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How Often Should You Rotate Your Mattress? – And Should You Flip It?

If someone is like me, they grew up rotating or flipping their mattress over every now and then. Always after a gentle reminder from Mom, of course.

We’ve been told (correctly) that rotating and/or flipping the mattress is often the key to its healthy performance and long lifespan. When we sleep in the same spot every night, ourbody weight leaves an impressionin that spot. If we do not rotate our mattress and give that space the ability to recover, we may need a new mattress sooner than later.

Now, with a new generation of bed in a box mattresses made with specific and customized layers, rotating and flipping may no longer be necessary. That being said, we’ve put togethera general guide to rotating and flipping a mattressto help address the following questions:

  • Why should I rotate my mattress?
  • Does my mattress need to be rotated or flipped?
  • How do I do it?
  • How often should you rotate your mattress?

Keep in mind that more likely than not, the folks who make the mattress will tell peoplewhether or not it needs to be rotated or flipped.To keep a warranty in good standing, we’re going to suggest that people go with their recommendation above everything else.

Why Should I Rotate My Mattress?

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “rotate.” When we talk about it in this post, we meanmoving the mattress 180 degrees,so the portion that was at the head of the bed is now at the foot of the bed.

As we mentioned up at the top, some mattresses needed to be rotated because it evens out the overall wear and prolongs the bed’s lifespan. It also helpskeep the spine in neutral alignment, a crucial aspect of getting a good night’s sleep and waking up pain-free.

Sleeping in the same spot every night, night after night will cause the bed towear unevenlyover time. This can also result in sagging,which will cause the spine to get out of alignment and could ultimately cause people to feel pain and potentially need to replace their mattress. By rotating it, people are giving one area a chance to recover and a fresher spot to take on new weight.

How Often Should I Rotate My Mattress?

There are so many different materials and combinations of materials used in mattress construction now that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often people should rotate their mattress.

In general, mattress brands that recommend rotation suggest doing itevery three months to once a year.The main point seems to be that people keep up with it and try to be regular about their rotations.

How Do I Rotate My Mattress?

Here are some recommendations on how to rotate a mattress in the most stress and hopefully pain-free way possible.

Plan out rotationsfor the year in advance. People should use a phone, laptop or a printed calendar to remind themselves to periodically rotate their mattresses through the year. Some mattress brands may recommend every three months, in which case they could use the beginning/end of a business quarter to rotate. The Fourth of July holiday is a great halfway point to rotate the bed as well. And it’s never a bad idea to start the new year out sleeping on a fresh side of the bed, either.

Prep the space. Nothing is more frustrating than lifting a heavy mattress and holding it while people make decisions. People should spare themselves by moving nightstands away from the bed, removing all bedding and deciding if to turn the bed clockwise or counterclockwise first.

Strategize the rotationbased on the bed. If people have a bed with a headboard, they will want to move the mattress slightly away from the top of the bed before rotating. If it also has a footboard people could lift the mattress and rest it on the footboard to aid in their rotation.

Get in there with the vacuum, while possible. Depending on the mattress and bed set up, it may be worth pausing mid-rotation to grab the dustbuster and get into those hard to reach spots under and around the bed and mattress. Adding fresh clean sheets to the newly rotated bed may make people feel like they’ve got a brand new bed.

What Mattresses Need To Be Rotated?

Unless the mattress company that someone purchases their bed from says otherwise, it’salmost always a good idea to rotate the mattressregularly.

Here is a list of mattress types that would benefit from rotation:

  • Memory Foam
  • Latex Foam
  • Innerspring
  • Hybrid (a mix of more than one material – usually a combo of foam and innerspring)

In some cases,air beds with foam topperswill also benefit from rotation.

Some mattresses should not be rotated because they are only supposed to be facing one direction. For instance, the Level Sleep mattress features a proprietary zoned construction, and the lumbar zone will not be in the right position if the mattress is rotated.

Why Should I Flip My Mattress?

The truth is thatmost modern mattresses are not meant to be flipped.For the most part, they are designed with specific layers and will not operate correctly if turned upside down. Typically, onlyolder mattressesand innerspring mattresses with no pillowtop should be flipped.

Thesteel coil springsinside an innerspring mattress will wear out over time if someone sleeps in the same spot on the same side every night for the entire time they own their mattress. To help remedy this, it is recommended that people not only flip their innerspring mattresses over butrotate themas well.

How Do I Flip My Mattress?

It is a good idea to rotate a mattress when flipping it, as it will help with even wear and increase longevity for all mattresses. Check out ourtips for rotatinga mattress earlier in the post.

