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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 23 Apr 2021 11:21 #1

  • Grendel13G
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I wanted to reach out to fellow side sleepers out there (especially tall/big/athletic ones) to hear about your experiences with DIY latex or latex hybrid mattresses. What layers did you choose, especially the comfort layer(s)? If you used coils for your support layer, did you go with zoned coils (e.g., Combi-Zone), and what is your experience with them?

Just hearing your experiences would be helpful to me, but in case you want more in-depth info about our situation, here you go!

Our info:

Me: Male, 6’4”, 205lbs, lean athletic build (wide shoulders, narrow waist, large thighs). Side sleeper, though I move around a lot. Need a new mattress that helps with lower back pain.

Spouse: Female, 5’6”, 175lbs, curvy build (wide hips). Also a side sleeper. Sleeps hot. Loves our current mattress.

Current mattress: King-sized latex. From top to bottom: 2” wool topper, 2” soft Talalay, 3” medium Talalay, 3” firm Talalay (I don’t know the ILD ratings, but we bought it from Sleep EZ in 2012). The mattress is getting old and has developed deep bowl-like impressions where we sleep, especially on my side, which makes it feel like I’m sleeping in a hammock. It’s time for a new mattress! (And a new, more supportive foundation.)

Even before our mattress developed the deep impressions, it was always “too soft” for me in the hip region, causing lower back soreness (I should have swapped one of the layers with Sleep EZ but didn’t!). I tried switching the layers on my side to S/F/M, which made the mattress feel more firm, but I don’t know if it actually helped my back.

Until finding TMU, I didn’t have the framework to understand why the mattress felt “too soft” for my hips (I just thought I needed a firmer mattress), but now I’ve concluded that it’s some combination of the comfort layer not being soft enough for my wide shoulders and the support layer not being supportive enough for my weight, particularly my large/dense thighs. Photos of my spine alignment confirm this, though surprisingly (to me), my shoulders seem to be out of alignment a lot more than my hips. Seeking a softer comfort layer and a firmer support layer also fits the general advice for my body profile on the Your Statistics page, so I’m pretty confident that this is the way to go.

Our goals:

When waking up with a sore lower back, I keep fantasizing about a nice innerspring mattress, which I usually find very comfortable in hotels and Airbnbs. On the other hand, my spouse loves our current latex mattress, and it’s just about perfect for her. So I’m thinking that a DIY latex coil hybrid might give us the best of both worlds. We’ll be doing a king-sized mattress.

Comfort layer: We’ve done some experimenting with our current mattress to figure out what would and wouldn’t work. We know we need at least a 3” of soft latex in the comfort layer, because we’re probably going to ditch the wool topper, and 2” of soft latex (on top of medium latex) without the wool topper isn’t enough for either of us. The Tips and Tricks page suggests a 4” comfort layer based on my shoulder-to-chest measurement. In our testing, 4” of soft latex feels comfortable, but it’s hard to say how that will feel on a coil support layer. I want to make sure that I don’t significantly change the feel of the mattress for my spouse, but at the same time I need something different enough to alleviate my lower back issues.

Support layer: From the beginning of my research process, I fell in love with the idea of zoned coils, which seemed to be the magic ticket for my lower back problems. The Tips and Tricks page recommends zoning for athletic people with broad shoulders (definitely me) and people who carry their weight in their hips (possibly me, though with large thighs instead of wide hips, and I don’t have narrow shoulders). However, I keep coming across the idea that zoned coils aren’t great for side sleepers, and the experience of TMU forum members seems to back that up, like Ken from Arizona Premium Mattress Co (a side sleeper), Spoonman01 (whose sleep profile/build are very close to mine), and Mattrebuild (who is built similarly but slightly larger than I am).

Our proposed DIY hybrids:

Currently, here is what we’re thinking for our new mattress:

Proposed hybrid #1:
4” soft Talalay (probably 2”+2” for maximum flexibility)
8” coils (unsure about Combi-Zone or not)

This proposed hybrid is sensible and straightforward, but it doesn’t seem right that both sides of the mattress should be configured the same, given that my spouse and I clearly have different needs/preferences based on our current mattress, but I can’t figure out a good alternative. We know we need at least 3” of soft latex in the comfort layer, so I guess we could put another 2” or 3” underneath that on each side, but then we’d have 5”-6” of latex on top of coils. That seems like overkill, and I’m concerned that a “comfort layer” that thick would cease being a comfort layer and start being a (poor) support layer, and we know that the progressive design of 2”/3”/3” S/M/F did not work for me. On the other hand, Mattrebuild (again with a similar but larger build) says that a 4” comfort layer isn’t nearly enough for a large athletic side sleeper. Plus, if we keep piling on the latex, we can probably mimic the feel of our current all-latex bed for my spouse. Which leads to…

Proposed hybrid #2:
4” soft Talalay (probably 2”+2” for maximum flexibility)
2” firm/medium split Talalay or Dunlop (firm on my side)
6” or 8” coils (unsure about Combi-Zone or not)

Thoughts?

