Choosing a Mattress for Sleep, Heath and Comfort

choosing a mattressBy Susan Doktor

Setting Yourself up for the Perfect Night’s Rest

Dozens of choices we make during each day influence how well we sleep during the night. Scientists have studied how the foods we eat and supplements we take – from magnesium to vitamin C – can change the health of our breathing, body chemistry, and more.

Some activities, like exercise, both relax us at night and give us more energy during the day to enjoy the things we love. The mechanisms by which our habits contribute to a good night’s rest are sometimes complex and sometimes easy-to-understand, but understanding them is important to our health.

Thankfully, many sleep-improving practices don’t cost a dime. Keeping a positive outlook, adhering to consistent bedtime rituals, and controlling the light in our sleep spaces can each help you sleep better. But others do require a significant investment. The mattress you sleep on is one example. Finding the best mattress for your body – and getting a better night’s sleep – depends on several factors. Let’s take a look at some of them.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is defined as those various practices and habits that help with good sleep quality at night and having good energy levels during the day.  This includes:

* Getting some exercise.  Even a daily walk has been proven to help with better sleep according to studies from the University of Arizona.

*Avoiding caffeine or stimulants late in the day.

*Keeping the bedroom dark and cool.

*Eating foods that help improve sleep and avoiding ones that can upset the stomach.

*Limiting the use of computers and cell phones for an hour or two before bedtime.

*Having a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Dollars and Sleep Sense

Mattresses are made from a wide range of materials and some are constructed using several components.Depending on the type of mattress you choose, supplementary equipment like a box spring may be part of the equation.But no matter what type of mattress you select, it will take a bite out of your budget. Even a low-end mattress and foundation will set you back a few hundred dollars. And mattress prices in the thousands are quite common.

Experts differ on how regularly mattresses should be replaced, but the consensus is that the average lifespan of a mattress is seven to ten years. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll own several during your lifetime.

If sleep hygiene is a priority for you, buying the best, most durable mattress you can afford may be a sensible decision.

Mattress Material Differences

The most common materials used to create the soft part of a mattress are latex and synthetic foam. Cotton and wool often accompany those elements to add both padding and breathability.

The inner workings of a mattress are typically covered by an outer layer, known as ticking, made from polyester or cotton. Inner springs, which may or may not be part of the mattress you choose, are made of steel.

All of these parts can wear out over time. Hybrid mattresses, which proponents say offer the best of both worlds in terms of comfort, are becoming increasingly popular. But they can also be subject to wear in more places.

If you’re shopping for a mattress, be sure you consider the manufacturers warranties carefully. Some mattress warranties only protect you in the case of obvious manufacturing defects. Others guarantee the specific performance of your mattress over time and will provide you with a replacement if your mattress develops serious indentations.

How Do You Define Comfortable?

And, for that matter, if you sleep alongside someone else, how does he or she define it? (Mattresses that adjust on each side to address two sleep partners’ preferences have solved a lot of problems.) A mattress that feels too hard or soft to you when you try it is unlikely to convince you that it will give you a good night’s sleep. And yet, specific mattresses are recommended – or not recommended – to help manage certain sleep issues.

A firm or medium-firm mattress may help relieve symptoms for people who suffer from back pain. Firm mattresses are also recommended for people who are carrying a lot of excess weight.

Memory foam mattresses may help those who suffer from chronic joint pain because they create fewer pressure points. However, “hot sleepers” may want to avoid memory foam, because it responds to heat and traps it.  Memory foam conforms closely to your body.

Mattress experts point out that many mattress buyers tend to make a choice based on what feels familiar to them, rather than what may be therapeutic. But it takes time to adjust to any new mattress, even if you choose one because it’s the same kind as your old one. The point is that if a firmer or softer mattress is recommended to you to alleviate chronic pain, chances are good that you will get used to it.

Try Before You Buy?

Not long ago, people bought mattresses locally at brick-and-mortar stores. Now it’s estimated that 45% of mattress purchases are made online. Many online mattress retailers offer trial periods of a year or more to help consumers overcome their reluctance buy a mattress sight unseen, or more accurately, “touch not felt.”

Buying a mattress online can be less expensive and more convenient. Mattress company websites often provide some basic mattress education.

Health and Environmental Considerations

If environmental safety is a priority for you, you should be aware that some of the materials used in mattress construction, including polyurethane (a synthetic petroleum-based material), flame retardants, and other plastics, have been demonstrated to release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere.

Body heat appears to increase the amount VOCs emitted. Scientists are not raising alarms generally about the VOC levels mattresses produce, but they note that children may be at greater risk for the health problems associated with VOCs. These include headaches, ear, nose, and throat irritation and, with some compounds, cancer.

Safer mattress materials include regular or organic cotton (for the padding and wrapping), untreated organic wool, and natural latex which comes from rubber trees.  Mattresses with these materials don’t generally contain toxic flame retardants and harsh chemicals. 

The usual latex used in mattresses is a petroleum-based rubber that has stronger odors and emissions. Organic wool is one material that naturally resists mildew and mites and is also a natural flame retardant.

