In one of Hans Christian Andersen’s popular tales, “The Princess and the Pea,” a spoiled princess gets a less-than-restful night’s sleep because a single pea was placed under her stack of 20 mattresses, obviously not a very ergonomic bed design. If there is a moral to the story, it might be that bed comfort is only important to the most pampered. However, a good night’s sleep is key for everyone.
On average, humans spend one third of their lives sleeping, which is about 24 years if you care to do the math, and it is estimated that roughly half of all people experience some sleep difficulties. While the term “ergonomic” is commonly used in office settings, sound ergonomic practices can also be extended to the home. In the common vernacular, ergonomics helps define how comfortable it is to use something. As such, ergonomic beds, which are available in many sizes and designs, including automatic electric beds and manually adjustable beds, can allow people to sleep better at night because of several factors.
With most mattresses, it is impossible for the body to maintain the natural shape of the spine when sleeping. During sleep, the body is compressed in different ways than when it is upright or in a sitting position, and the body must be fully supported when lying flat to achieve proper spine alignment.
Until recently there haven’t been a lot of scientific studies of mattress designs. However, recent studies of mattress ergonomics at Cornell University demonstrated that subjects slept significantly better on mattresses that were designed to better conform to the natural curves of the spine and to also keep the spine in alignment while lying down, both of which help to distribute pressure more evenly across the body to enhance sleep quality. Great references here.