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Resting or sleeping, your mattress makes the difference

By Sola Ogundipe

Do you know you spend roughly one-third of your life in bed? This equates to approximately 220,000 hours over the course of a lifetime. Whether it is to rest, or to sleep, a mattress is an indispensable part of your life.


Rest occurs with conscious breathing and allows the autonomic nervous system, ANS, to “rest”. This system controls many organs and muscles in the body. When the energy level goes down and wastes increase, there is tiredness and body needs rest. When you take rest, energy is restored.

Rest and sleep are dependent upon each individual’s ability to relax. If an individual is tensed, he cannot be in the state of rest. Rest is taken to counteract fatigue. Fatigue gives an indication that body needs rest. You should not ignore the signal and take rest when the body indicates it.


Sleep, on the other hand, is a natural state of rest for mind and body. Sleep occurs in a cycle like in four stages. Rest can be anytime you just lie down or be still where you are, while sleep is more deliberate and “organised”. Rest is important for health and sleep is a necessary factor.

Both are required for physical and mental activity to create energy. A good night’s sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and in rejuvenating the body, mind and soul. So it makes a lot of sense to invest in a good mattress and pillow to improve your comfort and overall health. Improving your sleep quality can be as simple as sleeping on a better mattress and pillow.

Sleeping position

Understanding the best sleeping position and what is necessary for your body and, how to get the best possible rest, every night, should not be left to chance. The position the spine is in while you sleep is critical to spinal health. The spine naturally curves forwards in the neck, backwards in the mid back and forwards again in the low back.

In this position, the spine is relaxed with minimal pressure on nerves, muscles and spinal discs. Logically, if you have back pain, bed rest can be useful, especially if you are in severe pain while sitting and standing, according to experts from Harvard Medical School. But it’s best to limit bed rest during the day to a few hours at a time, for no more than a couple of days.

Too much time in bed can actually do more harm than good. If you need to be horizontal, lie down on a bed or sofa, in any comfortable position. To ease the strain on your back, try putting pillows under your head and between your knees when lying on your side, under your knees when lying on your back, or under your hips when lying on your stomach. These positions reduce the forces that sitting or standing impose on the back — especially on the disks, ligaments, and muscles.

Bed rest

Bed rest is no longer the go-to treatment for moderate back strain. Although it does minimise stress on the lower spine, it can also create other problems. Too much time in bed weakens muscles, including those needed to support the back. Some people develop gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation.

Inactivity also boosts the chances of developing a blood clot in the veins of your pelvis and legs. This can hurt, and damage the affected vein. If a piece of the clot breaks away, it can lodge in the lungs. This condition, called pulmonary embolism, can be deadly.

But there’s another good reason to limit bed rest: well-designed research trials show that an early return to physical activity or work — with some restrictions or light duty, if necessary — is preferable to bed rest and staying home from work for an extended period.

Type of mattress

A good mattress is not simply determined by brand or price, but more by a combination of quality components; correct balance of support and comfort and; having a qualified health care professional assess your support needs. From research, a mattress should be replaced every five to seven years.

This is to ensure our changing bodies have  appropriate support. It is important to seek the best advice when changing your mattress. Even though there hasn’t been a great deal of research on the topic, studies do offer some guidance. Doctors used to recommend very firm mattresses. But in reality, people using the medium-firm mattresses report less pain when lying in bed as well as less pain-related disability compared with those with the firm mattresses.

Back pain

People with low back pain who sleep on orthopaedic (very firm) mattresses have the poorest sleep quality, while there is generally no difference in sleep quality between medium and firm mattresses. While a softer mattress that conforms to your body’s natural curves may help your joints align favorably, you might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night.

One way to find your dream mattress is to try out different ones. If you spend a night at a hotel or in someone else’s house, make note of how you feel after sleeping on the “new” bed. You can also try putting a plywood board under your current mattress (which will dampen any movement from bedsprings) or sleep for a few nights with your mattress on the floor (which simulates the feeling of a firm bed).


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.