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How to Choose the Right Mattress and the Right Firmness

Tips, Dr. Hall Tips & Tricks
How to Choose the Right Mattress and the Right Firmness



The wrong mattress can cause back pain, create unnecessary heat and be a major cause of sleep loss. Choosing the right mattress and firmness can support your spine, keep you cool and give you comfort. Getting these three things right are paramount in getting good sleep and improving your health.


Here’s WHY

The two most important factors of a great mattress are support and comfort, with staying relatively cool coming in at a close third. The spine really needs support.  It needs it to help lengthen and decompress our bodies and reduce the stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and discs.

1)  Support:   The support is created by two things in a good mattress:  The independent springs and the careful selection of the premium foam layers of the mattress.  The key to both of these two critical components is the proper level of “push back”, or in other words, what type of gravitational resistance the mattress can produce to support the curves of your spine. But the spine (and our bodies as a whole) also needs pressure relieving comfort that can also only be delivered through the correct materials/foams.  The comfort is a critical aspect of selecting a mattress, and as you’ll read in a minute, the firmness will greatly depend upon a person’s weight and age.  Also, if a person has painful pressure points, e.g. in the outer hip region, the knees, the shoulders, etc., this can definitely disrupt sleep.  So a good pressure relieving surface is also important. 

The need and adequacy of the support of the spine is not well understood by most people selling mattresses. Do you need a lot of support to accentuate the “hollow” or “lordotic” curves of your spine like in your low back and neck or do you need to decrease the curves of the mid back (kyphosis) and sacrum; which tend to lengthen out the spine and make you a bit taller?  The answer is you need to do both; to support the curves (lordosis)  and flatten or lengthen the rounded areas (kyphosis).  A good mattress will do just that.  My new JUST SLEEP mattresses with my "TRICOMFORT(TM)  design" has an independent spring system that gives your spine an active sensory recovery in the undersurfaces and a layer of Talalay Latex Support that further inhances the supportive resiliency.  Then, in all three mattresses in the collection I have imported a Coconut based upper surface layer that optimizes pressure relief and temperature control for a persons comfort.  Both the latex (which is basically derived from the sap or “milk” of a rubber tree and the plant based coconut derived foams have an open cell structural property that allows them to actively recover very quickly yet still have a tremendous pressure relieving quality.  The are the two most brilliant foams available and are the two most complicated foams to make but I have decided to spare no expense and not compromise in the quest of creating the most premium mattress available on the market, period. The active recovery (AR) or what I like referr to as the “resilence” is the key to a good supportive mattress. As mentioned, “resilence” is push-back or the inherient ability to spring back quickly yet softly, giving you comfort and pressure relief, and using the small independent supple yet resistive springs that are lined with cotton as an undercarriage for the foam allows me to use a softer and more comfortable upper layer(s) and still have the support. Both the coconut and the latex foams are both much more expensive to make because of the materials needed rather than that of a polyol crude oil based memory foam, but they are more durable, better at relieving pressure, cooler and most importantly in a mattress, they give you different layers of supportive comfort.

And so important to most people, the plant based foams mentioned above don’t appreciably off gas and are certified to not contain harmful substances.  Memory foam on the other hand is just that; a foam that memorizes your imprint but doesn’t give you a literal push-back resistance and furthermore has an exceedingly slow recovery. Memory foam gives you the classic “sag” effect, what many people describe as a lack of support.  Memory foam molds to your body and allows good pressure relieve, but essentially gives no push back recovery which is truly what the spine needs.


Let me give you an example of everything I just spoke about: While on your back, the mid back needs pressure to lengthen and straighten and the low back (and neck with your pillow) need to have support under the curves and not be allowed to completely straighten.  The good thing is that it will take the same amount of pressure to straighten the mid back as it does to support the low back. Therefore, one sleep surface push back recovery is what you need. Pushback support is important for side sleepers, as well.  The spine needs to stay straight and not allow for transient scoliosis, which also disturbs the weight-bearing distribution of the spine. But what level of push back is right for you and secondly, what mattress firmness is right for you? 

1)  First rule of thumb; look at the undercarriage:  Any bed system you choose should offer proper support of the spine whether you choose a plush, medium or even a firm and you should always elect a mattress  with a six-inch spring coil covered with cotton for resiliency as a base for any mattress, no matter what foam or other material makes up the top portion of the mattress.


2)  All sleepers are not alike.  For the best night’s sleep possible, it is important to sleep on a mattress with the level of firmness that is appropriate for you based on a) sleep position  b) history of back pain  c) age  d) body weight, and e) personal preference.  Use the chart below to determine which mattress is right for you.   If you can identify with and check off four or more in one firmness category, you would most likely benefit from that level of firmness in your mattress.


SOFT (or PLUSH)   

• Side sleeper or stomach sleeper

• Body weight of 110 pounds and under

• No back pain or minimal back pain

• Looking for ultimate, soft, pressure-relieving comfort

• Very thin body type

• All ages



• Back or Side sleeper

• Body weight of 110-200 pounds

• Back pain sufferer or seeking prevention of back pain

• Thin to medium build

• Age 10 to 100



• Back or side sleeper

• Body weight of 200 pounds or more

• Age 10 through 60

• Back pain sufferer or highly seeking prevention of back pain

• Prefer firmness over softness

• Slightly more body fat


The correct mattress firmness can make an important difference in the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.  Treat yourself to the mattress you deserve!  If you have any questions about this article or have any other considerations you would like me remark on, please don’t hesitate to call or write me at [email protected]


Dr Raymond Hall, DC

Inventor, Chiropractic Physician and CEO of Hall Innovations, LLC