Mattress Advice For A Complicated Body


I’ve been poring over your site and those of many vendors/manufacturers for the last handful of days and feel as though there’s so much mattress information in my head that it’s all somehow nullifying itself. So, I would very much appreciate some input.

On April 2nd 2011, I experienced a severe adverse reaction to a fluoroquinolone antibiotic which has left me with generalized tendinopathy, neuralgias, myaligas, muscle spasms/weakness/wasting, painful & loose joints, paradoxical and allergic reactions to a plethora of substances I had never had any problem with before and a number of other issues. As a result of this fluoroquinolone induced tendon degradation and muscle wasting, the compression fractures and degenerating discs in my cervical and thoracic spine, which were sustained in a car wreck in '03, have been drastically reaggravated. The most consistently problematic areas are my neck, mid-back, hips & butt, ankles and heels. As a result of these and other disabling side effects, I’ve spent the majority of the last nearly 4 years stuck in bed and, despite having tried a litany of treatments, nothing yet has done much good to restore me.

For the last year or so I have been waking up almost nightly, if not multiple times a night, from unbelievable, burning hip pain. My current mattress is a soft, 7 year old, Tempurpedic, memory foam. Despite how soft this thing is, I generally have to place pillows under my knees and calves to keep my heels from touching the bed because the pressure pain there, where I have the worst of the nerve pain, is just awful. I generally fall asleep on my back and wind up on my sides. However, the pressure pain from lying on my hips is guaranteed to wake me up within 20 minutes to 3 hours. The right hip is worse than the left and I, also, tend to wake up from the hip pain when just sleeping on my back. This mattress, also, causes me back achiness in that it feels as though my vertebrae fall out of alignment while lying on it for several hours a time and I have to sort of restack them when I get up. At the risk of making myself sound like a mutant, I am 5’3", 98-111 lbs, with an extremely long torso, wide rib cage, very, very short legs and slim hips that are several inches more narrow than my shoulders.

For the last 3 nights, I’ve been sleeping on a very firm, two hundred buck, autopump air mattress. No back issues at all. Still waking up from hip pain if I lie on my side, but it’s less severe and lying on my back does not generate it. However, this mattress is firm far beyond my comfort level and, with mixed results, I’ve been lying atop atop a series of pillows to make it more comfortable.

Given the state of my health, my earning potential appears rather dire so I’d like anything I purchase to be of high quality and durability. I was considering some of the more advanced air mattresses because of their benefits to those with pain, but their tendency to break and leak is a big turn off. If I’ve overlooked a more reliable air bed, please, point it out to me. So, my experience with memory foam being soured, I’m interested in latex, specifically organic dunlop, for the durability and lack of allergy risk. Have people experienced allergic reactions to talalay, blended or otherwise?

What’s most puzzling to me is how I can choose a bed that will be soft enough to allow my neuropathic heels to touch it, soft enough that I can sleep on my side without awaking from burning hips, but hard enough to keep my spine from kinking. Is it correct that this hip pain is most likely caused by both a mattress being too firm in that area and the significant size difference between my shoulders and hips? Would a mattress that is then softer in the shoulder area than the hip area potentially solve this? But in that case, for back sleeping, wouldn’t my upper back and possibly neck, be thrown out of alignment from the lack of support while my hips are elevated on a slightly firmer material?

What’s the main difference between the shops that sell 6 inch pours vs. stacks of 2, 3, and 4 inches; is it just a cost benefit to the vendor to sell slimmer pieces? Are the 6 inchers more durable? Do the stacked mattresses really not slide around and misalign? Is a 6 inch medium dunlop core going to be too firm for me even with layers of soft dunlop and soft talalay above it?

Slatted support sounds like the way to go, but it also sounds like it would introduce a number of additional “comfort” variables that might be hard to sort out as well as potential durability problems that might go unrecognized with any broken slats hidden under the mattress or even inside a fabric casing. Additionally, I’m looking to buy a larger bed than my current one so will need a new frame and most of the ones I’ve liked are designed to hold a mattress without a support box. Can 2 inch slats be reliably inserted into a pre-made frame? Is going with a solid wood support a very bad idea for a latex mattress?

And on and on, this is what the inside of my head has sounded like since Thursday. So, any input, advice and clarifications you can offer me, will be greatly appreciated.

I am in Cincinnati and am aware of one shop, only about 20 minutes away, that sells Englanders, supposedly the Nature’s Finest line. Like many, I’m not thrilled by the idea of ordering a bed online without a prior test rest, but there doesn’t really seem to be any way around that, for the most part. The more comparable mattresses I can try out in person, the better, though my ability to drive moderate and long distances is limited by the shape I’m in on any given day and it doesn’t seem as though there are too many showroom options in my vicinity.

Thank you for all the information presented on this site.

Hi Oona,

The first place to start your research is the mattress shopping tutorial here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you make the best possible choices regardless of your specific needs and preferences or specific circumstances … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones.

Unfortunately only you can feel what you feel on a mattress and there are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to be able to suggest a specific mattress based on specs (either yours or a mattress), health conditions, individual circumstances, or “theory at a distance” (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here). I’m certainly happy to help with “how” to choose but the specifics of “what” to choose will always be based on your own individual research and testing and on all the specific criteria and parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you.

