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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 19 May 2013 18:12 #1

Hi Phoenix,

I asked you in a different post about covers for a 1” topper, but as it turns out, this topper will probably be returned, as it’s not providing enough softness for my shoulders. I’m not sure what direction to in for a new latex topper. I’ve read extensively about your advice on toppers on this forum, but please do let know if I’ve missed essential threads, or if you have any specific advice for my situation.

I have the Aspen Firm mattress from Bedrooms & More, which is a tri-zoned (firmer in hip area) pocket coil mattress, 1.5” 28 ILD Dunlop on both sides, and wool quilting. I’m happy with the quality of the mattress, but I bought it while a mostly stomach, and sometimes back sleeper. Within a couple of weeks on this very supportive, firm mattress, I was sleeping more on my back and side, and now, about 2 months after buying the mattress, I am almost exclusively sleeping on my side. (Before this bed, I had a weak, plush Simmons innerspring mattress on which I was never able to break the habit of stomach sleeping in strange positions, which caused lots of neck pain. Interestingly, it was only a very supportive bed that was able to break this habit for me.)

Sleeping on my side on the Aspen firm mattress with no topper was causing me pressure point issues, and maybe exacerbating my pre-existing upper back pain, but I still really enjoyed the overall firmness of the bed, so I decided to try out a 1” soft Dunlop topper from sleepwarehouse. I’ve had this topper for a few weeks, but it’s not providing enough softness. My partner looked at my side sleeping profile on the mattress both with and without the 1” topper, and said that my spine looks straight in the hip and mid back area, but curves upwards around the shoulders, indicating my shoulders are not sinking in far enough. I am also tilting my body forward while positioned on my side, which I’ve read is sometimes caused by a too firm bed, and which I think is causing more shoulder/neck/upper back pain.

Based on the advice on this forum and my specs (I am 5’4 and 154 pounds), I would think I need a softer 2“-3” topper. I did try a 2” soft N2 latex topper from SLB around the time I was transitioning between the old and new mattress, which was too soft on both mattresses (waking up more back pain). I also tend to prefer Dunlop, so I just went to Bedrooms & More again and tested out their 2” and 3” soft Dunlop toppers on the Aspen Firm floor model. On the 2” topper, my shoulders sunk in a little more, but I was still tilting forward and spine curving upwards around the shoulders, so I guessed there wasn’t enough softness and/or depth. However, on the 3” topper, while the problem of anterior tilting disappeared and my shoulders sunk in more, it caused my hips to dip in too much, making my body almost into a V shape.

So, I’m not sure which direction I should go next. Based on the fact that I want my shoulders to sink in more, but my hips to stay in mostly the same position, I wonder if I should try a zoned topper, but there are none to try out in Seattle. I can still return the 1” sleepwarehouse topper if I do so right away, but I wonder if simply adding 1” of softer Talalay (such as 19 ILD Talatech), might be what I need, since I did think that a full 2” of N2 soft Talalay was not supportive enough for my personal preferences. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. My apologies for the length of this posting – I wanted to get down all of the variables for my own reference as well, and certainly don’t expect a reply to each part.

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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 19 May 2013 23:27 #2

Hi Dahlia,

You've probably seen this but just in case ... post #2 here and the posts it links to have topper suggestions and links to the better sources I'm aware of.

My partner looked at my side sleeping profile on the mattress both with and without the 1” topper, and said that my spine looks straight in the hip and mid back area, but curves upwards around the shoulders, indicating my shoulders are not sinking in far enough. I am also tilting my body forward while positioned on my side, which I’ve read is sometimes caused by a too firm bed, and which I think is causing more shoulder/neck/upper back pain.


You're most likely correct on both counts (your shoulders aren't sinking in far enough and this can also lead to leaning your body forward to help relieve pressure).

While toppers can involve some trial and error ... if I had to guess given your feedback about the 3" topper and your other comments I'd probably go with 2" and hopefully from a source where you are able to return it. 24 ILD Talalay may also be worth trying because it would allow your shoulders to sink in a little more easily than a similar ILD of Dunlop and is slightly firmer than the N2 (and your experience on the N2 may not have been a reliable indicator if you tested it in the first week or two of having your mattress). If they have Talalay toppers at Bedrooms and more it may be worth trying on the Aspen.
Brooklyn Bedding also allows returns on their Talalay toppers (less shipping costs).