If you’re buying a new mattress, another way you can contribute to a safer environment is to recycle your old one. A whole mattress takes up a lot of space at the landfill and that’s where some 20 million of them go each year. But a mattress’s component materials, including latex, cotton, and steel, are recyclable. There are some 50 mattress recycling firms operating today so before you haul your old mattress to the curb, consider contacting one.

This natural health news is shared by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a publisher of nutrition news and supplier of natural remedies since 2002.  Nutrition Breakthroughs makes Sleep Minerals II, the effective natural sleep aid with calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and zinc.

Author bio:

Susan Doktor is a journalist and business strategist from New York City. She writes guest blogs internationally on a wide range of topics, including health, finance, technology, and consumer products.

What to look for when choosing a mattress?

A firm or medium-firm mattress may help relieve symptoms for people who suffer from back pain. Firm mattresses are also recommended for people who are carrying a lot of excess weight. Memory foam mattresses may help those who suffer from chronic joint pain because these create fewer pressure points.

What are safer and healthier materials in mattresses?

Safer mattress materials include regular or organic cotton (for the padding and wrapping), untreated organic wool, and natural latex which comes from rubber trees.  Mattresses with these materials don’t generally contain toxic flame retardants and harsh chemicals.

Good Sleep: Nutrients that Help You Get More of It

Sleep better with nutrition and nutrientsGuest Post by Sharon Walsh of *************************
Presented by Nutrition Breakthroughs, maker of the effective calcium and magnesium based sleep aid Sleep Minerals II
Adults need a full seven to eight hours of sleep every night to stay healthy, yet many people get far less.  Stress, medical conditions, and poor sleep hygiene can all come between you and the rest you need. Sleep hygiene refers to those habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.

There are also positive interactions that occur between the sleep hormone melatonin and the foods you eat that can help you sleep better. The right foods help set your circadian rhythms so that when it’s time to hit the pillow, you’re ready to settle down for the night. Cirdadian rhythms are guided by our internal body clock.  These cycles tell our bodies when to sleep, rise, and eat – regulating many physiological processes. The cycles are triggered by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature.

Tryptophan – More Than Turkey

The tryptophan found in turkey is legendary in the food world for making people drowsy. While the sleep-inducing properties in your Thanksgiving dinner may have more to do with the size of the meal than the one slice of meat you eat, tryptophan does also help you sleep, but not in the direct way many people think. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin and melatonin, both of which are natural hormones made in the brain that help set your circadian rhythms.

Tryptophan can be found in far more foods than turkey. If you’re looking for other natural sources, try adding these foods to your diet for an extra boost:

  • Walnuts: Walnuts are not only a good source of tryptophan but a natural source of melatonin itself. They make a great bedtime snack.

  • Seeds and Nuts: Pumpkin and squash seeds, in particular, provide a quick dose of tryptophan.

  • Cheese: If you’re looking for a healthy kick, try reduced-fat mozzarella or add something a little different like Fontina and Edam.

Calcium – Dairy and More

A warm glass of milk is more than an old wives’ tale. The calcium in dairy products and many other foods help the brain use tryptophan to make melatonin. Cheese, yogurt, milk, and even ice cream have the calcium your body needs to help regulate your sleep cycle. If you’re looking for non-dairy foods to get a calcium boost consider trying:

  • Spinach and Other Leafy Greens: These brightly colored vegetables are loaded with nutrients. Other greens like kale and collard greens also have high amounts of calcium.

  • Fortified Orange Juice: Calcium is important for many body processes. It just makes sense to add it to this popular breakfast drink. A quick glass of orange juice also gives you a dose of vitamin C.

  • Enriched Grains: Enriched grains and breads give you some versatility in how you get your calcium.  Quinoa may be even a better choice, as it offers approximately 60-100 mg of calcium, not to mention a high amount of potassium, zinc and protein.

Develop Good Sleep Hygiene (Habits)

All your healthy eating may go to waste if you don’t develop good sleep hygiene. Your sleep environment can make or break your ability to get a full night’s rest. If you suffer from insomnia or need to get a few more hours of rest, try:

  • A Bedtime Routine: Not just for kids, a bedtime routine can trigger your brain to start sending the ‘sleep’ signals to the rest of your body. A warm glass of milk (remember the importance of calcium), a warm bath, writing the next day’s plans down in a journal, are a few ideas to get you started. You can include anything that helps you relax.

  • Cutting Screen Time: The bright light from televisions, e-readers, and smartphones can fool the brain into thinking it’s daytime, which means reducing melatonin and staying awake. Start shutting down your screens at least an hour before bedtime to keep your circadian rhythms in sync.

  • Bedtime Snack: While you want to avoid a heavy meal before bed, if hunger pains keep you awake, try eating a healthy snack. A handful of nuts, seeds, or cheese and crackers makes a good snack because they have ingredients that promote sleep.   Raw almonds or almond butter are good choices as almonds contain 266 mg of calcium per 3 1/2 ounces.

Keep these sleep-healthy tips in mind in order to increase the quantity and quality of your nightly rest and have more energy in your days!

This article is a guest post provided by

This natural health news blog is presented by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a publisher of nutrition articles and supplier of natural remedies since 2002. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes Sleep Minerals II, the effective natural sleep aid with calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D, and also Joints and More, the natural solution for joint relief, aches and pains, stronger hair and nails and more energy.