The average human spends around a third of their lives asleep. Or if you look at it in a different way, they’ll snooze for a mind-boggling 26 years during their lifetime (source). That’s a whole lot of hours to spend in the horizontal position. But, despite the fact we spend so much time in bed, many of us don’t bother to assess whether our sleeping set-up is fit for purpose. This can be especially damaging for people with existing back problems, and can even lead to back pain in those that otherwise wouldn’t suffer from it.
Back pain: a millennial epidemic?
The fact is, back pain is becoming more and more common in people, young and old. Some studies show that almost half of the UK population now suffers from it chronically (source). The rise of back and neck pain related to the use of technology has even led to the coining of the phrase ‘tech neck’, which describes the wear and tear on the spine caused by the poor posture we adopt when interacting with smart phones, laptops and other digital devices (source). With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to think ergonomically – from the way our desks are set up, to the quality of the beds we spend so much of our time sleeping in.
So, which bed is best?
Whether you suffer from backache caused by a repetitive strain problem, an old whiplash injury, muscle instability, sciatica or something else, changing your mattress could go a long way towards alleviating your discomfort. But with so many different options to consider, it may all seem a bit confusing. That’s is why we’re here with some top tips on how to choose a mattress that will help you beat your back pain.
1. Make sure you’ve got enough support
Sinking into bed at night might feel great, but it’s important to make sure you’re not sinking too far into that big squishy mattress as this could leave you with little to no back support. Our backs naturally curve in the shape of an ‘S’ so it’s important that our mattresses support this structure when we sleep (source). One of the best ways to maintain the proper alignment of our spines throughout the night is to sleep on a Tempur memory foam mattress. This is because they mould to the shape of our bodies, relieving pressure on our joints and providing a weightless sensation that keeps our muscles relaxed (source).
Opting for a Tempur mattress can be particularly beneficial for those with lower back pain thanks to the lumbar support they provide. And for those who suffer with neck and shoulder pain, using a Tempur pillow can be a real life-saver, as their moulding properties relieve the pressure on your head and neck while you sleep.
2. Getting the firmness right
If you don’t feel a Tempur mattress is for you – some people don’t like the feeling – don’t worry. As with all sleeping arrangements, the mattress you choose will come completely down to personal preference, and there are plenty of other options to choose from. But if you do suffer from back pain it’s important that you pay close attention to firmness. Most of us will have encountered a friend or relative at some point telling us that there’s nothing better than sleeping on a plank of wood – or a mattress that simulates one – to get rid of back pain. But, in actual fact, this is something of an old wives’ tale. Research shows that the best mattress for back pain is one that’s medium-firm, as opposed to completely firm. If a mattress is too hard, it’ll push on pressure points and actually make back pain worse. But on the other hand, a mattress that’s too soft won’t support these pressure points, causing muscles to become tired and strained during the night (source). It’s worth knowing that while generally a higher spring count means a firmer feel mattress, the number of springs in a pocket sprung mattress does not directly correspond to firmness, as springs can be layered or can vary in diameter. So never just rely on spring count, try out a mattress and test the feel for yourself. If you prefer a firmer bed while your partner likes a softer feel, there is a solution. Some mattresses have a different firmness level on each side, so both of you can enjoy the right level support for your needs.
4. Get a mattress that suits your sleeping style
There’s no one-size-fits-all mattress, and this is largely because of the fact we vary so much when it comes to our bodies, weights and sleeping habits. If you’re a side-sleeper, you should generally opt for a medium-firm mattress. You’ll need a fair bit of support for your hips and shoulders, but not so much that there’s too much pressure on your bony bits (source). If you’re a flat-on-your back sleeper, medium firmness is also a good idea (source). But if you find yourself sleeping on your front you’ll need to go for something that’s a little firmer – this is to help prevent you from sinking too much into the mattress. As a front sleeper it’s even more important to get adequate support for your skeleton.