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Andrew Lundsten

GB Recommended mattress and pillows

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Andrew Lundsten

Hi all, I'm in week 3 of fundamentals and loving it. I thought this would be a good question to pose here given GB's understanding of the body.

 

I spent about a month in Asia doing a ton of travel (including a week of intense motorcycle riding in the mountains of Vietnam). I noticed shortly after arriving the beds were very firm and largely forced me to sleep on my back (I generally fall asleep on my back or side and wake up on my side). It took some getting used to, but after that my back felt better.

 

After my first night back in the US on my american style mattress (memory foam from costco, not super soft but not super firm either), my back started hurting. This hasn't gone away.  GB fundamentals are helping a lot, but it seems clear I also need a change in sleeping.

 

Curious as to any thoughts from the GB team on recommended type of mattress (spring, foam, latex, combo) and any specific models?  Same type of question on pillow (low profile, down/synthetic down/polyester, etc).

 

Thanks!

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Michael George 192636

This is a topic I've been exploring as well.

1.  Sleeping on Hard Surface

I found this article fascinating on the benefits of sleeping on a hard surface, like most of the world's traditional populations do.

It would seem a soft, cushy bed would be better. But it's not. Very similar to the effects of thick cushioned shoes creating more stress on joints as compared to barefoot-like shoes. Counter intuitive, but so true (read Born to Run). My experiments have resulted in sleeping on a platform bed with only a simple 3 inch firm latex pad. And, again, like minimalist shoes, I had to gradually get used to it. Now I love it.

The whole concept of a mattress, a deep, soft place to rest our tired bones, is mistaken. More rejuvenation comes from less fluff. Lying on a soft surface -- with no distinct 'bottom' -- the muscles must hold a slight tension to, in effect, hold the body together. With a firm 'bottom' as support, the muscles are free to let go. The bones are what takes the brunt of the pressure, so the muscles with arteries and veins are free. And proper body alignment takes place. 

Another eye-opening article -- an anthropological approach to treatment of low back and joint pain -- this guy lived with native peoples all over the world and studied their sleeping and resting postures. Amazingly, they all adopted similar postures and exhibited few musculoskeletal problems.

2.  Inclined Beds

Another simple thing that can make a big difference for many people is inclined bed therapy.  You just prop up the head of your bed about 6 inches. That's all there is to it. Once you try it, it is difficult to go back. Google "incline bed therapy" and you'll find a website and facebook page.

If your feet get cold at night (or your wife's!) they won't any more. It seems adding just a tiny bit of gravity to the body during the night increases circulation in a significant way. People have reported a large variety of health benefits, but the predominance of testimonials show benefits for multiple sclerosis, edema, varicose veins and skin issues like psoriasis. Just like astronauts are prone to psoriasis with prolonged space flights, the lack of gravity seems to cause many health detriments. NASA continues to study the health issues that come with a lack of gravity. Fascinating talk here. And one way they do it is to have test subjects sleep with the head inclined DOWN. Just the opposite of the heads-up incline bed therapy that produces health benefits. I love it mostly because of the slight traction on my spine all night. Many have reported growing up to an inch taller after a few months, but I never measured my height.

3.  Non-Toxic Mattresses

Finally, when I read about the numerous toxic chemicals in conventional mattresses, I tried an experiment. I wrapped my mattress in some thick plastic sheeting from the hardware store. I was surprised that the next morning I woke up for the first time in many years with my nose free and clear. I thought it was 'normal' to wake up with a stuffy nose in the morning. It had been that way as long as I can remember. Then I started investigating non-toxic sleeping options.

I have come across many fascinating things, but what I have shared above have the most bang for the buck. Just because junk food, cushy shoes and cushy beds look good, looks can be deceiving.

 

 

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Eva Pelegrin

Thank you Michael for sharing. I sleep in a 20+ years firm mattress and have been wanting to change it to a firmer surface for a while but I don't think I want to shock my body and go straight to the floor in one step. It's one of those things I haven't done yet because I rarely have the time to shop in person and this is something you have to at least touch/try once.

@Michael George 192636 As a transitional step, would you recommend placing a latex pad on top of a firm bed, prior to placing it on a harder platform?