During the rotation process, take the opportunity to flip the mattress upside down and continue rotating until it’s completed its 180-degree turn. This may be possible to do on one’s own, but forlarger or heavier mattressesit may be best to have a friend to help.

Non-pillow top innerspring mattressestend to be the type of mattress that will still need to be flipped, but foam mattresses that are designed with specific layers do not need to be flipped. If people have a hybrid mattress with springs or a traditional innerspring mattress, it would be wise toconsult with their mattress manufacturerbefore rotating or flipping.

Final Thoughts

Keeping all this in mind, itshould be easyfor most people to rotate and flip their mattresses. Again, make sure to ask a friend for help because there’s no need to make it harder than it is!

Is it good to rotate your mattress?

It is a very good idea to rotate a mattress because it will even out the wear and indentations that form over time. Rotating the mattress every 3-6 months should ensure that it will last for a longer amount of time.

Do you need to rotate a hybrid mattress?

Most hybrid mattresses need to be rotated so that they wear evenly over time. Just make sure to check with the manufacturer about when is the best time to rotate.

Can you flip a one-side mattress?

No, one cannot flip a one-sided mattress. A one-sided mattress is built to lie one way, with the support layer on the bottom, the transition layer in the middle, and the comfort layer on top. Flipping the mattress will make it very uncomfortable to sleep on.

When should I rotate my mattress?

It depends on the mattress, but most companies recommend rotating a mattress every 3-6 months.

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Firm and Soft Mattresses for Bad Backs

Grant Hughes, MD, is board-certified in rheumatology and is the head of rheumatology at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Soren Hald Collection / Stone

If you’re one of the over 70 million Americans who deals with daily back pain, a lot may be stacked against you at bed time. You likely know first-hand how pain can limit things—like the number of hours of you get per night, how restful the sleep you do get is, how well you function during your waking hours, and how satisfying, overall, sleep is to you.

Your Mattress and You

Sleeping on a mattress that is not right for you, given your individual condition, may be one of your biggest obstacles to rest and repose.

And this may mean you need to go shopping. If that’s the case, what type of mattress should you buy?

To a great extent, mattress choice is a highly personalized one. Likely the most important thing you can do is to match the firmness of your prospective mattress to your spine’s unique needs for support and comfort.

Dr. Michael Perry, M. D., Medical Director of the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, FL, recommends staying away from either extreme of firmness when selecting a mattress, stating that studies generally find a medium-firm mattress does the trick for most types of back problems.  

A 2003 study published in Lancet confirms this, saying, "a mattress of medium firmness improves pain and disability among patients with chronic non-specific low-back pain."  

There’s nothing like a good dose of facts, so here’s a quick run down on mattress firmness research as it relates to back pain.

A Survey of Temporary Back Pain From Foam Mattresses

One hundred Indian medical residents who slept on foam mattresses were surveyed about the effects of this on their spines in a 2000 study published in theJournal of the Association of Physicians of India. The mattresses in question were 10 centimeters in thickness—the kind one might find in a youth hostel. The residents experienced temporary backaches from the mattresses, but not the generally more serious type that is also accompanied by nerve symptoms such as sciatica, radiculopathy, or paresthesia (pins and needles.)

The sleep-induced pain was relieved for most of the residents (61%) once they returned to their own beds, and it came back when they again slept on the foam.  

Firm vs Soft

In an effort to confirm that hard mattresses exert a positive effect on the sleep of people with chronic low back pain, as is commonly believed, participants in a study tested bedding with varying degrees of firmness.

The study, a randomized controlled trial, was published in the April 2008 issue of Spine.  

A “soft” mattress group slept on a water bed.

A second group slept on a Tempur-pedic mattress, which is known for its ability to conform to your body shape without sacrificing support.

And the “hard” mattress group slept on a futon.

Overall participants favored the water bed and foam (Tempur-pedic) mattresses the most in terms of pain relief, ability to function and number of hours slept per night. That said, the difference in scores between these two types of mattresses and the hard mattress was small.

"A Tempur-pedic with a dial-in firmness feature would be my top choice," Perry comments. "When you need more support, you can simply press a button and presto! The beauty of Tempur-pedic is that you can get support where you need it. You can also get on-demand softness."

He adds that a dial-in water bed also has advantages, clarifying that more water equals more firmness.

“Just remember not to dial in so much water that your mattress bursts,” he quips.

On the flip side, Perry says that if you don’t dial in enough water, your water bed mattress may surround and enclose your body, which can decrease the quality of your sleep.

In fact, he adds, “some of my patients report they feel smothered when their water bed isn’t firm enough. This is because the lungs have less room to expand when you’re sunken down. Of course, the cure is to firm it up by in dialing more water."

