Do You Need to Buy a New Bed if You Want to Improve Your Sleep?

The sixteenth variable that I will be manipulating across a two week period to examine its impact on sleep is the comfort of the sleeping environment. I will see if sleeping in a bed is better for sleep quality than sleeping on the couch or sleeping on the floor. 

I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective a comfortable bed is at improving sleep.

HOW COULD THE COMFORT OF WHERE YOU SLEEP IMPAIR YOUR SLEEP QUALITY?

If you look at all the bed advertisements out there, they will tell you that the best way to ensure a good night of sleep is to buy the best mattress that you can.

However, I have seen many clients who have spent thousands of dollars on new mattresses and pillows, and they still don’t seem to sleep any better.

I’m interested to see just how much of an impact the surface and comfort of what I sleep on has on my sleep quality. Whenever I go camping I usually tend to sleep well still, so maybe it doesn’t have as much of an impact on sleep as what the advertisers try to say.

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THE EXPERIMENT

For the first five nights, I decided to sleep where I normally do on my Queen Bed, which feels very comfortable to me and usually leads to a good night’s sleep.

For the middle five nights, I slept on the couch, which is long enough for me but isn’t too wide and also has variations in hardness and softness, and some gaps between each seat cushion.

For the last four nights, I slept on a carpeted floor with a sheet underneath me and a blanket on top. This was clearly the least comfortable option for me and the hardest surface.

Let’s see if what I slept on made a big difference to my sleep…

THE OUTCOME

episode 16 sleep diary

Comparison: Queen bed vs Couch vs Carpeted floor

Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:

  • The number of awakenings:
    1. Queen bed – 1 per night
    2. Couch – 1.4 per night
    3. Floor – 2 per night
      • less is better
  • Time in bed:
    1. Queen bed – 7 hours 45 minutes
    2. Floor – 7 hours 34 minutes
    3. Couch – 7 hours 21 minutes
      • 8 hours is ideal for me
  • Time to bed:
    1. Floor – 11:20pm
    2. Queen bed – 11:42pm
    3. Couch – 12:18pm
      • 11:30pm is ideal for me
  • Total sleep time:
    1. Queen bed – 7 hours 18 minutes
    2. Couch – 6 hours 46 minutes
    3. Floor – 6 hours 39 minutes
      • 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
  • Sleep onset latency:
    1. Queen bed – 10 minutes
    2. Couch – 15 minutes
    3.  Floor – 15 minutes
      • quicker is better
  • Wake after sleep onset:
    1. Queen bed – 17 minutes
    2. Couch – 20 minutes
    3.  Floor – 40 minutes
      • less is better
  • Rise time:
    1. Queen bed – 7:27 am
    2. Couch – 7:39 am
    3. Floor – 6:54 am
      • 7:30am is ideal for me
  • Sleep quality:
    1. Queen bed – 4.2/5
    2. Couch – 4.2/5
    3. Floor – 3.78/5
      • higher is better
  • Sleep efficiency:
    1. Queen bed – 94.19%
    2. Couch – 92.06%
    3. Floor – 87.89%
      • higher is better

AND THE WINNER IS…

With a count of 8 points to 1 points, sleeping on a Queen bed is substantially better for my sleep than sleeping on the couch or on the floor. My sleep quality on the queen bed was rated the same as sleeping on the couch, but I fell asleep quicker in bed, woke up less, spent less time awake during the night and had a sleep efficiency that was 2.13% better.

It actually made more of a difference to me than I expected. I’m not sure if that would be the same between a good enough mattress and an excellent mattress, however, but if a mattress company wanted to send me their mattress for free to compare, I’d be interested to explore the differences further.

IS BUYING A NEW BED A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?

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IS IT EFFECTIVE?

In comparison to the floor, definitely. In comparison to a comfortable couch, a little bit. Is a $10,000 mattress better than a $500 mattress, who knows? But beds do tend to contribute to better sleep than no beds.

I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy a 15/25.

CAN IT BE APPLIED?

Yes. But it can be super expensive to buy a new bed. If you already have a bed that isn’t too old or saggy and is reasonably comfortable, then there will be other things that you could do to improve your sleep that would cost less and potentially be more effective. If you do not have a bed or your current one is really old or causing you a lot of discomfort and pain, upgrading your bed may be worth it.

I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy an 11/25. 

IS IT SCIENTIFIC?

Tonetti, Martoni and Natale (2009) found that by giving 32 healthy people a new mattress, their subjective sleep quality did not seem to improve, but their objective sleep did, with the reduced time taken to get to sleep, improved sleep efficiency and reduced motor activity during the night. These improvements occurred in both the latex mattress group and the independent spring mattress group.

A follow-up study in 2011 by Tonetti and colleagues found that a Myform® mattress led to significant improvements in actigraphy recorded sleep onset latency and sleep efficiency when compared to a traditional spring mattress in 28 healthy volunteers. Both of these studies sound like they are funded by a mattress company, but they indicate that there is at least some support for more expensive mattresses over cheaper ones.

I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 30/50.

Overall, stimulus control as a way to sleep better gets a score of 15/25 + 11/25 + 30/50 =

56/100: Pass

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WHAT I RECOMMEND

Do not focus too much on the quality of your mattress. If it feels comfortable to you and does not cause you too much discomfort or pain, then you probably don’t need to change it.

It is important that we feel comfortable wherever we sleep, so if you do not, see if there is anything that you can change that won’t cost too much before investing in a new mattress. They can be really expensive and are not an empirically validated treatment for insomnia.

If you are concerned about your sleep, a referral to a sleep physician for a full assessment would be a much better place to start.

Thanks for reading! If you would like a personalised sleep report and the five things that you could do to best improve your sleep, please check out our services.

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3 comments

  1. Very good article. The bed is important for good restful sleep. The mattress quality is important not the price. If the mattress is good then perhaps the base needs modifying or changing to give better and firmer support. Once on holiday I injured my back and the hotel bed was too soft I had to put the mattress on the floor to sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a fairly decent mattress but was still having some minor pain points…fixed by tossing a very thick, very soft comforter folded in half to fit the bed. Ahhhhh…sleep like a baby now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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