Going to the Mattresses Again

It’s raining; it’s pouring. The old man ain’t snoring. Darn it.

I sure could use it, too. I slept pretty well, I think, until 5:13 when I woke for no apparent reason. I did go back to sleep and was dreaming at 7:00 when SWMBO startled me right off the mattress by imitating a fire siren. I.Did.Not.Get.Back.To.Sleep after that. I simply played possum until the alarm.

I don’t think my mattress is the reason I don’t sleep as well as I did as a kid but a mattress could well be the reason we don’t sleep as comfortably as we did as kids.

Mattress thoughts have been popping up lately. One of my misc.writing buddies was musing about how to choose one “for a friend.” Liz Arden built one for herself from foam blocks a couple of years ago. And I realized this morning that I have bought exactly one mattress in my life. Part of that may be my pugnacious parsimony.

The Good Housekeeping Guide to Buying a Mattress reminds us right at the start that a “big part of what makes a good one is very personal: One person’s luxury is another person’s backache waiting to happen.”

Even online mattresses can cost thousands of dollars. I simply won’t pay that.

Mattress sellers say we won’t find bedding that can stand up to a decade of daily punishment for under a grand.

Horse puckey.

Part may be that I just haven’t found anything I like better.

SWMBO and I came this >┃┃< close to buying a Sunline TransPort toy hauler this weekend. It’s a pretty good alternative to the not-so-Perfect Travel Trailer and it would be parked here today if I hadn’t built a spreadsheet to run the numbers. Sunline built light but this one was just too heavy for the new truck.

Stack of MattressesIn going through my checklist, I sprawled out on the brand new, pillow top, queen-size mattress and took about a nanosecond to realize that was the only part of the trailer that sucked. It made my back hurt to lie down and it made my back hurt to get back up again.

That would have meant I’d have to buy two mattresses in my lifetime.


The last load of family furniture came north when Boppa moved to the Keys in 1984. That included the full size maple Sheraton four poster bed with tester frame that my folks slept in and now we do. (We had previously slept on a bed I built from 5/4-inch plywood, “decorator” cinder blocks, and a mattress that came from somewhere.) A couple nights on the horsehair mattress my folks had enjoyed was enough to send me to the Scott foam store.

My dad had worked for Scott Paper when they made a foray into the urethane foam business. They opened an outlet store at the Chester plant for foam blocks cut to size for chair cushions, boat cushions, mattresses, and the like. I bought the “green” high density mattress foam, stuffed it into a bedsack, and violas played.

About ten years ago, SWMBO and I decided we needed something different so we tried a couple of the inner spring mattresses on the guest room beds but didn’t like any of them. Next, I replaced the bedboard on top of the saggy, custom made box spring. Finally, I moved the horsehair mattress that came with this bed back on it and put the foam back on top of that.


Anyone counting on their fingers has just realized that we’ve used this block of foam for about 33 years. The horsehair under it is easily a century older than that. I lay down on the bed this morning (briefly … that has nothing to do with why this reminiscence is late going up) and realized it is still about the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever tried.

There’s a lesson in here.

Commercial mattresses probably work OK for maybe about half the population. The rest of us would do well to experiment the way Ms. Arden did with blocks of varying density foam. Or try the way I did with foam and horsehair. Or go with toppers on a conventional inner spring mattress. Something will work, but it will take some research.

That and the fact that I should probably go down to UVM for a sleep study.


4 thoughts on “Going to the Mattresses Again

  1. Baby A (remember, we had twins) slept on a commercial mattress that I had obtained when I had a project apartment in Houston. I had LOVED that mattress at the time…. but only after I added a THICK felt topper with an eggcrate foam pad under that. She didn’t like the foam and that disappeared when that bed came north and became her bed. I have FINALLY got a new foam pad and installed it… but I haven’t slept in that bed yet, to confirm its full recovery. Need to do SOMETHING different… that 30+ year old king in my bedroom is shortening my nights.

    Meanwhile, I bought a full-size 10″ memory foam mattress for my great great grandmother’s cherry 4- poster in the guest room. 1 night told me “too hard.” So I topped that with a softer 3″ memory foam topper. That didn’t work either. Baffling…. I used to sleep on a 4″ foam mattress in my camper and deemed it glorious. Hmmm… that was NOT memory foam. Thinking about each night’s sleep, I realize I don’t move much (or at all?) on that mattress when I am sleeping. The foam just supports too well and evenly. I guess the next thing to try is a 3″ CONVENTIONAL foam topper…..

    Wish me luck.

    • (I meant to include speculation on why TOO MUCH PERFECTION of mattress support might be a bad thing: if you don’t move, at my age, you get stiff. If the mattress support is too perfect, your unconscious body won’t move to find better/different support. Therefore you wake up stiff.)

    • That’s why I dislike memory foam. It mostly doesn’t let you move. Then, when you can move, it remembers the wrong shape.

  2. One can still buy a horse hair mattress. They range from the most expensive to perhaps finding one at an estate or garage sale. Barring that, mattresses in Greece are stuffed with 100% long staple wool. Wool needs to be recarded and sometimes restuffed but is a decent second choice. And Rufus’ wool felt may well be very similar in feel.

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