Pressure point mapper

Hi Phoenix,
I was talking to the owner at Sleep Systems and she said they are planning to get in a mapping product that could be used to evaluate how well a mattress is working for you. I believe she said its from a company called Restwell. Do you know anything about this? I might have to wait (she said a month or 2 or 3) if this isn’t too good to be true.

Hi Steve,

These are being used quite extensively in some outlets (like Sleepy’s) by manufacturers like Kingsdown (AKA Sleep to Live who have been doing this for years with various versions of their system) and Comfort Solutions (AKA King Koil) which uses generic pressure mapping information for people of “like body type” where you don’t actually lie on a pressure testing system. There are others (such as the Xsensor system used by Select Comfort) as well. Restwell in Vancouver (which I assume they mean?) is a Comfort Solutions licensee so they are probably talking about the Sleep ID system.

I think they can be a help but I certainly wouldn’t rely on them and they won’t tell most people who test specifically for pressure relief much that they don’t already know. They are often being used to sell horrendously overpriced mattresses (like the Kingsdown MySide at Sleepy’s).

They can identify areas of high pressure (which most people would already know by “feel”) but then this information is often only really applicable to mattresses made by the company who are using the pressure mapping system where it is used to sell a mattress with a “story” or a “rating” which is matched by a particular mattress (mainly polyfoam) which is supposedly “perfectly” suited to a particular rating (or color code). It’s not really translatable to mattress constructions using other materials or made by other companies except as a very generic guideline and it also doesn’t help with assessing good alignment which is perhaps even more important than pressure relief. Helpful yes … but not too reliable unless someone is planning to buy a mattress from one of the companies that makes the system who conveniently has the “perfect” mattress and sleeping surface for each reading.


Interesting; glad I asked! And while we are on the subject of pressure points, I guess I always assumed that only too much firmness could cause them. But now I wonder if thats true? Do you know? It seems like maybe theres only 1 good range and either too soft or too firm will cause pressure points. I ask because I was just sleeping on my wife’s soft / medium / soft side, which i think is definitely too soft for me, but the pressure points felt the same as my all medium side. Is it possible that going firmer would actually reduce my pressure points?

Hi Steve,

This is an interesting question and like so many things connected with mattresses … the answer can be yes or no.

In general … mattresses that are too soft won’t cause more pressure points although they can certainly cause alignment issues. There are a few exceptions or caveats to this though. Normally … pressure relief is all about the distribution of weight over the body surface and the more someone sinks in or forms a cradle in the upper part of a mattress … the more of the body’s surface area starts to bear part of the load and the less pressure and pressure points there will be.

One of the exceptions is when a mattress cover (or any material over the foam) reaches it’s limit of elasticity and causes a “drum” effect where the pressure comes from the resistance of the material itself. This can also happen when any fibers on top of a mattress become compressed and begin to interfere with the ability of the body to sink into the more conforming layers of foam. Another exception is if the top layer is very soft and thinner and someone sleeps on this and goes “right through” to a firmer layer undeneath and feels pressure from the transition between layers. In this case a slightly firmer top layer may result in a more gradual transition and reduce the perception and the symptoms of too much surface pressure.

Another possibility though is I believe more common. this involves a different type of “pressure” symptom which can be aggravated by a mattress that is too soft. This is connected to the flexibility of the joints and their ability to flex or be in certain positions without discomfort. In many people who sleep on their side … a mattress that is too soft can lead to pressure in the hip joint or sacroiliac joint (by the pelvic crest) because the joints are out of alignment. While this is not really a pressure point … it can be felt more on the outer part of the body in which case it can seem like the cause is surface pressure rather than the typical spine pain that comes from alignment issues. “Pinched” nerves can also lead to further symptoms and the pain can also radiate to other parts of the body.

So my best answer is that in most cases (with a few exceptions) softer mattresses don’t cause actual pressure points … but they can lead to discomfort, pain and even numbness that is similar and is easy to mistake for surface pressure that comes from part of the body which is bearing too much weight.