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Michael George 192636

Eva:  I don't think putting the pad on top will make a difference. Your firm mattress sounds good to me.

Years ago while waiting a month for the moving truck, my wife and I slept on top of a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor of our New York City apartment. At the time, I was surprised how well we slept. I expected it to be awful. If you have a sleeping bag, try that. Or your tumbling mat. Or two yoga mats. Just for a few nights. That will give you a taste of a firmer sleep surface. You may not like it.

If you haven't tried it, I'm thinking you will be most impressed if you can find two six-inch blocks to put under the legs at the head of your bed. That creates a five degree incline. I had to start with 4 inches and work up. Two old phone books might work. Or bricks. A little gravity while you sleep will speed recovery.

 

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Julia Quigley

This thread is fascinating! Hadn't thought of inclining my bed, but I'd like to try it. 

There are bed lifts on Amazon for as cheap as $10. I used them in college to get more height under my bed for storage, but they'd be perfect for this. 

As a kid, I used to sometimes prefer sleeping on the floor without a pillow. The carpet and carpet padding was enough for me.

As an adult, the idea of sleeping on the floor creeps me out because I have an irrational fear of bugs crawling on me in the night, lol! But an elevated, hard platform? I can get behind that. I have a pretty firm ikea mattress now, but I might consider "downgrading" in the future. 

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Briac Roquet

That one time you want a sloped floor....

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Leonhard Krahé

Thanks for the thread!
I've been thinking a lot about "what to do for the sleeping situation", too, since I have some really nasty pain from tightness in my upper back that was usually worst right after waking up. What has been helping best so far was changing my mattress to a harder one that I found at my parents' (need to buy one that is even firmer) and really minimizing my pillows to a very small and flat one - tried it without any but I just can't get to sleep on my arms as a pillow (yet). It also seems that a very firm mattress is recommended for my preferred sleeping position which is on my stomach with tendency to a first-aid type of recovery position.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly), the best sleep I had in the recent past was when I had someone stay at my place and I gave them my bed and slept on the floor with a camping mat and sleeping bag - on the other side, my back always hurts when I sleep on a very soft mattress at my mom's place.

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Jon Douglas

I must admit i rolled my eyes a little when I saw the thread title, but there's some genuinely interesting points raised there. Personally i can't stand too soft a bed, and having lived in Japan several years went straight to the (tatami) floor. Very comfortable (although require a lot of vacuuming)

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Dorian Brown

I would say you got to use what is right for your body. Most people probably aren't sleeping on a bed that is right for their body type. A lot of people go to the store they sit on a bed for like 2 min and buy it. However you're going to be sleeping on a bed for at least 6-8 hours. When I buy a mattress I like to lay on it and see if my body sinks in just enough to put my body in alignment without causing discomfort. Finally get a latex mattress, if you want an all natural pure talalay latex mattress it will be expensive but a dunlop talalay mix usually isn't that bad.

This is great website to see the differences in mattress and what might work best for you. Currently I have a dunlop/talalay mattress with medium firmness and I can't really remember the last time I woke up sore or with pain.

http://www.sleeplikethedead.com/

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Andrew Lundsten

(Sry looks like this never got posted and I was traveling for the past few weeks)

This is awesome thanks so much @Michael George 192636!  Very interesting stuff.

I actually slept on top of a medium weight polyester comforter from ikea on the floor last night (on top of wall to wall carpet less than 4 years old). Was a bit uncomfortable at first, and even though I woke up earlier this morning, I still felt pretty good. Might see how long I can go for.

Interesting to hear you ended up with latex. I think the beds in vietnam were just normal cotton and only about 4 inches thick, which felt a bit like a softer floor, which is why I think I liked it.

I've heard of the inclined bed recommendation and will have to try that out.

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Jenna Jamieson

When we were looking for a mattress for our toddler daughter, we instantly gravitated towards Latex. Mostly because of its hypoallergenic properties, but also because it is so much easier to clean than a foam mattress. It won't soak any moisture into the fiber, so as long as I dry it properly and sanitize it, I can feel assured my kid won't get a rash.

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