Need to tweak my latex mattress

Last year I purchased a SleepEZ 3" Firm (dun), 3" Med (Tal), 3" Soft (Tal) mattress. It slept great for the first 6 months. I slowly began having two problems. First, my lower back became very fatigued…not sore, just tired. 30 minutes of house work would leave my back feeling like it just finished a stage in the Tour’de France. The other problem is that my shoulders are sore…like someone has stood behind me, pushing down on the tops of my shoulders for several hours.

I am assuming that my shoulder pain is because the mattress is a bit too firm for my shoulders. But the opposite seems to be true for my lower back. If that problem is caused by the mattress being too soft…though in the past, this has lead to back spasms, and not tiredness.

Now another element beside the mattress that I need to add to the mix is that–thanks to a consulting job tethered to a long commute and taking classes at the same time–I am pretty far out of shape. I’m now 5’8 & 220 pounds. :frowning:

I’m trying to understand how best to tackle the problem.

Hi Kristin,

I’m sorry to hear about your sleeping issues. Lets see it we can figure out some of the possibilities to see if we can solve them.

First of all, and as you mentioned, changes in our lifestyle and changes in our body shape and structure can result in changes in how we sleep and lead to the need for changes in a mattress that once worked well … until it didn’t.

The first things I would check for are to rule out some things besides changes in the mattress itself that are worth taking a look at.

The first of these is checking your sleeping positions. Assuming you are at least partly a side sleeper (to be confirmed), have your sleeping positions changed at all in terms of how much time you spend in different positions?

Second … while I doubt it is an issue but just to make sure … is your mattress on a rigid flat and supportive surface that hasn’t somehow developed issues?

The next thing I would explore is the pillows you are using. When there are neck, shoulder, and upper back issues, then pillows can often make a difference, particularly if there is more tension in the upper body and/or it has become more rigid and less flexible. Stress of course can do this or different jobs or activities where we are spending more time in more “hunched over” or different positions. Sometimes this means that things that weren’t quite right before but that we could easily adapt to can become more of an issue as we become a little less flexible or stiff and things that didn’t matter as much before become more important. The best pillow will depend on your sleeping positions and preferences but in general side sleepers need thicker firmer pillows to keep the head and neck in better alignment, back sleepers need slightly less thick with some some support under the curve of the cervical spine, and stomach sleepers need either very thin or no pillows at all.

Lower back issues are typically more connected to lumbar pain caused by misalignment rather than more of a “fatigue” type of discomfort which you are experiencing so this too may be connected to some of the changes I’ve mentioned.

The goal of course, like with any good “relationship” that has a history of working well, is to figure out where any changes have may have happened (in us, our circumstances, or in the mattress) so that we can make the adjustments necessary to get them all playing nicely together again :slight_smile:

So before I go too much further … I’ll wait till I can get a bit more information about some of the thoughts I’ve mentioned and some history of the process of how and when your symptoms developed (and any other changes that may have been happening at the time that seem they might be connected) so that I don’t go and explore the wrong problem.


Thanks so much for the quick response. I posted this in a rush yesterday and forgot to include some of this info. I am a side sleeper and wake up on my stomach about 40% of the time. I am absolutely not a back sleeper, I will wake up immediately if I roll onto my back. I am also a very active sleeper. I am single and I use the WHOLE bed.

Previous Mattress:
I owned a Simmons BR World Class extra plush for 10 years (purchased 2003). I didn’t like it for the last 3 years and had back pain (spasms) during the last several months I owned it. It came with a low profile box spring which was inspected by someone who sells mattresses and I was told that it was in good shape and could use it with the latex mattress.

Bed Frame:
I have a queen sized iron bed from Ikea that feels surprisingly sturdy for something from Ikea. It did not come with a center to floor support. I added 3 center posts when I purchased the “Bed Beam” support kit:

Pillow: I purchased a Serta memory foam pillow in 2009. I used to zip it into a cover, but it made it more rigid, so I removed the cover.

Current Mattress:
I purchased the latex mattress in April 2010. I slept on it for 90 days and when I determined I liked it and would keep it, I added a 1/8" engineered board to the top of the box spring, under the mattress. Everything was great until October.

