bereley ergonomics advice

I recently purchased a Berkeley Ergonomics. The model is the Firm Swedish Nordic. I had tried the Nordic II at a different retailer and really liked it, but the price was out of our budget. At the retailer I chose, the Firm Swedish Nordic felt a little different, but not too different, and I thought it would be find. Lo and behold, three months after the mattress was delivered, both my husband and I are having shoulder pain issues. I also can’t sleep on my back (usually I like to rotate sides and back sleeping). I need to hug a pillow and prop my head on a higher pillow to relieve the shoulder pressure. Today I went back to the retailer where I bought the mattress from. The salesperson (very nice guy and really trying to help me fix the problem) said that he thinks it’s the very firm pre-compressed base coils that are making the bed too firm for us. We ended up opening up all of the BE mattresses in the store and trying out the microcoil/latex top later on top of the various different kinds of base coils from BE. Nothing seemed quite right (and worth the nearly $500 I’d have to spend). The medium latex base coil came close, but again, I can’t see spending another $750 on a mattress we really don’t like with something that might make it a little better, but still not great! Then we moved on to trying lots of different toppers. It really didn’t work at all…

I saw so many rave reviews (including on this forum) about BE that I was really excited about getting one of their mattresses. However, it seems that it’s so highly customizable, that if you don’t quite find that custom fit, it turns into a REALLY BAD fit. I’m feeling so frustrated! At the end of the visit, I concluded that I was going to buy a cheap egg crate foam topper and see what that does for me. The salesguy from the store actually suggested I try putting it between the microcoil layer of the mattress and the base coils. It just occurred to me that I could also do this with another inch or two of soft latex.

Any other ideas? I feel like I just wasted more than $2000 and my husband is so upset! In theory these seem like great mattresses…in actuality, I just wish I had a traditional innerspring mattress so my shoulder would stop hurting.

Suggestions/advice welcome.

Thanks so much,


Hi Spira-Cohen,

The quality and value of a mattress in terms of the materials is completely different from it’s suitability for any particular person and in some cases it can take some detective work to identify the cause of any “symptoms” on a mattress. Even a $50,000 mattress like a hastens may be unsleepable for some people. It’s quite likely that you could just as easily have made the same mistake with any mattress and in this case you wouldn’t have any options at all. At least with the mattress you have you have you still have options if you can identify what it is that is the underlying cause of your symptoms. As you have discovered as well … other people’s reviews have nothing to do with how you will feel on a mattress and only your own testing and experience can tell you if a specific mattress is suitable for you. This is part of the value of a component system compared to a finished mattress though where you are pretty much stuck with what you purchase. While identifying the underlying cause can be difficult … it a good thing IMO that you chose a mattress where you still have options available to you (in spite of what your husband may think).

It would be interesting to know if this is something recent or if this was happening closer to the beginning after you first made the purchase and this (and everything else) can provide clues to what may be happening.

Since I’m not nearly as familiar with all the differences between their different models … it would be helpful if you could list all the layers of the mattress you have to save me looking them all up.

It would also be useful to know what type of mattress protector you are using along with any other bedding you are using between you and the mattress.

It would also be useful to know what type of foundation you are using under the mattress.

If I’m understanding you correctly the issues you re having are …

I’m assuming this is when you sleep on your side?

I’m not quite clear on what your symptoms are when you switch to your back and why you can’t sleep in that position. Shoulder pain is usually a side sleeping issue but are you having shoulder pain on your back? If this is the case can you describe it a little more clearly (where is the pain because your shoulders aren’t in contact with the mattress when you are on your back).

The more descriptive and specific you can be the more it may provide clues about why you may be experiencing what you are experiencing. It’s always helpful as well to try as much as possible to identify if any symptoms you are having are more related to pressure relief and pressure points or more related to alignment issues.

Once you can provide the extra information that would really help I’d be happy to share some thoughts.


Thanks so much for the quick response, Pheonix, it’s much appreciated :slight_smile:

This has been happening since we had the mattress delivered. I waited a few months to see if it would be different after the initial “break-in” period, but it didn’t get any better.

This is what it says on the retailer’s site:
A base layer of high-grade pre-compressed Swedish coils with a layer of German-made X-Pocket carbon steel micro-coils on top.
It comes in two firmness option, and I opted for the soft side for me and firm side for my husband. (above the microcoil is a layer of latex about 1 inch thick, the firm side has both firmer microcoils as well as latex.)

As for the specifics of the problems we are having, here’s an attempt to describe them:

Usually (depending on the mattress surface, the last mattress we had I also could only sleep on my side because of the sag - not enough back support) I like to be a back/side sleeper. I can’t sleep on my back on this current mattress because my back doesn’t feel supported (I think this is the issue anyway, my hips sink way down and my torso stays up. Only time I’ve been able to sleep on my back is when I’m literally propped up with three pillows when I’ve been sick with a cold). So, even if I start out lying on my back, I can never fall asleep like that and end up rolling onto my side. Also, I have to use a thicker pillow for side sleeping because of the shoulder issue, so this also makes it uncomfortable to sleep on my back (and I can’t keep switching pillow thickness every time I toss and turn). On my side, especially on my right side, I get an uncomfortable numbness in my shoulder. Left side seems a little better, but I don’t know why. I have slept a couple of times on my husband’s side - the nice thing about sleeping on the firmer side is that I can sleep on my back, but I still have the same shoulder issue on my side. The reason we liked this model originally (or really the Nordic II is what we liked at a different retailer - the retailer we purchased ours from said the difference is in the base coils, that ours are pre-compressed. However, when i checked the site of the other retailer who carries the Nordic II, those base coils are also pre-compressed, so I’m a bit confused as to the difference). We liked the microcoil model because the others (except for the all latex which was out of our price range) were too “bouncy” - we liked the stability of the nordic model.

