A bit of background first. Ok, a lot of background. Several months, I started having some lower back pain that seemed to be mattress-related. I had an innerspring mattress at the time, and after running a string taut across it, it appeared to have developed a sag that was a couple inches deep. So, I decided to get a new mattress, but it took three tries before I thought I had it right:
First, I bought a Simmons Comfortpedic Phenom Plush. It felt good in the store, but I still had back pain after having it a couple weeks… I wasn’t sure if it this mattress was still a problem, or if it was just leftover from problems accumulated from the previous one, but I had only 7 days left to return it (since there was a 21 day “comfort guarantee”), so I decided to exchange it. Funny thing, in the days after I had decided to return it, I seemed to have less back pain, as if the mattress was pleading with me not to return it. Maybe I should have listened.
I thought that maybe the Comfortpedic was too soft, so I exchanged it for the firmest mattress Tempurpedic offered, the Contour Supreme, figuring that if it was too firm, I could use a topper to soften it up. This was probably the worst mattress buying decision that I have ever made. Not long after I got it, I had my right arm go numb once while sleeping on my back! I also found myself with upper back pain, especially in the shoulder blades, which I don’t recall having before. My sleep got so bad that not only did I feel like a zombie for a week, but I even rented a hotel room for a night just to have a half-decent night of sleep. Unfortunately, I had to wait 30 days before I could exchange this mattress., but luckily, I had a friend of mine lent me an old mattress of his, and someone from Tempurpedic later advised me that I could make the mattress tolerable by leaving an electric blanket on it for about 30 minutes…
I finally exchanged the Contour Supreme for a Cloud Supreme, which I’ve had since September of last year. It seemed to have a soft feel but firm support.
For a while, the Cloud Supreme had worked out tolerably well for me, but for the past month or so, it’s been going downhill, with me waking up achy. With a firm pillow, my neck and lower back tended to hurt, and with a softer pillow, my shoulder blades tended to hurt. Side sleep also tends to hurt my shoulders now, and sometimes makes back pain worse. I tried a 3-inch soft latex topper from Brooklyn Bedding, but it didn’t help, and when sleeping on the mattress with a softer pillow, the pain from the shoulder blades was worse! I recently rotated the mattress, and that seems to have slightly relieved shoulder blade pain while making lower back pain worse. So far, things haven’t gotten so bad that I’m a daytime zombie. Yet. :unsure:
Right now, I’m not sure what to do. I don’t like the idea of replacing a mattress less than a year after buying it, but it doesn’t seem like I can expect much help from a topper. Also, given my previous experience with mattress buying, I’m leery of going through that again, even after having now read through the mattress buying guides on this site.
I don’t know how old your mattress was and it may have reached the end of it’s useful life but just for reference … the most common cause of mattress sagging and visible impressions would be either sagging in the foundation under the mattress or the breakdown of the comfort and quilting layers on top of the innerspring.
It can sometimes take several weeks for a new mattress to break in and for your body to lose it’s muscle memory and adjust to the feel of a new sleeping surface or a different type of mattress than it’s used to (see post #3 here) but other than this the most common (but not the only) cause of lower back issues is a mattress that is too soft and allows the heavier parts of your body to sink down too far and leads to misalignment of the spine. These are the types of “symptoms” that you would be more likely to notice after several hours of sleeping or when you wake up in the morning and if they are mattress related the lower back pain will usually go away after you have stretched and moved around a bit after you get up.
You may be fortunate to have returned this mattress because the major brands such as Simmons tend to use lower quality and less durable materials in the upper layers of the mattress that will be much more likely to soften or break down prematurely which can lead to the loss of comfort and support and similar “symptoms” much too quickly after a purchase relative to the price you paid. If there is only foam softening or “virtual” impressions involved without visible impressions that are deeper than the warranty exclusion (which is the most common scenario) then the loss of comfort and support wouldn’t be covered by the warranty because it’s not considered to be a manufacturing defect.
