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When we consider a mattress we should consider how supportive it is whilst sleeping both on your back and on your side to provide a sufficiently even spread of pressure across the contact areas between the body and the mattress to prevent pressure points. Pressure points are essentially where the mattress meets the body. On a traditional spring mattress (a single wire mesh), there are fewer points of contact with the body, so those points of contact have to take the whole weight of the body and exert more pressure. The more contact points there are, the less pressure each point has to exert on the body.  Ideally a mattress should mould to your body, exerting pressure evenly in all places.

Pocket spring mattresses are newer type of spring mattress, and there are a wide variety in the marketplace. They come in different spring stiffness ratings, and also in different numbers of springs per mattress. They start at around 600 and may go up to 3000, depending of course on the size of the mattress and the size of the pocket springs. The springs all work independently. All spring mattresses require turning and rotation every few months or they tend to sag in the most slept areas.

Foam mattresses provide more support than spring mattresses, as the foam tends to exert more even pressure and provide many 'tiny' pressure points, rather than a pressure point the size of a spring on the spring mattress. There are two main types of foam mattress of interest: latex mattresses and Tempur mattresses. 

Latex is more naturally 'springy' than Tempur, and after removing the weight from it, it springs straight back up again, however it is not quite as effective at supporting the body totally uniformly and preserving correct skeletal alignment as Tempur. Latex mattresses are also supposed to sleep warmer than spring mattresses, although most report that they are slightly cooler than Tempur mattresses.

Tempur is a development of a type of foam first used by NASA, and has been on the market since 1998. The foam is said to only compress when it is warmed up.  Whilst the manufacturer claims that it stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it is generally said to feel much warmer than other types of mattress, too warm for some people. Part of the reason for this increase in heat is the larger degree of contact between the mattress and the body. Some Tempur models have a quilted top layer embedded into the top of the mattress. This quilted layer makes the mattress 'cooler' than other Tempur mattresses. Tempur mattresses are medically recognized and recommended by many osteopaths.

I would NOT recommend buying a Tempur mattress without trying it, and although it is hard to predict how it will be after a few minutes or more of lying on it in the showroom, you really need to decide very carefully! You will notice that the Tempur material takes a few seconds or so to compress and so when changing position.  Some have complained about Tempur mattresses as they feel like butter when you put your weight on them and are not ideal for love making.

Buyers should be aware that there are many 'fake' Tempur mattresses, using a Tempur mattress cover, but containing cheap foam, being sold on various auction web sites. There are also a number of products on the market that have copied Tempur, that are marketed as memory foam. They are not reportedly to be as good, but are considerably cheaper. Tempur does not have a 'memory' as such, but responds to pressure and heat. Memory foam, in the literal sense, does not respond to heat but rather develops a memory of where you slept.

A number of combination mattresses can be seen on the market too, which incorporate pocket springs and also a memory foam layer. These tend to be more comfortable and provide a slightly better spread of weight support than a purely spring mattress that will have fewer pressure points, but a combination mattress is unlikely to ever provide as much support and spread the weight and pressure as well as a pure foam mattress, on account of the springs in the base layer.

Another alternative is a waveless water bed, not the kind that produces waves when you move on it. This is unlikely to provide quite the same support as a Latex or Tempur mattress. It should come with a built-in electrical heater on a thermostat to keep it warm at night, otherwise it would be very cold and take away your body heat. The advantage the waveless water bed is that as long as it doesn't leak, it should never actually wear out, unlike foam-based and spring-based mattresses that will wear out eventually.

Your mattress and bed should not ideally sag so your bottom and hips sink too low, meaning your whole back is curved the wrong way - similar to slouching on a sofa. Whatever type of mattress you choose, it is worth picking what suits you best. There is no perfect mattress, as all have their plus and minus points, but one may suit you better than any other. It is a worthwhile investment seeing as you may spend a third or more of your life on it, and your health and wellbeing is dependent on it to some extent. 

Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow
Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow

The ergonomic shape promotes proper spinal alignment and provides support throughout the night. This pillow has been designed for maximum comfort and support for back and side sleepers.

Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow

This pillow is the perfect balance of firmness to give support and softness for comfort.

Bucky U Sleep Pillow
Bucky U Sleep Pillow

Millet hull filled U-Sleep Pillow instantly adjusts to your contours to relax your neck and shoulders. Perfect support for reading. Natural hull pillows maintain proper spinal alignment while keeping your head cool and comfortable, and muscles fully relaxed.

Bucky U Sleep Pillow, White, One Size

This bucky is amazingly comfortable, thick and plush.

Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow
Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow

Features of the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow: Unique, tri-level design incorporates two correct pillow shapes into one pillow to provide correct spinal alignment whether sleeping on our back or side.

Therapeutica Pillow Average Adult

Without it, I wake up with neck & back pain, muscle strain, and head aches.