I know that it comes down to personal PPP and that physically testing a mattress is the best way to go, but I wanted to see if fellow forum members could at least give me a reasonable starting point, especially if you’re a tall/big/athletic side sleeper. My biggest questions:
  • Any insights about our proposed comfort layer configurations? If you have a similar sleep profile/build that I do, what did you choose?
  • Any insights about zoned coils as our proposed support layer? If you have a similar sleep profile/build that I do (especially if you have lower back issues) and have coils, did you choose zoned coils or not, and what are your experiences with them?
  • Any additional insights about something that I’m overlooking or misunderstanding?

Thanks in advance!

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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 24 Apr 2021 14:03 #2

  • NikkiTMU
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Hi Grendel13G.

Welcome to our Mattress Forum. :)

First, wow! What an incredibly comprehensive and articulate post. You've done an incredible amount of research. I know you are primarily looking for feedback from other big + tall sleepers, and I hope some folks weigh in!

I looked at your proposed DIYs, and both are smart options. A good starting point for a comfort layer is 2" which allows you to add thickness (or take it away) as you do your configuration testing and/or as your support and alignment needs adjust.

With configuration 1, you're very easily able to add a third 2" layer if you're finding 4" to be inadequate. Configuration 2 provides a "transition" layer that allows you to sink into the latex without hitting springs. Another option to consider instead of a 6" configuration is a 3" comfort layer and a 2" transition if you feel or find 6" to be too much.

Any insights about zoned coils as our proposed support layer?


If you’re both within a similar BMI range, it’s very possible that a zoned mattress could be a perfectly acceptable option. If one of you is very heavy, and the other very light, one of you may struggle to find comfort based on the support factors involved.

Your 2nd configuration could be considered "vertical zoning" (although it's not really zoning in the normal sense) which recognizes that people with very different weights will sink into a mattress differently and "come to rest" in different layers in a mattress.

For example, a mattress could have a top two inches of soft materials, two or 3 inches of a more medium material, and then a much firmer support layer. The lighter person would sink into the top layer and the top part of the medium layer and this could be soft enough for their pressure relief needs. The middle "transition" layer would be partly to add to the pressure relieving qualities of the softer thinner 2" layer and partly be for support (lighter people don't need the same firmness level to "hold up" their heavier parts). On the other hand the heavier person would mostly "go through" the top 2" layer and use most of the next 3" layer for pressure relief (heavier people generally need thicker firmer comfort layers to achieve the same softness as a lighter person experiences on softer foam) and then the much firmer support layer (that wasn't being utilized nearly as much by the lighter person) would be their support layer. In other words ... different layers in a mattress can perform different functions for different people.

I look forward to hearing how your DIY progresses and do let us know if more questions arise.
NikkiTMU
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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 26 Apr 2021 06:08 #3

  • Mattrebuild
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You have some great options in here but there's a bit of a wildcard going from an all latex bed to a hybrid. Personally I didn't like the combi zone coils (I prefer QE Bolsa) because I found the zoning didn't really fit me where I needed it (I'd rather create the zoning in the latex support layers where I want it). Now whichever you decide to go with, ideally you would lie straight on the springs first to see what your alignment is like and then build the layers up from there to provide comfort and tweak support where you need it with zoning. Not everyone has this luxury (since most still need a place to sleep at night) so I would assume you are likely going to need 6" of latex above the springs but if you want to start with 4" and see how it works there's nothing wrong with that except the waiting time to get another layer if needed. Also if you are the athletic type then you are very likely going to need to zone the mattress to make it feel right. There's 2 main ways to do that. First you can buy a 3" V-zone layer from Flobeds (they sell them per side so it's all fully customizable). Second you can just buy your own layers and cut them to create zoning (DIY). If you go the Fobeds route I would get a 2-3" (depending how plush you want it) 22ILD talalay and use that as a comfort layer over the zoning. If you go the second route, then I would get a 2" in 22ILD king talalay comfort layer and put that over 2" of 32/36ILD talalay on your side and 2" of 28/32ILD talalay on her side. That makes it a 6" layer for both sides and allows you to get plenty of zoning if you find you need it. I would also get one additional 2" of 22ILD twin XL talalay layer to use for zoning in the areas you need to sink in for alignment (such as your shoulders/head). You could always start with just 4" and test to see how it feels but that really only allows you 2" to correct any alignment issues which won't work unless the alignment was very close to start with. Let us know how you make out.

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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 26 Apr 2021 09:02 #4

  • Grendel13G
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NikkiTMU: Thanks for the reply! I owe a big thanks to TMU and all its contributors. The time and effort put into this site is amazing, and I learned more in an hour reading the tutorials on this site than I did from 10+ hours of reading online “review” sites. The Finding Your Perfect Mattress section was a revelation, particularly how it lays out (a) here are the essential functions of a mattress, and (b) here are the pros and cons of the various materials and methods that can be used to achieve those functions. That's how to educate someone to make an informed decision!

