Ergonomic Guidelines for Mattresses

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

- Thomas Dekker -

In The Princess and the Pea fairytale story, the princess was unable to sleep right because a pea was placed under her mattress—which is actually 20 mattresses piled high! One moral to this tale is that the quality of what you sleep on matters to the quality of your sleep.

Since our body is compressed by gravity, when we are in a sleeping position, to when we are standing up. Moreover; because we spend around one-third of our life lying on mattresses, we must take into consideration every tip a physical therapist advises; as a mattress without enough support for the spine can lead to muscle fatigue and a poor night's sleep. A perfectly good mattress maintains the same natural spinal alignment while standing, allowing the body to rest in its natural position, therefore all the muscles are relaxed and sleep is more refreshing.

So what are the features of a good mattress? Does it matter if it's too hard or too soft? Rafqa Abi Saad, from the Department of Physical Therapy has shared her knowledge to aware individuals through the study of mattress ergonomics.


When searching for the ultimate comforting mattress, consider these factors:

  • It should be designed to conform to the spine's natural curves.
  • It should keep the spine in alignment when laying down.
  • It has to distribute pressure evenly across the body to help blood circulation.

In addition to these important features:

  • Type: The best type of mattress is the one that offers you the most support and is the most comfortable for you.
  • Foundation: The foundation, often called a box spring, absorbing stress and weight for the mattress. It can extend the life of the mattress; therefore, try to purchase the box spring designed to go with your mattress.
  • Firmness: It is not inevitably true that firmer is better. A mattress that is too firm does not support the body evenly, tending only to support the body's heaviest parts. While a soft mattress prevents the spine from maintaining proper alignment and correct posture.
  • Durability: Look for quality materials for the core as well as the cover. See if there is a warranty on the mattress in case of defects. The prices are determined by what they are made out of and should last about 10 years. Consider it an investment and look for the best value.


When choosing a pillow, select one that complements the mattress:

  • Designed to support different sleep positions: Side, back, stomach.
  • Designed to support the head and eliminate pressure points.
  • Designed as hypoallergenic.


Remember that we spend around 24 years of our lifetime sleeping, so we should take time to choose the best sleeping material; from the mattress, the support structure, the pillows, and of course the sheets.  By improving our sleep, we reach a better quality of life. 

Rafqa Abi Saad, Instructor at the Department of Physical Therapy