Can't find the right combination to a comfortable night sleep- slat adjustment, topper, pillow, etc..

Hello Phoenix,
I have been a fan of your site for and relied on a lot of your insight when we converted to a safe healthy mattress after having our first child a year ago.

The problem is over the last year my wife and I have not been able to get comfortable on our bed. I consistently wake with pain in my mid back and my wife just generally feels sore, claiming she feels like she got beat up in the middle of the night.

We have the modular naturepedic EOS with firm innerspring and soft latex and we have the tension adjustable slatted foundation. In addition we purchased a 3inch latex pillow topper as we weren’t getting enough pressure point relief over the first month with the mattress. We both sleep primarily on our sides, we are in our early thirties and are generally fit.

Few questions:

  • how do you typically set up the tension adjustment on the slatted foundation? Less tension at the hips and shoulders and more in the torso, or more tension at the hips less in the torso and shoulders, something else?
  • I think the 3in pillow top may be messing up my alignment and causing my mid back pain but without it we get pressure point pain in hips and shoulders. What would you recommend- thinner latex topper, a 1.5in wool topper, 2.5in wool topper, feather topper (I know you don’t typically recommend these),other?
  • would changing from a firm innerspring base to a firm latex base help anything?
  • we have also been through a number of different pillows. Do you have recommendations for side sleepers in a natural safe material?

Appreciate your thoughts, this change has been frustrating and we are hoping to find the solution to a restful night sleep.


Hi Dcg,

I’m sorry to hear that your mattress isn’t working out as well for you as you hoped for. Unfortunately there are too many unknowns and variables involved for me to make specific suggestions based on “specs” (either yours or a mattress) … but there is more detailed information about the most common symptoms that people may experience when they sleep on a mattress and the most likely (although not the only) reasons for them in post #2 here.

There is more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

These posts are the “tools” that can help with the analysis, detective work, or trial and error that may be necessary to help you learn your body’s language and “translate” what your body is trying to tell you so you can make the types of changes or additions to your mattress that have the best chance of reducing or eliminating any “symptoms” you are experiencing.

I would also talk with the retailer that you purchased your mattress from because they would be more familiar with your mattress and may also have some suggestions that may be helpful based on feedback from their customers that have had similar issues to yours.

It’s possible or perhaps even likely that by adding a 3" soft topper to your mattress you “jumped over” the the ideal thickness/firmness for a topper that may have been the most suitable for you and went from a mattress that was too firm to a mattress that was too soft. It may have been a good idea to use a thinner topper or perhaps to wait a little longer for the mattress to break in and to adjust to a sleeping surface that is different from what you were used to before making such a big change in your sleeping system (see post #3 here). It may also be worthwhile sleeping on just your mattress without the topper to see how your “symptoms” change which could act as a pointer for a topper that may work better for you.

This really depends on the person and on the specifics of the mattress but in very general terms a firmer setting under the pelvis and/or lumbar areas and a softer setting under the shoulders (they are more protruding but weigh less than the pelvis so they often need to be “allowed” to sink in more deeply) are the most common settings. There is more about zoning in post #11 here and the other topics it links to. It may take some experimentation to find the “best possible” setting although I would also keep in mind that a tension adjustable base may not be enough to make up for a mattress that isn’t a good match for you in terms of PPP.

Again … I don’t have any specific suggestions because you are the only one that can feel what you feel on a sleeping system but if I had to guess I would guess that your topper is probably thicker than it needs to be. I would also keep in mind that a wool topper probably won’t be as pressure relieving as soft latex (see post #8 here and posts #3 and #6 here and post #12 here).

There is also more information about how to choose a topper in post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to that can help you use your sleeping experience as a reference point and guideline to help you choose the type, thickness, and firmness for a topper that has the least possible risk and the best chance for success. It also includes a link to a list of some of the better online sources for toppers I’m aware of as well.

The only way to know whether any mattress/topper combination will be a good match for you is based on your own actual sleeping experience so I really don’t knowbut if the cause of the issues you are having is in the thickness and softness of the upper layers combined with the topper then it probably wouldn’t make a difference no.

There is more information in post #2 here and the more detailed posts and information it links to about safe, natural, organic, “chemical free”, and “green” mattresses and mattress materials (which would also apply to pillow stuffings) that can help you sort through some of the marketing information and terminology that you will encounter in the industry and can help you differentiate between them and answer “how natural is natural enough for me” or “how safe is safe enough for me” so you can make more “fact based” choices on the types of materials you are most comfortable having in your pillow. These types of issues can be complex and are generally specific to each person and their individual sensitivities, circumstances, criteria, beliefs, and lifestyle choices. Based on anecdotal feedback the odds are higher that someone may be sensitive to memory foam than other types of foam materials. Any type or blend of latex along with any type of natural fiber would certainly make “safe” choices.

Once again I can’t make any specific suggestions for anything that you can “feel” because only your own experience can tell you whether any mattress or pillow works well for you but there is more information about choosing a pillow in the pillow topic here and the other topics it links to that may be helpful.