It was time for a change. My mattress at the time was a hand me down that was given to me by a family member. At the time, I thought that this gift was a godsend. Let’s face it, what young adult wants to spend hundreds of dollars on something as ubiquitous as a mattress? Additionally, I knew that by inheriting this mattress and sleeping on it, I was keeping it out of the landfill. This gave me bonus points for my environmentally minded conscience.
So, I essentially chose that mattress for two reasons:
- It was free
- I was prolonging its life and keeping it out of the landfill
These two reasons had nothing to do with the actual characteristics of the mattress. Nothing to do with providing me with a comfortable sleep surface that would let my body recuperate from the efforts of the day.
This mattress was everything but comfortable.
It had every undesirable quality that a mattress could have, in varying proportions.
- it had indentations
- it looked worn out
And, I could feel the spring layer when sleeping on my side. I would wake up in the morning with soreness in my lower back and hips, all because of this free but worn-out mattress.
The mattress even had a cigarette burn on one side of it.
When my girlfriend would roll over, I would feel aftershocks. I remember how she complained about my rolling over and that she thought I was exaggerating my movements, which I wasn’t. I even considered sleeping on my camping mattress as a temporary solution.
Did the old mattress cause my lumbar sprain?
I slept on that old mattress for a number of years and during that time, I experienced my first lumbar sprain. It happened while bending down to get an item out of my backpack. When I began to stand back upright, I felt something pull in my lower back. It started at one point and over the course of the afternoon, the pain started to spread. By that evening, it had spread over my entire back and I was in excruciating pain.
I’ll never know if that lumbar sprain had anything to do with that old mattress. My guess is that the old mattress was one of the contributing factors. I haven’t had more debilitating pain in my entire life. Being athletic and active in nature, I was now practically bedridden, and not able to stand up straight. I could only walk short distances and the more I tried to do, the worse the pain got.
Eventually, after about a week of rest and minimal activity, the pain went away. But, for some odd reason, I kept injuring myself with a lumbar sprain once or twice per year.
Time to change my mattress
I decided to analyze the situation. Why was I repeatedly getting lumbar sprains? I concluded that there were several factors involved and I would try to address them one by one as best I could.
The causes of my lumbar sprains:
- using the wrong technique for bending down/lifting things
- weak muscles in my lower back
- genetic predisposition: being lean and tall.
- inadequate sleeping surface: my old lumpy mattress
The plan of action
The two contributing factors that were the easiest and quickest to address were #1, modifying the technique I used to pick things up and #2 investing in a new mattress.
Yes, we’ve heard it all before: bend your knees when you pick things up off the ground. I was conscious of this, but I never implemented it until it was too late.
Now I pay close attention to when I bend down to pick things up off the ground. I bend my knees and keep my back straight. Sometimes I forget, but most of the time I use the correct technique. And, when it comes to lifting heavy things, I think twice about it. I sometimes flat out decline to help other people move heavy items because it puts me at risk of getting a lumbar sprain. It’s all about risk assessment I suppose.
Contributing factor #2 – changing my mattress
It became clear that I had to invest in a proper mattress if I wanted to rehabilitate my back and diminish my chances of getting another lumbar sprain. But, with so many offerings out there, what was the best option for me?
I knew that I wanted to order the mattress online because of convenience and price. Mattresses that I checked out online were several hundred dollars cheaper than their brick and mortar store counterparts.
I wanted something that would be durable, but also give my lower back the support it needed to heal and strengthen.
Discovering natural latex foam as the more durable and comfortable material
During my research, I discovered natural latex foam. From what I learned in my research, it was the most durable type of foam out there. It was contouring, supportive, natural, and best of all, it came from a sustainable resource: rubber tree plantations.
Right then, I knew that I wasn’t going to be looking at mattresses with any of the infinite variations of polyurethane foam that were available online. Whether it be memory foam, gel foam, cooling gel foam or any other type of petrochemical-based foam, from that moment on, I wasn’t even going to consider it.
Aside from the durability factor, petrochemical-based foam left much to be desired.
Here is a list of the major drawbacks about polyurethane foam that I uncovered:
- Off-gassing and VOC’s
- Prone to developing indentations
- Often treated with fire-retardant chemicals
- An offensive smell when new
Stumbling upon a great natural latex mattress company
While searching for a replacement for my worn-out mattress, I stumbled on the Spindle mattress company. This is an American company that is run by 4th-generation mattress maker Neil VanPatten.
The Spindle website has a practical tool that helps you determine the best mattress firmness for your body and sleeping style. Check it out here.
Spindle Comfort Calculator
What I was looking for in a natural latex mattress?
The Spindle mattress is a latex core or “all-latex” mattress. It is composed of three layers of 3″ Dunlop latex foam. The beauty of the Spindle mattress is that it is customizable. Thanks to the zippered cover, you can access the inside of the mattress and switch around the foam layers of varying firmness. This way, you can find your ideal firmness without having to return the entire mattress to the manufacturer.
What the natural latex mattress ordering process looked like
I quickly got over the uneasy feeling of ordering a mattress online after learning about the shipping methods. The mattress is compressed and rolled up into a box and shipped straight to your home. Compressing and rolling up the mattress does not damage it. Shipping is free.
The Spindle mattress actually ships in three separate boxes and requires some assembly once it arrives. I actually found this to be very practical because I could move the mattress to my bedroom by myself. The queen size mattress weighs 150lbs once assembled, so moving it in separate pieces to the bedroom is a big help, especially since I was assembling the mattress by myself.