Even in light of this potential drawback, self-inflatable water beds may be the way to go. A 2015 review of studies published inSleep Healthconfirmed all of Dr. Perry’s opinions, concluding that a medium firm mattress with custom inflation capabilities proved the most optimal choice for spinal alignment and sleep comfort.  

Keep in mind that few studies have been conducted on this topic overall. But those that can be found in the medical literature point to achieving the right firmness in your mattress as a key to sound sleep—despite the back pain.

How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress

Ready for a new mattress? Here’s how to find the one that suits you best.

Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of different factors — comfort, stress level, room temperature – but to get it right, you’ve got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber.

If you’re in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you?

To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment

"If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment," Shamie tells WebMD. "If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back." Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning.

Generally speaking, one type or brand of bed isn’t better than another, says Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.But he does find that a firmer bed seems to be better for people with lower back pain.

In fact, researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain and found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale people who slept on a medium-to-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less back pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.

Is It Time for a New Mattress?

How do you know if the bed you’re sleeping on is the right one?

"If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you," Breus says.

The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air, Breus says.

If you’re looking for a new mattress, experts suggest testing it in the store and laying down on each mattress in the position in which you normally sleep. Breus suggests spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the bed. And, bring your own pillow! The more you can replicate the way you’ll be sleeping on the mattress once you get it home, the better your chances of picking the right one.

Continued

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are still by far the most widely used. They support you with coil springs, and in most built today, each coil is individually enclosed. This helps the bed weather years of use and prevents the coils from popping out of the mattress. On top of the coils are a wide variety of materials added for comfort, from pillow to latex to memory foam. It’s all a matter of preference.

Salespeople may try to sell you on the idea that more coils mean more comfort, but that’s not necessarily true, Breus and Shamie say.

"You don’t really need a coil count above 390," Breus says. Beyond that, the difference in feel is so small it would be difficult to notice.

Pros:There are plenty of innerspring mattresses on the market from which to choose. They range in firmness, the fluffiness of the pillow top, and in price to fit nearly every preference and pocket book.

Cons:There’s no direct relationship in most cases between price and comfort, but Shamie suggests steering clear of the cheapest innerspring mattress. If there aren’t enough springs and cushion to offer you proper support, he says, you’ll likely wake up with an aching back.

Conditions:For someone who is very overweight, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of, Breus says. Firmer versions are good for people with back pain. But spring-based mattresses can be comfortable for almost anyone.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. They are made of layers of different densities of foam that respond to weight and temperature, and are known for comfort because they contour to the specific shape of your body. Memory foam toppers are also available.

Pros:By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points, and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.

Cons:One of the biggest complaints with memory foam mattresses is that because these mattresses are temperature sensitive, softening and molding with your body heat, they can make you feel extremely hot during the night. Breus also says memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.

Conditions:"If you have a hard time getting comfortable, if you have chronic fatigue, or some type of muscle pain, then a memory foam mattress would work well for you, assuming you don’t have temperature issues," Breus says.

Continued

Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses are made from either natural or synthetic rubber, and are known for providing a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed.

Pros:"Quite frankly, I think one of the best materials is latex," Breus says. He likes it for being very firm and supportive, but also for providing comfort similar to memory foam. Unlike the memory foam mattresses, however, Breus says latex pushes back, ultimately providing more support.

Cons:If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.

Conditions: Either a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is great for relieving back pain because they offer the best combination of comfort and support, Breus says.

Air Mattresses

We’re not talking about the blow-up mattresses you put your holiday guests on for a few days. Higher-end air beds look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.

Shamie notes that air beds have long been used for patients with spinal cord injuries who are lying in bed for a long time. They can be adjusted so they don’t continue to press on the same areas of the body, which helps to avoid skin breakdown in patients who can’t move.

Pros:"Couples who have dramatic differences in their individual preference for comfort and firmness levels might do very well with an air mattress," Breus says. The reason is that the firmness of each side of the bed can be altered. If you like it firmer than your partner, these beds can be adjusted for that.

Like latex and memory foam, you can also find air toppers for your mattress.

Cons:Shamie says people sometimes fail to make their air bed firm enough and wake up with back aches. Less sophisticated air mattresses also pop up on one side when you sit on the opposite end. For that reason Breus says, you want multiple chambers so that doesn’t occur.

Conditions:These beds are particularly useful when sleeping partners have different needs. If one of you has a bad back, one side can be made firmer than the other to provide greater support.

