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A good nights' sleep

I was diagnosed with presbyopia—“old eyes”—in 1997. At the time, the optometrist said that it’s not unusual, it’s just that I was getting it about 10 years before most people.

In 2002, I took myself to the doctor because of “crunching” noises in my knees that I could hear when I went up and down stairs. He referred me to a specialist, who told me that I had arthritis. It’s something most people will get eventually, he told me, it’s just that you’re getting it about 10 years early. In 2006, we replaced the mattress that we had purchased when we moved to England in 1996.

Both my wife and I had been having problems with pain—shoulder, back, etc., and we thought a new mattress might help. It did, mostly, but I still had a fair amount of back/hip pain and I lost a lot of mobility.

When I moved to Texas last November, I was still having some problems. I just assumed that it was old age and arthritis, and continued to take my Naproxen Sodium (Aleve), which seems to make things bearable. In December and January, I was living in temporary housing, a furnished apartment.

A week or so before Christmas, I managed to twist something in my back, which hurt so bad that I really had trouble moving. The pain persisted, and towards the end of January I scheduled a doctor appointment to talk about my back. The doctor’s appointment was in the first week of February.

In the mean time, we bought a house, and, since all our furniture was back at our old place in California, I arranged to purchase a new bed (mattress and box springs) and have it delivered to the house on the day we signed all the papers, since the movers wouldn’t be coming for a few weeks. We had wanted a king-sized bed, and we decided to put our old (queen) bed in my son’s room, since he had outgrown his twin. It also let us use his room as a guest room. The new bed, a Stearns & Foster, was delivered that evening, and we slept on it the first night in our new house.

At the end of that week, I had my doctor’s appointment. She did various tests and manipulations, and decided that there was no major damage, and that I had probably pulled a muscle sleeping on the bed in the furnished apartment. The thing is, in the three days since sleeping on the new mattress, I was already much better. I continued to improve and, by the middle of the next week, I was nearly pain-free for the first time in a decade. (I say “nearly” because I can still cause some twinges if I twist wrong or overstress my back, but mostly I’m pain-free.)

In the two months since then, I’ve stayed free of pain, able to walk reasonable distances and go up and down stairs without any back problems. I still have the arthritis in my knees, and I need to take the Naproxen Sodium for that, but it’s amazing that my back has been well for so long.

I am assuming that it’s because of the new mattress. This is not a hugely expensive, top-of-the-line model. In fact, it’s roughly equivalent to the one we had purchased back in California. It is somewhat less firm than that one, and I assume that the softness lets my back rest in a more comfortable state than the slightly more firm, older mattress did. I’m not touting a particular brand or model of mattress; I don’t really think that what works for me will work for everyone else.

However, I still feel astounded that a mattress could make that much of a difference. In my parents’ day, you got a bed for your wedding and, if you were lucky, you replaced it when you retired. Many of the beds in my home growing up were 40 or 50 years old.

Many of the newer technologies—memory foam, multi-point suspension systems—seem to be well-researched and actually provide benefits. I’m still convinced that the mattress industry is making huge amounts of money for what they sell (and I still believe they’re scamming us, otherwise, why would they sell us a mattress with a 20-year guarantee and then tell us you need to replace your mattress every eight years?). But in this case, I’m more than happy to pay for it.

Glen Campbell
April 14, 2011