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Thoughts from my 5 year mattress building journey 26 Aug 2020 14:35 #1

This community was very valuable to me over the past few years so I wanted to give back with some input for others going through the many stages of mattress hell. In the end I will also detail the build that finally worked for me.

1. If you are buying and trashing many mattresses in a short period of time, talk to a medical professional.

I was convinced that all beds were garbage now with cheap egg crate foam and other cost cutting methods. While this is based in truth, it was keeping me from looking at a major problem which was my own health. I finally was forced to realize something was wrong and a few experts eventually discovered I had a damaged SI joint from a car wreck years ago. It was causing lower back pain no matter what I did. Once I finally had this addressed, I was able to finally get a bed that worked for me. After sharing this story with someone, they said their husband had a similar experience - ultimately they found it was a brain tumor causing his mysterious pain. There are probably a lot of reasons out there driving mystery pain, and it may not be your bed, even if you primarily feel it while laying down.

2. It really is true that comfort is radically different for different people. Don't believe that it will work for you just because others like it online.

This is somewhat ironic since I will share my own bed design, but I have some tips I will include with it other than just what it is, to mitigate this problem. I experienced the full truth of this not only by purchasing beds which failed for me based on random opinions, but also in the course of my eventual treatment. Once I began receiving treatment for my SI pain, I immediately found that beds I had found tolerable were now completely useless to me. Something as small as halting the spasms of a few muscles radically changed my opinion of what was comfortable. So I can't imagine the differences between all the variables in human bodies and how they would all feel. Due to this, you really need a plan for testing your bed, or sub-parts of your bed, before being locked in to a purchase. There is no opinion you can really trust about what will work for you, other than simple verifiable observations about the quality of materials (i.e. it's not going to break down in a few months, etc)

3. The frame of the bed makes a much bigger difference than 99% of people realize

This is very tricky because it also appears that there is not a universal solution to this either. People may find a slightly bendable frame to be preferable to a truly rock hard surface. Have you felt the difference when you put your mattress on the actual floor? I'm not saying to sleep this way (mold , bugs, etc. ) - just see how different it is for your own experience. You think you have a strong frame, but see what true 0% deflection feels like. Also, it is possible if you think your bed is slacking in the middle, that it's only partially the bed, and partially your support system. I originally bought the best all-steel frame I could find (discussed further below), and I was shocked to eventually discover that it was actually bending while in use. My immediate reaction was to build wooden legs to firmly support the frame in the center of each sleeping individual, only to discover that I found this to be too firm. It is likely that many of us prefer a small amount of give from our frames which can be very difficult to measure, and control. Usually we are adapting our mattress to work in harmony with what the frame is doing underneath.

My Bed and Design Thoughts-

It is the honest truth that I do not remember how many beds I have purchased and tossed or donated in the past few years. What I can tell you is that I have tried all major ingredients- spring, cheap foam, memory foam, latex, hybrid. Also all major vendors- box stores, online stores, even a unique store in my city which would resell used mattresses from staging homes at steep discounts - a great way to test virtually all beds even including the online box brands - which by the way are way more firm than most people expect (tuft, casper, purple, helix, etc).

Overall, my DIY experience falls in line with the general recommendations I see on this forum.

Springs can still be a good base, at a good value, which last a pretty long time without significant change. I purchased a few DIY spring sets from arizona premium mattress. The wait is long, but they are pretty much the one source for DIY spring set purchases, and the value is good. Don't bet on returns, the owner played coy with me a few times saying he would send me a vacuum sealing plastic bag so I could wrap and return a mattress once I felt it and didn't like it and he kept dragging his feet until I finally gave up and just gave it to my in-laws. I don't hold it against him, he's probably running tight margins to try and keep his shop going and almost nobody is providing this DIY service - people are throwing away thousands in box store show rooms on spring sets they don't even have real information on.

Cheap foam breaks down as we all know by now. The more you have on it, the riskier the bed. So many box store beds feel like junk after a couple months from this. Fun fact - If they have it in inventory, you can buy a showroom Mattress Firm bed for 40% off if you get one that has been previously returned for 'comfort', within the ~100 day period a new owner has. This comes with 0 warranty for satisfaction and you do not get to feel the bed beforehand. This is quite telling if you think about it. I can buy refurbished goods at various stores for some discount, but not only do they have a warranty, they often have an EXTRA long warranty to ease your concerns. Not so much in the mattress box store world, because they know the gig is up after it's been used for 3 months.

Memory foam gets hot and the heavily used areas become weaker. Warranties are written so that the foam has to show an indentation with nobody on the bed, and obviously the foam won't do that. But it won't stop it from feeling like a pit where your hips go over time. However, I still find small ~1.5" memory foam toppers to add a nice texture to the top of a bed, while also dampening partner motion-transfer.

Latex is a big winner for me. The benefits are often discussed here. It will last decades, no 'break-in period' to see how it really feels, it feels great with various hardnesses and manufacturing styles to choose from. But functionally, a major benefit in my opinion is how modular it is. You can fold a king size 3" topper into 2 or 3x its depth and see how 9" of latex feels. This enabled me to do a lot of testing and careful shopping. Especially shopping with Sleep On Latex, who give free shipping in both directions for a free return no problem, I think limited to once per year.

