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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 01 Nov 2021 12:42 #1

  • nick7790
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Hello TMU,

I'm sure you get alot of requests like these, but I'm desperate. I barely pass 3-4 hours of sleep anymore due to lower back pain.

Sleeper #1 - 6'2" BMI 23 (somewhat lanky build, bony hips and shoulders, lots of back pain)
Sleeper #2 - 5"1 BMI 31 (Sleeps well on most anything unless it's super firm)
Old bed: www.originalmattress.com/orthopedic-eurotop-mattress-set - 10 years old. Feels like comfort layer has deteriorated beyond use. Hips sink straight to coils.

To make a long story short, we replaced our mattress with a prebuilt (3" firm Dunlop, 3" medium Dunlop, 1" foam w/ horizontally quilted wool/cotton cover) and couldn't stand it. It was way too hard and I had back pain within 2 hours of sleeping on it. We added a 3" soft Talalay topper to it and it improved, but I think the quilted cover is the problem at this point because there is a clear feeling of bottoming out the soft layer. #1 still has severe lower back pain(feels like hammocking), #2 says it's good.

Our plan is to return this mattress to build out our own DIY with a stretch cotton cover, but I can't decide on what layers to go with. I initially was going to do a simple 3S + 3M + 3F build but there isn't much room for adjustment so I think we've settled on starting with a 10" and possibly going to a 12".

Here is the rough idea for our build:




I'm not really sure if I should stick to the base build or if either of my "Option 2s" are would be better options because the soft to med layer jump seems high at 20->34. The LMF 28ILD Med might be a "better" more gradual increase in firmness over the SOL 34.
Also not sure of other vendors to explore, SOL has great prices and policies, but their firmness levels are a bit higher than others. I'm also concerned that if I need to exchange something or swap a layer, LMF's once a year policy will bite me if I need to exchange anything.

Could really use some all around advice.
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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 01 Nov 2021 22:00 #2

  • lantern71
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i'm 6'1 normal BMI. For what it's worth i had the following experienece:

1) 3" 19ild Tal / 3" 28ild Tal / 3" 36ild Dunlop
19ild talalay on top was too soft to support my lumbar when sleeping on my back. On my side I went through the 19ild and got shoulder pressure from the firmer layers below.

2) 3" 28ild Tal \ 3" 19ild Tal \ 36ild Dunlop
28ild Talalay on top is a little too firm when on my back but I can deal with it with the right pillow. Feels fine on my side.

3) 3" 28ild Tal \ 3" 19ild Tal \ 3" 32 ild Dun \ 3" 36ild Dun
too soft for proper support

4) 3" 19 ild tal \ 3" 28 ild\ 3" 28ild Tal \ 3" 36ild Dun
just a bit too soft to support my lumbar area but surprisingly it was better than setup #3. Felt fine on my side.

I am waiting to receive 3" 24ild blended talalay in the hope it will be a middle ground between setup #1 and #2.

AZ Premium Mattress offers 24ild blended talalay or you can special order from Flexus Comfort. You could also try Sleep EZ to see if they will special order. Foam Sweet Foam carries 23ild dunlop as well. Best reutrn policy would be ordering a complete mattress so you can take advantage of the options for layer exchange or a complete return, minus a small fee.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 02 Nov 2021 08:36 #3

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Its honestly hard for me to tell exactly what my body is doing.

In a picture, it looks like my upper torso isn't sinking in enough, but by feel, I feel like my hips don't sink in enough with our current setup.

I think what we're going to do is to try the following:

#1 3" 19ILD Talalay
#2 3" 28ILD Dunlop ( or Talalay, not sure but leaning towards dunlop)
#3 2" 38ILD Dunlop

From there we plan to add layers in 1" or 2" increments to fine tune the feel since we have a non-returnable 19ILD Talalay topper. Personally I think it's not soft enough(either by ILD or thickness), but I just don't really know. The prebuilt quilted 28/38 was excruciatingly firm and even my wife complained about how hard it was. I think that half the problem is that the prebuilt mattress uses a quilted cover and we can't tell how much that is changing the feel of the 3" 28 and 38 layers. Thus starting with a basic build and tuning from there. I picked the 2" firm layer because it seems that we like softer mattresses and a 1" 34ILD transition layer might fit in nicely there.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 02 Nov 2021 22:12 #4

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Hi nick7790,

Welcome to our Mattress Forum! :)

Chiming in your discussion for a moment. Sorry to hear about the lack of sleep due to lower back pains. Hopefully, it’s not a chronic medical condition but just an unsuitable mattress.