What I did in October:
I talked to Shaun at SleepEZ and he had me remove each layer from the cover and lay it flat on the floor to look for a 1/4 inch or more depression. Well, I could not see a 1/4 inch depression and not sure how I would detect such a thing. I did put each layer on my dining room laminate floor and I both looked at each later and I walked around on each later. The only one that had something odd about it was the medium later which MAY HAVE felt like it was a little less dense under foot, near seam about 1/3 of the way in from the short edge.

When I reassembled the bed, I put the firm layer back as it was before, rotated AND flipped the medium layer, and I rotated the soft layer. I also removed the bed frame and put the box spring, topped by the 1/8 wood and then the mattress right onto the floor. I feel like I’m back in college. :slight_smile:

My lower back slowly got less fatigued between OCT and JAN. Now my back is starting to feel fatigued again.

What else:
Since 9/2009, I have been at a new job that has me driving 10 hours/week on top of having to replace my mattress and completely giving up exercise. I also have some medical things going on that are so far minor, but are neurological, so who the heck knows. But it seems to me that the mattress could be the culprit, since I didn’t have this sort of pain until after I purchased the new one. I am wondering if the mattress may be just a bit too firm for me and if I add a topper it could help.

Hi Kristin,

I would tend to take this one step at a time. If your box spring is really a box spring and is not rigid (flexes with firm pressure) … then the first thing I would do is buy a firm slatted or wire grid foundation for your mattress to replace the box spring and the 1/8" engineered wood. IMO … this by itself could be causing problems as it is unlikely that it is firm or rigid enough for a latex mattress and your weight. I think this would be essential and then I would evaluate the results before considering any other changes. With the bed beam support it sounds like your Ikea bed is OK.

A few other comments … because I’m getting the sense that the mattress itself may not be as much of an issue as some of the other factors I mentioned in the previous post.

This is the next thing I would consider. Your pillow can make a significant contribution to upper body pain expecially and it may be either too thin and non supportive for side sleeping or too thick for stomach sleeping. Both of these could easily cause shoulder and upper back issues.

While I doubt this would be an issue … you can run a string from one side of the mattress to another which will give you a better idea if there are any significant dips. There are normal variations in density in latex but it would be very difficult to tell with the sensitivity of foot pressure. These normal variations (assuming they are within the range of normal) would not be having the effects you are seeing.

Again … the first thing I would suspect here (besides other influences) is the box spring and engineered wood.

From your descriptions, it seems to me the “cause” of your issues may have more to do with changes in lifestyle or “accessory issues” connected with the pillow and base than with the mattress itself although a mattress can certainly affect things that you would otherwise experience either more or less. I know it’s easy to make connections but you were using the same mattress when things improved as well as when they got worse so that improves the odds that it would be wise to first look elsewhere.

I would also doubt that your mattress is too firm. If I had to guess it’s more likely that with increased weight and the tendency for stomach sleeping … the middle or lower layers may need to be firmer. The boxspring has the highest odds of being the “culprit” with the back issues and the pillow has the highest odds of being the culprit with the shoulder issues (outside of lifestyle etc) and I would start with these. Your stomach sleeping will also play a major role and I would consider having a second pillow at hand that as much as possible you can put under your pelvis when you move onto your stomach. If your memory foam pillow is thick and supportive enough for your back … then it’s also likely that it’s too thick for your stomach sleeping and you may need a pillow that can adjust itself better for both positions (something that can be scrunched up to make it thicker or be used as a thin layer such as down or buckwheat hulls). It would also be well worth seeing if you are able to move away from stomach sleeping at all which can cause or aggravate many back and muscle issues … particularly in combination with side sleeping.

There is some good information here in connection with back issues which I found particularly accurate and helpful. The links on posture and mattresses may be especially helpful although the other links are also very informative.

I would start though with the foundation and the pillow to see if they may help to the degree possible and then I would re-evaluate to see what changes in the mattress itself may also help. The fewer variables you are dealing with at a time the better.

One step at a time :slight_smile:



Thank you so much for taking the time to provide that very thorough response. Do you think it is a good interim step before I purchase a different foundation would be to place the mattress right on the floor? Or will that cause other problems? Also, do you have an particular types of foundations you recommend? There seem to be so many different types of slat foundations out there. I wasn’t sure what a wire grid foundation is.

Hi Kristin,

Yes, I would put a blanket or something on the floor to protect the mattress and in the short term to test things I think this would be a good idea if you have the room.

