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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 16 Jul 2013 20:22 #1

Hi Phoenix and other mattress gurus,

I was hoping to get your help selecting the layers for my latex mattress. I purchased a king sized firm latex mattress from the Natural Mattress Store, and I have done one comfort exchange to the medium. Unfortunately, neither the firm nor the medium is working well for me.

As background, I have a herniated disk and a sensitive back. Back in 2005, I had to cycle through 4 beds before I found one that was the right firmness -- a plush, non-pillowtop Simmons Beautyrest. That bed died on me, and my wife and I decided to go to a king latex. I'm a side sleeper although sometimes I end up on my back or rarely my stomach during the night.

The firm mattress that I bought from the Natural Mattress Store was:

Top Layer: 3" FIRM Talalay Latex - (ILD range is 30-35 for Firm Talalay)
Center Layer: 3" X-Firm Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 40-49 for X-Firm Dunlop)
Bottom Layer: 3" Medium Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 25-30 for Medium Dunlop)

The mattress was a bit too firm -- I sometimes woke up with shoulder or upper back pain. I tried switching the bottom and center layers but it didn't help much.

I then made a comfort exchange where I replaced the top layer with a medium talalay, ILD 25-30. the medium dunlop is now in the middle, and the x-firm dunlop is on the bottom.

I now experience lower back pain and sore glutes when laying in the bed on my back (e.g. using my iphone). Sleeping on my side seems to be fine, but I sometimes wake up with a sore back and I think it happens when I end up flopping onto my back in my sleep. I can't tell for sure but I think it is because my hips are sinking in too much.

I never had this problem with my old Simmons Beautyrest, even when I first got it. In case it matters, the mattress is just sitting on our carpeted floor -- no bed or boxspring yet.

I'd love to get your thoughts on what configuration would most likely work on my back. Thanks very much for your thoughts!

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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 16 Jul 2013 22:30 #2

Hi Skins0815,

Top Layer: 3" FIRM Talalay Latex - (ILD range is 30-35 for Firm Talalay)
Center Layer: 3" X-Firm Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 40-49 for X-Firm Dunlop)
Bottom Layer: 3" Medium Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 25-30 for Medium Dunlop)

The mattress was a bit too firm -- I sometimes woke up with shoulder or upper back pain. I tried switching the bottom and center layers but it didn't help much.


This is an unusual and "non standard" layering with the softest layer on the bottom and a firm layer on top and would also be very different from the plush Beautyrest you were used to which would have soft comfort layers over firmer support. The firmness of the comfort layer could cause shoulder pressure issues for many people and possible alignment issues as well because it may not have allowed your shoulders to sink in far enough which would "raise" the upper body relative to your pelvis. This could be somewhat aggravated by having the softest layer on the bottom which could also allow your pelvis to sink in further relative to your upper body although this would also depend on your weight and how deeply you are compressing the deeper layers of the mattress as a whole. Normally the softest layer is used on top and then the layers would progressively get firmer as you go down and if you need a little more firmness and support closer to the body then the top layer would normally remain the same and the bottom two layers would be reversed to provide a little extra firmness directly under the softer comfort layer.

While it's not really possible for me to know for certain at a distance what could be causing any symptoms ... it looks to me like they were very likely connected to the firmness of your upper layer not allowing your shoulders to sink in enough and possibly putting your upper body out of alignment. If this was the case then the next increment of change would normally have been putting the softest layer you have available on top and seeing how well it worked for your shoulders and upper body.

A typical combination for these layers would either be Medium/Firm/X-firm or Medium/X-Firm/Firm (for firmer support under the softer top comfort layer).

I then made a comfort exchange where I replaced the top layer with a medium talalay, ILD 25-30. the medium dunlop is now in the middle, and the x-firm dunlop is on the bottom.

I now experience lower back pain and sore glutes when laying in the bed on my back (e.g. using my iphone). Sleeping on my side seems to be fine, but I sometimes wake up with a sore back and I think it happens when I end up flopping onto my back in my sleep. I can't tell for sure but I think it is because my hips are sinking in too much.


