A good night's sleep starts with the mattress (Julie's better-sleep experiment, Part 4)

Read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Julie A. Palm

Julie A. Palm, editor in chief

If anyone knows the importance of a quality mattress to a good night’s sleep, it should be people who work in the mattress industry. Right?

You’d think so. But every once in a while I encounter someone in the business who is sleeping on an old, uncomfortable bed. Just last week I was talking to a woman who has been involved in the bedding industry for about a decade. She was complaining about pain in her hip. As we chatted, it became clear that her hip doesn’t bother her while sitting at her desk or exercising. Her hip hurts in the morning—and keeps her tossing and turning during the night.

“Um, do you think it might be your mattress?” I asked.

Yes, she admitted. Her mattress is definitely past its prime.

Another industry colleague slept on a sagging mattress for years and didn’t buy a new one until this spring. (She loves it, by the way.)

Granted, neither of these women works directly for a mattress manufacturer, but, as I said, they are immersed in the bedding industry. They read BedTimes and our sister publication, Sleep Savvy. One spends a lot of time at industry trade shows. They know a mattress is a foundation for a good night’s sleep. And yet they—like far too many people—have waited too long to get a new mattress.

As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the past couple of years. But one thing I’m pretty certain of is that my mattress isn’t the problem.

I recently finished the first two weeks of a sleep study with Dr. Robert Oexman, director of Kingsdown’s Sleep to Live Institute. During the initial part of the study, I wore an Actiwatch to monitor my activity level and other physiological factors and also wrote in a sleep diary. One of the things I recorded each day was how much pain I felt every morning when I woke up and where I felt the pain. I recorded no pain on eight days and only minor low back pain on six days—and that pain was directly related to a frenzy of gardening when we had a period of blissfully cool days and low humidity during what is normally a sweltering North Carolina summer.

Oexman is reviewing my sleep diary and looking at the results captured from the Actiwatch. He and I will meet early next week to talk about his recommendations for changes to my daily habits and environment. I don’t think “new mattress” will be on his list, but I’m curious to see what will be.