If you then decide to purchase a rigid foundation (which I think would be a good idea regardless) … then I would go with something that was a little higher quality.

There are several posts which go into some detail about the different foundations (including several wire grid options) and you can read about them in post #7 and onwards in this thread, along with this thread and post #47 in this thread. I would choose one that had the best combination of price, and the most supportive surface with the least flex (unless you go in the direcion of a tension adjustable base which may also be an option if some of your tweaking or testing shows it may benefit you).

Step 1 = floor for a few days or long enough to see a pattern rather than just one nights experience :slight_smile:


Thanks. Those links all open the same thread. I got some good info, but I really don’t want to give up having a real bed. I’m an interior design student and I’m not partial to the no headboard (I don’t buy furniture) look. :slight_smile:

If nothing else, I’ll just go with SleepEZ’s slat foundation. But does it need more slats? It looks like it has about a 3" space between slats.

Hi Kristin,

Oops …

I was copying links from a previous post where the last two links also led to the same thread and that one was a copy from an earlier one yet which also had the same duplicate link. I’ve corrected all 3 of them.

Thanks for bringing it up. The most informative one was the one that was missing :slight_smile:

I’m not sure of the exact slat spacing on the KD foundation that SleepEz sells but I know he sells them with his latex mattresses and they are a good “budget” choice for those where the price is more important. He probably has some that he can measure and tell you the exact spacing. I know too that there have been a few quality issues with some of the KD foundations where the wood was not as high quality as the description states (they are usually drop shipped rather than sent with the mattress) but if that was the case and you happened to receive one of these that had a quality issue then I know Shawn would make sure that the problem was corrected.


I’ll share with you some of my experience if it helps any…

I just bought a bed from SleepEz quite similar to your configuration. I also am very experienced with nutrition, exercise and muscle biology. Phoenix has already identified what your bed-related issues may be, and in fact, some of those may be the cause of the issues you are having. But let me share another thing that could very likely by a contributor (or sole cause) of your problems…

If you are coming from a spring bed (as I did) then your body is basically having to re-adjust. Most of this happens in the initial weeks (sometimes months). But what can happen in your case is that the bed actually allowed your body to relax more than it had been previously. Before, it is almost guaranteed that your back muscles were “working” even while sleeping. This is what happens as a bed becomes less and less supportive. Your body tries to correct things to an extent. So, when you got a new bed, and one that distributes weight much more evenly like latex or memory foam does, suddenly your body begins to realize it can start relaxing more. Now, over time, especially if you are not exercising, the muscles will begin to weaken (re-adjust) to only what is necessary during your sleep time. Then, during the day your back will be much quicker to fatique when performing certain actions. This is why staying in shape is so important, especially as we age, and especially with regards to the back. One of the simplest things you can do is to do correct this is some stretching, sit-ups and a few other basic back-strengthening exercises which you can find on the web. In a matter of months (possibly just weeks) you may suddenly notice your problem(s) going away.


Hi Sonic,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts (which I very much agree with). As you mention … adjusting to a new mattress from a bad one can often lead to issues involved in “correcting” the shortening or “stiffening” of muscles and ligaments that can come from sleeping on a mattress which is putting you out of alignment or from poor posture in general.

I especially agree with you and wanted to reinforce your comments that one of the biggest issues of “aging” is the loss of flexibility and core muscle strength and some of the issues that can lead to as well. Like you … I believe that some simple strengthening and flexibility routines can make a real difference for most people. One of the simplest and most effective of the simple routines I know are what is called the “5 rites” which I have seen make a real difference for many people (including me). While their origins are somewhat controversial … I have no doubt about their beneficial effect.

I very much appreciate your comments especially coming from someone who is knowledgeable in these areas :slight_smile:


Thank you so much for the useful information. I think what you say is very logical and sensible. I used to be fairly athletic so I can certainly tell the difference between being in shape and what I am today. I’ve never been an extremist, but I used to cycle on average 20-30 miles a ride and hike between 4-13 miles. I need to get back to it anyway. I will try adding 15 minutes of core work each day and see where it goes from there.