This was quite a large adjustment and it seems you may jumped right over your potential best combination and gone from one end of the range to the other and now your top two layers may be too soft. While your shoulders are probably sinking in enough now, your pelvis is probably sinking down too far when you are on your back especially. It probably would have been better to try the medium Dunlop (which is edging towards soft) on top in your original configuration but with the layers you have now you will likely need the softer Talalay on top and the firmest support would be with the X-Firm Dunlop in the middle and the medium (almost soft) Dunlop on the bottom although once again, depending on your weight, having a relatively soft layer on the bottom may not be ideal if you need firmer support yet.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by Phoenix.

Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 17 Jul 2013 10:02 #3

Thanks Phoenix. For what it's worth, i'm 5"10, 155 lbs (slim build). Would this change your recommendation of trying medium Talalay on top // xfirm dunop middle // medium dunlop on bottom? Or would you recommend doing another comfort exchange to the medium dunlop on top // firm talalay middle // X-Firm dunlop on bottom? Or something else that seems like it could work better?

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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 17 Jul 2013 11:30 #4

>>Skins0815 wrote:

>>As background, I have a herniated disk and a sensitive back. Back in 2005, I had to cycle through 4 beds before I found one that was the right firmness -- a plush, non-pillowtop Simmons Beautyrest. That bed died on me, and my wife and I decided to go to a king latex. I'm a side sleeper although sometimes I end up on my back or rarely my stomach during the night.

What is your height and weight?

Edit: I see... you are on the light side, so lower firmness ratings would suffice, particularly to allow sinking in to achieve cradling/pressure relief.

Tweaking 100% Latex could be more troublesome than finding a built mattress that suits your particular needs. Going King-size complicates the cost and handling.

>>The firm mattress that I bought from the Natural Mattress Store was:
Top Layer: 3" FIRM Talalay Latex - (ILD range is 30-35 for Firm Talalay)
Center Layer: 3" X-Firm Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 40-49 for X-Firm Dunlop)
Bottom Layer: 3" Medium Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 25-30 for Medium Dunlop)

As I see it, this is a progressive 3x3" kit in a differential configuration with a too firm comfort layer and a too soft transition support layer hidden on the bottom. The surface looks hard. The cradle looks firm and shallow. The support firmness progression is out of natural order. Sinking in/Pressure relief looks poor. Sinking down/Neutral alignment looks poor.

I would prefer starting with a 3x3" kit that looked more like this where the softer ratings are for a lower weight per area sleeper (and for the upper body zone, if zoned) and the firmer ratings are for a higher weight per area sleeper (and for the lower body zone, if zoned):

3" 14-28 ILD Talalay comfort layer (zone second, if zoned)
3" 24-36 ILD Talalay (or Dunlop) transition support layer (zone first, if zoned)
3" 36-44 ILD Talalay or Dunlop support layer

Given that the 3" comfort layer is similar to the average side sleeping gap, the transition support layer provides less comfort layer/cradle assist and more support layer support, so it should favor the firmer ratings, and would benefit from Dunlop compressing firmer sooner for quicker support/less sinking down.

Note that a 2" comfort layer would require more comfort layer/cradle assist from the transition support layer for the same sleeping profile. And would yield a cradle with a more progressive firmness... cradle tuning that could suit some better than others. And would be a reason to add a fourth layer to deepen the support core layer.

zzz

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Last edit: by sleeping.

Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 17 Jul 2013 16:14 #5

Hi Skins0815,

Thanks Phoenix. For what it's worth, i'm 5"10, 155 lbs (slim build). Would this change your recommendation of trying medium Talalay on top // xfirm dunop middle // medium dunlop on bottom? Or would you recommend doing another comfort exchange to the medium dunlop on top // firm talalay middle // X-Firm dunlop on bottom? Or something else that seems like it could work better?


Once you have made your initial choices in a mattress ... height and weight have little to do with any adjustments and your own experience is the most important guideline (although every piece of additional information is still useful to know as part of a bigger picture).