When I explained the issue to the salesperson in the store, and he looked at my alignment on the other mattress combinations I tried, he said my shoulders weren’t sinking in very well, and that was probably what was causing the uncomfortable feeling in my shoulder. For reference, I’m 5’3", 145lbs, and I have relatively narrow shoulders and wide hips. My conclusion after trying all of the combinations is that my hips are heavy, so they sink in too far, and my shoulders don’t sink in at all. On other types of surfaces, futons, for example, even though I feel pressure on my hips, I can still sleep on my back, and my hips are high enough that my shoulders are totally comfortable. What I don’t understand is that my husband has a completely different body type. He is 5’9" approx 170-180lbs. very flat and muscular frame, and he also complains of shoulder problems. If this mattress isn’t right for either of our body types, I don’t really understand who it might be good for!

Last night I did an experiment: I put a foam pad (it’s one of those cheap foam tri-fold pads for guests to sleep on the floor) in between the latex/microcoil layer and the pre-compressed base coils. While it was not particularly comfortable (I hate feeling like I sink so far into the mattress that to roll over I have to use a whole lot of body strength) it did take care of the shoulder issue and I could even sleep on my back…I am thinking of getting a thinner foam mattress topper (maybe 1inch thick) and trying to fit that between the microcoil and base coil layer (not sure how well the mattress cover will close with the extra bulk, but worth a try I think!). I’m also thinking that perhaps a one inch layer of firm latex might also be even better and avoid giving that sinking feeling the foam has, and would also be a lot more economical than switching out the whole base coil layer for latex.

My favorite mattress of all time was a Sealy Posturepedic Cushion firm manufactured in about 2001. We switched that one for a queen (it was a full size), when we had our daughter three years ago. The queen was also a sealy posturepedic cushion firm of a newer model (got it practically new from a relative). It didn’t last…we ended up with two “holes” since it wasn’t double sided and they seemed to cheapen the materials - it was comfortable for the first few months and that was it. That was how I came across natural mattresses and BE, since I was also interested in something durable and long-lasting as well as free of all of the crazy chemicals, particularly the flame retardants.

What do you think? Does the info above help?

Thanks for your time and advice,

Hi Spira-Cohen,

You have a classic dilemma where a mattress is either good for one position and not the other and that hasn’t been able to find a happy medium between them. Sometimes this can take some careful fine tuning for people who are more sensitive because for some people small changes can make a difference. It may help when you are on your back to have a pillow under your knees (this rotates the pelvis and flattens the spine and can add support under the lumbar curve). A pillow between the knees can also help joint alignment and help prevent “twisting” for side sleepers.

I would keep in mind that if your back isn’t supported that you will feel discomfort or pain and it’s not unusual to “feel like” part of you is sinking in too far even when it isn’t. In some cases this is just the difference between what you were used to sleeping on and what you sleep on now and if they are different it can feel “odd”. If you don’t have actual symptoms then it’s probably OK.

Pillows that can be scrunched and fluffed up for one position and then can be a little flatter for another can be a good option for combination sleepers where a single pillow fits one position more than another. Shredded latex or a feather pillow are a couple of examples and there may be some helpful ideas in the pillow thread here.

Don’t forget you are both sleeping on two different mattresses so you may each have completely separate issues. It’s also not an uncommon phenomenon that a husband and wife will often have the same “symptoms” on a mattress even though they have different body types and the underlying causes may be different. This is sometimes one of those “couples” things. I suspect though that you both need a little bit of extra softness for your shoulders on top of the mattress to allow your shoulders to sink in more (yours because they are lighter and his because they are wider). Your experiment with the topper seems to confirm this. Because of your weight distribution you may also benefit from a form of zoning under the pelvis along the lines of some of the suggestions in post #11 here and post #4 here. Together these may “allow” your shoulders to sink in more and “hold up” your hips and pelvis as well. He may also benefit from softer microcoils but if you try a topper anyway then it would be worth testing this first for both of you.

It may also be helpful to know what type of mattress protector or any other type of bedding on top on the mattress you are using (to make sure it’s not interfering with how much your shoulders are sinking in) and the type of foundation you have under your mattress (their adjustable foundation or the firm non flexing one).

Unfortunately this is fairly typical because of the lower density of much of the foams they use.

All of this is based on speculation of course and it can take some detective work and some trial and error but you have a good “base mattress” and the effort is well worth it because once you have the right “fit” then the result and better sleep is well worth it.