Mattresses, Mattress Pads, Down Comforter

In search of a perfect night’s sleep. Editor’s Choice

I reached desperation. Was I ever going to get a really good night’s sleep and feel refreshed in the morning? Or was my life going to be always feeling “a little bit tired”, never waking up in the morning ready to meet the world? And as for all those aching joints…the price of aging, or my mattress?

And to make matters worse, I was beginning to think my husband I and were completely incompatible as bed partners. He would come to bed with feet like frozen ice blocks demanding to be warmed up. I, on the other hand, am at the age where I radiate heat like a pulsating furnace.

I am now in “bedded bliss,” getting the best night’s sleep in the last month I have had in years, my aches and pains have substantially diminished, and at last, I actually feel energized in the mornings thanks to my new mattress.

So when I find something like a good book or movie that I love, I share it with all my friends. This is one of those events, and the only downside is I am going to become like one of those crabby old ladies who will say on vacation, that they are looking forward to going home and sleeping in their own bed.

7-zone natural latex bed by Royal-PedicThe biggest and most expensive decision was the mattress itself. I tried out air beds, memory foam mattresses, top of the line innerspring and natural latex beds. I was disappointed in the construction of the memory foam beds, which is a polite way of saying that I thought they were way overpriced. I found the mattresses had a rather strange feel to them and I worried that they would lose their flexibility at under 60 degrees (they get hard) and was concerned about potential outgassing.

Much to my surprise I liked the air mattresses, but I could not find one yet that was truly hypoallergenic. I would find somewhere in the layers of construction, something that was a no-no. I came full circle and decided on a 7-zone natural latex mattress by Royal-Pedic with a separate 3″ pillowtop mattress pad.

I got the california king size (72″ x 84″ long) because my husband is very tall (6’3″) and california king beds are longer but slightly narrower than a regular king. Do not get a california king, unless one of you has their feet sticking off the end of the bed. Sheets and duvet covers become much harder and more expensive than regular king sized bed linens.

I got the natural latex mattress for several reasons. It is naturally resistant (but not proof) to dust mites and mold. The 7-zone system by Royal-Pedic was described as molding to your body and not leaving any air pockets (for my unsupported joints). I had also been waking up with pins and needles, or one of my arms half numbed, so a firm but more flexible bed, I reasoned maybe would do the trick. Most people are not allergic to latex, as it is a fairly rare allergy. If I was allergic to latex, I would have bought an all cotton mattress which does tend to be REALLY firm and definitely needs some kind of extra quilting or mattress pad.

3" mattress padRoyal-Pedic advised me to get a separate pillow top mattress pad instead of one of the pillow top attached models. The reasoning was interesting. If you have an attached pillow top pad then you can only “turn” your mattress on one plane. If you have a separate mattress pad, you can turn the mattress and pad monthly, as suggested by Royal-Pedic to help the bed last longer. Also the pillow top pad is the first part of the bed to noticeably wear out over time. So if the pad is separate, it can be replaced separately and thus prolong the life of the bed. The beds are warranted for 10 years and the mattress pads for 5 years. However, I expect this bed to last me twice as long before it needs replacing. The average life of a bed is 5 years.

I got a 3″ mattress pad because I wanted a slightly firmer feel while still feeling the cushioned support.

I did not get an organic mattress because my chemical sensitivities are relatively mild. Organic mattresses are not treated with fire retardant chemicals mandated by law. You need a doctor’s letter to get one.

So the great day arrived, our bed came and was delivered and set up. We tipped the guys to move the other bed down 2 floors in to a guest room.

I was immediately in seventh heaven the moment I lay down on the bed, I could not believe that I was feeling so comfortable and I rushed to bed early that night just so I could luxuriate! I could feel the bed gently molding to my body and I felt I was floating on a cloud. I began to see why these beds have been bought by movie stars and US Presidents!