My overall approach is always to very carefully assess the most likely reasons for any actual "symptoms" you are experiencing and then make small and incremental changes that have the best odds of moving you towards your ideal configuration. It's also best to test each combination for at least a week or so so that it reduces most of the other variables that can affect how you sleep that can happen over the course of a day or two and also give your body time to "catch up" to any changes.

"Theory" is only one small piece of the puzzle and can make a good starting point or be used as a guideline for the "direction" of a change but it is always secondary to your actual experience because each person is unique and "theory" is only based on averages ... not on the specifics of each person.

So yes ... my comments would still apply ... and I would make adjustments very slowly and deliberately.

Phoenix
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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 18 Jul 2013 14:21 #6

sleeping wrote: >>Skins0815 wrote:

>>As background, I have a herniated disk and a sensitive back. Back in 2005, I had to cycle through 4 beds before I found one that was the right firmness -- a plush, non-pillowtop Simmons Beautyrest. That bed died on me, and my wife and I decided to go to a king latex. I'm a side sleeper although sometimes I end up on my back or rarely my stomach during the night.

What is your height and weight?

Edit: I see... you are on the light side, so lower firmness ratings would suffice, particularly to allow sinking in to achieve cradling/pressure relief.

Tweaking 100% Latex could be more troublesome than finding a built mattress that suits your particular needs. Going King-size complicates the cost and handling.

>>The firm mattress that I bought from the Natural Mattress Store was:
Top Layer: 3" FIRM Talalay Latex - (ILD range is 30-35 for Firm Talalay)
Center Layer: 3" X-Firm Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 40-49 for X-Firm Dunlop)
Bottom Layer: 3" Medium Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 25-30 for Medium Dunlop)

As I see it, this is a progressive 3x3" kit in a differential configuration with a too firm comfort layer and a too soft transition support layer hidden on the bottom. The surface looks hard. The cradle looks firm and shallow. The support firmness progression is out of natural order. Sinking in/Pressure relief looks poor. Sinking down/Neutral alignment looks poor.

I would prefer starting with a 3x3" kit that looked more like this where the softer ratings are for a lower weight per area sleeper (and for the upper body zone, if zoned) and the firmer ratings are for a higher weight per area sleeper (and for the lower body zone, if zoned):

3" 14-28 ILD Talalay comfort layer (zone second, if zoned)
3" 24-36 ILD Talalay (or Dunlop) transition support layer (zone first, if zoned)
3" 36-44 ILD Talalay or Dunlop support layer

Given that the 3" comfort layer is similar to the average side sleeping gap, the transition support layer provides less comfort layer/cradle assist and more support layer support, so it should favor the firmer ratings, and would benefit from Dunlop compressing firmer sooner for quicker support/less sinking down.

Note that a 2" comfort layer would require more comfort layer/cradle assist from the transition support layer for the same sleeping profile. And would yield a cradle with a more progressive firmness... cradle tuning that could suit some better than others. And would be a reason to add a fourth layer to deepen the support core layer.

zzz


Let's see where theory would have taken this...

Given the initial purchase... too firm:

Top Layer: 3" FIRM Talalay Latex - (ILD range is 30-35 for Firm Talalay)
Center Layer: 3" X-Firm Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 40-49 for X-Firm Dunlop)
Bottom Layer: 3" Medium Dunlop Latex - (ILD range is 25-30 for Medium Dunlop)

And your profile:

5'-10 and 155 lbs... taller but lighter so about average weight per area... i.e. not at any extremes... on the light side. Layers could be 'relatively' thinner and/or softer... if not, then know to expect a corresponding response from them, particularly the comfort layer.

And a theoretical starting point:

3" 14-28 ILD Talalay comfort layer (zone second, if zoned)
3" 24-36 ILD Talalay (or Dunlop) transition support layer (zone first, if zoned)
3" 36-44 ILD Talalay or Dunlop support layer

Theory's first adjustment to the initial purchase would have been to try:

25-30 ILD Dunlop comfort layer
30-35 ILD Talalay transition support layer
40-49 ILD Dunlop support layer

It would be preferable to have the Talalay on top, but the comfort layer firmness is more important; and having the progressive support firmness in the middle transition support layer is also more important. Did you try this combination before doing your first comfort exchange?

