Mattress Choice – Are you sleeping with the enemy? Osteopathy may help with your next choice.

Lola Phillips, Registered Osteopath, shares her thoughts on Mattresses choice

What type of Mattress should I buy?

Many of my osteopathy patients ask me “What type of mattress do you recommend”.  My usual answer is… “the type of mattress you buy needs to match the type of body you have”.   My advice will also depend on whether the person asking has recurrent issues with their back, neck, shoulders, hips and so on, which is often the case due to my occupation.

Even if you spend 30 mins on each mattress you try in the shop – you will never be sure you have selected the correct choice.  Some very expensive brands offer 30 days (or longer) no quibble return after your purchase.  However, if the bed turns out to be unsatisfactory how do you know whether or not the mattress is not suited to you or whether or not you (in your current state) are not suited to the mattress.

Body type.

My advice is going to be based on your weight, and your weight relative to your partner.  I will also be considering if you have a strong or a softer build.  Are you tall or are you short.  If you are sharing the bed I will need to know the same about your partner.  Generally speaking a very light person may be suited to a soft to medium mattress.  However, a heavier person is going to need a firmer supportive one.  For example – I just replaced my daughter’s single bed mattress as she has doubled in weight and strength since I bought it 5 years ago.  The softer mattress she had previously was no longer suited to her frame.  The firm mattress I bought feels a lot more comfortable for her.

But what do you do if your partner is significantly lighter or heavier than you.  You should consider getting a split mattress so that you can both have the mattress that suits your different body type.

Structural Issues

Structural issues include

  • your inherent ligament strength in your spine and peripheral joints – some people have benign ligament hyper-mobility.
  • Pregnancy – if you are planning to have one or more pregnancies over the 10 or 20 year of your mattress life then you need to take the long view on your mattress choice.  You are also going to have little children gate crashing your bed – so this is going to be an important decision  for the sake of your back.
  • History of trauma or surgery – anything that has compromised the strength of your body can dictate how much support you need at night.  This includes neck, head and face trauma.  I made some suggestions regarding this in a previous article regarding pillows.
  • Skeletal Moulding – this would include structural scoliosis (side to side curvature of the back) and Scheuemann’s (back to front contour of the upper back).  There may also be issue regarding bone density.
  • Recurrent back, neck and hip problems.  50% of our patients see us for back, neck and hip pain.  Often these problems trigger patient’s to change their mattress.  If you have ever felt this way then please speak to us before making your purchase as a new mattress may not be necessary, and if it is we can help you make an informed choice.   Also, we can help you optimise the condition of your body so that your bed choice is not based on what could be a transient problem.

Preferred sleeping position.

Your choice will not be dependent on your sleeping position but sleeping position may impact on how comfortable you feel during the night and when you wake up.  My previous article on pillows discusses sleeping position in more detail.

Firm v Moulding mattress

Generally I recommend a firm, non moulding mattress because of the support needed for a body in it’s relaxed state.  When joints are placed awkwardly or  without support, the ligaments (fibrous structures that attach bone to bone to form joints) and tendons (terminal sections of muscle that joint muscle to bone) are held in a stretch position, which can weaken them over time.  If you are unlucky, on occasion the surrounding  muscles can react with a protective spasm if the ligaments or tendons become irritated over night.  A firmer mattress is likely to hold you and your joints in a more neutral position.  A very athletic person with strong ligaments and tendons may be suited to a moulding (usually memory foam) mattress but the majority of the population are not build that way and I would advise against them for a lot of the people I meet.  Taller people may have more flexible ligaments and laxity to other connective tissues in the body – therefore they really need more support at night.

Osteopathy may help with your choice.

Bed sales personnel are not well informed on muscular and skeletal issues and conditions – so may not be best placed to provide all the advice you need regarding mattress choice.  If you are a patient at one of our clinics then we will be aware of your issues and can offer more information about mattress choice.  If you are not a patient – then you are welcome to seek our advice.  If you have recently bought a mattress but not sure about your choice then talk to us and we may be able to offer advice about customisation or some treatment that may allow your body to settle better at night.

As a start point – I can provide the following generic guidance – which I can customise once I speak with you individually

  • Try a medium to firm mattress depending on your weight and strength of your frame.  I do not generally recommend memory foam as the base mattress.
  • If either a medium or firm mattress feels too hard for you then you can use a 5cm to 10cm topper (made from either memory foam or natural fibre ) soften the feel of it.  This way you get softness on contact and most importantly – support underneath.
  • If you follow the above suggestions but cannot get comfortable – you may need body adjustment to help your body relax at night.
  • Do not break the bank!  I usually get my matressess from an online store.  I pay about £150 for a single and no more than £340 for a double.  They tend to be pocket sprung, firm and super comfortable.
  • You can buy mattresses designed so that they do not need to be turned over.  Can you imagine the potential hazards of turning a heavy double or kingsize mattress.


We look forward to helping you make your mattress choice.