First impressions from sleeping on the Spindle mattress
The first thought I had when I laid down for the first time on the Spindle mattress was “where have you been my whole life?”
I had an incredible feeling of buoyancy when lying down of this mattress. It was plush, but I didn’t feel like I was sinking into it. It supported every curve of my body. It allowed my hips and shoulders to sink in just the right amount without giving me the feeling that it was unsupportive.
Fewer aches and pains
The time it took for me to fall asleep was greatly reduced. I no longer felt aches and pains develop in certain sleeping positions. On my old mattress, I would have to change positions every couple of minutes. This was very irritating. It would sometimes take me over an hour to fall asleep. Now, on the Spindle mattress, unless I’ve had a few cups of coffee right before bed, I can fall asleep within half an hour.
Two years and only 1 lumbar sprain
Last winter I went on an extended vacation to Mexico. I rented a furnished apartment that came with a king-size bed. The was one of those “pillowtop” mattresses that appear quite luxurious when new, but a few years after, get that run down and worn-out look.
This particular mattress was definitely passed its prime. The pillowtop had flattened out after years of use and didn’t really provide any extra comfort. I later discovered that the foam that is typically used in the top portion of pillowtop mattresses is ultra low-density, and loses its ability to regain its shape in a very short time period. Sometimes in as little as two years of regular use, a pillowtop mattress with low-density foam on the top layer can develop indentations.
This mattress wasn’t the worst I had ever seen, but it was far from adequate, as I would often wake up with lower back pain. Then it happened. While bending down to pick up something off the floor I felt a sudden discomfort and irritation which quickly turned into debilitating pain within the hour. By the end of the day, I was bedridden once again with a lumbar sprain.
My theory: a poor quality mattress can be a contributing factor for back injuries
While I wasn’t directly injured by the mattress I was sleeping on while on vacation in Mexico, I do think that it set the stage for getting yet another lumbar sprain. Since getting back home and sleeping on my Spindle mattress, I haven’t had a single lumbar sprain and my back feels good and strong. I never wake up with lower back pain. And, I know that the pressure-relieving qualities of the Dunlop natural latex foam do wonders for keeping my spine aligned and reducing pressure from my lower back.
4 Reasons Why I Made The Switch To A Natural Latex Mattress
In looking back at how I went from sleeping on a worn-out mattress to sleeping on a high-quality Spindle natural latex mattress, I came to the conclusion that there were 4 main reasons why I switched.
I needed a new mattress. Rather than getting a mattress that was made almost exclusively from petrochemical-based materials, I decided to go with a natural alternative. Being an environmentalist and nature-lover at heart, getting a mattress that was made with natural materials made total sense.
Durability. When I was doing my research before I settled on the Spindle mattress, I discovered many videos about people who couldn’t get warranty claims honoured for their failing polyurethane mattresses. In one particular case, the indentations that the mattress developed were slightly under the threshold that was established by the manufacturer. In the end, the owners were stuck with a mattress that had developed deep body impressions.
It was then that I chose to consider only natural latex mattresses because the foam layers typically last 3X longer than polyurethane foam.
Comfort and Pressure Relief. The pressure-relieving qualities of natural latex became a very important point for me to consider. During the research phase, I had the opportunity to sleep on a memory foam mattress and I absolutely hated it. The sinking feeling was distracting, the bed was hot and didn’t breathe properly, and once I had sunken in after changing positions, I felt like it no longer supported my back. Since I was prone to lower back strain, I needed to select a mattress that would provide pressure relief, responsiveness and support. I found the total opposite of the memory foam mattress in terms of responsiveness: a natural latex mattress. The latex foam within the Spindle mattress responds instantly and gives me a light buoyant feeling when I am resting on it.
Non-toxic. While researching mattresses, I discovered that conventional mattresses were filled with toxic chemicals that were not only bad for the environment but also bad for the consumer. Yes, pollution is terrible, but most of the time it is an afterthought because it does not directly affect our wellbeing. In the case of conventional polyurethane mattresses, the foam, polyester, glues and fire retardant chemicals will emit VOC’s into the environment and enter the bloodstream via the respiratory system. This can cause illnesses in the long-term.
The presence of VOCs was one of the deciding factors that made me opt for a natural latex mattress instead of a polyurethane mattress. The fire-barrier in a natural latex mattress like the Spindle is made of wool. The wool, when packed together tightly, refuses to support a flame. It is a completely natural and sustainable material. The other components in natural latex mattresses typically include an organic cotton cover, natural latex and spring coils if it is a hybrid mattress.
Most of the time, these materials are third-party certified, which ensures that they are produced organically. Materials like organic cotton, wool and natural latex do not emit any harmful volatile organic compounds into the air. Moreover, natural latex is hypoallergenic, so it keeps dust mites and other allergens at bay.
Did I make the right choice when I decided to switch to a natural latex mattress?
In retrospect, I see my switch to a natural latex mattress as an investment in my health and well-being. Not, only are latex mattresses more durable, but they promote higher quality sleep thanks to the pressure-relieving and highly responsive qualities of the natural latex. I know that the Spindle mattress is not slowly killing me with off-gassing chemicals because it is made with nature’s finest materials.
Yes, natural latex mattresses are more expensive than some polyurethane mattresses. But, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Health professionals agree that quality of sleep is one of the most important factors in overall health. I am glad that I took one step in optimizing this crucial part of my overall health strategy by switching to a natural latex mattress.