As I see it, theory has proposed a first adjustment with existing materials that could have then been refined with a comfort exchange, if required. With your weight, I see pretty good support depending on the actual numbers for the 30-35 ILD. I would be concerned about the cradling/pressure relief offered by the 25-30 ILD... 30 is feeling hard... 25 is trending soft but would still feel firm under the cover... and your slight build may tolerate the firmer feel. The thing to watch is how the cover and comfort layer firmness affects the cradle for your build... 3" is thick... a too shallow of a cradle can keep you from reaching the support below.

Moving on to the first comfort exchange... sore back and butt:

25-30 ILD Talay comfort layer (via exchange)
25-30 ILD Dunlop transition support layer
40-49 ILD Dunlop support layer

Theory's next first adjustment would be:

Unfortunately, theory thinks you are going to miss that 30-35 ILD layer you sent back. Perhaps you can get it back in a Dunlop flavor. 6" of 25-30 ILD is going to keep you bending and hurting. You will need to move the 40-49 ILD up into the middle to keep you supported, or just remove the 25-30 ILD Dunlop for now, but what will be left will be pretty firm.

Here's a quote from The Natural Mattress Store website... very typical of kit builders:

"The Awareness is a layered latex mattress comprised of three 3" layers of both Talalay and Dunlop latex. It is available in extra soft, soft, medium, firm and extra firm. Having a layered latex mattress with a zipper cover allows you to change the firmness in your home by simply repositioning the layers. You may never do this, but because our bodies change over time, it's great to be able to do so if you wish.

Our proprietary combinations of different densities of latex are designed to provide superior comfort and support in whatever firmness you choose."

3 layers of foam in a sack... shuffle them around until your heart's content. I need a little more theory than that.

zzz

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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 18 Jul 2013 15:16 #7

Hi sleeping,

Unfortunately, theory thinks you are going to miss that 30-35 ILD layer you sent back.


I would completely agree with this ... and it's not just theory but actual experience also points in this direction ... but before any further changes are made that may be counterproductive then it would make sense to test what is currently available to gain more information about the direction of change that would likely be most beneficial.

Phoenix
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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 18 Jul 2013 17:22 #8

Phoenix wrote: Hi sleeping,

Unfortunately, theory thinks you are going to miss that 30-35 ILD layer you sent back.


I would completely agree with this ... and it's not just theory but actual experience also points in this direction ... but before any further changes are made that may be counterproductive then it would make sense to test what is currently available to gain more information about the direction of change that would likely be most beneficial.

Phoenix


" Theory " seems to be a most appropriate characterization, and it can have basis in fact i.e. actual experience. I would not post here otherwise.

zzz

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Back problems with latex mattress -- help selecting latex mattress foam for a comfort exchange 18 Jul 2013 19:43 #9

Hi sleeping,

I don't think anyone would argue that theory or speculation isn't useful and is always a part of the basis for any decision where actual results are impossible to predict with certainty because there are too many variables and unknowns involved. This also begs the question about "which theory" should play the dominant role in any decision and the better the quality and quantity of information that a theory needs to explain the more likely it is to be successful. The very nature of theory is that there will always be competing versions to decide between. The bottom line is always which theory best includes and explains all the datapoints and gathering good datapoints to create the next iteration of a theory is often the limitation of the process ... especially if there is no voice communication and interaction involved. Once an initial theory has broken down to a smaller or larger degree (the initial choice wasn't as effective as they hoped) ... the more experiential information that a theory needs to explain and the higher the quality of that information the more it becomes possible to develop a new theory that fits and explains a specific set of circumstances and can predict the next . If the basis of a new theory is just more theory, then the value and importance of actual experience can often be lost and any theory itself may be built on a house of cards.

I don't think my point was about the definition of "theory" but more about putting undue emphasis on what any specific theory "predicts" when it conflicts with other theories, with personal experience, or creates unrealistic expectations that any theory has a level of certainty attached to it that it doesn't. The expectations that are attached to well meaning theories or speculation that may conflict are often part of a bigger problem itself. There are many people who tend to discount their own experiences when they appear to conflict with a "dominant theory" or practice that may not even apply to them and begin to second guess everything they do and often begin to make various "random" choices that that jump from choice to choice and don't follow any meaningful pattern. There are many examples of this throughout this and other forums and in the wider internet community as well.

