It’s a fact that as we get older, it’s harder to sleep. It can be more challenging to get to sleep or to stay asleep, with a significant number of men and women reporting various forms of insomnia after age 50. Reasons include illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, depression or anxiety, or inactivity, mental distractions, or a shitty old mattress.
Case in point: my wife and I downsized recently, a stressful life transition when you’ve accumulated years of useless junk that you still debate throwing away! But that’s a topic for another article. We sold our house while our new old house got a complete facelift. As a result, we had to rent, twice. And we didn’t rent some cheap dump—well, it was a dump, but it was by the beach and it sure wasn’t cheap.
But a clue of how bad it was going to be came from the label: “Beelzebub Mattress Makers—he’ll see you soon.”
Now, we were used to a California King, a bed so wide that you see your wife talking before you hear her. It was comfortable, spacious, and provided many hours of restful slumber. Cue the rental #1 mattress. It was a queen-sized mattress, which I could live with—my wife is small. But a clue of how bad it was going to be came from the label: “Beelzebub Mattress Makers—he’ll see you soon.” It was as if someone, or something, had indiscriminately taken coils of poorly wound, randomly sized springs and piled them into a minimally padded sac of porcupine quills. Every slight move by either one of us created a reverberating wave of jabs and stabs that took minutes to dissipate. After several months of sleepless nights and crooked spines, we had to find a new rental before we descended into a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” scenario.
I had high hopes for the next rental. Even though the living space was smaller, the mattress seemed up to standards. I spread out on it during the inspection and figured that after Satan’s Slab, this would be an improvement. And it was, sort of. My mistake was not testing it with my wife on the other side. After a few nights of feeling like I was falling, I realized that the mattress had a central crevasse running from north to south, resulting in two, opposite slopes that met in the middle. On several occasions I accidentally buried my wife in that crevasse under my considerable girth because she had rolled in first. Despite trying to mitigate this with a topper mattress, we both still had to “Rube Goldberg” specialized grappling hooks to stay on our respective sides of the bed. Very restful.
As our money pit was getting ready for occupancy, we engaged in a determined search for the best mattresses. After much lying, rolling, and bouncing at various mattress vendors, we consider these to be the top 4 mattresses.
This is the mattress we purchased. We pretty much got all the bells and whistles. It’s an adjustable split California King. While she’s sitting up reading, I can be snoozing. While I’m sitting up watching a show, she can be lying flat, yelling at me to turn the volume down. The comfort settings are programmable for each side, another marriage saver! And it records your sleep history, so you can actually track how the night went and how much restful sleep you got that night. It is more expensive than the other mattresses on the list, but for me, it was totally worth it!
The Casper mattress was a close second. We’ve all seen their ads, and they pioneered the mattress-in-a-box market. I first tried one at my older daughter’s house, when they cost under $1000. I was skeptical that a “cheap” mattress sent in a box could be comfortable, but it is! It comes with a nice, inconspicuous base, and it’s low enough that it’s easy to get in and out. We ended up buying these for our guest rooms and have had no complaints.
We had a Tempur-pedic mattress for seven years, and it was great. They also make the adjustable back, split mattress version and are priced similarly to the Sleep Number. During the time that we owned it, I had two problems with the mattress. First, they tend to trap heat and get warm, despite what the ads say. I sleep best when I’m cool, so that was a problem. The other was that after a couple of years, there was a permanent imprint on my side of the mattress—a little plaster and I could have made a Pompeii cast of myself. (Too soon?) In any case, it’s definitely worth checking out.
The purple mattress was an odd duck, but I could see how it might appeal to some. To me, it felt like one of the old waterbeds that were so popular in the ’70s. It was comfortable, but a little too bouncy for me.
Mattresses are a lot like art or wine: it really is a matter of taste. Just make sure you test them thoroughly. And don’t listen to the salespeople—they’re hard-working, but they want you to buy.
And one last thing: “Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.” Dave Barry