As You Like It: Sleep Like the Dead

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The last time we bought a new mattress was during the Norman Invasion. We didn’t have many choices back then; it was straw or straw as I recall. So when I told Steve last week that I believed that the reason I was waking up every morning sore and achy was not because a squirrel was beating me up at night, but because we might need a new mattress, he was not happy. The word “new” always means that there is shopping involved, and whenever shopping is involved Steve is not.

Steve and I have an interesting history when it comes to major purchases. We bought our house in a couple of weeks, having chosen not only the town we wanted to live in but the school district. (Our realtor told us that she considered herself lucky that we hadn’t narrowed it down to one street!) Our cars usually take us a week, and lately, if something can be ordered online and delivered to our door, we don’t even leave the house. This is nirvana for Steve.

But a mattress is tricky. All the websites say that it’s difficult to make equitable comparisons between mattresses since every brand has its own styles, and every store its own brands. Since the important stuff is pretty much hidden, purchasing a mattress is akin to buying the proverbial pig in a poke.

The first stop on our mattress hunt was the store where we had bought mom’s bed. She was happy with it, so we figured we had a chance of success. The salespeople wore white lab coats, perhaps in the hope that you’d defer to them as you would your doctor. Either that or they were going for a lab tech image, but why I would buy a mattress from someone who does research on small animals puzzles me. I kept thinking that at any moment they would be asking me for a blood sample.

Most of the shoppers had brought their extended family — kids, uncles, cousins, nephews — to give them advice. They were all lying down pretending to sleep, bouncing, arguing, and offering their opinions. The two of us felt a bit bereft, but we were shortly assigned a “sleep technician,” who, after asking our price range, promptly steered us to a mattress that was at least $500 more than the figure we had named.

We tried “sleeping” on a few mattresses like Goldilocks, but I was too self-conscious to find anything that felt just right. Lying down in a busy store dressed in a coat and boots was not the optimum experience for figuring out my comfort zone. I asked Shatz to snore a bit to create our usual sleeping ambiance, but he refused.

The couple next to us was having some serious comfort disagreements. The wife said that she loved that the mattress was firm while the husband said it felt like he was lying on cement. She sighed that the two of them would never agree on a mattress. I suggested that they investigate those sleep number gadgets where everyone gets to choose their mattress firmness. She told me that her parents had one of those and hated it. Her mom was tired of looking up at her dad at night. It turns out that the firmer you like it, the higher your side of the bed grows — like blowing up a balloon.

Steve and I discussed a memory foam mattress, but I was hesitant. Our friends, Nancy and Harry, bought one a few years ago. She told me that after sleeping on it for one night they called to have it removed. “It was awful!” she said. “I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper into the bed and that I would never get out!”

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be trapped in my bed like quicksand, especially if I wanted to get up during the night. The idea of having to wake Steve so that he could push me out didn’t exactly appeal to me. This is one old lady who doesn’t relish having to fight her bed in addition to gravity just to go to the bathroom.

According to a website Shatz found called Sleep Like the Dead, memory foams have disadvantages. One of them is off-gassing. This is when your bed smells like Old Faithful due to the gas in the materials. I won’t even comment on that.

We also discovered that memory foams tend to sleep hot, meaning your mattress builds up heat as you sleep. This last fact was confirmed by a friend who told me that during the summer she felt like she was sleeping in an oven. She kept dreaming that she had died and gone to hell.

But it was the column titled “Good for Sex?” (which has nothing to do with sleeping hot) that convinced me. I quote: “What complaints there are tend to involve models with memory foam. See Mattresses and Sex for more info.” I decided not to, since the visuals dancing in my head were already disturbing enough!

This weekend we’re off for another try. This time I’m going in my pajamas and bringing the dog. I’ll throw him on one of the memory foams to see if he can get out. If he can’t, we’ll definitely cross it off our list. I have enough stress in my life without worrying if my mattress is going to eat me.

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avatar Posted by on Feb 29 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion.
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