Some of the more important links in the tutorial post that I would make sure you read include …

Post #2 here which includes more about the different ways to choose a mattress (either locally or online) that can help you identify and minimize the risks involved in each of them.

Post #13 here which includes more information about the most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase.

You can see my thoughts about airbeds in this article and while any mattress can be a good match for any particular person … in general terms I would tend to avoid them. There is list of many of the different airbed manufacturers in post #3 here but I would make any mattress comparisons based on the information in the previous link about “value” rather than based on brand because outside of how suitable a mattress is in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) … a mattress is only as good as its construction and the quality of the materials inside it regardless of the name of the manufacturer on the label and “brand shopping” is among the worst ways to choose a mattress because the name of the manufacturer won’t tell you anything about whether a specific mattress is suitable for you in terms of PPP or whether there are any weak links in the design (see post #5 here and post #12 here).

Latex allergies are very uncommon in mattresses because the foamed latex that is in mattresses is different from the type of latex that most people react to (balloons, condoms, gloves etc). There is much more detailed comments about latex allergies in post #2 here.

This is part of the “art and science” of all mattress design and the answer to this would require many books or years of study and would be outside the scope of a forum or for most consumers that are interested more in buying a mattress than becoming a mattress designer or “mattress expert”. In very general terms though it comes down to the balance between primary (deep) support, secondary (surface) support, and pressure relief. Post #2 here and post #4 here has more information about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to each other and to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress that may be helpful in clarifying how different layering combinations work better for some people and body types than for others in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences).

The thickness of a mattress by itself is just one of many parts that is involved in the design of a mattress that makes one mattress more or less suitable than others for certain people, body types, sleeping positions, and preferences. There is more about the effects of thickness in post #14 here and there is more about the pros and cons of having more customizable layers vs less in post #2 here. Latex is very “sticky” so individual loose layers that are inside a suitable tight fitting cover don’t tend to shift.

The only way to answer “comfort” questions" is based on your own testing or actual sleeping experience. There is no way to know answer these types of questions based on “specs” or “theory”.

There is more about the different types of support systems that are generally suitable for different types of mattresses in the foundation post here. There is also more about solid surface support systems in post #10 here.

You may be making things more complex than they need to be and I would tend to focus much less on the type of technical information you are trying to understand (which can quickly lead to information overwhelm or "paralysis by analysis) and focus more on the steps in the tutorial post and your own actual testing and personal experience which will tell you much more about whether any mattress is suitable for you than more complex “theory”.

I would also focus on the knowledge and experience of the people you are dealing with … especially when your circumstances are more complex and challenging … because it’s usually much easier to “find the experts” that already know what you would otherwise need to learn. Who you buy from can be one of the most important parts of a successful mattress purchase.

The better options and possibilities I’m aware of in the Cincinnati area (subject to the “value” guidelines I linked earlier" are listed in post #212 here.


Yes, I had read and, in several instances, re-read many of the links you responded with. I had hoped for a response that would be more personalized to the content of my OP, since I’d already read the general “works for most people” guidelines.

I went to The Original Mattress Factory. They only make one latex bed, a two sided blended Talalay with a polyfoam core. The salesman claimed there were no measurements for the densities of foam. So, that’s out.

Sleep Tite hasn’t responded to my email.

Furniture Row / Denver Mattress Co. stocks only blended Talalay/Polyfoam hybrids.

Design Sleep, which seems the nicest of the offerings, is Talalay only and 7 zoned at that; I don’t think my height and unusual weight distribution lends itself to one-size-fits-all zoning. It’s also a 3-3.5 hour roundtrip drive.

Bowles only makes blended Talalay/Polyfoam hybrids.

Snuggies stocks Jamison Talalay. This might be worth checking out just to be able to check out something that is actually made of only latex, assuming they actually have one of those in stock.

And the people at Pleasure Style Mattresses, which supposedly stock Englander dunlop, never answer the phone and have no useful information on their website.

So, it’s not seeming as though there is any way to test rest what I’m looking for, Organic Dunlop, much less variations on that theme. It, frankly, seems a little difficult to believe that there are zero options beyond blindly ordering something over the internet, without even the semblance of comparison.

Hi Oona,

I’m not sure what you were expecting or how my reply could have possibly been more “personalized” to the content of your post than it was and as far as I can see I don’t think I missed replying to any of your comments or questions with information that I thought would help you. Am I missing something?

There is more about the OMF Serenity Latex in post #4 here and post #8 here and the posts they link to. They use high quality materials and there are no weak links in the mattress.

I would try calling them unless your email has a question that only needs a single sentence reply (see post #4 here)

The only way to know this would be based on your own personal testing. They are also good quality mattresses that would be well worth testing IMO if the round trip isn’t too far for you.

I would call them first to make sure they have all latex mattresses on their floor.

If you are looking only for organic Dunlop latex then this isn’t a particularly common material and there are many areas of the country where there wouldn’t be any organic Dunlop mattresses available and the only option would be an online purchase unless other types and blends of latex were acceptable to you. There is more about the different types and blends of latex in post #6 here that may help you decide whether other types and blends or latex that are more commonly available are acceptable to you.