The more we learn about sleep the more we realise how critical it is to our physical and mental wellbeing. The perfect bed means you wake up feeling rested and full of energy. But how do you find the perfect mattress? I often hearclients say that they are none the wiser after mattress shopping, as the industry is full of jargon seemingly only used to confuse.
There are a few key things you can do to make sure you get a great night’s sleep.
When choosing a mattress and bed, look for one that:
1. Is made of natural materials
2. Is fitted specifically to your needs; and
3. Has good support.
It’s also a bonus to shop where the staff is knowledgeable, and they can offer a free night’s trial to see if the mattress works for you.
First of all, it is important to know that while you sleep, extraordinary things go on in your body to renew you:
During rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM), the biological processes that maintain your warm body temperature temporarily shut down, giving nature a chance to re-stoke your furnaces. During this re-charge, you miraculously move from being ‘warm-blooded’ to being ‘cold-blooded.’
During well-supported sleep, your spinal muscles will relax completely for a deep sleep. Your body then rehydrates and decompresses the spinal discs, leaving them revitalized.
Significant surges in hormones take place to regulate our metabolism and other bodily functions like growth and enzyme production. For example, your brain produces Serotonin and Melatonin while you sleep. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone. It modulates mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. A lack of Serotonin may result in depression. Melatonin resets the body clock to synchronize metabolic functions with times of activity and rest.
Normalise Blood Pressure
A fall in blood pressure and heart rate during quiet sleep and dramatic swings in these rates during REM are thought to be important in keeping daytime blood pressure normal. Hence some people who have difficulty sleeping will suffer high blood pressure.
Because of all these, you need to find the perfect mattress that will facilitate your body’s natural processes.
1. Natural materials
Many beds and bedding materials available today are derived from petrochemicals and made using toxic or carcinogenic chemical processes. Since sleep is an active process, every movement compresses these materials and releases toxic fumes into the air.
It makes sense to sleep with pure and natural fibres surrounding you that will aid your breathing, maintain your body temperature and aren’t full of unnecessary chemical treatments. Sleep the way nature intended.
Look for mattresses made of natural materials such as natural latex (be wary of synthetic latex!), bamboo, cotton, silk and wool. These natural fibres all breathe and maximise airflow in and around the mattress. Most of these materials are also naturally anti-bacterial.
2. Fitted specifically to you
Nowadays there is a tendency to believe that one mattress fits all. However, after many years in the industry one thing is very clear: we are have unique shapes, sizes, and our own sleeping preferences and health needs.
Your bed should be personalised to fit your body – not anyone else’s. Some companies, such as Okooko, are able to customise your mattress to fit both you and your partner’s needs.
3. Good support
Obviously if your back and neck aren’t getting the appropriate level of support all other factors are irrelevant. The perfect mattress and bed is one that adapts perfectly to the contours of your body and gives you support, so you sleep with a perfect straight back. When lying on your back it should push into your lower back, and when on your side it should let your shoulder and hip sink sufficiently so your spine is always in a neutral position.
Sleep institutions have developed a “comfort Index” to determine the ideal sleeping comfort. Latex scores much better than springs, which become very hard when pushed deeply; or than foam, which ‘breaks’ at a certain moment.
Latex, as well as being 100% natural, has many amazing health properties, it reduces pressure points and prevents restricted capillary blood flow – the main cause of muscle aches and general restless sleep. It is naturally mould and mildew resistant; and resistant to dust mites. Due to its hypoallergenic qualities, latex is the perfect mattress for allergy sufferers.
4. Staff who know what they’re talking about!
Nothing compares to having a sales person who can actually tell you whether a mattress is right for you when you’re lying on it. They should also be able to tell you all about the contents of the mattress – if they can’t, be wary.
5. Sleep on it
It is impossible to tell if the mattress in the showroom is the right one after lying on it for five minutes. Several mattress retailers, such as Okooko, now offer the option of free nights’ trial,. To be honest, only in the comfort of your home after several nights, if not weeks, can you tell if this is the one for you.
There is an old adage, spend money on shoes and your mattress, if you’re not in one, you’re in the other. This is so true, unfortunately many people, especially in Hong Kong, spend on their shoes and compromise on their mattress!
Rochelle LePine is the Managing Director of Okooko Hong Kong.