Testing a Mattress for Support and Spinal Alignment

This is the final stage of your field testing, and perhaps the most difficult, but when it is done you will know the overall makeup of the mattress that works best for you. You could be your own custom mattress “designer”. This step may take a little longer than the others so make sure you set aside enough time so you can do this in an unhurried environment. Sleep testing needs to be a "mellow" experience that brings an easy smile to your face. Remember that what you do today, along with the other steps, will have a big effect on the third of your day you spend sleeping and on how you feel in the other 2/3 as well, every day for many years. Take your time. There is no pressure allowed :).

Getting ready:

So far, you have narrowed down the overall feel of the mattresses you like, you have a good idea of the thickness and type of support materials that work well for you (and if you don't, our forum is there to help you narrow this down and complete step 2), and now it's just a matter of deciding on which support core underneath in combination with your comfort layers gives you the best alignment. In this step you will be specifically testing what is underneath comfort layers that are similar to those you have chosen in step 2 to see how well they work together for alignment and add or take away from the overall feeling of your mattress. You have probably already developed some support layer preferences as a side effect of your previous reading or testing as some of them may have felt better or "more supportive" than others. These preferences would be a good place to begin.

As a reminder, your 4 realistic choices of support layers are Innersprings, Polyurethane foam, Latex foam. or waterbeds (unless you are seriously looking at airbeds in which case we would strongly urge you to do some research and read the information here to validate some of the claims you have likely heard).  Narrow these down to two as early as possible in your testing if you haven’t already done so or already have a likely favorite type.

For this step you will need a pillow that is suitable for your sleeping positions (thicker for side, medium for back, and thin for stomach) and a yardstick or a broomstick handle (and no you won’t be pretending to be a witch in the store :). It is also preferable to take someone with you ... preferably someone you trust or your sleeping partner ... to help you check your alignment. If they are a sleeping partner they too should be following the same steps as you. Failing this you will need some help from the salesperson so make sure you trust that they both can and will give you exactly the information and feedback you are looking for.


In the Store


Your Sleeping Positions


Special Considerations

Some helpful tips:

Although I question the real value of air chambers as a permanent support layer (see my previous post about airbeds), finding a good airbed in a store that has comfort layers similar to what you chose in step 2 may provide you with a chance to test out more extreme customization in zoning (within each side and side to side) that the two of you require so you can discover what combinations of support work for both of you with your chosen comfort layers. They are readily available with many different comfort layers and provide a good "testing ground" when all else fails (although they may not be the best value in a purchase compared to a correctly zoned innerspring of latex core which provide a wider response for different sleeping positions).

Now you are done:

It's probably been a long day but you've done the most difficult part and now your field testing is over. You have a clear idea of the type of support system works the best for you. This in combination with knowing your preferred comfort layers (from step 2) and preferred overall feel (from step 1) means you are ready to go home and evaluate exactly what you need in your perfect mattress. You should now be able to write down a very close description of how it is made. All that's left now is deciding between different options based on quality/ durability and price/value and deciding where to buy your mattress. As always, if you need help, our forum is always available to help.

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