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Weight differential making mattress uncomfortable - any solutions?
July 7, 2014 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I am struggling with back aches when I'm trying to sleep. I think it has something to do with my sleeping partner weighing about 60lbs more than me. What are the possible solutions - both short term (mattress toppers, etc.) and long term (new mattress)?

So, I weigh about 120lbs and my partner weighs about 185lbs. My lower and middle back regularly aches when I'm in bed but almost immediately resolves when I get up and start moving around. I don't know for sure that the issue is the weight differential specifically, but I can say that it always feels like I'm fighting against being pulled into the depression that his weight creates on the bed.

Worth noting that my partner is not overweight, and I've had similar problems in the past with lighter sleeping partners. I think being a small person just means I don't depress the mattress much. Also, I'm in good physical shape and don't believe this is a matter of a bad back or weak core generally. Currently I have a decent quality (~$1,000 when it was new) Stearns and Foster traditional spring queen mattress that is about 7 years old. It is on a box spring in a typical metal bed frame that has a center support leg. The mattress has a thin pillowtop and is not able to be flipped. I believe it is considered a firm mattress, though I don't remember exactly. I do rotate it regularly.

1. In the short term, I am looking for product and/or behavioral suggestions. For example - is there a mattress topper or box spring additional support that could help with this problem? Any other ideas? Behavior-wise, my sleeping partner does tend to end up close to the center of the bed, and I've noticed when he is all the way on his side the problem lessens. I can ask him to sleep closer to his side, but we do both like to cuddle-sleep plus it's hard to maintain positions once we fall asleep. I tend to cede space and covers while sleeping without realizing I'm doing it.

2. While I can't afford a new mattress right this minute, I would like to start planning for/saving up for one. So, what should I be thinking about? I have successfully used memory foam mattress toppers in the past, but I sleep HOT and am wary of full latex or memory foam mattresses for that reason. Sleep Number beds are pretty expensive to get into the models that have separate settings for each side. Do they even help with this very specific "I feel like I'm falling into the abyss" issue?

I'm fine with getting a traditional mattress again. My previous mattress was not a pillowtop and I flipped it regularly, so that is not enough of a solution. It seems like this expensive mattress only lasted a few years until this started becoming an issue. Is this just how long mattresses last?

tl;dr: My back hurts from fighting being pulled into the depression caused by my partner's weight in my bed. Do you know of any solutions to this issue?
posted by misskaz to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Why don't you get two mattresses and some kind of topper that completely nullifies the gap?
posted by parmanparman at 12:19 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I sleep hot also but a Tempur-Pedic mattress has been one of the best purchases of my life. I can't vouch for a cheaper memory foam mattress but I am a firm believer that the Tempur-Pedic brand is expensive for a reason. I never noticed before how a partner moving around affected my sleep until I had this bed - now when we sleep anywhere else I can't believe I put up with it for so many years. It really is like you don't notice the other person at all. Highly recommend.

I also think it's worth mentioning, though, that your back might be bothering you just because the mattress is not that great. They say traditional mattresses are supposed to last about 8-10 years; yours might be past its prime. The one we had before this was a moderately expensive pillowtop and it was shot completely after about 5 years. They were the hot trend when we bought it, but after years sleeping on one I feel pretty strongly that they are a bad idea. I have degenerative disc disease, which is one of the reasons we finally got rid of the old mattress, and the Tempur-Pedic has made a huge difference in my day to day discomfort.
posted by something something at 12:19 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


You could try a firm memory foam type mattress, which worked for me (125 lbs) and my former partner (255 lbs).

We periodically slept on spring mattresses at other homes/hotels, and we were constantly pushing each other away when we would inevitably roll into the center.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:19 PM on July 7


I know you can't afford the state of the art mattress you want. St Vincent de Paul usually have twins and a lot of bed stores do deals on twin mattresses. There is no less expensive option when it comes to having a good night's sleep and maintain your integrity as a couple.
posted by parmanparman at 12:21 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'll put in a word for this mattress, which I bought on Amazon.

It's memory foam, and it's been pretty darn good so far, and we're two years in. I figured it was worth a 400 dollar purchase even if it didn't work out (we could use it as a spare), and I can no longer fathom why anyone would spend thousands of dollars on a memory foam bed.

I'm pretty sure there are other different brands that have slightly firmer or softer support if you want to look into it.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:27 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


We purchased this memory topper for our stearns and foster that we bought in 2003. We put the topper on it at the end of 2011. It was like a miracle happened - and it's jut now wearing out. So a pretty good fix for the $50 we paid.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:28 PM on July 7


I don't know if you have a Costco membership, but that's where I got my mattress last year. Rather than recommend a specific mattress (though I am very happy with the mattress I got), I just want to point out that Costco has a very, very consumer-friendly return policy, good prices, and free delivery/pick-up. I've had my mattress for about 9 months and I could still return or exchange it if I wanted.

