, padding is inserted to provide surface firmness or softness. The most popular padding types are the following: polyurethane foam, latex (natural or artificial), foam rubber, etc.
Artificial latex is a rather low-cost material, used in many economy-type models.
Natural latex is softer and more comfortable filler. Being a foamed rubber resin, it has good resilient properties.
Memory-form materials are soft and viscous new-generation materials. They react to pressing and warmth, “remembering” the body form for a few seconds. They provide additional comfort to a mattress and have an anti-bedsore effect. However, not everyone appreciates memory-form mattresses, so it is recommended to lie down for a while on the mattress to make sure that you will feel comfortable sleeping on it.
Coconut fiber is a hard natural filler. Typically, it is impregnated with latex. Coconut fiber is less durable than, for example, foam-rubber or latex. Besides, it is not recommended for overweight people, since it can start crumbling.
Felt. It is used as an interlayer between other layers of padding, or as a cushioning layer in a mattress. In the latter case, its main drawback is its short life.
The most popular types of sprung mattresses are the following:
Pocket coil spring core + 3 cm of natural latex = soft mattress
Pocket coil spring core + 3 cm of coconut fibre = firm-surface mattress
Pocket coil spring core + 1cm of coco nut - 3 cm of natural latex = semi-firm mattress
Non-sprung mattresses can be made either of one material monoblock, or several layers of different materials. Let us describe the properties of the main types of sprung mattresses:
Non-sprung mattresses are typically made from latex, wateratex, foam-rubber, etc.
Natural-latex mattresses are soft and provide different levels of firmness for different parts of the body.
Mattresses made from coconut fibre and latex typically are ether firm, or extra-firm.
Coconut-fibre mattresses are extra-firm and feel almost like boards covered with a blanket.
Choosing your mattress
It is wrong to think that in order to be useful for your spine, a mattress should necessarily be firm. The only truth is that different people need different mattresses to feel comfortable.
People with average build may sleep on most pocket coil spring mattresses, especially if they have a padding made from latex or coconut fibre combined with latex. Generally, sprung mattresses are considered to be more comfortable than non-sprung ones.
Overweight people should choose firmer mattresses. It can be a sprung mattress with reinforced springs, a “Multipocket” system, or a non-sprung mattress made from firm materials.
For slim people, it is recommended to choose soft models that do not contain coconut fibre.
For children and teenagers, non-sprung mattresses are commonly chosen. As a rule, mattresses for children should be strong enough to resist their jumping, so coconut fibre is not the best option. Teenagers may well sleep on non-sprung, latex mattresses.
As for babies and toddlers, usually a coconut fibre pad (3-7 cm thick) is bought for them. Actually, young children can sleep on any kind of mattress. However, the mattress should be well ventilated.
If you suffer from a waist pain, your mattress should be a soft one. Make sure that it sags well and supports your waist while you are sleeping. Meanwhile, those having problems in the cervical spine, should consider buying a firm mattress.
Hard and semi-hard mattresses are frequently recommended to people having spine disorders. However, if you have no health problems, sleeping on a board covered with a blanket is ineffective and even harmful for your joints.
Summing up, let us emphasize what was stated in the beginning: a mattress cannot be orthopedic as such, but it can appear to have orthopedic properties personally for you.
Seeking to select the most suitable mattress, attend a specialised shop, where you will be questioned on your height, weight and age, as well as existing spine disorders and personal preferences regarding the firmness of a mattress.
Finally, remember that a mattress, just like any other thing, does not last forever. Therefore, make sure you change you mattresses every 8-12 years (cheap models have an even shorter life span of 3-5 years).