Continued

Adjustable Beds

These beds are able to bend and elevate at varying angles. As a result, the mattress has to be flexible. Different types of mattresses can be used on an adjustable bed – memory foam, latex, or air, for example. Spring mattresses are more difficult to use, however, because the springs don’t handle the bending well.

Pros:For people who have difficulty getting in and out of bed or who like to watch television in bed, Shamie says, adjustables can make life easier by moving you closer to where you need to be.

Conditions:If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping flat can make the condition worse by cutting off airways and causing the tongue to fall into the back of the throat, Shamie says. People who experience acid reflux can also benefit by sleeping in a bed that elevates their upper body.

Shamie also suggests adjustable beds for people with hip or back pain who have a hard time moving from a lying position to sitting up or standing.

Sofa Beds

When you have guests staying for a night or two, sofa beds come in handy. The mattresses in these beds tend to be very thin so they are flexible enough to fold and collapse into the couch. It’s a great convenience to have a sofa bed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who raves about their comfort.

Pros:Sofa beds are convenient, especially if you have limited space. But from a health perspective, Shamie and Breus don’t see any advantages.

Cons:A night or two on a sofa bed is OK. But "this is probably the worst kind of bed you can sleep on long-term," Shamie says. The mattresses used in most sofa beds are very thin and the springs quite weak. "It really leads to an uncomfortable situation," Shamie says.

If you’re really tight for space and need a bed that folds up, Shamie says that futons, while not the most supportive, are better for your back than the typical sofa bed.

Conditions:There are no conditions for which a sofa bed will be helpful, according to the experts. But if you have a bad back or hips, these beds will be especially uncomfortable.

Continued

When to Part With Your Old Mattress

Today’s mattresses are made to last a lifetime. But you probably shouldn’t plan on keeping yours for that long. Our bodies change over time, Breus says, so the mattress that was once a joy to sleep on may no longer feel comfortable a few years down the road.

In addition, mattresses collect dust mites, fungus, and other germs that can exacerbate allergies and impact your sleep patterns. After 10 to 15 years, it’s time to think about buying a new bed.

Ultimately, the experts say that the best bed for you is the one that feels most comfortable. And remember, Shamie says, "There’s no mattress that’s going to save your body when you get only five hours of sleep." In order to feel your best, you need to get enough rest… no matter what type of mattress you’re sleeping on.

Sources

Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.

Breus, Michael, PhD, WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep

Kovacs, FM.The Lancet, November 2003; vol 362: pp 1599-1604.

How to Choose the Right Mattress

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A while ago we explained how important it is to spend your money where you spend your time , and considering we spend at least a third of our lives asleep or in bed, skimping on your mattress or sleeping surface can be detrimental to your health. At the same time, not everyone has the budget for the top of the line, state of the art mattress. We asked some chiropractors and orthopedists what they suggest you look for when shopping for a mattress. Here’s what they said.

The Comfort Principle: Spend Money Where You Spend Your Time

One of Lifehacker’s main tasks is to help you save money. But once you’ve saved money, where should

Do Your Research, and Go In With a Budget

The first thing you should do before you even head out to shop for mattresses is know how much you’re willing to spend. Going into any major purchase with a budget and spending cap in mind will help you avoid spending too much, and will also help you buy the best mattress you can afford while avoiding the extra fluff and accessories that mattress stores are notorious for trying to load you up with. Keep those add-ons and accessories in mind when you head to the store. As soon as you select a mattress, the salesperson will try and sell you on mattress covers, extended warranties, bedframes, and other accessories that you may or may not actually need.

Friday’s Best Deals: PowerA Fusion Fightpads, Ella Paradis Sex Toy.

Mattress stores are notorious for making it difficult to impossible to comparison shop , so don’t expect to be able to go from store to store and see the same mattress there for different prices. You’re better off paying attention to mattress brand and mattress type when you go shopping. Don’t put too much stock in model names or "line" names. One store may have a line from a prominent manufacturer under one name, and another store will have a line from the same manufacturer under another name, and in reality the mattresses are the same and simply marketed differently for different retailers.

How to Buy a Mattress: Advice from a Mattress Salesman

Mattress shopping, as we’ve previously highlighted, can be quite a confusing experience. Take some…

If you’re trying to stick to a budget, check out your local mattress stores’ circulars or web sites to see what’s on sale. Make notes of model names and numbers that are in your price range, and when you get to the store, ask to see those specific models. In some cases, mattress stores only stock a few of the models on sale (so you don’t find out they’re out of stock until you’re in the store), so find out early if they have what you’re looking for.