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.

Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 20 May 2013 01:51 #3

I asked you in a different post about covers for a 1” topper, but as it turns out, this topper will probably be returned, as it’s not providing enough softness for my shoulders. .


I'm not sure what Phoenix would say about this method. But I'm currently really enjoying sleeping on a firm mattress, bare - e.g., without a topper. I do find that I have to be a little more careful in "arranging" myself on the mattress. I can't just flop on it any which way like I used to with my previous pillowtop. But I find there are other advantages to a firm mattress that make me enjoy it.

Your saying there's not enough padding for your shoulders... Have you tried playing with your pillows a little? On my firm mattress, when I lie on my back, I have to make sure the pillows are pulled down all the way to the bottom of my neck. This raises my shoulders off the bed a little.

Although I personally don't do this to relieve pressure on my shoulders, I do it to relieve pressure on my neck.

There's a similar thing when I sleep on my side. On my side, I always have one arm Under the pillow. I find on a firm mattress, I can't angle this arm too far toward the top of the bed. It pretty much has to be parallel to the top of the bed.

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Last edit: by levander.

Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 20 May 2013 10:05 #4

Hi levander,

I'm not sure what Phoenix would say about this method. But I'm currently really enjoying sleeping on a firm mattress, bare - e.g., without a topper. I do find that I have to be a little more careful in "arranging" myself on the mattress. I can't just flop on it any which way like I used to with my previous pillowtop. But I find there are other advantages to a firm mattress that make me enjoy it.


I think that each person is unique and if someone finds something that works well for them then personal experience would 'trump" theory.

This would be a "riskier" construction and sleeping style and most people who are side sleepers would usually have better alignment and pressure relief with a thicker softer top layer (or topper) because it allows the shoulders to sink in more (especially men) which aligns the spine better, helps maintain a neutral position and prevents torsion or "twisting" forces on the spine. If someone finds a sleeping position that works well for them though then it doesn't really matter how well it may work for someone else or even "most people" IMO. It's just one of those instances where someone is in a lower probability group and "outside the norm" that makes them unique.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.

Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 20 May 2013 17:09 #5

Thank you, Phoenix, for your kind feedback. I think you made a good point that I only tried out the N2 topper for a short time in the first week of my new mattress, so my experience there is not really a good indicator of success. I'm leaning now towards trying a 2" Brooklyn Bedding topper, as you suggested. They really do have a great return policy.

In your opinion, would there be any advantage to keeping my 1" Medium-Soft Dunlop topper, and simply adding an inch of softer Talalay (19 or 24 ILD) on top of that? I wonder if there might be a benefit to having a two thinner layers, one of which is a little more supportive than the other. (I also wouldn't have to pay shipping costs back to sleepwarehouse, which would be nice!)

Hi levander,
Thanks for your comment as well. I have tried switching out my pillows and rearranging myself on the mattress, but I already do quite a bit of tossing and turning before sleep (insomnia), so putting my arms in a certain position isn't the most appealing right now. I'm always interested in hearing about how others have made their beds work for them in different ways, though - probably one of many insomniacs on the site who find this fascinating :)

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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 20 May 2013 18:06 #6

Hi DahliaM,

Two one inch layers will "act" a little softer than the same thickness in a single 2" topper in an equivalent ILD because they compress a little bit more independently (this is also the reason that a pillowtop construction where the edges have more free movement can "act" a little softer than the same materials inside a tight top cover because they act more independently from the other layers).

It is also a little more difficult to find 1" layers at the best prices because they are less commonly sold. I also don't know the ILD of your medium soft Dunlop topper which could be noticeably firmer than soft Talalay and you are probably looking for "softer" to "allow" your shoulders more than firmer which could "stop" them more quickly.

Having said that ... the difference would probably be so small that it would really be impossible to quantify how you would feel the difference in either version (combination or a single topper) and the benefits or downside of the increased firmness and compression modulus of the 1" Dunlop underneath it would be small in a layer this thin.

So the bottom line is that I really don't know enough about the Dunlop and how it would interact with you in combination with another 1" topper to even make a guess as to how it would compare to a single 2" topper with a consistent ILD and if you do decide to go in this direction then your actual experience would be the real test as to whether the increased softness was "enough" for you.