Update - Questions in RED

I purchased the CPS foundation and installed it last night. In January or February, I pulled the old box spring out from under the mattress. I literally wrestled it out from under the mattress. It groaned and creaked like crazy and visibly looked sagged in the middle, so I think you are right that it wasn’t strong enough to support both myself and the mattress. I continued to have back fatigue even with the latex mattress on the floor, so I determined that it was being caused by one of two problems: Muscle weakness, or the top soft or middle medium layers being a bit too firm at the shoulder, but just about right at the hip, causing misalignment and an odd shoulder position.

I talked to Shaun again at SleepEZ and decided to go with the CPS foundation which was at a better price point than other slat foundations. I thought Flobeds looked well done, but $600 was hard to swallow. Shaun steered me towards purchasing it directly from CPS to save a little money – which was very nice of him, but may also speak to the quality issues I’ve seen reported on this foundation.

I had read all the reviews so I was prepared to be a little disappointed. The foundation went together okay and it feels sturdy enough. My biggest complaint was that the slats were advertised to be no more than 3" apart an in fact, they are 4.25" apart. That is a big difference!

I have a pretty sturdy Ikea iron bed, but no center support for the mattress. I also have bed beam which adds up to 3 center supports. You only need one support for a queen bed, but I always use all three of them–might as well!. I centered them near the shoulder and hip points. Put the foundation on top of that, then the plywood layer, then the latex mattress.

Adding plywood. Shaun had encouraged me to add a 3/4" plywood sheet to the top of the foundation. I originally purchased a 1/8" plywood cover for my old foundation, and I put that on the new foundation and lay down across it and it seems to be sturdy enough. I didn’t feel it sagging anywhere. So I put the latex mattress on top of that. Do you think its a mistake to stick with the 1/8" cover, and should I purchase a 3/4" plywood cover for the foundation?

The mattress feels much firmer on top of the foundation (back on the bed frame) than it did on the floor with no foundation. This makes absolutely no sense to me, so I think it must be in my head…unless you have an explanation for it.

My next step is to purchase a 3" 20ILD Talalay topper from FMB. My thinking for going with the 20ILD is to add the softest layer I can find at the shoulder which should help me sink in more. [color=#ff0000]Will it just exaggerate the current problem of being too firm at the shoulder and just about right at the hip? If so, how would you suggest I tackle that problem?

Regarding the 3" topper from FBM, and considering I have a protect-a-bed mattress cover (the slip over elastic kind that only has the rubber at the top), should I buy a separate cover for the topper layer or just put the latex on top of the existing mattress, and put the protect-a-bed cover over the top of it?[/color]

Hi Kristin,

This depends on the support underneath the plywood (which I know is your CPS foundation) but 1/8" would be on the thin side for my liking … especially over time even if not initially. While it seems to me that what is underneath the foundation is OK (your Ikea iron bed with the 3 bed beams which should be plenty strong enough to support the foundation itself), the bigger issue for me would be any sagging on the top of the foundation with fewer slats and possibly softer wood. If it does sag, then 1/8 inch plywood would be much more likely to sag along with it over time although it would make the slats stronger than they would be by themselves by spreading the weight out. There really is no “right” answer to this though … only the degree of risk you are comfortable with and the heavier the weight the greater the risk of a foundation sagging. My tendency would be to use thicker plywood if I did go in this direction at all.

I would personally go with the extra slats that koala mentioned in the other thread rather than a sheet of plywood … more comments about that there.

I also can’t think of any logical explanation for this either. This would seem to me too to be subjective but only because lI can’t think of anything else to account for it :slight_smile:

I think this would be a mistake for a couple of reasons.

First, I don’t believe that FBM sells 20 ILD talalay latex … although they say they do. Before buying anything from them, I would read post #2 here and the posts it links to.

Second, I think that any 3" topper may be too thick because you already have 3" of soft latex on top of your mattress. If you need more pressure relief, then the thinnest layer possible that would do the job would generally be better for alignment. The closer to the firmer support layers you are, the better they can hold up your heavier parts and maintain your best alignment. I would consider an inch or at the very most 2" as a topper that was being used on 3" of softer foam. The more soft foam on top of a mattress … the greater the risk of misalignment and sinking in unevenly (heavier parts sinking in further while the lighter parts were being “held up” by the lower ILD foam).

I would make sure that any latex topper includes a good quality fabric cover to protect it from damage. Latex can degrade more quickly with longer term exposure to Ozone and Ultraviolet light and a good cover is always important. Your mattress protector would go over this but it’s designed to protect from moisture, body oils, stains etc.