The bed I have currently arrived at, with a healed back, and sleeping well on without medication:

From the bottom -

This steel frame base
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0725SYNSR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

4 x 3" Medium Latex Toppers (12" total) from Sleep On Latex
- Incrementally: with one topper you feel like you are laying on steel bars. With two toppers, you still feel the bars. With three toppers (9"), it was a close call. It's possible that would be enough to not feel the bars unless I really thought about it, but I didn't want to take the chance, so I got 4. At that point, it feels entirely like latex. I am glad I did it modularly this way because one thing I never did was buy a pre-made latex bed and I'm not sure those are thick enough based on my testing. I never used firm toppers even as a base material because I was wary from so many people stating that it was hard as a rock.

1 x 2" Soft Latex Topper from Sleep On Latex
-Medium feels good at first but after laying on it for a while it's just too hard for me by itself. A little softness on top helps a lot for spine relief. Total - 14" of latex

1 x 1.5" Memory foam topper (Target brand)
-Believe it or not, this is just really comfy and helps a lot with motion transfer. My wife isn't a huge fan of the 'Jello' -ish vibrations that thick Latex will give you, and this topper almost eliminates them. Also you don't feel yourself laying on a matrix of perforated holes.

That's all I'm using for now, with a simple bamboo mattress protector on it, but I have one of the nice DIY wool mattress wraps coming from arizona premium mattress. That may add a little softness and I may or may not adjust the topper situation after that. But it probably won't change a lot.

In total it's about 250 pounds of latex, and with that DIY wrap it's somewhere around $1500 of ingredients. But that's a tiny fraction of the true cost over these years. Also it's less than some of the most basic beds you will find on a box store showroom floor with garbage ingredients. I wish I started earlier with latex, using king toppers and folding them to try what it would feel like as a pure mattress. I think a spring hybrid might also be ok, though I'm not sure it would save much money. Maybe swap 2 medium toppers at $500 for a spring set at $400. In the end, I wanted to keep it simple so that I could isolate what I liked and didn't like. If you have multiple materials, it can be hard to know what your problem is coming from.

Good luck on your own mattress journey, I hope some of this helps

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Last edit: by Paracelsus462.

Thoughts from my 5 year mattress building journey 27 Aug 2020 14:23 #2

Hey Paracelsus462,

Welcome to the Mattress Underground :) !

This community was very valuable to me over the past few years so I wanted to give back with some input for others going through the many stages of mattress hell. In the end I will also detail the build that finally worked for me.


Thanks so much for your kind words on the TMU forum, they are much appreciated! Happy to hear that you found the resources/ community to be useful in your research and DIY journey…and what a journey you have experienced!

You have excellently crafted your experiences into relatable terms, Paracelsus462. Both your talking points and commentary offer valuable hands-on insights to other consumer subscribers here…especially items 1., 2., and 3… truths that are really best heard from a fellow consumer who has "been there, done that." As you have said, there is such a vast myriad of variables, from undisclosed medical issues to individual comfort preferences and yes, to even the type frame used that make the stress of finding the best mattress (as you rightly stated), equivalent to "the many states of mattress hell." This written tribute to your years of DIY research, labors of trial and error, and dedication to understanding material preferences based on your PPP/ personal preferences is truly a work of mattress research art, quite PhD worthy, IMHO. Thanks for taking the time to put the words down that others may benefit from your experience and for sharing your thoughts with the forum…well done!

Sensei
Sensei(@ TMU Team)
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Thoughts from my 5 year mattress building journey 27 Aug 2020 22:47 #3

Hi Paracelsus462.

Outstanding breakdown of the pitfalls and the many interconnected variables that are involved in mattress shopping, matching, & building. You've employed. great the out of the box solutions while cautioning others loud and clear ...,"Don't believe that it will work for you just because others like it online."

Your experiences and very valuable insights make any "theory at a distance." comments look dwarfish in comparison.... so I've made your post sticky for a while.

Many thanks for taking the time to share your 5-year mattress journey with us... BTW I am glad to hear that your medical condition is taken care of and you sleep free of pain.

Phoenix
Researching for a mattress?... Be sure to read The Mattress Shopping Tutorial.
Click here for TMU Discount Codes if purchasing from Our Trusted Members.
For any mattress questions Ask An Expert on our forum

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Thoughts from my 5 year mattress building journey 28 Aug 2020 11:28 #4

Thank you!

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Thoughts from my 5 year mattress building journey 13 Sep 2020 11:14 #5

An update - after receiving the wool mattress wrap from APM, I do like it but I had to make an adjustment. When all the latex layers are exposed and sitting on steel bars, they are able to flex between the bars on the bottom a bit. After it is wrapped up, the flex on bottom is reduced. The wrap holds it pretty tight. I found I needed some relief with this change, so I added another 2" soft latex on top. So I have 12" of medium, 4" of soft on top, inside the wool wrap. These 16" still fit inside the 15" wrap.Then a 1.5" memory foam topper above that, underneath the waterproof cover.

I am still happy with the wrap, it certainly looks better than laying on a stack of latex. I have been a bit nervous about my latex exposure as well since it is a sensitizer and I didn't want to become allergic over time. So I'm glad it's wrapped up now. For better or worse, the wrap also meets the fire protection requirements of the law. I find the wool wrap also adds to the jello-motion mitigation which is good.

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