It looks you’ve been "past due" with changing your "deteriorating" OM mattress which means that your body would need a larger period to unlearn any of the compensating habits created in the process of adapting to an unsuitable sleeping surface in order to allow you getting much-needed rest. It would be helpful to know how long ago the first signs of deterioration showed up and also when you started experiencing back pains on the OM mattress. What was your sleep pattern during that time? How often did you use to wake up during the night? This can be a good indication of the length of time your body would need to adjust to a new sleeping system.

DIY can be a bit challenging and it may require some trial and error and perhaps additional expenses as you can see from lantern71's DIY experiences.
In your comparisons, I wouldn’t focus too much on the ILD numbers alone unless the latex layers and type of latex are exactly the same and come from the same latex manufacturer (which yours are not). Answers to ILD questions may be a little bit more complex but if you’d like to dive in a little deeper you can peruse the topic titled Likelihood same Dunlop product is labeled differently (by ILD and "firmnes s") ...
ILD is only one of several variables or "specs" that will determine how soft or firm an individual layer or a mattress "as a whole" will feel to different people (see post #4 here ). In addition to this, the ILD of different materials or different types and blends of latex also aren't always directly comparable to each other (see post #6 here )

Looking at your initial options….I am glad you discarded them. 5” soft comfort layers on top of a 3” transition layer may be problematic for a 23 BMI "bony and lanky build" side sleeper #1. This is especially true for back or front sleepers but depending on your skeletal structure probably also for side sleepers like you. So I’d be concerned about your spinal alignment which can be easily forgotten after your experience on a hard mattress. On your side ... your spine should be relatively straight (like it is when you look at someone from behind) and your body profile along the side of your body should be similar to your standing position (shoulders and hips in roughly the same relative position). You may want to revisit the article on sleeping style, preferences, and statistics

As far as your last train of thoughts for the revised option, you are moving in the right direction but I’d increase the support layer thickness by an inch or so because thicker mattresses are more adaptable and will "act" softer for most people. It will compress from softer to firmer more gradually which means that there is more "range" of compression without the mattress becoming too firm for heavier weights or parts of the body (also with sleeper #2 in mind).

I’d step a little back and not rush to one option or another for a little longer until you’ve got the chance to peruse some of the links above and listen to the subtle cues from your body as you try to find your way through the DIY. Hopefully, you can still experiment with the layers you already have and collect more data points. The aim is to get the construction that has the best chance of being a good match both for both comfort and support needs. If it is a bit firmer you can always fine-tune it with a thin toper but once the mattress is too soft you won't be able to easily fix it without replacing some layers. Are the 3" firm Dunlop, 3" medium Dunlop, layers from your 7” mattress in a zippered cover so that you can do some testing with putting the Talalay topper on the bare Dunlop layers?

Phoenix
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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 03 Nov 2021 11:33 #5

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Hi Phoenix and thank you for the reply!

I have been doing more thinking lately and have since modified how I was going to start.

Hi nick7790,

Welcome to our Mattress Forum! :)

Chiming in your discussion for a moment. Sorry to hear about the lack of sleep due to lower back pains. Hopefully, it’s not a chronic medical condition but just an unsuitable mattress.

It looks you’ve been "past due" with changing your "deteriorating" OM mattress which means that your body would need a larger period to unlearn any of the compensating habits created in the process of adapting to an unsuitable sleeping surface in order to allow you getting much-needed rest. It would be helpful to know how long ago the first signs of deterioration showed up and also when you started experiencing back pains on the OM mattress. What was your sleep pattern during that time? How often did you use to wake up during the night? This can be a good indication of the length of time your body would need to adjust to a new sleeping system.


I would say that the pain started low frequency about 8 months ago, progressively increasing to daily within a month of us buying the new mattress. We had a baby late last year so we have just been getting up alot period, not necessarily from the bed. When she did sleep through the night, we do toss and turn quite a bit from discomfort. I would say in the last 4 months it got significantly worse.