Sometimes if a mattress uses lower quality materials and is “on the edge” of being too soft when you purchase it then even the initial foam softening that is part of the normal break in of a new mattress can be enough to put you over the edge of the comfort/support range that is suitable for you (see post #2 here). I would normally avoid most of the major brand mattresses or any mattress that uses either lower quality/density materials in the comfort layers or where you can’t find out the quality/density of the comfort layers (see the guidelines here).
Your “theory” was good here and your symptoms on this mattress were typical for a mattress that is too firm for you but it doesn’t sound like you ever tried a topper with this mattress. A suitable topper that was the “right” type, thickness and softness would likely have solved these issues.
[quote] I finally exchanged the Contour Supreme for a Cloud Supreme, which I’ve had since September of last year. It seemed to have a soft feel but firm support.
For a while, the Cloud Supreme had worked out tolerably well for me, but for the past month or so, it’s been going downhill, with me waking up achy. With a firm pillow, my neck and lower back tended to hurt, and with a softer pillow, my shoulder blades tended to hurt. Side sleep also tends to hurt my shoulders now, and sometimes makes back pain worse. I tried a 3-inch soft latex topper from Brooklyn Bedding, but it didn’t help, and when sleeping on the mattress with a softer pillow, the pain from the shoulder blades was worse! I recently rotated the mattress, and that seems to have slightly relieved shoulder blade pain while making lower back pain worse. So far, things haven’t gotten so bad that I’m a daytime zombie. Yet. :unsure:[/quote]
There is more about the most common “symptoms” that people may experience on a mattress and the most common reasons for them in post # here that can help you with the detective work and trial and error that can sometimes be involved in finding out the cause or in some cases the multiple causes for any “symptoms” you are experiencing.
Your experiences certainly indicate the importance of a suitable pillow as part of your sleeping system and upper body and shoulder issues can often be a pillow issue as much or more than a mattress issue. An ideal pillow needs to have the right loft or height and the right softness to fill in any spaces in between your head and neck and the mattress and keep your head and neck in good alignment in all your sleeping positions so changing the softness by itself may not be enough without also changing the loft or height of the pillow. A different mattress can also change the distance between your head and neck and the mattress and will often need a new pillow as well.
The Cloud Supreme is a relatively “soft” mattress and the Contour is a firm mattress so it’s possible that you may have gone from too firm to too soft and “jumped over” the firmness level that is suitable for you.
It sounds like your symptoms on the Cloud Supreme are a little bit more of a “mix” and while I don’t know your body type or weight if I had to guess I would guess that it’s a combination of your mattress being too soft along with the possibility that there is also a pillow component involved as well.
A topper can certainly help add additional softness and pressure relief or additional secondary support if your mattress is too firm but it’s much more difficult to “fix” a mattress that is too soft because a firmer topper will usually just “bend into” the softer layers underneath them and any improvement will tend to be partial or temporary. The only effective “fix” if your mattress is too soft is to remove and replace any comfort layers that are too thick or too soft or to replace any support layers that are too soft.
If a mattress is too firm and is still in good condition with no visible impressions or soft spots then a suitable topper can certainly be an effective solution but “any” topper won’t be an effective solution because you would need to choose the “right” topper which in combination with your mattress will be a good “match” for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences). Choosing a topper that in combination with your specific mattress would be unsuitable for your body type and sleeping positions can make some issues or “symptoms” worse while choosing the most suitable topper that works well in combination with you and your mattress can make the same issues better.
There is also 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”.
The first step is to decide on whether your mattress is too firm or too soft based on your symptoms and how you feel when you go to sleep at night, over the course of the night, and when you wake up in the morning. While I would guess that your mattress is too soft … you are in the best position to decide because you are the only one that can feel what you feel on your mattress.
If your mattress is too firm then some of the suggestions in post #2 here may be helpful and if you decide to add a topper to your sleeping system then post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to can help you use your sleeping experience as a reference point and guideline for choosing the type, thickness, and firmness for a topper that has the least possible risk and the best chance for success and also includes a link to a list of some of the better sources for toppers I’m aware of as well.
