Sleepless nights, tossing, turning and tired mornings — we all understand the feeling. But did you know that sleeping on the right mattress can help relieve these problems and suggest you what it feels like to be rested? We now understand that mattresses really do matter when it comes to receiving a good night’s sleep!


According to a study by Research Triangle International and Drs. Andy Krystal and Jack Edinger from Duke University, you might not have to be a princess to feel the pea under your mattress. Their four-year study examined how different support levels of mattresses impacted sleep, pain and daytime functioning. More than 16,000 nights of sleep were judged on 128 subjects, making this one of the largest studies ever performed on normal pain-free sleepers and how mattresses impact their health.

Previous Studies Stumble


Very few studies have examined the effect mattresses have on sleep and pain, and the ones that have been made only looked at small numbers of people or small numbers of mattresses. The small sample sizes often led to the judgment that “medium-firm” mattresses are the best for sleep. The fault in this conclusion is two-fold. First, there is no accepted definition for what a “medium-firm” mattress would feel like. A 250-pound person may define a mattress as soft while a 125-pound person may represent the same mattress as firm. Second, there were people in the study that slept well on different mattresses. Should they rest on medium-firm mattresses even though they slept better on a softer or firmer mattress?


Other studies have come to the conclusion that mattresses have no influence on sleep. These studies have typically utilized small numbers of subjects or have used university students. The use of university students is a poor choice since this group is usually very sleep-deprived. These scholars, given an opportunity, can sleep just about anywhere — laying on the floor or sitting in the classroom!

Mattresses Matter


The study by Krystal and Edinger defeated the shortcomings of previous studies by examining a large number of people (128), a wide variety of different firmness of mattresses (seven), and a large number of nights on each mattress (four weeks). After estimating more than 16,000 nights of sleep it was clear that even small differences in mattress support (soft, medium, firm) associated with changes in sleep and pain. This is a definite indication that mattresses really do matter. Nevertheless, the study had a second important conclusion: We may not be able to decide which mattresses are best for us when we are conscious.


Attention Shoppers!


The fact that people are very bad at selecting which mattresses would allow them to sleep pain-free should quickly interest consumers in the midst of mattress shopping. What’s the cause for this phenomenon? The answer is in what happens to our body while relaxing. We pass through different stages of sleep every night. One of those stages called “rapid eye movement” (REM) is the stage of sleep when our most lucid dreams take place. In order to prevent us from acting out our dreams, we lose our skeletal muscle tone. The skeletal muscles that strengthen our back relax and we lose spinal support. So, a mattress that felt supportive while you were awake with the muscles active might perform differently when you are in REM sleep.


It would seem that we can all be a princess (or prince) when we sleep, suggesting we really can feel those mattress differences, particularly when we’re catching some Zzzs.

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