Struggling to find a mattress that works

I posted a couple weeks ago but the problems I had been having with my Sealy –

Since then, I purchased the DreamBed Deluxe Super Firm (ILD 45) from DixieFoam in NYC. It arrived on Saturday, and after just the first few nights, I am already having back pain again.

I had been sleeping on my couch and an air mattress instead of the Sealy, both of which didn’t cause me any back pain. Do you have any suggestions on mattresses that might work better? it looks like unfortunately I will have to return my DixieFoam bed.

The pain is in the lumbar / lower back area. For some reason, many “cheap” beds that I slept on in college seemed to be a much better match for me. Maybe foam is not the best choice for me? I feel like I “sink in” too much-- especially in the waist area.

Hi RoxCo,

The first thing I would suggest is talking with Mark at Dixie Foam who would have lots of experience in helping his customers make adjustments to their mattresses when necessary.

The first thing I would suggest is to give your new mattress some time so that you can adjust to a new sleeping surface. Our bodies develop a “sleeping memory” … and in some cases can actually get used to sleeping out of alignment and when you buy a more supportive mattress that is better for your back in the long term it can take some time for your body to adjust. The mattress you have has a much firmer support layer than you are probably used to and you may need either thicker or softer comfort layers on top. I doubt given the specs of this mattress that you are sinking in too far and the issue may actually be the other way around (the mattresses you are used to that use lower quality and softer foams probably allowed you to sink in much further). I don’t have any information about your body type or sleeping position which would allow me to even guess at the underlying cause of your “symptoms” but the issue could well be that your comfort layer isn’t thick/soft enough on top to fill in the gaps in your sleeping profile.

I don’t think this is an issue of “foam” as much as it may be the balance between the firmness of the support layers and the thickness/softness of the comfort layers (regardless of material) that best suits your body type and sleeping position. It would be difficult to find a mattress without foam in it of some type.

One of the advantages of dealing with a good local manufacturer like Dixie Foam is that there service doesn’t end when you take the mattress home. The most effective thing you could do IMO would be to talk with Mark about what adjustments may be needed and to use his help in “tracking down” the source of your discomfort. At the very least I would give any changes more time so you don’t end up making changes faster than your body can keep up with and that you end up with a mattress that is most suitable for your long term alignment and comfort.

Without a more detailed conversation that included more information about the mattress and your body type and sleeping positions it’s not possible to make any meaningful suggestions but I suspect based on very limited information that the comfort layer is the issue (a mattress where the comfort layers are too thin/firm for your body type and sleeping positions can cause alignment issues just like a mattress that has a support core that is too soft or where the comfort layers are too thick and soft).



Thanks for your reply. I tried calling Mark today but didn’t get an answer or voicemail, so I sent an email.

This is the description of the mattress I purchased:

It is composed of 2.25" layer of SuperSoft foam (I believe Mark said this is ILD 18) atop a 5.5" base of either medium firm or super firm Hi-Resilience Carbamate (I ordered the SuperFirm which is ILD 45).

I may be able to purchase some sort of mattress topper, or perhaps return the mattress for the Medium Firm instead. If it helps, I generally sleep on my side and am 5’9", 165lbs. I would like to give it some time, but also want to keep in mind the return policy limit.

Hi RoxCo,

I would strongly encourage you to talk with him (or any manufacturer) in person because these types of conversations can just be too complex or “nuanced” to deal with effectively through emails. There are too may “it depends” types of answers or followup questions that are needed before any answer is really possible. I don’t know what happened with their voicemail but I just called them and the voicemail came on so perhaps you could leave a message with him now and talk with him tomorrow :slight_smile:

This is what I call a “differential” construction where the comfort layer is much softer from the support layers and there is no transition layer in between. Your comfort layer is relatively thin and soft which means you are probably “going through” it fairly easily and the firmness of the deeper layers are coming through and not allowing you to sink in far enough. Based on your specs and those of the mattress … I would suspect some extra thickness in the comfort layers (or a topper or even softer support layers that would allow you to sink in and “help” the comfort layers more) may be the key.