Theory says for example that the large majority of people would do well with a basic 3x3 S/M/F configuration or a 6" + 2" design with soft over medium but theory itself in the context of mattress selection only holds true for the averages of larger groups of people and there are always exceptions where someone's personal experience doesn't match what theory says "should" have happened. In this case many people will often then just jump to the next theory (often based on an incomplete understanding of the possible causes behind what they are experiencing) without taking the time to do a more detailed analysis of their own experience and making sure that what they do next has the best possible odds of success. They will often use what is often a single free layer exchange in ways that are unproductive and less likely to be effective. Once the momentum of more "random" choices begins it can be difficult to stop the process of trying to find a shortcut to success before complete frustration sets in and they give up.

People are much too individual to use theory as anything more than a starting point or as one part of a process of shifting the odds in their favor where success is ultimately defined by the specifics of their experience regardless of how well it fits any theory. Once personal experience becomes part of the picture, then the next theoretical combination that may best apply to their circumstances may be very different from the first and remaining "loyal" to a theory, using a theory that has incomplete or misinterpreted information or feedback as its basis, or a theory that conflicts with actual experience can lead to frustration and confusion.

When personal experience and theory are in agreement at every step of the way then you have the best of both worlds and this makes things much easier to get to an ideal solution. When a theory is contradicted by actual experience ... then experience needs to "override" that specific theory and it needs to be replaced with one fits the changing circumstances and the new information available. Each new theory or movement towards it needs to be verified in personal experience to help determine whether the theory even applies to them in the first place. It's an interactive process of new experiences and new theories that each build on each other and on the step before it as more detailed information is gathered and more useful experience is added to the picture.

Working out a theory that may resolve a specific issue will often require much more detailed and nuanced information than is available on a forum. If the issue that needs correcting is misidentified or poorly expressed or understood then the odds are often very high that an inappropriate theory will be used to fix the wrong problem. Voice communication with someone who is knowledgeable and experienced can be much more effective than forum guidance based on the limitations of written information.

Since all theories are dependent on the quality and quantity of the data set they are trying to explain, the new experiences they are trying to predict, or the degree to which the cause of any issue has been accurately identified, it makes sense that as much information as possible is gathered before taking the next step. Sometimes a similar set of symptoms can have several very different causes at both ends of a spectrum. Once someone has slept on a mattress then an approach that is primarily experiential and takes a more slow and incremental step by step approach and first gathers all the information possible with what they have will usually put them in a better position to choose which of many conflicting theories has the best odds of success. This isn't because theory itself isn't involved, but because it elevates the importance of first gathering as much experiential information as possible before the next step of a theoretical approach is developed and not to get too far ahead of the process.

So theory is a great adjunct to experience but the "right theory" (rather than theory itself) based on accurately identifying the most likely causes for the issues that need to be corrected is much more useful than a theory that may explain the majority of experience but where the minority is often left unsatisfied and frustrated.

In the specific case of Skins0815 ... I agree with you that IMO the layer exchange they made reduced their overall chances of success rather than increased it (although experience may prove this wrong as well). I think the bigger "mistake" though was in not fully exploring the possibilities of what they already had so that the first layer exchange could be based on greater experience with layers that may have already worked well in some combination (with the possibility that a medium top layer may still have been too firm in any configuration).

That is spilled milk now though because the layer has been exchanged so the "best" approach that is currently possible is to explore all the possibilities of what they now have so that another exchange has better odds of success. Speculating about final solutions without first exploring the effects of different combinations of what they now have may only be repeating the same "mistake" of exchanging a layer prematurely a second time without first mining all the information possible with what they currently have.

The simple version of all of this is that each new theory or iteration of a theory needs to be tested in actual experience for accuracy and for long enough that its results can be accurately assessed before the next theory designed to explain the current experiences and predict a new set of experiences is developed.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by Phoenix.
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