So, this seems so dumb to ask, but how do you tell if the pressure / pain / discomfort is from too much firmness or not enough? I think it might be time to go back to floor testing. Remember when we did this before I didn’t have any firm pieces to add to the mix, now I have one. My thinking is, because I know I need more firmness on my back, I would only need to test support on my back. Try just the firm, then maybe the firm + medium, etc, and see if I can tell when I feel like my back is starting to sag. Trying to find the firmness that just stops any sagging, so when you add “comfort” toppers they work with the support core to allow just the right amount.

The weird thing is, as you know right now I am sleeping on 9" of medium (well SleepEZ medium, so 31-ish ILD) latex. When I first go to sleep I feel like my back is overbending and its annoying. But when I wake in the morning (usually on my back) my back doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t feel like its overbending anymore. Does that mean anything to you? :slight_smile:



I don’t mean to flood you with posts, but I woke up really stiff and achy today and so I decided to find my notes and try rearranging layers in my SleepEZ today. First I did layers. As you know I was sleeping on 3 mediums and feeling like I needed more comfort and maybe more support as well. So I wanted to get the firm back into the mix.

  1. I couldn’t really tell anything using single layers. They all felt bad in all positions.
  2. With 2 layers, I tried soft/medium (/ means over), soft/firm, medium/firm, and firm/medium. Oddly I liked Soft/medium and firm/medium the best. Not sure what to make of that.
  3. With 3 layers, I really wanted to get a soft on top so that left S/M/F and S/F/M. I ended up using the S/F/M, hoping that the soft on top is comfortable enough on my side and that the firm in the middle keeps my hips from sinking too much. I don’t think I ever tried this config before.

AFTER I did all this, I found my notes. It looks like after you left the other board I tried:

  1. S/M/F. According to my notes the support was ok but I was still not comfortable on my side. Which means that S/F/M may not work very well. But I might as well try it!
  2. Ordered a 2" soft Talalay topper from SleepEZ and put it over the above config. This is when I started really feeling my hips sink in too far; also, it didn’t help that much on my side, still uncomfortable.
  3. Decided to try a 1" supersoft latex layer, convinced Shawn to order it. Tried this with the 2" soft over Med/Med/Firm. My notes say that this was too firm. Wish I took better notes.
  4. Switched to Med/Med/Med. Again tried with and without the 2 separate latex layers. Invariably felt that the extra layers didn’t help much and caused some back issues.

Whats weird is that it doesn’t really seem like I was bothered with not enough support for my back in a lot of those configs; I think maybe something has changed lately. Anyway, I’ll let you know how the newer config goes.

Hi Steve,

There’s nothing that IMO is dumb to ask. There are times that I literally spend hours trying to figure out what the “whys” behind something that seems obvious really are. It’s not that I can’t feel it … it’s that without a “why” that makes sense … I can’t fix it (for myself or anyone else) :slight_smile:

Pain and discomfort is one of the most difficult things to describe accurately as any medical professional (and I’m not one of these) who deals with it can tell you. In many cases … one cause of pain can mimic another and it can also radiate so the pain that originates in one part of the body is felt in another.

In general though … pressure issues that come from a sleeping surface being too firm will cause circulatory types of problems such as tingling or body parts falling asleep. It can also lead to a “scrunched” feeling where there is too much compression on a joint.

The pain that comes from something that is too soft will often feel more like an inflammatory type of pain or an injury type of pain which can be more point specific (as in lower back pain), or radiate, or can feel somewhat burning or be felt specifically as being “in” a joint rather than on a surface area.

If you lie on your side on a carpeted floor for example … the pressure point type of discomfort can be felt. If this seems somewhat like you are experiencing then it is a good pointer.

If you “push” your pelvis from side to side or front to back … the inflammatory or “joint” types of discomfort can be felt which would mimic something that was too soft. Stretching exercises can help identify where there are flexibility issues and the types of pain that can come from them which can also act as a pointer.

While all of this can vary widely from person to person … they can be guidelines to what really may be happening.

This can be a very valid way to build a mattress. If someone needs to choose between pressure relief and alignment … then alignment and posture should probably be the most important. In effect … a sleeping system should support the natural alignment of the spine with just enough of a comfort layer to cushion you from the materials that keep you in alignment and relieve the pressure issues that the “alignment” material can lead to.

