How to buy a mattress

Q: My wife wakes up with stiffness in her back. I wonder if our mattress is causing the problem. How do we determine if we need a new mattress?

A: As a general rule, most mattresses and box springs need to be replaced after about ten years of regular use.

If you answer yes to the following questions, you should retire your current mattress:

  • Does the surface of the mattress or the box spring look uneven?
  • Is the mattress sagging around the edges or sunken in where you sleep?
  • Is the mattress comfortable only in some areas?
  • Is your back sore or aching upon getting up in the morning?

When shopping for a new mattress, consider some of these tips:

  1. Look for a medium to firm mattress.
  2. A firm mattress provides beneficial support for your back but it might not be comfortable.
  3. A “pillow top” layer of cushioning placed on top of a firm mattress can alleviate this discomfort without sacrificing the support.
  4. When comparing mattresses, lie down on each for a few minutes. Sitting on the edge of the bed isn’t a sufficient way to compare mattresses.
  5. Replace both the mattress and the box spring at the same time.

Sleeping on even the highest quality mattress will do little good if you are sleeping in positions that stress muscles and joints. It is best to sleep either on your side, knees slightly bent with a pillow between them or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Never sleep on your stomach or rest your head on a pillow that is so thick that it causes your head to tilt forward. These positions strain the neck muscles.