If you're not sure what you want or if you'd be happy/tremendously disappointed with something with a memory foam topper (for instance), buying from Costco might not be such a bad idea.
posted by phunniemee at 12:44 PM on July 7


I'm a big fan of separate beds. Any way you can manage it - two twin mattresses in the frame or just get 2 twin beds. Or a new bed just for yourself. I have this same problem. Although it doesn't make my back hurt, it's very uncomfortable to sleep on an incline and not worth putting up with.
posted by bleep at 12:47 PM on July 7


And I should mention the problem persisted after getting a fancy new latex mattress, although it's not memory foam.
posted by bleep at 12:49 PM on July 7


We have a King bed made from two (identical) twins. With a mattress strap to keep them firmly together and a plush topper, there is no weird gap and everyone gets their own mattress and space. I highly recommend this approach!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:57 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I had the same issue (me at 150 lbs, him 235). He also sleeps very hot so all foam was not in the cards. We got a mattress with isolated coils (advertised as the kind where one person rolling over doesnt disturb the other)and a 1 inch thick integrated foam topping.

It is hotter than an all coil mattress and I might not get another foam topped mattress for that reason. The isolated coils, though, are awesome. I never realized how much I was tensing up from moving all night with him. My bed is about 1.5 years old and still excellent, but who knows how long it will last.
posted by holyrood at 1:27 PM on July 7


I have the same back problems with worn-out mattresses, even when sleeping by myself. I've tried sticking stuff under the center of the bed but never had good luck short of changing the mattress.
posted by flimflam at 1:31 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


My suggestion would be a firm foam or latex mattress (not memory foam) with wool batting, or foam/latex mattress + wool mattress topper for a cushier top surface. The underlaying foam will give you the support you need and is not prone to forming depressions/transferring motion, while the wool layer is a very good thermal regulator and will help prevent hot spots associated with foam. (The reason I say "not memory foam" is that putting a layer of wool between the memory foam and your body circumvents the memory foam mechanism, so there's not much point to that combination).

We've got a 10-year-old inexpensive IKEA foam mattress with wool batting, and it is does not feel hot, does not transfer motion, and is still in really good shape after all these years. We really hate having to sleep on coil mattresses when we travel.
posted by drlith at 2:28 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Many people say latex doesn't sleep hot (though some say it does). With latex, you can get a split mattress (like this one, though there are many others), so you're each essentially sleeping on a different pile of foam, just in the same casing.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:00 PM on July 7


I weigh roughly 135 and my fiancée weighs 260. We got a basic, generic euro-top mattress and it works just fine.
posted by floweredfish at 3:51 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The following probably isn't the case given that you say changing your partner's position makes things better, but I'll just throw it out there: back pain that is bad at night with improvement on getting up is also a symptom of Inflammatory Back Pain, which is difficult to diagnose, and which you can get no matter your fitness/posture. It might be worth checking if any more of these symptoms apply to you. Good luck!
posted by cogat at 4:16 PM on July 7


What about a body pillow? If you're a side sleeper who faces the middle of the bed or a stomach sleeper you can use it to prop yourself up and counteract the rolling. You'd hug it as a side sleeper or sleep half on top of it (inside arm and leg thrown over it) as a stomach sleeper. I'm having a hard time imagining how it would help other sleeping positions, but it may be cheap enough to try anyway.

(I'm a solo side and stomach sleeper who gets back and/or knee pain without extra pillows down one side, so it works for me, but I'm not fighting gravity.)
posted by natabat at 4:49 PM on July 7


You just need a more expensive and/or firmer mattress. The "rolling into the middle" shit absolutely does not happen on my firm mattress, and there is a big weight differential between my partner and I.
posted by zug at 6:29 PM on July 7


We had the same problem, and it seems i was mostly due to the old eat up mattress... I hemmed and hawed for a year about spending money on a mattress, but finally settled on Tuft & Needle Latex mattress.
I sleep hot and wifeHawk sleeps cool, and we have not had any issues (other than the initial "Wow! This is a lot firmer than our old mattress" that came with, again, our old mattress being 20yrs old).

The pricing is very good for the mattress, and if you don't like it within 30 days, you don't actually ship the mattress back, they help you donate it to someplace near you, and cheerfully refund your money.
posted by niteHawk at 6:53 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everyone! All of your answers were helpful to me in one way or another, but I marked as best answer the ones that had me checking out options/prices/etc. I have to say that Tuft & Needle mattress is very appealing, niteHawk!
posted by misskaz at 8:54 AM on July 8


A bit late but one trick I have found is that if you take a worn out mattress off the frame and lean it on the wall for a few hours i will be partially restored for a week or so. It also helps if you do it in full sunlight (possibly just my superstition but a little UV can't hurt ).
posted by srboisvert at 10:24 AM on July 13


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