In effect … a mattress is more of a utilitarian item with specific purposes to help your mind and body “let go”, relax, rest, heal, and recover rather than a luxury item which is chosen for it’s “feel” alone. In a way this is something like eating and how our culture views it. In many cases the choices about what people eat is based more on pleasure and gratification than it is on nutrition and providing the body with what it needs so choices become more about what feels good than about what is necessary. What makes it easier to do this is that the “price” of these types of long term choices often won’t be paid for a long time down the road so people don’t connect what they have been doing in the long term to the symptoms that may arise in the shorter term when something puts them “over the edge”.

That doesn’t mean that what is “necessary” can’t provide pleasure (which is certainly can) … only that where on the scale people often fall is too far on one side or the other.

So testing for layers that provide alignment and then slowly building onto it the layers which cushion you from the alignment layers is a very valid way to build. Adding in as many preferences and “pleasures” as possible without harming the two primary functions of a mattress will help to add the “spices” to the basic healthy recipe.

So your idea is a great one. One of the challenges we had before was “making” materials work or using the wrong materials to help “point to” and identify which materials or firmness levels may work better. With an actual firm layer to test as you are saying … you can more easily build from the bottom up.

This can sometimes point to the difference between subjective perceptions and the more objective “messages” from the body that sometimes say something different. It can also point to the difference between how well something works when we are going to sleep and still have some muscle tension and when we are actually asleep and the muscles have completely relaxed. It’s often the case that a feeling that something is either too soft or too firm can come from being attached to certain ideas or “feels” (such as “I need this or that”) which may be the case for most people but not the case for any particular individual. Sometimes the feeling of being in a “wrong” alignment can lead to tensing muscles when in fact it isn’t necessary because the alignment is better than waking perceptions may tell you.

There are a lot of people who have slept on a medium layer of Dunlop latex for example that by most standards today would be too firm for pressure relief and yet they will tell you they have been “comfortable” on it for decades. They may have the ingrained idea that this is the “best kind” of sleeping surface and if they lie on a mattress which had a softer layer on top they could become uncomfortable and “tense” even though it was an actual improvement (say added better pressure relief without sacrificing support) and feel it as being “too soft”.

All this is part of the reason that it’s important not to become over attached to any idea or material or even “feel” (whether it’s a “this works” idea or a “that doesn’t work” idea) because there are always more “influences” at work which are more subjective or subtle than most people would imagine.

Building the perfect mattress can be a lot like some other activities such as golf or chess (or engineering) where technical knowledge is necessary and can help a lot but intuitive ideas that know when to “safely break the rules” can make the difference between OK and great. No matter how much knowledge someone may have … there is a constant learning curve that never ends and the goal of mastering something becomes the excuse for the process of constant improvement that can deal with more and more exceptions.

Your questions and comments (as before) are great ones by the way :slight_smile:



Thanks (again) for all the advice. I’m not sure if you saw this (I made a 2nd post right before your last post), but I am now sleeping on soft / firm / medium, which seems to be working pretty well. The soft on top finally gets me a little comfort, the firm seems to stop the sinking in and provide about the right amount of support. I spent 3 nights this way, and while its pretty good I still would like more cushion. So I just added my 1" supersoft latex layer. I know it wont change much but hopefully it will provide a bit more comfort. By the way, I added this inside my cover; I suppose it might make more of a difference on top (right under my mattress pad) but its thin and uncovered, so I think it needs to be protected.

Anyway, just doing a status update. I’ll try this for a few nights and let you know how its going then…


Hi Steve,

Thanks for the update. I did miss it (sometimes a post can take me several hours if it takes a lot of thought and then my post sometimes jumps over another one which I can easily miss) and I appreciate you letting me know.

I’ve read it now and will give a few comments about what may be happening when I’ve had a chance to “analyze” it a bit.

Adding the extra inch inside your cover is probably a good idea … and I know that your cover can accomodate even thicker layers :slight_smile:

I’m looking forward to any further updates.