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An Osteopath's guide to choosing a new mattress

Written by Sian Smith   Posted in:Lifestyle   September 9, 2020

An Osteopath's guide to choosing a new mattress
Time for a new mattress? When it comes to choosing a new one, it can feel like a minefield, considering the amount of choice on the market. Factor in that mattresses can cost a pretty penny and that the wrong type can leave you waking grumpy and achy and there is a lot of pressure to get the correct one for you! Here is a rough guide to help you get it right.
  1. Know your body type. This often doesn’t get a mention in mainstream mattress guides but is well worth being aware of. We all have different body shapes, weights and differences in our connective tissue.  Some of us are more on the ‘strong but tense’ end of the connective tissue spectrum (often males) and can benefit more from mattresses with a bit more ‘give’ to alleviate muscle tightness that has built through the day. Others of us have a more ‘flexible but weak’ type of connective tissue (more common in females). Those with particularly flexible joints may already be aware of this if they have suffered recurrent ankle and knee sprains or have been diagnosed with joint hypermobility. People with this increased flexibility will benefit from mattresses that offer more support to prevent unnecessary loading on the joints in the night.  Body weight also needs to be considered. As a general rule, softer mattress types are needed for light and medium weights (under 15 stone) and firmer mattresses will provide more support and last longer for those over 15 stone.
  2.  Choose the right type of material for your body type. This is generally the most complicated part. Here are the main types and the general benefits of each;
  • Memory foam. These mould to fit the shape of our body which can be good for those with joint pain or hypermobility. However, cheaper versions can have a tendency to store heat which may not be ideal for the summer months.
  • Latex. These tend to feel much firmer than other types of mattresses and so can be good for those with more mobile joints. They provide a similar level of support to memory foam without ‘hugging’ the body in the same way. This material is breathable and resistant to general house allergens so good for those with allergies.
  • Open-spring. These are budget friendly but less supportive. This type is better suited to a guest bedroom where use will be less, helping the mattress last longer.
  • Pocket spring . A better quality mattress with many small springs that move independently. These can be good when choosing a mattress for 2 people, especially of different weights (most couples, then!). They are usually available in soft, medium or firm.
  • Bed in a box. This is a more modern way of buying a mattress and good for those that are time poor with no specific musculo-skeletal issues. They tend to be hybrid mattresses (often a mix of memory foam and spring) and most come with a 30 day refund policy if not suited to you.
  1. Which position do you sleep in? This is worth factoring in when choosing a mattress and is particularly important for those that sleep mostly on their stomach as they need a firmer and more supportive mattress. This is because anything too soft will allow the stomach to sag into the mattress placing too much pressure at the lower spinal joints.  Those who sleep on their back should also opt for a more firm mattress but can allow for a little more give than stomach sleepers. Side sleepers can go for a soft to medium support mattress as a firmer type may put too much pressure on the neck and shoulders.
Stumbled at the first hurdle and unsure of your body type? An osteopath can help you with this and also provide additional information regarding the alignment of your spine and the optimal positions to sleep in for your body type. For further information, contact Sian Smith at
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