I would also calculate the costs of returning the 1" layer (how much it would end up costing you) and then add that to the cost of a 2" topper and compare the total to the cost of another 1" layer from somewhere that offers it like SLAB plus what you paid for the Dunlop 1" topper to see which direction would be the most cost effective. I would also factor in the possibility of having to return the Dunlop topper anyway if the combination of 1" layers turned out to be firmer or thinner than you needed.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.

Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 20 May 2013 19:33 #7

Hi Phoenix,

Very reasonable points! I did some math, and with the higher cost of a 1" Talalay layer, it would actually be more cost effective for me to return the 1" Dunlop topper and get a brand new 2" set-up from BB, rather than experiment inch-by-inch.

I didn't mention the ILD of my 1" Dunlop topper previously, as you've pointed in other interesting posts that the Dunlop ILD's on the sleepwarehouse site are almost certainly misstated (as well as on the sites of some other retailers that sell Dunlop toppers, indicating it may be a error originating on the manufacturer's side?) According to sleepwarehouse, I have a medium-soft 4.7 lb 16-18 ILD topper, but I'm sure the ILD is something closer to the mid-20's or even higher. The quality of the topper is good, but it definitely feels firmer than 18 ILD.

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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 21 May 2013 02:11 #8

probably one of many insomniacs on the site who find this fascinating :)


I still have some problems with insomnia, but several years ago I did a LOT of work with a book on sleep hygiene. I loved that book and have recommended it to a few people. The one person who actually took the advice loved the book too. It was No More Sleepless Nights by Peter Hauri. There's a workbook version and a text version. I've never used the workbook, I just read the text.

That and I found out I'm bipolar and take a med for it in the morning. Between those two things, I sleep pretty good now.

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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 02 Jun 2013 13:20 #9

Thanks, Levander - "No More Sleepless Nights" looks like it might be useful, so I put a hold on it at the library. I've been told a lot about sleep hygiene, but probably need a book for it to "sink in" (too much thinking about latex - I can't stop using that phrase :P). I've also been practicing Alexander Technique, which has actually helped with insomnia and pain issues a lot.

I went ahead and bought a 2" 24 ILD topper from BB (BB actually strongly recommended 3", but I thought it wiser to go with Phoenix's advice, since in my own experience 3" caused too much sinking in of the hips). I've only been sleeping on it for 4 nights, so it's a little early to know if it will help with my upper back/shoulder pain (so far, no), but I am concerned that the extra softness is now also causing my spine to dip around my lower back/hips. It's just an uncomfortable feeling for me to sink down so much around my pelvis, although there are no pain issues (yet). Based on other posts around the forum, it does seem like it's pretty difficult for curvy women to get side sleeping exactly right.

It's too bad, because my firm mattress without a topper feels wonderful for back sleeping - but I find it hard to fall asleep on my back. If this great topper experiment doesn't work, I might have to "force" myself, though.

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Recommendation for latex topper for new side sleeper with upper back pain 02 Jun 2013 18:04 #10

Hi DahliaM,

but I am concerned that the extra softness is now also causing my spine to dip around my lower back/hips. It's just an uncomfortable feeling for me to sink down so much around my pelvis, although there are no pain issues (yet).


If there are no "symptoms" then this may just be a part of your own adjustment because adding extra thickness and softness will always "allow" the hips/pelvis to sink in a little more than it was before (and of course it also "allows" the shoulders to sink in more as well). The key is always to sink in more evenly so that the spine is better supported in its natural curve.

As you mentioned curvy body types can be more challenging because the difference between the waist and hips (usually in women) or between the waist and shoulders (usually in men) is larger. In these cases some form of "zoning" can also be helpful to add some extra support under the recessed gaps in the body by adding a rolled up towel or blanket under the mattress under the waist for example (mostly if there are lower back issues). If this helps then a relatively thin layer of foam in the same place can sometimes be helpful. With curvier body types then there is more risk of the spine bending down into the mattress even if the rest of the spine is well supported.

In your case though it appears that the issue seems more related to the shoulders and upper back which usually indicates a need for a little more softness/thickness for the shoulders to sink into or a pillow issue (head and neck alignment can also affect the shoulders and upper back).

In some cases shoulder issues can also indicate a comfort layer that is a little too thick/soft which can allow the midback to sink in too deeply and "push" the shoulders forward but this is more typical of back sleepers.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.
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