Just wanted to close the loop on this. Mark was very accommodating and exchanged the mattress free of charge for me from the super firm (ILD 45) to the medium firm (ILD 36). It definitely conforms better to my body, and I’m sleeping better. It’s been great dealing with a good local manufacturer-- I would absolutely recommend them in the future.

And thank you Phoenix for your help!

Hi RoxCo,

Thanks for your ongoing feedback and for bringing us up to date. :slight_smile:

As you mentioned it’s always great to deal with a knowledgeable local manufacturer who will work with you to make sure you end up with what you need … and of course the better quality and value they offer also means that your mattress will last you much longer than most of the other alternatives you could have purchased in the same budget range.


Hi Phoenix,

I have a follow-up question for you regarding my DixieFoam mattress. As described above, I switched from the super firm ILD 45 to medium firm 36. After about a month now of sleeping in the same spot on the bed, I believe the comfort layer has softened more than I would have liked and it’s causing me to sink in far enough that I’m waking up with lower back pain again.

If I move to another side of the bed, I don’t have this problem-- I’m guessing because that side hasn’t been slept on, and the comfort layer hasn’t softened or broken in as much. I’m worried that I’ll eventually run out of space on the bed where the comfort layer stays in the original form it was when I purchased it.

I know you had mentioned giving my body time to get used to the new sleeping position. I’m wondering if it would be best to ask Mark about the super firm mattress again and complementing it with an extra mattress topper… I’d hate to have to return this bed twice now though and am not sure he’ll allow it. In any case, I would like to know your thoughts on the matter.

Many thanks.

Hi Roxco,

All polyurethane foam (and any foam for that matter to different degrees) will go through an initial softening period with use. This initial softening happens over the first 90 days or so and most of it happens within the first 30 days. After this initial softening then further softening is much more gradual. If there are parts of your mattress that aren’t used initially then they won’t have gone through the initial softening but as soon as you use them they too will go through this initial softening period. This is part of the nature of all polyurethane foam and part of the reason it’s a good idea to choose a little on the firmer side rather than the softer side.

While it’s not possible to “diagnose” the cause of back aches on a mattress or for any other reason from a distance (as any doctor or health professional will tell you) the most common cause of lower back pain as it relates to a mattress is either a support core that is too soft or a comfort layer that is too thick and/or soft. In both cases the softness allows the heavier parts of the body to sink down too far relative to the lighter parts of the body leading to a spine that is out of alignment.

In some cases which are less common … a mattress that has a support core that is too firm or a comfort layer that is too soft and thin can also lead to spinal misalignment.

In other cases yet … an uncomfortable mattress where the design is not a quite right for any reason can lead to “twisting” away from the discomfort which leads to the twisting of the spine which can also cause back issues, discomfort, or pain. These in combination with any pre-existing tendencies of each person towards certain types of pain and discomfort and the many variables that involve other circumstances and differences in people themselves means that the whole topic of back pain can be very complex.

In most cases … the best odds are some combination of the first scenario which is a support layer which is too soft and/or a comfort layer which is a combination of too thick and soft for the person but you may fall into the second scenario where the comfort layers are a little too soft or thin in certain areas. If the combination of layers is “just in the range” which is right for you at the beginning for either primary support (the deeper layers that “stop” the heavier parts from sinking in too much) or secondary support (the upper layers that help fill in the gaps in the sleeping profile and help maintain the natural curvature of the spine) … then foam softening can take you over the line during the initial softening period when the foam may lose 4 - 6 ILD or so in the areas that are most prone to constant force and deflection.

When you were first having the back issues you mentioned that sleeping on the couch or an air mattress solved the problem. This could be a pointer to a solution although it may also be somewhat misleading because when people sleep on a couch they may sleep in different positions over the course of the night than they do on the larger surface area of a mattress and this can affect their alignment. Having said that … a couch will generally use firmer foams than a mattress comfort layer because they are designed for sitting which concentrates the weight in a smaller area and they need a higher compression resistance than a mattress.

