Side Sleeper Problems

My wife and I are average size and build, 200lb and 150lb respectively and both are side sleepers. Just replaced a Spring Air 14" very soft mattress under warranty from JCP after only 6 years of use at half time-as we own another home (sunk over 1.5"). All went well and we selected a replacement, a Serta Iseries Merit super pillow-top which is a semi Euro-top soft mattress. We were divided between this mattress and a Sealy® Posturepedic® West Plains Plush Euro Pillow-Top Mattress at considerably less money but decided the Serta was top rated by Consumer Reports and had a 20 year warranty. The Sealy which we did not choose only had memory foam in a strip in the middle third for additional hip support.

We selected the Serta Iseries Merit as it felt very good in the store and I laid on it about 10 minutes with no problems.
Problem is the Iseries immediately caused back problems the first night. It feels good when you lay down but after four hours the back hurts a lot and forces me to get up. The back pain in in the lower back on both sides and will go away after about 30 to 60 minutes of being upright. Got about 4-5 hours sleep per night. Doesn’t seem to help to turn on the other side.

I found that by sleeping with my shoulder up on the pillow, it helped quite a bit but then the neck is a bit sore. So my guess is that my hip is not sinking enough and or my shoulder is being held too high. The mattress does feel firmer than it did in the store. So now JCP has agreed to just give me a refund if I try this mattress for 30 days-I have had it about 21 days and nothing seems to have changed in that period. So now looking again. I would like to stay in the $2200 range for a king platform and mattress. A few questions:

  1. What is causing that back pain?
  2. I assume since both my wife and I are side sleepers we need to look at soft or plush mattresses. But there must be more criteria than just soft.
  3. How can I tell in a store if a mattress will cause me back pain after four hours of sleeping?? In store this mattress felt good. Assume my back is out of alignment. Can I measure something? Can I use a stick or how can this be done specifically???
  4. From what I have read, a full foam mattress will probably be too firm for side sleepers-is that correct?
  5. What companies have the best comfort guarantee? Costco?

Need help as beginning the selection process again. Right now my first question for a store is what is your comfort guarantee and how many mattresses do you carry.

Hi w9oh,

The first place I would start your research is the mattress shopping tutorial here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that you will need to make the best possible purchase … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones (including all the major brands you were considering or any mattress that uses either lower quality or “unknown” quality materials inside it).

You can see my comments about Consumer reports in post #2 here and in this topic. As you can see I would consider them to be a unreliable source of guidance about purchasing a mattress.

This would be coming from some type of alignment issue. There is more about the most common causes of the “symptoms” that people generally experience on a mattress in post #2 here and while there are too many unknowns and variables involved to be able to “diagnose” or know for certain what is causing a specific symptom for any particular person … the most common cause of lower back pain is a mattress that is too soft.

What you need (and everyone needs) is a mattress that is a good match for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences). The most reliable way to predict this is to use the testing guidelines in the tutorial post. If you aren’t certain that you will sleep well and pain free on a mattress even with careful testing then the options you have after a purchase to exchange or return a mattress or to make changes to the layers inside it would become a more important part of the “value” of a mattress purchase. There is more about the different ways to choose a mattress and how to reduce the risks involved with each of them in post #2 here.

This will depend entirely on the specifics of the mattress you are referring to. There are different types of foam (latex foam, memory foam, and polyfoam) and each of them comes in a wide range of firmness levels so “foam mattresses” could range from being much too soft for you to much too firm for you depending on the specifics of the mattress. “Foam” is just a very generic description for any material that has “bubbles” inside it and it isn’t connected to the softness or firmness of a mattress.

There are many companies that have very good exchange and return policies and some like Costco are free (although this is the only positive thing about Costco and in most cases or for me at least wouldn’t be enough to overcome all the negatives involved in purchasing from them … see post #4 here) but I don’t keep a list of them in my head so this would just be part of what you would need to check with any of the local or online retailers or manufacturers you are considering (the tutorial post includes several links to the better online options I’m aware of in the optional online step). The importance of a good exchange or return policy is one of many factors that would be part of each person’s personal value equation. There is also more about the most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase in post #13 here that can help you make more meaningful comparisons between the “finalists” you are considering.


Thanks for the quick reply, Phoenix
I have read a lot of the information you suggest and will probably have a few more questions but one question seems to keep running in my head. Since most information I can gather states you should replace a mattress every 6 or 7 years, why do I need the higher density foams and heavier mattress construction? Will not most constructions last 6 years? And the higher density foams would be more firm than the lower density foams-is that right. So if I need a soft mattress for side sleeping, would the foam not be of the lower density? Is there really much cost difference between a 1.8 and 1.5 density or a .75 density. Would the softer mattress have perhaps twice the thickness of 1.0 density as compared to a single thickness of 1.8 density. Have I missed a point? does not the density determine the softness or support characteristics?

I have also seen some mattresses which have kinda of a euro top which contains a network of mini steel springs and less foam on the upper layers. Top of the line of some small manufacturers have that construction. Any thoughts? I also saw on line a Restonic which has the Liggett and Platt foam honeycomb on top. Any thoughts.

Does any mattress construction last a long time without degradation other than the air beds?

Hi w9oh,

Most of your questions are answered in the tutorial so I would start there but I’ll make a few comments in my reply here as well.

I don’t know where you are reading this but the only reason to replace a mattress every 6 or 7 years would be if you were no longer sleeping well on it after that length of time. This is the type of “information” that I would take with a big grain of salt because there is no inherent reason to replace any mattress unless there is a specific reason that you need to and this is the type of information that would generally be provided by manufacturers that wanted to sell you a mattress every 6 or 7 years (or less) and whose mattresses are made with the type of “built in obsolescence” that would require it because of lower quality materials inside it (and who hope that you believe that this is good advice).

Some will last much longer than this and some won’t even come close to making it for 6 years.

This would be correct for latex (where firmness is related to density if you are comparing the same type and blend of latex) but not for polyfoam or memory foam. You can’t feel the quality/density of polyfoam or memory foam and any density can be made in a wide range of firmness levels so lower quality materials can feel exactly the same as higher quality materials in a showroom or when the mattress is new … they just won’t last as long. There is more about the many variables that can affect the durability and useful life of a mattress relative to different people in post #4 here.

These are called microcoils and you can read more about them in this article and post #8 here.

You may be referring to buckling column gel and you can read more about it in this article and in post #2 here and post #2 here.

Yes … a mattress construction that uses high quality and durable materials and is suitable for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) will last most people much longer than 6 - 7 years.