Going to the Mattresses: My Quest for a New Bed to Help my Chronic Pain

I need a new bed. More specifically, I need a new mattress, and as my current bed frame is a double XL, and there isn’t a lot of choice in that category, I decided to go for a whole new bed. I had a couple of requirements: a double bed, no higher than 22 inches (reason below), fairly soft to make my Fibro-and RA-riddled body happy. You’d think that wouldn’t be too difficult. 

You’d be wrong.

Cue entry into a rabbit hole of confusion, frustration, and ridiculous expense. This particular adventure can be loosely categorized into the following categories:

Height issues
This is a combination of my height versus the height of the beds. I’m fairly short (5’2” on a good day), and beds have become quite high. High enough that people below the size of an NBA player would need to jump into these monstrosities, or require a footstool or ladder.

Since I use a standing pivot transfer to move from my chair to another surface, my butt was significantly below that of the surface of many of the beds. Which means they were not accessible for me to try.

This significantly reduced the number of options.

A foamy morass
There are precious few mattresses that are simply spring coil these days. Or rather, inner coil as they are now called. And what I found is entirely too firm for me. If you want anything that soft, you have to include memory foam. Sometimes in a coil with foam, but foam is everywhere. Foam, foam, foam. Either as a topper of memory foam, or the entire mattress is foam.

On the surface, you’d think this was exactly what I needed. Foam is softer, right? Well, yes and no.

On one of our excursions to a place that had mattresses, we brought along my mother who needed to replace a crappy one. She found one that was wonderful, bought it, and waited impatiently for the delivery. When it came, the mattress was as hard as wood. After the fact, the salesperson told her it needed to be “broken in.”

Much later, another salesperson told us that memory foam mattresses need to be broken in. That essentially the foam is all closed up, and the pressure of your body as you move on it breaks open the foam and that’s when the softness happens. This process usually takes at least a month, but sometimes up to six months.

Given how sensitive my Fibro body is, memory foam is a bad idea. I’ve gotten wrecked from lying on one of these mattresses for 10 minutes, nevermind an entire night. Except memory foam is the only thing that’s as soft as I need. Supposedly, you can break up the foam faster by moving around on it on your hands and knees, or, if you like me have a pair of active twin niece and nephew, getting them to roughhouse on it. That’s a big risk to take, though.

And then there’s the smell
Something else happens when the foam breaks open. It releases a gas. This process is known as offgassing, and in is anathema to every person with asthma and allergies out there (I’m one of them). Because it smells. And that induces asthma attacks. If you live in a house with a cold basement or a porch, you can attack the thing there and let it off gas before you finally move it into your bedroom. I live in a one-bedroom apartment.

And did I mention the hotness?
Foam tends to be hot. I’ve always been pretty warm at night, usually sleeping with my feet outside the covers. Then menopause happened with nocturnal hot flashes. I need a bed that sleeps cool. 

Enter special designs that somehow makes the foam sleep cool, except I’m not sure I believe it. Especially because all of these mattresses are covered with that velvety polyester material that is by definition warm.

What about latex?
Latex mattresses, such as the Casper, are all the bomb these days, supposedly moulding to your body and also supposedly excellent for people with pain.

I’m allergic to latex.

Tempur-Pedic gets its own category
Everything I’ve read about mattresses and chronic pain mentions Tempur-Pedic. I looked at their website, and decided what I needed was a mattress in the ES class, which is softer than many of the others. The problem with mattresses is that they are also higher than others (see height issues above). After a couple of frustrated excursions to unhelpful places, we went to The Brick. We get there, looked at the Tempur-Pedic’s lined up three in a row. Unfortunately, they were the TEMPUR-Flex, but it was worth a try.
The softest mattress was too high, so I decided to try the one I could get into, to attempt to guess whether that would work. It wouldn’t. But while lying there, I took a look at the other beds and asked whether we can push them together.

We could. First pushing the firm to the medium-firm, and then the medium-firm to the medium-soft. And then I slowly inched my way along the velvety polyester fabric, sort of like a sideways inchworm. I made it to the medium and that didn’t work, then made my way to the medium-soft version. Not soft enough.

And then I had to inch my way back across 15 feet of velvety material that afforded such a level of friction that my pants almost came off!

I did some more research and discovered that The Bay had the ES line. I called, and they were willing to arrange moving mattresses around. However, they only had the soft Tempur-Pedic, because anything softer than that was too soft to sell much. Although the mattress was fairly comfortable, it was obvious that I needed to go at least a level softer. But even if that could be achieved, there are three other significant issues.

One is the gully. Because memory foam mattresses adapt to your body, essentially creating a you-sized shape in the mattress and that can be hard to get out of, especially for people with limited mobility.

The second is that the memory foam would probably make this mattress sleep fairly hot. Problem three is that Tempur-Pedic are known for offgassing for quite a while.

Where am I now?
A bit stuck. All I want is to go back in time and pick between a firm, medium, and soft spring mattress that I could then bring back to the present.

More to come.


Donna said…
I'm wondering if a SleepNumber bed would work? Basically a super-duper air mattress, so less air equals softer. Still may be a gully problem though. They are better at providing a firm edge than the memory foam mattresses do, so might make transfer into the bed easier.
Lene Andersen said…
Donna - thanks for the tip. Alas, SleepNumber beds are not available in Canada.
Unknown said…
Totally alien idea - but a rope bed? I haven't seen an article on one for years, but I've heard good things.
And a sheepskin mattress is good, I've heard. You are made of money, aren't you?
Annette said…
Dang it Lene. What a pain. I hate shopping for mattresses. They are completely different now and full of memory foam. I to was going to suggest a sleep number type bed that you could adjust. Maybe you and "the boy" could plan a trip across the border to test them out. I do think it may be a good option for you. Good luck sweetie. I hope you find the bed that is just right soon.
Adrienne said…
I wish you luck! FWIW I have one of the it's-memory-foam-with-special-cooling-top, and it's only a tiny bit hotter than a regular mattress.

Before that I had a regular mattress with a (separate) memory foam topper, and the topper was TOO HOT and the mattress w/o it was TOO HARD. It's difficult being Goldilocks (I feel more like the princess & the pea.)
Unknown said…
Thanks for sharing this information! There are some key factors to help us feel more comfortable about making a mattress purchase through online.
Dylan Lovell said…
While my health issues certainly are not as extensive as yours, I suffer with Degenerative Lumbar Disease and live in constant back pain. I can relate on the importance of a quality mattress. I have gone through so many over the years until I found the right one. I wish you much luck in your search!

Dylan Lovell @ Mattress Sale Liquidators
Dante Storey said…
I feel your pain! Mattresses these days are not designed for the short and petite. My wife and I experienced that just the other day. Most of the mattresses were too high and we had to get a step stool for her! Finally we found one that was the perfect height for her.

Dante Storey @ The Healthy Bed Store
Good read, This blog has provided the helpful data to us, continue the good work.
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