You would think it’s the easiest thing in the world to do, but going to sleep is becoming an increasingly tricky activity, and finding a good mattress to sleep on even more so. For most of us who grew up on handmade cotton and coir mattresses, mattress terminology can be befuddling—take this description of a mattress from an Indian start-up retailing on Amazon.in: “Made from internationally certified CertiPUR-US foam and OEKO-TEX standard hypoallergenic grade fabrics…" or this description of a pillow: “Contour ergonomic anti-snoring cervical orthopaedic memory foam pain relief bed pillow for all sleeping positions."

The wide variety of branded mattresses available today, such as spring, coir, latex, memory foam, bonded foam, and hybrid, can be confusing, and even brands admit this. Even within one category (say, spring mattresses), there are several varieties, such as continuous coils, bonnel, pocketed coils, etc., each type referring to the shape and degree of coiling of the spring. While spring technology represents one of the older forms of innovation in the mattress market, memory foam, invented by US space agency Nasa in the 1960s to make aircraft cushions safer, is among the latest and most popular by far, though gel and latex technology is fast gaining popularity.

Choosing the right mattress and pillow, and knowing which is the best for you and your family, involves so much trial and error that most new-age brands like Wakefit, Sunday, Flo, Wink & Nod and Urban Ladder offer a 100-day trial period with a 100% refund.

“If you visit a showroom of any branded company today, the salesperson there will show you at least 10 kinds of mattresses from the same brand. Ask them which one you should buy and they will say ‘every mattress is good’ and ask you your budget," says Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co-founder of sleep products start-up Wakefit.co.

While Wakefit, too, launched with five types of mattresses, this was the reason they eventually pared their categories to two: Orthopaedic Memory Foam mattresses and Dual Comfort mattresses. The former, the company claims, is an improvement on standard memory foam and is a four-layered mattress with harder support foam, a high-density memory foam, a transition layer with both types, and a proprietary “cool foam" layer designed to prevent the mattress from trapping heat, a problem with memory foam in hotter climates like India. “Since memory foam distributes body pressure uniformly while sleeping, it helps in good blood circulation. We made 15 iterations of the product in-house before finalizing the product," says Ramalingegowda.

Sunday focuses on just three types of mattresses, two of which are latex-based: Sunday Ortho Plus 4 (for lower-back and neck pain sufferers) and Latex Plus 4 (for 30-plus people with back issues). It also has a budget-friendly standard memory foam mattress. “A good mattress can play a key role in turning around someone’s quality of life. We wanted to also simplify the whole process of shopping for one; breaking down the whole charade of having to choose from all the multiple options and prices. We have just three models that come at a standardized price and can be ordered online," says Alphonse Reddy, founder, Sunday.

Wink & Nod, meanwhile, offers a charcoal-infused memory foam pillow that the company claims filters indoor pollutants with the help of activated charcoal. The company also has a gel-infused memory foam pillow that seemingly absorbs body heat and has been designed for Indian weather conditions. Another new-age mattress-maker, Flo, offers two kinds of mattresses, Ergo and Ortho, for those who prefer softer ergonomic support and for those who prefer harder orthopaedic support, respectively. Flo has worked to reduce the number of layers in the mattress, and has innovated on memory foam to create a proprietary version it calls “Responsive Foam", promising greater back support, temperature sensitivity, and “zero partner disturbance" (the mattress promises to reduce sleep disturbance due to a restless partner).

While both memory foam and latex are high on comfort and spine support, there have been a few concerns about memory foam mattresses releasing chemicals called “VOCs" (volatile organic compounds), leading to odours and gases (it’s called ‘off-gassing’). Though these have not been conclusively proven to be toxic or allergenic to humans (experts say many new products, including new clothes and furniture, release VOCs), parents of newborns should keep in mind that memory foam mattresses are not ideal for infants—the mattress’s high responsiveness to body contours can cause infants to suffocate.

How to choose the right mattress

Longevity: Latex and memory foam mattresses don’t need to be changed for at least 10 years, while innerspring and pillow-top mattresses should ideally be changed after seven-eight years of regular use. Also, changing your mattress might be a good idea if you are experiencing persistent neck and back pain.

Comfort: If you want mattresses with a good bounce, latex ones are the healthiest option for your back and overall posture, as well as reducing odours and off-gassing.

Support: Memory foam usually tops this parameter as it conforms to the body and is resilient too owing to its motion-isolation capabilities (the foam absorbs the motion in one part of the mattress without rocking the entire structure). An orthopaedic memory foam mattress would be best suited for those who suffer from back and neck pain.

Trial options: Most new-age mattress sellers offer 100-night trials after which you can return the mattress and get a full refund (provided there’s no damage). Take advantage of this to determine which mattress is a keeper.

Sleep position: Different types of sleepers need different levels of firmness in a mattress to be really comfortable, so keep in mind that experts say back sleepers need firmness between 5-7 on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is the most firm), while side sleepers should choose slightly softer mattresses with a firmness level of 3-6 (or a medium-soft mattress).

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