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Everyone has different back conditions, so it is crucial to know how to find the right mattress to create the best sleep situation.

Proper sleep is critical for humans to recharge their batteries and wake up each day refreshed.   In fact, t he only time during which the muscles, ligaments and other structures in the spine can completely relax is while sleeping. And when a person suffers from a back injury or disorder, it's especially important to sleep well in order to help the healing process.

While there are no absolute rules, there are a few general guidelines about sleeping positions that are most comfortable for the spine:

•  In general, the best sleeping position is to lie on your back with a small pillow tucked underneath the back of the knees. This position completely unloads the stress on the spine and allows for the natural curve of the lower back.

•  For people who prefer sleeping on their side, it is helpful to place a pillow between the knees to help keep stress off the hips and lower spine.

•  For people who sleep best on their stomach, placing a flat pillow beneath the stomach and hips can reduce stress on the spine.

While these guidelines are true in general, the position that is most comfortable to sleep in is again largely dependent individual preferences and if the person is suffering from back pain.    In general, elevating the knees slightly by placing a pillow under them while lying on the back can help many general forms of low back pain. Many patients also find that this is the most comfortable way to sleep after spine surgery.

Sleeping in a reclining chair, or an adjustable bed that allows one to put the head and knees up (the semi-Fowler position), can also help people with lower back pain sleep better. Specifically, patients who suffer from conditions in which the pain feels worse when standing up straight and better when bending forward may benefit from a reclining chair or adjustable bed.

While individual preference is probably the most important factor in determining the best mattress for each person, there are some general rules of thumb in what constitutes a good mattress.

•  Most people prefer a firmer mattress that gives the spine more support. It makes sense that it is beneficial to have support for the spine while sleeping.

•  While a firm mattress is usually good, if the mattress is too hard it can cause aches and pains in pressure points, such as the hips. People who sleep on their sides may feel more sensitive to a firmer mattress.

•  There are no significant external forces on the spine while one is sleeping, so even a firmer mattress is not absolutely necessary. If one feels more comfortable on a softer mattress, or even a waterbed, it is quite reasonable to sleep on a softer mattress.

Before buying a mattress, it is best to try sleeping on it. People may try different beds in hotels, at other people's houses, etc. and when they find the best mattress for them, then they buy the same make/model.   If it's not possible to sleep on a mattress first, it's advisable to at least lie on the mattress in the store until feeling sure that it is a comfortable fit.

In general, the higher number of coils and the thicker the padding, the higher quality (and more expensive) the mattress. However, this does not mean that it's necessary to buy the mattress with the highest number of coils and/or thickest padding. As discussed previously, mattress preference is dictated by a number of factors, including a person's specific back condition.

To learn more about mattress selection and sleep positions for various back problems, check out this link