I've always wanted a nice mattress, but I'd never made it a priority. After an embarrassing number of years sleeping on a twin, I finally graduated to a used full-size that came with the apartment I'd just started renting. Was I getting the best sleep of my life? No. But I figured drawing my curtains, popping in some earplugs, and winding down before going to bed was enough to get a good quality sleep for now.
Fast forward two years, and I started having back pain. I'd wake up in the middle of the night with a sharp ache shooting from my neck down the right side of my body. Eventually it spread to my left side, and settled in my lower back. I had no idea where the pain was coming from — Lord knows it wasn't exercise — but it made working hunched in front of my computer miserable. I also often found myself waking up in the middle of the night, completely congested and having a hard time breathing. It never occurred to me that it could be my hand-me-down mattress' fault.
So, when I was given the opportunity to test the Casper Wave, the mattress-in-a-box company's latest innovation designed to keep your spine in alignment while you sleep, and alleviate pressure at 33 key points on your body, I thought, yas queen, pun intended. The mattress retails at $1,950 for a full-sized version and $2,250 for a queen, and is available to buy starting Oct. 25, for all of you ready to experience sleep-heaven firsthand. I was about to get a serious sleep upgrade.
As much as a mattress' price tag can keep you away from investing in a new one, there is a lot to be said for how a quality mattress can improve your sleep, especially if your current mattress is past its prime.
"Older mattresses can sag," Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo, tells Bustle. "When the mattress begins to sag, it doesn't give you the support you need. [...] As a result, you'll be all out of alignment, and likely find yourself dealing with back pain and various other types of joint pain. Older mattresses also are likely full of allergens, so you may also develop breathing problems."
Scientific research also confirms this; one study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that sleep quality improved, and back pain decreased once individuals were introduced to new sleep systems. According to the Better Sleep Council, a mattress should typically be replaced after seven years, but it's important to pay attention to your body. If you start experiencing back pain before the seven year-mark, or your mattress wasn't the best quality to begin with, it could be time to switch before then.
And when you finally do make the switch, it's important to take mattress quality into consideration. If you're looking to reduce back pain, and alleviate pressure on your body, doing some beforehand research is key to finding a mattress that will help with spinal alignment, and support you properly. As Jeff Chapin, chief product officer and co-founder of Casper tells Bustle, the Casper Wave checks both of these boxes.
"Proper spinal alignment while sleeping ensures that the discs aren’t pinched or compressed, and thus are able to properly recover," Chapin says. "[...] The Casper Wave promotes proper spinal alignment through the use of supportive gel pods to keep the hips lifted and contoured foam under the shoulder areas to cradle your natural shape." Similarly, Chapin says that the Casper Wave's use of both soft foam and contoured foam can help alleviate pressure on your body in all sleeping positions by preventing circulation from getting cut off, which often leads to soreness, or tossing and turning.
As great as all of that sounds, when the Casper Wave arrived at my doorstep in a box, I was skeptical. My previous mattress bias had taught me that the only way to find what you needed was to go to a furniture store, jump on a few beds, and spend half your life savings. But when my new Casper was finally rolled out onto my bed frame, I sprawled out on my bed, sank in blissfully, and eventually needed the jaws of life to pry me off.
Foam is, to put it mildly, a bedding revelation. I noticed a change in my sleep right away. First, there was the fact that I was excited to go to bed, despite having the Sunday scaries. According to Martin Reed, a certified clinical sleep health expert (CCSH) and the founder of Insomnia Coach, who does not endorse any mattress company, that's just another benefit of upping your mattress game.
"[I]f you own a comfortable mattress you will likely look forward to going to bed each night — and this can strengthen the mental association between the bed, relaxation and sleep," Reed tells Bustle. "In effect, this makes your bed a strong trigger for sleep."
During my first night using the Wave, I snuggled in and immediately noticed the relief of pressure on my upper back and hips. You could physically see how the mattress' construction was alleviating pressure by the way it immediately contoured to my body. I was having shoulder pain that day, and an ache in my lower back, but it faded throughout the night. When I woke up the next day, I felt the effects of having my body properly aligned for eight hours — and this seemed to be the case no matter what position I slept in. The pain had gone, and the tension in my back felt lighter, as if I had gotten a mini massage.
As far as my breathing, that still seems to be an issue, though dust in my room could be the culprit. I also noticed that I continued to wake up in the middle of the night to change positions, but that feels more like a me problem than a mattress problem. A good mattress will not solve all of your issues, but investing in your sleep can be a positive step for your health and overall wellbeing. And if you're really feeling it, a mattress in a box may not be such a bad idea.
Update: This article has been updated to clarify that Martin Reed is not affiliated with Casper.