DIY can be a bit challenging and it may require some trial and error and perhaps additional expenses as you can see from lantern71's DIY experiences.
In your comparisons, I wouldn’t focus too much on the ILD numbers alone unless the latex layers and type of latex are exactly the same and come from the same latex manufacturer (which yours are not). Answers to ILD questions may be a little bit more complex but if you’d like to dive in a little deeper you can peruse the topic titled Likelihood same Dunlop product is labeled differently (by ILD and "firmnes s") ...
ILD is only one of several variables or "specs" that will determine how soft or firm an individual layer or a mattress "as a whole" will feel to different people (see post #4 here ). In addition to this, the ILD of different materials or different types and blends of latex also aren't always directly comparable to each other (see post #6 here )

Looking at your initial options….I am glad you discarded them. 5” soft comfort layers on top of a 3” transition layer may be problematic for a 23 BMI "bony and lanky build" side sleeper #1. This is especially true for back or front sleepers but depending on your skeletal structure probably also for side sleepers like you. So I’d be concerned about your spinal alignment which can be easily forgotten after your experience on a hard mattress. On your side ... your spine should be relatively straight (like it is when you look at someone from behind) and your body profile along the side of your body should be similar to your standing position (shoulders and hips in roughly the same relative position). You may want to revisit the article on sleeping style, preferences, and statistics

As far as your last train of thoughts for the revised option, you are moving in the right direction but I’d increase the support layer thickness by an inch or so because thicker mattresses are more adaptable and will "act" softer for most people. It will compress from softer to firmer more gradually which means that there is more "range" of compression without the mattress becoming too firm for heavier weights or parts of the body (also with sleeper #2 in mind).


I'm just a bit worried about making it too firm with 3" 38ILD and wasting money on a thicker firm support layer that we may or may not need. I don't know what we need though, but everything just feels like we want softer from our current setup. The hard part is figuring out if it's the quilted topper (non-zip) making things too firm. Either way though, the vendors here are the experts with MUCH more experienced than I with these mattresses so if you're thinking a 3" support layer is key, I don't have any reason to throw that out, a few other posters on other forums recommended a 9" starter build too. Mayne the 9" is the way to go to start out and then If need be add a 1" 24ILD or 34ILD transition layer somewhere in the stack. I'll blame my ocd on wanting an even numbered height.

I’d step a little back and not rush to one option or another for a little longer until you’ve got the chance to peruse some of the links above and listen to the subtle cues from your body as you try to find your way through the DIY. Hopefully, you can still experiment with the layers you already have and collect more data points. The aim is to get the construction that has the best chance of being a good match both for both comfort and support needs. If it is a bit firmer you can always fine-tune it with a thin toper but once the mattress is too soft you won't be able to easily fix it without replacing some layers. Are the 3" firm Dunlop, 3" medium Dunlop, layers from your 7” mattress in a zippered cover so that you can do some testing with putting the Talalay topper on the bare Dunlop layers?

Phoenix


Unfortunately the current mattress is a sealed unit.
I have been doing more thinking lately and have since modified how I was going to start to be a bit more conservative (which may or may not be a good thing). You wouldn't think that reducing the support layer to a 2" firm base layer would make it potentially softer due to less total compression. I also will be reading over the links you provided as I want to do my best to make a good pick the first time if possible.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 03 Nov 2021 12:18 #6

too firm with 3" 38ILD


3" of 38ILD is softer than 2" of 38ILD

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 04 Nov 2021 01:09 #7

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I'm just a bit worried about making it too firm with 3" 38ILD and wasting money on a thicker firm support layer that we may or may not need. I don't know what we need though, but everything just feels like we want softer from our current setup. The hard part is figuring out if it's the quilted topper (non-zip) making things too firm. Either way though, the vendors here are the experts with MUCH more experienced than I with these mattresses so if you're thinking a 3" support layer is key, I don't have any reason to throw that out, a few other posters on other forums recommended a 9" starter build too. Mayne the 9" is the way to go to start out and then If need be add a 1" 24ILD or 34ILD transition layer somewhere in the stack. I'll blame my ocd on wanting an even numbered height.


We are close in size so maybe the following will be helpful but everyone has different needs so take it with a spoon full of salt.

28/38 dunlop is relatively firm at your size. I am not surprised you characterized it as hard. 19ild talalay is relatively soft and will feel softer as a topper compared to when it is encased in a cover. Based on your comments about hammocking, bottoming out, and 19ild not feeling soft enough, I would hazard a guess that you are pushing right through the soft 19ild and your shoulder and/or hips are running aground on the firmer dunlop below. This was my personal experience.


Switching to a stretch cotton cover that encases everything will likely make the 19ild layer feel a little bit firmer/more substantial and possibly allow you to sink into the intermediate layer a little more. However, it is also possible that the change will not be great enough to remedy your current problem.

