Stretch out in comfort

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2012, 12:00am


A good mattress is a big factor in getting a good night's sleep, so it pays to choose carefully to ensure a relaxing, restorative six to eight hours.

The experts' advice is to combine feel with self-awareness and science when assessing the available options. And since sleep is so essential for health and general well-being, they suggest that finding the right mattress should rank as one of every homemaker's top priorities.

'Customers must feel comfortable with their choice,' says Dondy Poernomo, general manager, Asia, at furniture store Okooko. 'That's why we even allow them to test things at home for a few days - providing they purchase a mattress protector - and call us back if they feel they need something softer or firmer.'

As a first step, the firm encourages people to get a free body-fit prescription. This takes account of size, height and weight, plus such aspects as favoured sleeping position - on the back, stomach or side - and chronic medical conditions such as lower back problems or neck pain.

The aim is to determine the best individual fit for mattress, slat system and firmness, with more than 80 per cent of users impressed by the accuracy of the results.

'Everyone has a different body type,' Poernomo says. 'People tend to think a firm mattress is better for your body, but that is not true. Something too firm will actually push your spine from its natural position and, just as bad, a mattress that's too soft allows your body to sink.'

As someone subject to occasional back pain, Poernomo's personal preference is a 100 per cent natural latex mattress rather than the more traditional spring type. One reason is that it gives sufficient support while reducing the number of pressure points on the body. Another is that latex is an organic material, unlike foam, which is basically a chemical product.

'Latex has natural properties against bacteria, does not trap dust and allows much better air circulation,' Poernomo says. 'For those reasons, it is also recommended for people who suffer from asthma or allergies.'

Geoff Fuller, managing director of Tequila Kola, similarly emphasises the importance of doing a thorough pre-test, knowing one's idiosyncrasies and not skimping on quality.

He notes that brand names offer a guarantee and standard not attained by most of the 100-plus mainland mattress factories that may cut corners to compete on price. In contrast, the established manufacturers invest more in technical research and come up with highly engineered products that apply the relevant findings.

For example, the concept of individually pocketed springs has been a notable success. It helps to increase comfort and maintains the shape of the spine while allowing for specially hardened springs at the side of the bed for long-term durability.

'When choosing, two common mistakes people make are to buy something cheap and not to try enough mattresses,' Fuller says. 'You should go somewhere where a lot are on display and, preferably, when you are not tired. Otherwise, every mattress will feel good. Chiropractors around town tend to recommend something firmer, but the first priority is to be able to get to sleep.'

Kenneth Tjon, managing director of Dormirest, also makes the point that most people don't put enough time and thought into choosing the right mattress. It is an important decision, especially when you consider that about one-third of our lives will be spent in bed.

'A mattress has a lot to do with the quality of sleep and, therefore, with how we feel during the day,' Tjon says. 'Many of us ignore this until the springs start poking through the mattress pad.'

His general recommendation is not to assume soft and fluffy is best. At first glance, this might suggest warmth and comfort, but poor support can lead to muscle stiffness and exacerbate neck and back pain.

'The ideal surface is gently supportive and firm, not rock-hard or squishy,' Tjon says. 'And keep in mind that mattresses don't last forever. The average life is 10 years, although most people keep them much longer. Once your mattress has lumps and sags, it is definitely time to replace it.'

He also notes that size is a key consideration. As a general rule, bigger is better to avoid a nightly fight for space and the chance of dreams interrupted by kicks, shoves and elbows. Research shows that a healthy sleeper moves 15 to 30 times a night and that sleeping alone is in fact more restful that being alongside someone else.

'Cramped conditions can make sleeping awkward, uncomfortable and altogether frustrating,' Tjon says. 'And, as you and your bed partner get older, your sleep will become more restless, so you may require extra space in bed.'

One option, he notes, is to consider the newer types of mattress, said by manufacturers to minimise the movement of one sleeper while the other twists or turns. Such claims, though, should always be put to the test.