I am not a mattress expert. I’m the streaming media maven for Viewpoints. But, if there is one thing I know about, it’s sleeplessness. I have a disability and host of related medical conditions that make it just too painful for me to get any meaningful rest on a typical bed. And, while my primary diagnoses may be a little exotic (incomplete paraplegia with spasticity), the symptoms I suffer from are rather common amongst the sleep deprived.
I have tremendous pain in both my lower and upper back and extremely arthritic hips. I get terrible heartburn at night, and I’m overweight. I also have neuropathy in my feet, a condition that is most often associated with type-2 diabetes (although I have it secondary to a spinal cord injury), and because I am often ill and very limited in my mobility, I spend a lot more time in bed than most people. Sometimes weeks at a time. I recently started making adaptations to my home and bed was where we started, because without sleep every other problem is exacerbated. There are a lot of mattress shopping guides out there, but here’s how I found the perfect bed to help alleviate my pain.
Picking the bed frame
For a frame I knew what I wanted. I can’t sleep lying down—I need to be either on a 45-degree incline for my stomach, or almost at 90 degrees to ease the pain in my spine and reduce the number of spasms I get. I also need my feet raised to help prevent clots and encourage blood flow.
The adjustable brands you see on TV like Craftmatic have pretty awful reputations in the orthopaedic community, so I went with the Coaster Massage Adjustable Queen Bed, which I was able to find at Sears for just under $1,500. It comes with vibration massage, a cordless remote and adjusts from the head and the feet so I can use it at almost any angle.
Choosing the right mattress
The big decision wasn’t the base though; it was choosing the right mattress. I was bewildered by the options at first. There are traditional spring mattresses, gel and air-filled options, and of course, memory foam. After reading every review I could find, and consulting an occupational therapist and a physiatrist, the final choices came down to the Serta Perfect Sleeper (71/100), a traditional choice that gets very good reviews from critics and was on sale, the new iComfort Sleep System by Serta (77/100), and the Tempur-Pedic Cloud Luxe, which is just a slight upgrade over the more easily found Tempur-Pedic TEMPER-Cloud Supreme (88/100).
The Perfect Sleeper was the first to be discarded even though it was the least expensive. No matter how good the bed, with my weight and the amount of time I spend in it, it was certain to become indented, and the coils, no matter how well padded and hidden, would hurt every pressure point.
The iComfort felt good at first, with the cooling gel layer making a noticeable difference in temperature after as little as 15 minutes resting, but the bed just didn’t feel as supportive or substantive as the Tempur-Pedic, especially when adjusting. I was also worried about gel leaks, and I read lots of reviews that said the cooling doesn’t last very long.
In the end I picked the top-of-the-line Tempur-Pedic. The salesman told me all about the Tempur-ES comfort layer for edge-to-edge, pressure relief and the added bonus of the Tempur-HD support layer. He allayed my concerns over the bed being too hot by telling me about the Airflow system base layer. It all went in one ear and out the other. What I did know after trying it out in the store was that this mattress supported my weight fully and adapted to the odd angles of my body and the adjustable bed frame easily.
Trying out the bed at home
I’ve had the bed for a week now and I can’t begin to explain my joy. I can work in bed from a fully upright position, or watch TV comfortably as if on a sofa with my son. When I recline for sleep, every spot on my body that once ached feels embraced. When I feel as though I’ve been in one spot for too long I only have to move a few inches over and it’s like I’m on a brand new bed. The vibrations help lull me to sleep, and the mattress allows me to stay asleep, because when I shift around, the bed adapts to my new position rather than leaving me in in a dent or on an edge.
Most astonishing, I’m sleeping through the night without pain. It used to be when I got up after lying down for more than 6 hours I was always stiff. When I have, in the past, managed to sleep for 8 hours I paid for it by not being able to stand upright for a week or more. But after passing out for nine solid hours last night, I awoke, used the power lift to get myself into a seated position, and from there I was able to swing my legs over the side of the bed without the help of any further adaptations like a super pole. When I stood up there was no stiffness.
This bed wasn’t cheap. I spent over $4,000 on the bed frame and mattress, but if you’ve lived with sleep deprivation you’ll know it’s worth any price to get rest. To get pain-free sleep all night long, well, that’s priceless.
Have you tried any of the mattresses in this article? If you have, please write a review for other readers. And if a different bed or mattress cured your sleep problems, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with mattresses, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.