Understand What Type of Mattress Is Right for You

Mattress manufacturers and retailers have dozens of names for different types of mattresses, but there are only really a few basic types:

  • Tempur-Pedic/Memory Foam- Tempur-Pedic mattresses are actually a brand name, but many people use them to describe any mattress type that uses "memory foam," or another type of foam that molds to the shape of your body while you sleep, and offers even support all over your body. You essentially sink into it, and the mattress applies even pressure to your body at all points. Tempur-Pedic and memory foam mattresses tend to get warm over the course of the night, so if you need a cool sleeping surface under you, they may not be right for you.
  • Sleep Number Beds- Sleep number beds use inflatable air pressure chambers inside of the mattress that you can customize to suit the level of firmness you want in your sleeping surface. You can, at any time, make the mattress firmer or softer, and depending on the model you get, you can tilt the bed up into a reclining position, or you can get sleep number beds that have different chambers on either side of the bed, so you and your spouse or partner can enjoy different levels of firmness. "Sleep Number Bed" is a trademark of Select Comfort, who makes most of the beds that fit this description. They tend to be fairly pricey.
  • Firm vs. Plush- Firm and plush, as their names imply, indicate the firmness or softness of the mattress in question. You’ll see some mattresses described as "extra firm, firm, plush, ultra plush," to denote how hard or soft the mattress actually is. In some cases, to get to the "ultra plush" end of the scale, manufacturers add thick pillowtops and cushions to the tops of a standard matress to make it feel softer. You can also find mattress types in between like "cushion firm" or "pillowtop" or a firm mattress that has extra padding on the sides and top or a pillowtop on it that makes the mattress softer when you lay in it, but still is firm enough to provide support while you sleep.

Try Everything that Interests You, Start on the High End and Work Your Way Down

If you have a mattress salesperson who’s trying to get you on and off a floor model quickly, run—don’t walk—to the exits. You won’t be able to judge whether a mattress is comfortable if you only get to lay down on it for 30 seconds. Get the sales person to bring you a test pillow so you can try the mattress in the same position you sleep, and rest on it for a good few minutes. Give yourself time to relax and settle into the mattress before you make a decision about whether it’s too firm or soft or just doesn’t feel right.

One great way to find a mattress that you’ll like is to start with the high-end mattresses in the store and work your way down from there. You may be leading your salesperson on a little bit, but the point is that you get to experience the super high-end top-of-the-line mattresses first to get a feel for how comfortable they are, and then you start to step down in features and padding until you start to test mattresses that are less comfortable than you’d like. Then you’ll know where the balance is, and you can make a decision based on comfort and budget.

What Our Experts Said

A number of the chiropractors and orthopedists that I spoke to for this story had specific brand suggestions for people looking for the most comfort and a mattress designed with health in mind. Massachusetts chiropractor Dr. Benjamin Ryan tells his patients that if you can afford it, the Sleep Number bed by Select Comfort is the way to go, especially if you and the person sleeping next to you prefer different levels of firmness in your sleeping surface. He suggests spending a little less money to get a model without a fancy control or pillowtop, and then going out and buying a pillowtop from your local bed and bath store if you want a little more softness. He explained to me that he went to a department store for a memory foam layer and added it to his mattress when he decided it was too firm. He rightly notes that you can always make a firm mattress a little softer by putting something on top of it—you can’t make a soft mattress firmer.

How firm should a mattress be for lower back pain?

Research is limited, but in one study, researchers assigned new mattresses to more than 300 people with low back pain. They used either medium-firm or firm mattresses for 90 days. Those in the medium group reported the least amount of discomfort.

You might consider getting a memory foam mattress (instead of a traditional innerspring one). The foam molds to your body. The downside: Some memory foam mattresses keep in heat; and the material might have more chemicals.

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on February 6, 2019

Cleveland Clinic: "Is Your Sleep Position Causing You Back Pain?"

Consumer Reports: "Mattress Buying Guide."

Harvard Healthbeat: "What Type of Mattress is Best for People With Low Back Pain?"

Jacobson, BH. "Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems." , 2008.Applied Ergonomics

Kovacs, FM. “Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain." , November 2003.Lancet

Mayo Clinic: "Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain."

University of Utah Health Care: “Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back."

Cleveland Clinic: "Is Your Sleep Position Causing You Back Pain?"

Consumer Reports: "Mattress Buying Guide."

Harvard Healthbeat: "What Type of Mattress is Best for People With Low Back Pain?"

Jacobson, BH. "Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems." , 2008.Applied Ergonomics

Kovacs, FM. “Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain." , November 2003.Lancet

Mayo Clinic: "Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain."

University of Utah Health Care: “Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back."

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