Mattress shopping with a bad back

The world is now filled with an insane variety of things you can sleep on. I ended up with a Purple 3 mattress, but holy cow — what a ride!

A while ago I moved all my stuff into storage except my 10+-year-old mattress. One marriage, one Great Pyrenees and who knows how many people who briefly tried to 'relate' to me later, that mattress had run its useful service life. As I re-emerge from #vanlife it has become time to purchase a new mattress.

I bought my first mattress in 1994. It was cheap. I gave it to my parents for a guest bed when I moved from Los Angeles in 1999. My parents still keep it in one of their guest bedrooms. I know this because I have slept on it an awful lot in the last few months, and my body hates me for it.

I move around a lot when I sleep and there is conjecture that this is because I am uncomfortable. I try to sleep on my back as it is 'the best' for my lower back problems, and I got problems. I invariably move from my back to sleeping on my right side, where I have damaged my shoulder from my last bed being too firm. After a while, I involuntarily roll to my left side where I was damaging my shoulder but now am on a bed far too soft for that. As the Beach Boys sang, I get around.

I was recently staying at a hotel in the Marriott chain while visiting New Orleans for around a week. I found myself wanting to stay in bed all day. That hasn't happened in a long, long while. I would wake up and my body felt far less in my way. I realized it was because the bed I was sleeping on wasn't beating me up! I researched the Marriott Bed and found out I could get one, however, reviews suggested that while it was a wonderful sleep platform the mattress wears out in a few years. While the Marriott Bed I slept on was all-foam there is also a hybrid foam/spring model — but neither reviews described great longevity. I could not fathom paying $2000+ for a bed that would not last me a decade… however in dreading my return to a 26-year-old mattress I knew I'd be searching for a much better bed.

I did some looking online and realized the world of mattresses has really changed since I last bought a sleeping platform. Luckily, it turns out that a small boutique filled street in my hometown was filled with ridiculously high-end single-brand mattress shops. I figured I could have a really fun time by inviting the woman I had been seeing for 6-months to go mattress shopping with me!

Said woman decided mattress shopping was too much commitment, we are now friends.

A week or so later I was walking down said boutique-lined avenue and decided the time had come. I walked into the Nest Bedding store.

Nest bedding is unrelated, as far as I can tell, to Google Nest. I believe people at Google sleep like bats, anyways. Nest makes a wide-range of foam and hybrid mattresses, leaning towards the foam. Nest supplies all sorts of eco-friendly but budget-aggressive mattresses and you can get budget-friendly but I guess eco-aggressive cheaper models. The thing I noticed about all the Nest models is: they are very very soft. I noticed that every single Nest bed felt like I was stuck in it, and if I got near the edge of the mattress I was going to fall out. While the salesperson at Nest was very helpful it felt like she was used to most customers finding the beds to be like falling into a pillow pit. I took her card to be polite.

Down the street was a Hästens bed store. I was unprepared for this experience. Hästens evidently means "made out of horsehair" and the pillow top on this bed is filled with horsehair. The salesperson was from somewhere over the top of a really cheesy self-help video and took great pride in pointing out the naked profile of a woman pictured on one of their beds. I believe this shows me that really attractive people can lay on these beds. Guess what, I can lay on them too!

The Hästens bed is really comfortable. I was enthusiastic about the first bed I laid down on, and when I mentioned I'd like something a bit less plush the salespersons stopped trying to speak in a calming monotone and escorted me to their supreme model. I went from enthusiastic to pretty much in awe. This bed really, really felt amazing. I could lay on my side and feel no pressure crushing the nerve in my shoulders. I could imagine sleeping, reading and watching movies in this bed until I heard the price.

I would not be buying a $60,000.00 horsehair mattress. There are also springs in it. They are hand tied to whatever they tie them to. I don't know. $60,000.00. I left and went to the Avocado Green Mattress store.

Avocado also makes super eco-friendly beds, but they aren't as budget-friendly as the Nest. They are also far more comfortable and reminded me much more of the Marriott mattress that started this all out. The mattresses are hybrid and with springs made of metal sourced on earth, a special proprietary eco-safe foam and wool that is evidently gently harvested. I found the Avocado mattress to have the right amount of firm plus plushness that feels right to me. Whatever right is for a 150lb 6' tall guy who nuked most of his lumbar discs.

That was it for the stores on boutique row, but just a few miles away there was a Purple Mattress store. I had heard a lot about Purple and wanted to give their hybrid gel, foam and coils mattress a try so I schlepped on down there.

Instead of a plain old top or even pillow-top on the Purple mattress, there is a several inch layer of gel in a waffle-like grid. This gel-grid is the Purple gimmick. They claim the grid supports but cushions by collapsing in the way you'd expect it to. This grid also, purportedly, allows for 'cooler' sleeping as airflow is improved by the negative space in the grid.

I was surprised to find the 2" grid to be very firm, too firm in fact, for me, but the 3" and 4" depth grids were far more interesting. I was really sold on the 3" grid. I felt the Purple gave a lot of support for back and side sleeping and was far-and-away the most comfortable to lay on, on my sides.

Purple offers a 100-day return policy if you try the mattress for 21 days, and a 25-year warranty on the bed. I decided I will give the Purple 3 a try.