If your mattress is too soft then some of the suggestions in post #4 here may be helpful as well (even though this would be much more difficult to "fix) but if they aren’t effective and don’t solve your issues and “symptoms” then unfortunately the only remaining option would be to replace the mattress for a different mattress that is a more suitable “match” for you in terms of PPP (and hopefully if you reach this point then with the help of the tutorial you would be able to make a better quality/value choice than the mattresses you mentioned in your post as well).
Actually, I did try a couple toppers, but didn’t have much luck. One was Tempurpedic’s own topper. As I recall, it was softer, but had a tendency to push up my shoulders as I sunk in and made my collarbones uncomfortable. The other one was more of a cushiony cotton mattress pad, which took some of the edge off the firmness, but not by much. One catch was that the mattress was hard enough that I felt like I needed a topper yesterday, so I limited myself to what I could readily get at a local store.
ETA: It seems that my symptoms superficially would point in two different directions. On the one hand, aching shoulder blades appear to indicate a too firm mattress, while lower-back pain would indicate a too soft one. However, those two sets of symptoms don’t occur at the same time. The shoulder blade pain tends to occur when I have a softer pillow that doesn’t prop up my head as much, so my upper back sinks into the mattress more. The lower back and neck pain that seems to occur with a firmer pillow may be a by-product of the pillow not letting my upper back sink in to the mattress as much, which may flex my spine. The lower back pain, then, may not necessarily indicate an overly soft mattress.
This could also be an indication of a mattress that is too soft and you are sleeping in a “hunched” position (either shoulders or head forward) or a pillow issue as well. It generally takes quite a firm mattress to create pressure points for back sleepers because your weight is more evenly distributed across a much larger surface area than side sleepers. There are many symptoms that can happen for different reasons so part of the detective work is trying to “connect all the dots” to see if they fit a pattern that would be consistent with your experience, your body type, and your sleeping positions.
Lower back issues aren’t generally a pillow issue which tends to affect the upper body more than the lower body. A mattress that is too firm can also cause lower back issues from a lack of support and alignment under the inward curve of the lumbar spine (see the diagram here) but issues that are connected to a mattress that is too firm are less likely to happen on a soft mattress such as the Cloud Supreme so I would “lean towards” suspecting a combination of pillow issues and “mattress too soft” issues as being the most likely.
Maybe, but I’d think that with a softer, thinner pillow, I’d be less hunched, and with a pillow that props my head up, I’d be more hunched. Then again, “I’d think” is sometimes one of those famous last words,
For what it’s worth, In my experience, the Cloud Supreme feels like it has a relatively thin soft layer over a firmer layer, as opposed to, say, the Cloud Luxe, which, when I tried it, felt a bit like lying on a marshmallow. That said, if that firmer layer is sinking down in the wrong places, then the perceived lack of softness is irrelevant.
You are the only one that can feel what you feel or the type of changes that relieve your symptoms in “real life” so you are in the best position to decide on the reason for your symptoms based on some trial and error and some experimentation. Everything else is really just speculation based on trying to connect some dots and on “probabilities” based on the information that is available but speculation is certainly far from foolproof.
In addition to your sleeping position … your weight/BMI, body shape, and weight distribution will also play a significant role in which mattress keeps you in good alignment.
The Cloud line are in a softer range relative to most of their Contour line (except the GrandBed) so they are both in a “soft” range but the Cloud Luxe is their softest mattress and is what they call “ultra soft” and the Supreme is just “soft”.
The Supreme has 1.2" of their softer TEMPUR-ES 4 LB memory foam over 2.75" of their firmer TEMPUR Material 5.3LB for a total of about 4" of memory foam (and all memory foam is “relatively” soft).
The Cloud Luxe has 3.5" of their softer Tempur-ES 4 LB memory foam and then 2" of Tempur HD 7.1LB memory foam (which is softer and more contouring than their 5.3 lb memory foam) for a total of 5.5" of even softer memory foam.