Another potential fix is a firmer comfort (top) layer. The goal is to get something that is soft enough to relieve pressure points, but not so soft that you go right through it.

Be aware that thicker does not always mean better. Ideally the comfort and intermediate layers are just thick enough to provide pressure relief. As phoenix pointed out, the further you get from the support layer, the more likely you are to have alignment issues.

Also be aware that most latex comes in 2" or 3" thicknesses. The 1" offerings from SOL are unusual.





3) Reverse layering.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 04 Nov 2021 10:40 #8

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I'm just a bit worried about making it too firm with 3" 38ILD and wasting money on a thicker firm support layer that we may or may not need. I don't know what we need though, but everything just feels like we want softer from our current setup. The hard part is figuring out if it's the quilted topper (non-zip) making things too firm. Either way though, the vendors here are the experts with MUCH more experienced than I with these mattresses so if you're thinking a 3" support layer is key, I don't have any reason to throw that out, a few other posters on other forums recommended a 9" starter build too. Mayne the 9" is the way to go to start out and then If need be add a 1" 24ILD or 34ILD transition layer somewhere in the stack. I'll blame my ocd on wanting an even numbered height.


We are close in size so maybe the following will be helpful but everyone has different needs so take it with a spoon full of salt.

28/38 dunlop is relatively firm at your size. I am not surprised you characterized it as hard. 19ild talalay is relatively soft and will feel softer as a topper compared to when it is encased in a cover. Based on your comments about hammocking, bottoming out, and 19ild not feeling soft enough, I would hazard a guess that you are pushing right through the soft 19ild and your shoulder and/or hips are running aground on the firmer dunlop below. This was my personal experience.


Switching to a stretch cotton cover that encases everything will likely make the 19ild layer feel a little bit firmer/more substantial and possibly allow you to sink into the intermediate layer a little more. However, it is also possible that the change will not be great enough to remedy your current problem.

Another potential fix is a firmer comfort (top) layer. The goal is to get something that is soft enough to relieve pressure points, but not so soft that you go right through it.

Be aware that thicker does not always mean better. Ideally the comfort and intermediate layers are just thick enough to provide pressure relief. As phoenix pointed out, the further you get from the support layer, the more likely you are to have alignment issues.

Also be aware that most latex comes in 2" or 3" thicknesses. The 1" offerings from SOL are unusual.
.


You might be right, it's just hard to say with my current setup. I'm limited to what I can test/feel, but even then it's not the same as if it was a solid 9" stack in a stretch cotton cover. The prebuilt mattress quilted cotton/foam/wool cover could easily be making the bed much more firm than the raw slabs. It could be mimicking a 19ILD Talalay on a 38/45 or something from that factory cover.

I'm still leaning towards starting with a 9" 19+28+38, but I might also call around and look for a ~24ILD mid layer. That would at least give me the option of trying a 24D or a 19T on top. The alternative would be to buy a Talalay mid layer which should feel softer, but might let me sink in too much. SOL also sells 1" dunlop slabs in 20/34/46, so maybe an additional soft inch would make a difference?

It's frustrating trying to make a plan because so many things might not work out right. I don't like wasting money, but am willing to do a few layer swaps/tests to get the feel right. The key for now if trying to figure out what I want my first order to be. Cost wise, I've only really looked at SOL and LMF because most other vendors seem to have at least a $50+ markup on latex, but if a 24ILD is available for just a bit more, that might be worth checking into. DIYNaturalBedding has a Medium: 23-27 ILD, D75, but it's $450/~$200 more than other options. Granted, sleep is worth the cost, I just don't want to get stuck with a slab I don't really like or get buried in shipping costs.

I appreciate all the considerations and thoughts you've given me though, its definitely appreciated.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 05 Nov 2021 03:56 #9

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You might be right, it's just hard to say with my current setup. I'm limited to what I can test/feel, but even then it's not the same as if it was a solid 9" stack in a stretch cotton cover. The prebuilt mattress quilted cotton/foam/wool cover could easily be making the bed much more firm than the raw slabs. It could be mimicking a 19ILD Talalay on a 38/45 or something from that factory cover.

I'm still leaning towards starting with a 9" 19+28+38, but I might also call around and look for a ~24ILD mid layer. That would at least give me the option of trying a 24D or a 19T on top. The alternative would be to buy a Talalay mid layer which should feel softer, but might let me sink in too much. SOL also sells 1" dunlop slabs in 20/34/46, so maybe an additional soft inch would make a difference?

