new latex mattress too firm

Hi Phoenix, thanks for the great website. I would like to get some opinions and/or ideas from you regarding my new mattress.
I recently purchased a 9" 3 layer natural talalay bed from Foam Sweet Foam. The layers were originally purchased and set up as follows; Extra-firm, Firm and Medium. It felt amazing when I slept on my back, but I usually end up sleeping on my side for most of the night. After experiencing hip and shoulder pain for about a week, I decided to unzip the mattress cover to release some of the surface tension hoping it would let me sink into the talalay a bit more. After not getting enough relief from that, I called Scott and asked him to send me a 3" layer of soft talalay to try out.
When it arrived I reconfigured the layers to Extra-firm, Medium and Soft. Tried it for a week but I think I was sinking in too far because I was waking up with a back ache every morning!
SO, now I’m sleeping on this configuration; Extra-firm, Firm, Soft. This seems to be the most comfortable so far. No hip pain, no back ache BUT still having shoulder pain and numbness in my arm and sometimes my hand. Not sure if I should send everything back and start my search for a new bed from scratch. HELP! I wanna love this bed, but so far it’s obviously not working out for me.
Any ideas you have would be great since you seem so knowledgeable about all the options that are out there.
I’m 5’2’’ 120 lbs, mostly a side-sleeper as I mentioned at the beginning of my tale of woe.

Hi barrow122,

There are a few suggestions I can make … in roughly this order.

The first suggestion is about time. When you have a new mattress there are two things that will happen initially. First the mattress components will change to some degree as they break in. Foams will go through some initial softening (some more than others), covers will go through some initial stretching and lose their initial “stiffness” and fiber materials will compress to a degree. In addition to this the body itself will take some time to adjust to a new sleeping surface and “forget” it’s old sleeping memory and develop a new one (see post #7 here). This is much like changing a “habit” where the body itself has cues and muscle memories that take time to change. Both of these processes will take a month or less for most people but in some cases they can take longer up to about 90 days or so. Because of this … it’s usually best to sleep on any new sleeping system or layering combination for about 30 days or so or at the very least until it is clear that what you are experiencing is indicative of your long term experience on the mattress. Many people are very surprised at how much their experience on a mattress can change over the first 30 - 90 days. Walking evenly and carefully across the surface of a foam mattress (NOT an innerspring mattress) can also help speed up the initial softening or break in period.

The second one is to always talk directly with a manufacturer or retailer first about any adjustments you may need in a mattress. This is particularly true if they are more knowledgeable such as FSF and other better manufacturers and if they offer the ability to make changes in the layers or configuration of the mattress. They will have the most knowledge of and experience with their own mattresses and layering and may have suggestions and insights that are more meaningful and helpful than anyone else.

The third suggestion is to look at any layers that are in between you and the mattress or any other parts of your sleeping system besides the mattress which may be a contributing factor. This would include any mattress protector or mattress pad you are using and your sheets. In some cases a mattress protector or sheets can create a “drum” effect which can lessen the amount your shoulders sink in just enough to cause pressure and this tends to affect the lighter parts of the body more than the heavier parts. I would also make sure that you have a rigid non flexing foundation or support surface under the mattress (or a support system that is suitable for the mattress) to remove this as a possible cause as well (a flexing support surface under the mattress can allow heavier parts to sink in too deeply while still being firm enough to prevent the lighter parts from doing the same). As you mentioned if the cover is initially a little stiffer before it has broken in then unzipping the cover (for those that can unzip) can also make a difference until the cover has had time to stretch and break in.

The fourth suggestion is to look at your pillows. It’s very common that a change in a mattress may also need a change in pillows as well because the “gap” between your head and neck and the surface of the mattress may have changed and the alignment and support that is provided by a pillow can be part of solving pressure issues on the shoulders as well. When someone sleeps in multiple positions for longer periods of time over the course of the night … then pillows that can be “scrunched” or adjust to longer periods in different positions can be particularly helpful. Short periods of time in alternative positions (such as people who start the night in one position but then change to another fairly quickly and spend most of the night in this position) is not as big an issue here.

Finally … you are also very light which means that your lighter shoulders won’t sink in as far into a foam material as people who are heavier. In cases like this layer thickness also plays a role in the design of a sleeping system that is the most suitable for you. When you are looking at designs that have a “standard” layer thickness then sometimes you may need just an extra inch or so to “allow” the shoulders to sink in far enough to relieve pressure without allowing the heavier hips to sink in too far. In other cases rearranging the layers or changing the firmness of one of the layers (for mattresses that have this option available) may be all that is needed. Only working with softness options instead of thickness options may not be enough for some people who are either more sensitive, smaller (where changes can have a bigger proportional effect relative to the body) or have a body type and weight distribution that is outside the “averages”. The balance between “allowing” the shoulders to sink in enough to relieve pressure and at the same time “stopping” the pelvis from sinking in too far and affecting spinal alignment is part of the art and science of all mattress construction.

These types of issues can often just be a matter of rearranging layers (with a mattress where this is possible), exchanging a layer or the mattress itself (again where this is an option), or fine tuning with a mattress pad or a topper which allows you to make thickness changes instead of just softness changes with a 3" or any “standard” layer thickness. This would be common to all component mattresses where the layers are standardized and of course would apply to all other mattresses where you have this type of experience where the layers can’t be adjusted at all (outside of adding a mattress pad or topper). For the large majority of people either re-arranging layers or a change in softness/firmness in one of the layers will find a layering arrangement that is well within the range of what they need in terms of PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Personal preferences) but for a minority or for mattresses where individual layers can’t be exchanged or rearranged a topper may be the best answer.

So if you get to #5 … then outside of returning or exchanging the mattress a topper would probably be the most practical and most effective suggestion that can use a high quality mattress such as FSF as a base and then fine tune it in ways that are not possible with just changing the softness of a layer. In this case the goal is to choose a topper which both “helps” the shoulders and has the least possible effect on the hips and pelvis. Thinner toppers with softer materials that allow the shoulders but still keep the hips/pelvis as close as possible to the support layers of the mattress, toppers with shredded or zoned materials which can be more allowing under the parts of the body with less surface area (like the shoulders) and more supportive under the parts of the body with greater surface area (like the hips/pelvis), and natural fibers such as wool which can provide more localized cushioning to pressure points without the same alignment risk as a foam material (you will tend to compress it more evenly in all areas) can often be a good choice in these cases.

If you do decide to go in the direction of a topper then post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to can help you use your actual sleeping experience as a reference point and guideline to choose the type, thickness, and firmness for a topper that will have the best chance of success and includes a link to a list of some of the better online topper sources I’m aware of.

Hopefully this will help give you some insights into what your next and best steps may be :slight_smile: