Totally overwhelmed

My husband and I both like a medium firm mattress but trying one for 10 minutes gets me nowhere. I only know that the one we have had to live with for the past 15 years is not right! I don’t want to make the same mistake again but honestly cannot tell my just laying on one in a store.

Hi Dogslife,

I can certainly understand the “overwhelm” in the environment that most people are exposed to in their mattress shopping.

What I usually try to do is to “decode” the more commonly used terms like “medium firm” and relate them to the basic functions of a mattress which are pressure relief and spinal alignment. “Medium soft” … depending on who is using the term … can relate to the top layers of a mattress (the comfort layers), the lower layers (the support layers), or the “overall feel” of a mattress. Each of these different meanings would “translate” into a very different mattress.

I would start by reading this The basic functions of a mattress - Overview - The Mattress Underground which is the best place to begin.

If you can let me know your height/weight and body shape and your normal sleeping positions it would help me to make a few more specific recommendations for what may work best for you. If you also let me know the city you live in, I would also be happy to look and see if there are any factory direct mattress manufacturers or outlets I know of that are near you. These are usually where mot helpful people, the best information, and the highest quality and best value mattresses can be found.

In reply #6 here there are some guidelines that should also help you avoid most of the traps that you will encounter in your mattress shopping.

Of course you are always free to ask any questions here about specific mattresses, your own field testing, or what may work best for you along the way :slight_smile:


Thanks! I am 5’6/130 and my husband is 5’9/190. I have had back and neck problems from an accident (fractured vertebrae) and mostly sleep on my side. I remain very active although my body is a mess of previous fractures and strains. My husband sleeps on his side and sometimes back. We both like a fairly firm core and a soft comfort layer. We live in Roanoke, VA and the salesmen I have met so far are no help at all. I am going back out there armed with the info on your site to see if I can get a bit closer to a decision.

One other question. What is your opinion on an adjustable base? I sometimes use pillows to elevate my legs if I am sitting up in the bed.

Hi dogslife,

Given your overall weight, sleeping positions, and back issues … a softer comfort layer over a firm core as you prefer would be the best overall construction. Typically a side sleeper would need about 3" in the comfort layer and then go slightly up or down from there depending on the results of mattress testing regarding pressure relief and spinal alignment.

The two main materials you would be likely to consider in the comfort layers would be memory foam and latex. The first question I would ask about any mattress you were testing is to see a spec sheet or cutaway and to rule out any mattress that has more than an inch of polyfoam in the comfort layers unless you knew enough about the actual types and grades of polyfoam to know it was suitable for use in a comfort layer (this rules out almost all major manufacturers and almost all chain stores or typical outlets who will not have a clue about the specific types or specs of polyfoam such as ILD (also called IFD), Density, manufacturer, and compression modulus).

Memory foam and latex are roughly equal in pressure relief (if the latex is softer in the range of 19 ILD or less) however latex is much more durable, healthier, more breathable, and far more supportive (even in very soft versions) than memory foam and so is much more appropriate for back and alignment issues.

The firm support core could either be latex (more expensive in a support core but certainly the highest quality and most effective material) or firm polyfoam or a firm innerspring.

As you know from the responses here … local mattress manufacturers that sell factory direct or retail outlets that sell locally or regionally produced mattresses usually have the best value and certainly are the most knowledgeable and helpful in finding a mattress that is suitable for your own unique needs. Any mattress regardless of price, and sold in any store that will tell you the layer by layer construction of a mattress, makes a great testing ground … even if they are not the best place to actually make your purchase. If information about a specific mattress is available online (or through a question here) then it too may be worth testing as a “pointer” to the best type of layering for you, even if the store doesn’t know what is in it (or won’t tell you). When your mattress testing is done and you know the type and layering of a mattress that works for you … then you can purchase this mattress locally if it is available with good value or you can “duplicate it” through an online outlet if the value is better there.

There is a local manufacturer near you which would be worth going to see which is if you wish to test latex mattresses in different variations.

Other than that there are no independent manufacturers near you that I am aware of however testing mattresses in local stores who will give you a layer by layer breakdown of what is in the mattress … and testing specifically for pressure relief and spinal alignment … will certainly give you enough information to know what to buy from an online “diy” manufacturer if this is your best source for the quality, construction, and value you are looking for. some of the better possibilities in the Roanoke area are in post #5 here

Answer about the adjustable base coming in the next post :slight_smile:


Hi again dogslife,

I like position adjustable bases personally and have one myself. This is not for any health reasons but because we both like to sit up in bed to watch a movie or read etc.

They can also be helpful for certain health issues such as reflux or pressure relief, or elevating the legs when necessary however in general and for most cases and sleeping styles … it is better to sleep flat. Pillows that are suitable for each sleeping position and pillows used in different ways for each sleeping position (under the hips on the stomach, between the knees on the side and under the knees on the back) can also be very helpful for better sleeping alignment.

The three most common brands of adjustable beds (but by no means the only ones) are in order of my preference (and I believe value) Reverie, Ergomotion, and Leggett and Platt. The Ergo and Reverie are very close in value IMO.

The best sources that I have found in terms of price is either here (where I bought my Reverie Deluxe) or from an outlet of mattress manufacturer who will reduce their price to something similar if you buy a base/mattress combination from them.