The acid test for me was the quality of my sleep. My husband had written me off as a chronic poor sleeper. One of the first things I have discovered in the last month, is I sleep more soundly. I do not wake up when my husband comes to bed later than myself and I do not wake up if he makes a middle of the night bathroom visit. This is because latex mattresses hardly move at all on your side, when your bed partner moves around. In one month, I have had two poor nights’ sleep. For me it’s nothing short of a miracle – I am sleeping through the night till about 6:30 am.

Then my next question was, how did my poor old bones feel in the morning? It was not an overnight miracle, but I did notice after about a week, my ankles and knees were feeling a bit better, and now the difference is quite noticeable even my back is feeling improved. I have osteoarthritis, so this is not a cure, nothing is a cure, but I will take anything that keeps the symptoms even a teeny bit at bay, for a few more years. At least, now I am not creeping around in the mornings, waiting for everything to loosen up. I am doing several things to help the osteoarthritis, but the mattress was the only new intervention in that time frame.

More on Royal Pedic latex mattresses and mattress pads

Euphoria Wool Mattress Pads All mattresses need some kind of protection to keep them clean from sweat, spills etc. I had been eyeing lambs wool mattress pads for years. The reason I was interested in them is that wool is naturally inhospitable to dust mites and the properties of wool are such, is that it keeps you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It is also supposed to be good for arthritis sufferers as it relieves pressure points. I got fabric samples from every manufacturer I could find. I wanted to have the mattress pad as thick and soft as possible.

At we had settled on two excellent grades of plush wool mattress pads which you put underneath your sheets. I chose Elite 1.5 inch. The result was an unbelievable soft extra layer which smoothes out the indentations from the plush mattress pad below. Incidentally, it is not at all itchy (one of my fears), just smooth and soft.

More information on wool mattress pads

I had been using an LL Bean top of the line queen-sized goose-down comforter. I did not think it could get any better but it did, much better.

I wanted to get a hypoallergenic down comforter but a down one. I had found that all synthetic down look-alikes, such as Primaloft, do not have nearly the warmth needed for a New England winter. Besides which, down is far more durable. All my synthetic comforters decayed after a couple of years. But my down comforter was 7 years old going strong, just the wrong size. I am allergic to feathers so I needed a hypoallergenic one.

The first thing I discovered is that feather allergies are not so much to the feathers/down themselves, but to the protein and dirt that clings to the quills.

Hypoallergenic down is washed anywhere from 8 to 15 times in a PH neutral solution and rinsed in plain water until it is free of all dust, dirt and proteins. That takes extra time and hence the extra expense. Having located a couple of different hypoallergenic comforters I found there were more decisions waiting for me. I will try to make these as simple as I can.

A. Your most important decision is the quality of the fill. Go as high as you can. Down comforters range from 500-fill in a retail store to 600-800 fill. Think of your down comforter as a like a thermos. The higher the amount of trapped air, the greater the insulating power of the comforter for the same weight. This means ounce for ounce you get more warmth out of an 800-fill comforter and what’s more, it is lighter. No-one really likes to sleep feeling like you are weighted down, you just need to feel warm. So do not think if a comforter weighs more it is better. Chances are you are paying for a lot of dirt and dust still clinging to the down. I decided on an 800-fill down comforter.

B. Just to complicate things, the part of the world where the down comes from makes a difference. Eiderdown is very rare, and comes from a protected species of Eider duck with the down harvested from the nests. An eiderdown comforter can cost up to $20,000! Siberian goose down is the highest-grade goose down as it gently plucked from live mature birds (think of this as the equivalent of sheep shearing, before the animal lovers like myself wince too much). The next best grade of goose down is Hungarian, often known as Polish down and our Hypodown comforters use down imported from Hungary. Then you get unclassified goose down which is taken from the birds after they are dead. What does the difference in the quality of the down make? Bottom line it has more insulating properties and is warmer and more resilient. See link below for illustration of the differences. The higher quality goose down comforters can literally last a lifetime. I suspect Eiderdowns would be an heirloom!