I appreciate your point about how configuration #1 (4" latex on top of coils) is more flexible, as it would allow us to convert to configuration #2 (6" latex on top of coils) later if we wanted. Also, I'm glad that zoned coils potentially make sense for people in a similar BMI range, so I'm not completely mistaken in considering them!

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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 27 Apr 2021 08:29 #5

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Mattrebuild, you're a genius! Zoning in the latex opens up a lot more possibilities than zoning in the coils, and allows for some flexibility and fine-tuning. I found this thread where people had a lot of success with DIY zoning, so I think that's the way to go. Functionally, what is the difference between zoning in the comfort layer vs. zoning in the support layer? I thought I remembered reading something about the difference in one of the tutorials, but I can't find it.

You're right that it's a bit of a wildcard going from latex to a hybrid. I think I prefer coils, but maybe that's because I never had the proper support/zoning in our latex mattress, and I'm paranoid about departing too far from the latex feel that has been very successful for my spouse.

What was it about the zoning of the Combi-Zone coils that didn't work for you? I'll do some testing, but I think I'll end up zoning the latex in thirds similarly to the Combi-Zone, so I'm curious what zoning layout you chose.

If you go the second route, then I would get a 2" in 22ILD king talalay comfort layer and put that over 2" of 32/36ILD talalay on your side and 2" of 28/32ILD talalay on her side. That makes it a 6" layer for both sides and allows you to get plenty of zoning if you find you need it. I would also get one additional 2" of 22ILD twin XL talalay layer to use for zoning in the areas you need to sink in for alignment (such as your shoulders/head).


To clarify, do you mean my side would have 2" of 22ILD, 2" of 32ILD, and 2" of 36ILD, then I would insert 22ILD zones where needed (i.e. shoulders/head)?

I was also playing around with a design that wouldn't require buying a "spare" layer for zoning or leave any unused pieces, though it assumes a zoning system split into thirds is the best fit for me (and it might not be). It would look like this, top to bottom, with the head of the bed on the left:

My side:
S-S-S
S-F-M
M-F-F

Her side:
S-S-S
S-S-M
M-M-M

A simpler design with fewer cuts would have no zoning on her side (just S/S/M), and my side would look like:
S-S-S
S-F-S
S-F-F

Thoughts? Thanks again for your valuable advice!

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Experiences of tall/big/athletic side sleepers w/ DIY latex and zoned coils 27 Apr 2021 12:04 #6

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What was it about the zoning of the Combi-Zone coils that didn't work for you? I'll do some testing, but I think I'll end up zoning the latex in thirds similarly to the Combi-Zone, so I'm curious what zoning layout you chose.


The issue I ran into was that with the combi zone it forced my hips up but then the support doesn't go high enough so my waist/chest bowed into the bed and then my shoulders didn't sink in so another awkward back bend there too. Now I didn't do any zoning with that setup at all so you might have gotten it to work eventually with some effort (and alot of layers) but to me you don't want any zoning unless the zoning works perfectly for you (yes, hard to know unless you try it). If you go with the QE bolsa it doesn't have this so any zoning is strictly what you create in the upper support layers. The best mattress design has the minimum number of layers needed to remove all your pressure points and maintain proper spine alignment.
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To clarify, do you mean my side would have 2" of 22ILD, 2" of 32ILD, and 2" of 36ILD, then I would insert 22ILD zones where needed (i.e. shoulders/head)?


Yes correct, this is the simplest form of zoning. If you look at the Flobeds Vzone you can see what it looks like as zoning gets more complex but this will give you a solid start. You want the top comfort layer to be continuous (no cuts) because this is what you will feel when sleeping (gaps can open up as body parts travel further into the mattress). The lower layers are fine to modify because they will work together to provide the support and correct any alignment issues you run into. Again they layers do all work together so this is a bit of an oversimplification but you get the idea anyway. I would test fit the layers first on the mattress before cutting so you know what it feels like and exactly where you want the zone to start/stop. Check your alignment on the coils first then add additional layers as needed and make any necessary adjustments to correct your posture.
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A simpler design with fewer cuts would have no zoning on her side (just S/S/M), and my side would look like:
S-S-S
S-F-S
S-F-F

Thoughts? Thanks again for your valuable advice!


I like the simplicity but I think it will be a bit too soft at her BMI with S/S/M. Also I know talalay is more expensive but when you have large curves to fit it just works better than dunlop. You could just try getting a 2" 22ILD king layer then get 2" twin XLs for all the other layer densities (22/28/32/36) and that should allow you to tailor exactly what works for each side. You may end up returning / buying a different layer here or there but at least you have all the selection on hand to separately fit each person perfectly. Try your combos with full layers first because sometimes you get lucky and the simplest design that works is always the best.

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