Friday, May 16, 2008

Dreaming of Memory Foam

One of my favorite websites/blogs, But You Don't Look Sick,recently had an article on the benefits of memory foam mattresses for people with chronic pain who are having trouble sleeping. (Isn't that redundant? I have yet to find anyone with chronic pain that doesn't have trouble sleeping!)

Apparently, the memory foam helps prevent pain in a sleeper's pressure points.

For me, I sleep best normally if I can sleep on my side. I use a ton of pillows -- it's a good thing we have a king-sized bed or either my husband or I would be relegated to the guest room! -- one between my knees, two in front of me to cushion my top arm, and one of those contour pillows under my head.

But since I got sick, within just a few minutes, I get severe pain in the shoulder and hip of the side I'm sleeping on. Those are joints that really don't bother me except when I'm trying to sleep on them.

So my solution is generally to sleep on my back (I'm sure Scott loves the increase in my snoring!), with a neck roll supporting my neck and two to three pillows under my knees. (My chronic back pain kicks in almost instantly if I try to lie flat on my back without pillows under my knees. I'm thinking of buying one of those foam wedges to prevent the pillows from sliding while I'm sleeping, which means more pain and stiffness when I wake up.)

The mattress on our bed is still in pretty good condition. (Scott bought as high a quality one as he could when he bought the bed before I knew him. It came with a 25-year warrantee, although I've warned Scott that that doesn't mean he can really wait 25 years before buying a new mattress!) And I didn't really want to pay for an actual memory foam mattress, which is fairly expensive, when I'm not sure that it will really make a difference.

So we decided we would experiment with a much cheaper mattress topper. I did a little Internet research, including checking Consumer Reports Online and a few other consumer-oriented sites, and found that a 3-inch-thick topper was pretty much the thing to get. Anything less, 1- or 2-inch toppers, weren't thick enough to offer real benefit. The 4-inch toppers were deemed an unnecessary expense without a real increase in benefit over the 3-inch ones. The consensus was also to look for a density of "4 pounds." I don't even know if that's 4 pounds per inch or per foot or what. Certainly, a 3-inch-thick, king-sized mattress topper weighed a lot more than four pounds!

So I went shopping online. I'm definitely not capable of visiting a bunch of stores to comparison shop these days, and I don't even feel well enough to make the tons of phone calls I would in my pre-illness days. (Scott used to laugh at me when I'd call every bark dust supplier in the phone book to compare prices and show him my spreadsheet to make our decision. :)

I ended up choosing to buy from based on both purchase price and their really cheap shipping rates.

I ended up not buying the cheapest one, but splurging for one that's supposed to be cooler to sleep on because it's "breathable." Several reviews I'd read about these mattress toppers and mattresses commented that sleeping on them was warmer than sleeping on a regular mattress. Since I almost constantly run a low fever these days, and I get uncomfortably warm very easily, I thought that one that keeps a sleeper feeling cooler would add a lot to my comfort level.

Anyway, it arrived this week, and has been airing out in our guest room for a few days as recommended. I'm hoping we'll get it on our bed this weekend and see if it really does help me sleep better.

And I'm really hoping it doesn't interfere with Scott's sleep either. It would really suck if it made a big improvement in my ability to sleep but made it hard for Scott to get a good night's rest.

We'll see. I'll definitely report back after I've had at least a few nights on it to get used to it.

If anyone else has already made the switch to memory foam, whether mattress or topper, I'd be interested in hearing whether you found it helpful or not. And also whether they really do run hot and if the ones they claim are "breathable" and therefore cooler really are worth the extra money.


Anonymous said...

I had your problem and I tried your solution (overstock's better grade topper)

Well, actually I tried the Tempurpedic first, but it was too soft. Very comfy, could not sleep more than 4 hours on it, sent it back.

The memory foam topper gave me about an extra hour per night of sleep, and I could sleep on my back on it after I started using a bolster pillow in back of my knees.

I eventually got tired of replacing the topper and went for a Sealy foam mattress. I got a discontinued model, which has been replaced by the Spring Free line. The owner of the store loaned me a floor model for a week so I could try it first(!)

The Sealys are structured and come in an array of topper firmnesses. I got a pillowtop and have been sleeping at night ever since. Mine I got on sale at around $1400 but it was worth every penny. I can now sleep 8 or even 9 hours at a stretch, and I feel like a new person. You don't have to flip them either, which is nice.

Foam mattresses are heavy, so you have to put them on a foundation or platform.

My sister and mom both have back problems too and they went for natural latex mattresses. Theirs were made at a factory in Norwalk CT. Natural latex is a foam rubber, but supposedly more breathable than memory foam. Natural is more expensive, smells better, and comes in completely other firmnesses and density than the synthetic foams do.

If you decide to buy an expensive bed be sure you buy it from a department store with a 100% satisfaction deal, so you can return it if you can't sleep on it. Most of the big companies are willing to swap till you've got the right one, and they pick up and deliver them.

Good luck! Try the king-size pillow or bolster too. If the foam is hot or too responsive, put a thick poly-filled mattress pad on it.

Anita said...

I'm thinking of investing in a memory foam mattress too. In the meantime I'm trying out
memory foam pillows
as I often wake up with a crick in my neck. So far, so good, but I'll be interested to see if you can get as good benefits from just a topper. Keep us posted - hope you'll be sleeping more comfortably soon!

Anonymous said...

I'd been having trouble sleeping but then I tried getting one of these memory foam mattress beds and I have to adapt I was pleasently surprised just how much support they offered my back. I now seem to fall asleep within 10 minutes of my head hitting the pillow which is great considering I work long hours.

Christine said...

What was your conclusion to this bed test? Did it end up working out for you?

Thank you.

Happysnorer! said...

Sleeping on a memory foam mattress is a bit like Marmite. You either love it, or hate it. Nothing in between. I personally love it, but it did take me a couple of weeks to adapt.

happy sleeper said...

I love my memory foam mattress, pure bliss!