Study Shows Mattress Quality Affects Sleep & Choosing Best Mattress Proves Difficult
The Research Triangle Institute released a study which shows mattress quality affects sleep and choosing the best mattress proves difficult when consumers lie on them for a few minutes in a showroom setting. This is important because our quality of sleep directly impacts how well we function the following day. When asked what is the ideal way to choose the best mattress, many of us would probably answer something along the lines of testing them out side by side. However, RTI’s research indicates that this “common sense” approach to mattress shopping may not be as fool proof as it seems.
Background: About the Research
For the study, RTI chose 128 people with no known sleep or pain issues and asked them to choose the mattress they felt was the most comfortable in a model showroom. Many studies have relied on people who were sleep deprived or had chronic pain. Back pain in particular has been studied to determine the best mattress firmness level to alleviate or eliminate it entirely. This study was unique in that it looked at average people’s reactions to various beds.
On average most them laid on their choice mattress for approximately 15 minutes in the store, which is believed to be typical of most consumers. While one would assume shoppers could determine their best mattress based on comfort, in actuality that was not the case.
They provided each participant with 7 different mattresses with various levels of firmness to sleep on during the study. Each person tried all seven mattresses. The length of the time participants spent sleeping on each type of mattress in the study was 4 weeks. Overall the combined total of nights tested were over 16,000 which makes this a significant sleep study. Comparing the sleep quality using subjective and measured responses provides a relatively accurate accounting, as they did directly correspond.
They measured the amount of motion each person experienced throughout the night with an actigraph. RTI also had the participants report the amount of wakefulness they experienced during the night, any pain they experienced upon rising and whether they felt drowsy the following day. These responses plus the measurements were considered indicators of how well the participants slept. Overall findings may well surprise the average consumer, as they showed that the mattresses that were chosen and expected to be the most comfortable, actually were not.
The Results: Finding The Best Mattress Isn’t Easy
Individual sleep habits vary as much as preferences. It’s also important to note that the study took into account many factors including among others, age, weight, BMI, gender and how many days they had slept on each particular mattress when measuring results. It generally takes a few days to acclimate to a new mattress, making this a significant portion of the study.
Looking at the findings to determine the best mattress, a few items stand out. First, there was not a single best mattress for everyone. Most participants slept best on a medium level of firmness, although not everyone did. The amount of motion they experienced during the night seemed to indicate how they felt the next day.The less motion the night before, the better rested they felt.
Mattresses Feel Different in Deep Sleep
The question of why they were not able to choose the best mattress for themselves while lying on it in the store was answered by how our bodies respond to sleep. While we are awake, our muscles remain tenser, even while resting than during parts of our sleep cycle. As we sleep, our muscles experience deep relaxation, allowing our spine and skeletal structure to relax and decompress as well. The surface we thought felt perfect during the showroom test will feel quite different at this point.
Can Showroom Shopping Yield the Best Mattress?
So how are we to determine which is the best mattress for our own needs? The best gauge of which level of firmness suits us is the ability to sleep on it for several weeks. A mattress may feel nice at the store, but may not offer the type of support your body needs when actually sleeping.
This study seems to indicate that the in store test often recommended by mattress retailers may not actually be that important or necessary. What might be most important is researching to ensure you are getting the best mattress in terms of quality and value, and ensuring that whatever bed you do pick comes with a good return policy.
Retailers of high quality mattresses usually allow for an extended sleep trial for customers, especially those who sell online. When picking a bed, make sure you have a minimum of 30 days to return, and preferably longer. This will help ensure you get the best mattress for your needs and allow your body sufficient time to adjust.
The aggregated sleep information derived from this sleep study may be surprising to most consumers. If we can’t trust our own bodies to tell us what is comfortable how can we choose the best bed? To start, don’t base your decision of the latest fads or pushy salespeople. Consider what you like and don’t like about your current bed, and then seek out a mattress that will help resolve these issues. Learn about the different types, and make sure you check return policies just in case your choice lets you down. By exercising smarter shopping and not relying solely on showroom test drives, you will be more likely to get the best mattress and better sleep.
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