“I need a firm bed for my back.” That is the answer given most often when a
consumer is asked what type of bed they prefer. This misguided approach to bed
buying was pounded into the consumers’ heads by a load of advertising and
marketing heaped on the North American public, particularly over a 30 year period
starting in 1980, by some of the largest sellers in the mattress industry. And during
that time the medical community at large spent very little time on the study of sleep
related to sleep equipment, even many respected doctors were recommending a
Why would this happen? Until about 1980 most beds were made of materials that
were soft and comfortable. Then many of the largest suppliers realized that it was
much cheaper to make a hard bed than a comfortable one. All they needed to do
was convince the public that sleeping on a hard bed was better for them and they
could make more money. By using some of these newfound riches to advertise the
benefits of their firm bed and to convince professionals trusted by the consumers to
recommend firm beds, many of these companies exploded in size. But is a firm bed
really better for you?
Of course “firm” is a relative term and can be defined differently by individual
consumers. But just think rationally. Your spine is curved, so any surface that
forces the spine into an unnatural position cannot logically be good for you. The
effect any unnatural position may have on your spinal health and sleep quality will
be related the general ability of your spine to conform to that position. As a kid I
could go camping, sleeping on the ground, sleep all night and wake up ready to play.
Today not only would I sleep very little, it would take hours if not days to get my
spine back to normal.
Only a bed that allows the spine to be in its normal condition, usually defined by its
shape in the standing position, will provide you with proper back support. This
means a bed that conforms to you, not you to it. Plus, as I spelled out in my earlier
article on the relation of pressure and sleep quality, sleeping on a too firm bed also
causes tossing and turning during the night disrupting the deep sleep we all require.
Look for more information on the relationship of bed to health in future articles.