We’ve discussed how to find the best mattress for Back Sleepers: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-best-mattress-for-back-sleepers.html
We’ve also discussed how to find the best mattress for Side Sleepers: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-best-mattress-for-side-sleepers.html
If you go back and review the other two articles, you’ll find a recurring theme: the mattress that is best for you will be the one that holds your body in a neutral position.
To define “neutral position”: this is how you look when standing in a relaxed position. Generally, the hips and shoulders line up; the spinal column is gently curved.
If a mattress can keep you in your neutral position, it means that unnecessary muscular tension due to improper alignment and imbalance will be all but eliminated.
However, for true stomach sleepers, those who sleep flat on their bellies, the idea that you can find a mattress that will hold you in a neutral position is false.
You can certainly find a mattress that holds your body in a healthy way from the shoulders down. It’s the neck up that is, sadly, impossible.
When sleeping flat on the belly, (the prone position), the head must be turned drastically to one side in order to be able to breathe. This creates mispositioning of the cervical vertebrae and musculature issues due to such harsh flexion, resulting in neck pain.
Imagine holding your head in this position for extended periods of time during your daytime hours. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? Still, many people do sleep in the prone position and find it difficult to re-train their bodies to a healthier sleeping position. So for those people, we offer the following suggestions.
The best mattress for the belly sleeper is the one that keeps the hips in the proper place. The mattress must be firm enough to create just enough lift under the hips so the gentle curvature of the lumbar spine remains intact and as it exists when the sleeper is standing up in a relaxed position.
How do you know if your hips are in the correct position? If the mattress is too soft, the hip region / pelvic girdle will enter too deeply into the mattress surface, which places excess curvature in the lumbar region—in effect, a swayback situation will occur.
If the mattress is too firm, there will be too much lift under the hips, resulting in a flattening of that all-important lumbar curvature.
Firm/Medium/Soft mattress: the one that works best for you is based on your weight. Try out models until one keeps the hips in the proper position and don’t worry about if it’s called a soft or firm. The importance of proper alignment (at least from the shoulders down for belly sleepers) supersedes the soft/firm question. And if you find one that keeps you in a correct position, that question answers itself.
Again, it’s so important to look carefully at the materials involved in the making of the mattress, and to inspect the warranty. What good does it do to find a mattress that fits your body perfectly if it’s going to wear out very quickly? And if the mattress gets worn out, your body is no longer in a neutral position, but is flexed in an unnatural, unhealthy way.
Most warranties contain a clause regarding “body impressions”—and most warranties will not go into effect until that body impression reaches a depth of at least 1.5 inches. When the body is lying in even a ½-inch-deep body impression, there’s no way for it to remain neutral, no matter what sleeping position you might be in. Please think carefully about longevity of the mattress as it relates to maintaining your healthy sleeping positions.
Also, please see the following link for information on what to look for (and look out for) in a mattress warranty: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2012/12/mattress-warranties-what-you-need-to.html