I decided on a Hungarian down comforter and did not need to take out a home equity loan to purchase it!

C. The labeling of down in this country is problematic. Any thing that is 75% down and 25% feathers can be labeled 100% down. So buyer beware, know what you are paying for. Find out, what is the ratio of pure down to feathers?

D. To make things even more complicated for the allergy sufferer there exists an option called Hypodown. We have a more technical explanation of Hypodown below but here is the bottom line on it. Hypodown comforters contain 20% Syriaca, otherwise known as milkweed, a natural plant grown only in Nebraska. Syriaca is in itself, a light-weight insulator similar to down. Syriaca is literally fused with the down, so that it would need a chemical process to separate the two. In the combining of the two, the Syriaca seems to neutralize the remaining allergenic properties of the down (already cleaned) and moreover, the fusion of the two produces a far more resilient down.

So I got a Hypodown comforter. Remember that dust mites will still collect in a hypoallergenic down comforter. If you want a comforter that resists dust-mites, an alpaca comforter, while not so light, is a good alternative.

E. Construction. The thing to avoid here is a SEWN-THRU box as opposed to a BAFFLED box. A sewn-thru box comforter is cheaper, (such as in our Primaloft comforters) as the machine stitching goes right from top to bottom of the fabric. Problem here is that this gives the down very little room to puff up or “loft”. This means there is less trapped air and then the comforter will not insulate as well. In addition, an open construction design such as “Karo-Step”, the down can shift around too much to one part of the comforter to the other, so you can have cold spots with no down in them. Baffled box stitching is more costly, as it is literally a box with sides, so the down can loft and puff up more easily and insulate better. While box designs can be different shapes, this is aesthetic only, and one shape box is as warm as another.

So I bought a baffled box constructed comforter.

F. What type of fabric covering? I knew I wanted the covering to be light and not stiff, but it occurred to me that since I was either going to put a decorative cover or dust-mite cover on it, then the actual thread count was of lesser significance. The important thing was that the fabric used should be down proof so there would be no leakage of down as the years went on. I also do not have chemical sensitivities to any great degree, if I did I would have bought the unbleached cotton covering from the Harvester line. But I saved a bit of money and bought from the new Monarch Hypodown comforter line. The fabric is perfectly soft enough for my taste. I wanted to spend my money on what is INSIDE the comforter not outside.

E. Last decision. The weight. That was easy. Winter weight for anybody who has a cooler bedroom (under 70°F) and who likes to be toasty warm. I chose winter weight. If I lived in a southern climate, I would have chosen a lightweight or even an Alpaca comforter (softer than cashmere), which I intend to add for summer sleeping.

So there we have it, this is what I got for our bed. Hypodown 800-fill, Monarch, baffled box, Winter-weight, California King comforter.

F. Next decision. Does it need an encasing such as a comforter cover? Absolutely yes, and it has not arrived yet. I will report when it arrives. An encasing of one kind or another will prolong the life of the comforter as it helps it not get so dirty. A down comforter can go as long as five years without needing cleaning.

G. How to clean the comforter? And when does it need cleaning? Here is the bottom line on this for me. Down comforters can be washed EXCEPT that most people’s washing machines are not big enough, for the larger sizes, so the down will lump up and you will damage the stitching. I would not chance it. I would give it to a professional who does environmentally friendly WET cleaning (also known as “aqua cleaning”). We have two stores in our town or there are places to send it away to. When to clean? When it is visibly dirty or the loft is collapsing. I intend to encase mine and periodically vapor steam clean it to kill off dust mites.

Hard to describe. I now sleep under this floating cloud that I can barely feel but is as warm as can be. My husband has now turned the heat down at night which he prefers, no more iceberg feet and he is a happy man.

I am just in bed heaven! If I sound a bit too exuberant, forgive me but to be sleeping so well and feel so good getting up in the mornings is a real treat. I waited a long time for this bed.