In addition to this … the fact that your mattress seemed to be fine initially and still is in the areas where there hasn’t been any foam softening can also be a pointer to a potential solution.

The foam in the upper layer of your mattress is subject to much greater levels of compression than the deeper layers which is part of the reason they soften more quickly.

One other “pointer” that may be helpful would be to flip the mattress over and sleep on the firmer base layer for a few nights to see what happens. A description of your experience with this and any “symptoms” you experience (which may be different from your experience on the other side) may also be a useful pointer to a solution.

In these cases there are really two possibilities that may help. One of these is a top layer of foam that is a little firmer so that when it completes it’s initial softening you are still “in the range” of your ideal alignment. The second possibility is a slightly thicker comfort layer which can allow you to sink in more evenly before you reach the firmer foam below. The risk of this is that if the comfort layer is too thick then once again you may have a similar issue. In other words both too thin and too thick can cause issues.

I think the first thing I would consider is the use of a fairly thin topper as an experiment to see if some extra thickness solves the issue. If this doesn’t help … then the use of a firmer “critical zone” may be required (which is the amount you tend to sink into a mattress … most of which is the upper layer of the mattress but some of this is the initial compression of the support layer as well). This could involve a firmer comfort layer or a firmer support layer although I suspect that a firmer comfort layer may be more effective because it is a bigger part of your “critical zone”. With a topper I would tend towards something slightly firmer than the 18 ILD that is on top of your current mattress and since it seems that it is the initial softening that is taking you “out of your range” … that something in the range of 1" or so may be helpful (to compensate for the initial softening).

Most of all though … all of this is more speculation than anything else because I can’t see you on the mattress or feel what you are feeling so as before … I would talk with Mark who would likely have more insights than I do as to what may be happening and a possible longer term solution that takes into account the effect of the first few weeks of foam softening.

Hope this helps


Thanks, Phoenix. First thing I’ll do is try flipping the mattress over and sleeping on that for a few nights. I have a feeling that should solve the problem. Would keeping the mattress in that position permanently be fine for the life of the mattress?

Hi RoxCo,

I would use it as more of an experiment because I don’t know if the bottom of the mattress has a fabric that is designed for sleeping on. The goal is to use your experience as a pointer to the best solution.

Sleeping on the bottom firmer foam may not provide the pressure relief you need but it could give some good “evidence” that you need a firmer comfort layer so that when it softens you will still be inside the range that you need.

While sleeping on the mattress upside down wouldn’t harm it in the short or long term (assuming that it provided the pressure relief and alignment that you needed) … it wouldn’t be the ideal either … particularly because it is one sided and would be missing any comfort layer at all.


Hi Phoenix,

I slept on the mattress last night after flipping it over. Took a little bit to get used and fall asleep on, but I woke up and didn’t have back pain. Actually felt like my posture was improved probably because the mattress was so firm!

Any idea on suggestions for next steps?


Hi RoxCo,

I would sleep on this for a few nights at least to make sure that what you are experiencing is more of a “pattern” than an “instance”.

I would also monitor any pressure relief issues that may come up and may point to the need for a softer comfort layer on top of the firmer core.

Once you have this information and experience … I would talk to Mark and tell him about your experience to decide what options you have for making any adjustments in the mattress (that “matches” your needs for good pressure relief and good alignment) on a more permanent basis so you can sleep on the “right” side of your mattress :slight_smile:


Hi Phoenix,

I spoke with Mark this weekend and he recommended the same approach: flip the mattress over and sleep on that side. This method seems to be working fine for me currently, and Mark said it won’t damage the mattress.

I may invest in a 1" topper (like you had suggested in a previous post) just to make sure I’m getting the proper pressure point relief. Sleeping on the “wrong” side strikes me as somewhat unusual for a permanent basis-- it won’t cause any problems long term will it?


Hi RoxCo,

No … it will be fine. The softer foam on the bottom will compress evenly and if it is “working” for you in terms of pressure relief and alignment then there wouldn’t be a durability issue.