It's frustrating trying to make a plan because so many things might not work out right. I don't like wasting money, but am willing to do a few layer swaps/tests to get the feel right. The key for now if trying to figure out what I want my first order to be. Cost wise, I've only really looked at SOL and LMF because most other vendors seem to have at least a $50+ markup on latex, but if a 24ILD is available for just a bit more, that might be worth checking into. DIYNaturalBedding has a Medium: 23-27 ILD, D75, but it's $450/~$200 more than other options. Granted, sleep is worth the cost, I just don't want to get stuck with a slab I don't really like or get buried in shipping costs.

I appreciate all the considerations and thoughts you've given me though, its definitely appreciated.


I understand your frustration with having too many options. I was able to test product at several stores and I still got the combination wrong a couple times. Unfortunately it takes some trial and error to develop a baseline. I will echo Phoenix’s warning about focusing too much on ILD numbers but maybe the feedback will help narrow down your many choices.

You did not mention the brand of latex mattress you currently have and I am unclear what the quilting in actually made of. Regardless, I am not sure the difference in feel is as extreme as 38/45. That’s a jump.

Starting with a 9” 19/28/38 is a decent idea. You can evaluate the effect of the cover and you probably won’t have to worry about swapping the base layer, as that is a logical choice for your size.

If 19ild does not work out on top, something in the range of 22-25 seems like a likely alternative.

Be careful about going softer for the intermediate layer. I could see moving to a 28 talalay but I would start to worry about alignment issues with something softer. It’s also a concern for your partner since their BMI is higher An exception would be reverse layering where you put a firmer layer on top and a softer layer. The result is a top layer that is more supportive while the softer intermediate layer still allows for contouring. Reverse layering improved my situation but I still prefer a configuration with softer latex on top.

Generally speaking, adding/subtracting 1” of latex will have a small impact, 2” is more noticeable, and 3” is a significant change. You might add/sub 1” directly above or below your top layer to fine tune but the closer you get to the base, the less you will notice a difference.

Depending on your location, you might consider traveling to one of the vendors to do in person testing. Preferably you pick one with the greatest number of ild’s, latex types, and thicknesses available onsite. It could save you time, money, and frustration but you also never really know if something works until you try it overnight

Latex from DIYNaturalBedding has a greater price premium because it has an organic certification. Practically speaking, I’m not sure what that does for you. You might check out their Knit Ticking though. That cover has no quilting which minimizes the amount of material between you and the latex. You will also find a price premium for 100% natural talalay over blended. You can read about the pros/cons herehere in post #6 but from everything I’ve tried in person and read on the forum, the practical differences are small. Natural and Synthetic dunlop tend to be closer in price.

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Struggling with back pain, DIY layer advice - Side Sleeper 05 Nov 2021 06:33 #10

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I didn't realize I never mentioned the mattress name. It's a SleepEZ Roma.

Maybe you're right about the mid layer. Like I said, I'm just trying to get my first order as close as I think I can get. If I return the Roma I can't do any layer exchanges from SleepEZ/LatexMattressFactory unless I wait a year and then purchase the layers. So I either take a $250 chance with the LMF 28ILD mid knowing I'm stuck with it if it isn't right, or I "invest" in the $500 DIYNB 28-33ILD mid, knowing that I can at least swap it out if I need to for $80. DIYNB is the only reputable place I see that actively carries a ~25ILD layer, so there really aren't any alternatives.

I do sink adequately into the 19ILD layer but it feels "right" if that makes sense. My knees hardly sink in at all, but my hips and side do nicely. I used to sleep with my arm mostly under me, but I now roll my shoulder forward a bit with my arm out front and that made a big difference. I THINK I want just a tiny bit more sink in and I would be 99% of the way there but I'm not really sure. Again though, the cover might be making the mid layer firmer than it should be, so a "clean" DIY stack with the same ILD layers and a stretch cover might be perfect. all I can say is that the Roma by itself on the 28ILD side was excruciating after 2 hours, adding the 3" 19ILD T layer was a definite improvement, but still not right.

One thing I'm having trouble grasping is whether the top layer or mid layer should be adjusted.

Side question: Are 12" (4x3") stacks generally overkill? (that would at least make me feel better if I needed to buy an 4th layer. Even if it was something like ~25+19+28+38)

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