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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Sleep 101: How to Choose a Dream Mattress

Dec 03, 2014 01:24AM ● By Christine Chamberlin

Adults spend about one-third of each day in bed, forging a strong bond between the mattress and the sleeper’s overall health. Yet most people rush through the process of choosing a mattress—from overlooking details about construction materials to skipping the time it takes to properly test-drive (or test-nap) all the options. 

Here are five steps to follow to choose a dream mattress.

Step 1: Go Green

Many mattress options are conventional; they are toxic concoctions of oil, polyester and chemicals, which cause a sleeping body to do battle rather than rest and repair. Fortunately, there are organic and all-natural mattress options available in all sizes, sleep styles and price points. Crafted from sustainable sources, these mattresses also avoid chemical flame-retardants, instead utilizing natural materials to pass the required flame barrier tests required by the federal government.

Step 2: Know the Materials

Organic mattresses are made with materials found in nature, like cotton, sea grass and coconut fiber. Wool, the organic mattress “superstar,” is often used as batting and as a comfort layer. It acts as a body temperature regulatory agent, keeping sleepers cooler in summer and warmer in winter; it’s also inherently antimicrobial and antibacterial as well as dust mite resistant, eliminating the need to enclose a mattress in anti-dust mite casings. Wool smolders instead of ignites under direct flame and self-extinguishes, making it a natural flame retardant.

Structurally, a mattress can be comprised of either latex, innerspring or a combination of the two. Traditionally, all-natural innerspring mattresses will feel the most familiar, with the maximum amount of airflow and breathability. All-natural latex varies in firmness from very soft to firm; the amount of material used versus the amount of air allowed into the mold will determine its feel. As for the material itself, all-natural latex is a raw sap pulled from the Hevea brasiliensis tree, native to India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The liquid is collected from the tree, placed into molds and heated to form the layers that make up a mattress.

Step 3: Be Like Goldilocks

Comfort and support are paramount in achieving the perfect fit between sleeper and mattress. When testing a mattress, shoulders, hips and knees are the areas that predominantly develop radiating pain if not adequately supported. The mattress should be firm enough to support the body, while giving little, if any, positive or negative resistance feedback on the bodyline. For example, if a sleeper is on his right side, a mattress is too firm if he feels the mattress press firmly against his right hip, pushing it upward. It’s too soft if he feels his left hip being driven down into the mattress. The concentration of body weight will be in the lumbar to pelvic region, so this is a great barometer of immediate support and comfort. Once a mattress is found where the feedback is neutral, firmness can be moved up or down as comfort and support allows. 

What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, and so a couple selecting a mattress together should look for one with customizable firmness configurations.

Step 4: Talk the Pillow Talk

A mattress works in tandem with pillows. The right pillow encourages and supports proper alignment of the neck and spine, leading to easier breathing, a deeper night’s sleep with less tossing and turning, and reduced strain on muscles and joints. Plenty of all-natural pillow varieties are available, with a range of cover materials and types of fill, along with construction that relates to preferred sleep position (back, side or stomach) and personal build. Because mattress firmness influences a pillow’s performance, it’s wise to carry a pillow from bed to bed while testing mattresses.  

Step 5: Don’t Rest Until It’s a Perfect Fit

Finding that dream mattress takes time, usually around 15 minutes per bed to adequately gauge feedback.


Christine Chamberlin is co-founder and co-owner of The Clean Bedroom, a resource for allergy-free, eco-friendly mattresses, bedding and accessories. Celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year, The Clean Bedroom has sleep showrooms in Greenwich and seven other national locations. For more information, visit or call 207-438-9778. See ad, page 5.

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