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Our very special bed(s)

I’m usually very comfortable when I wake in the morning, because 15 years ago Patricia and I decided to buy a very special bed. Well, two beds, actually.

We had both had back trouble for many years, and Patricia’s had become really severe, so we needed something more than a major manufacturer’s standard ’orthopaedic’ mattress.

After a bit of research, the name that bubbled to the top of the list was Tempur, who at that time had a monopoly on what is now known generically as ’memory foam’. I seem to remember that this was developed for NASA - comfy, supportive couches for astronauts.

Anyway, we got a catalogue and ended up buying two 75cm (2ft 6in in the old language) divans that could be attached to one another to make a king-size bed. Each had its own independent electric adjustment system, providing separate back and leg rests - the sort of thing that’s now commonplace in even NHS hospital wards.

With these we bought two different-sized Tempur neck pillows, four stretch cotton jersey fitted sheets, and four pillowcases in the same material, tailored to fit the pillows. The total bill was something over £3000, but if it was going to help Patricia it would be worth it!

The bed was an instant hit, giving us great comfort for sleeping and a wide range of adjustment at the touch of a button for reading in bed. The pillows took a lot of getting used to but we both used them until Patricia had battered all the memory out of her foam. As she is much lighter than I am and has a smaller head, this can only be explained by her restlessness through the night. Meanwhile something had changed in my neck and I had switched to a normal pillow, so she took over my Tempur one and is still using it 15 years on. After this long time, the mattresses seem as good as new.

The Tempur website is pretty uninformative, and the twin beds we have don’t seem to be there any more. However, there are plenty of other electrically adjustable beds on the market which you could mate with Tempur mattresses.

The jersey sheets didn’t wear terribly well and had to be replaced a couple of times. I wanted to use ’proper’ cotton fitted sheets, but these proved pretty difficult to find for 75cm mattresses until I discoverered that they are called ’bunk size’. I bought some on Ebay and they were great, though they struggled with the thickness of the Tempur mattresses. Just recently I bought some more which provied to be even better - deeper pockets at the ends, better elastic and lovely 200-thread Egyptian cotton. The trader’s Ebay id is linenslimited, with over 157,000 feedback items, 99.7% positive, which must be some kind of record! The contact details are: Linens Limited, Javed Akbar, Ram Mill, Gordon Street, Oldham, OL9 9RH.

To top the bed off, literally, we now have a lovely four seasons duvet set (one 9 tog for spring and autumn, one 4.5 tog for summer and both together for winter) in Russian white goose down, bought from John Lewis. This is used with Egyptian cotton covers and pillow-cases, also from John Lewis.

So if you struggle with your bed look into Tempur.

You’ve made your bed...

As mentioned, we’ve both got bad backs and have trouble finding comfortable positions in bed. I can remember, years ago, wanting to lie on my front when my back was particularly painful but being unable to settle.

I don’t know whether I figured this out for myself or learned it from Patricia, but we both manage to sleep on our fronts by the simple expedient of pushing one arm under the pillow. It works like this: if your head is turned to the right, put the left arm under the pillow - I push it more-or-less straight up the bed. Head to the left, right arm under the pillow. What you do with the other arm is less clear. My neck is pretty cockeyed, so I do something different for each arm. The key is to have my head right at the end of the pillow - the end towards which it’s facing. This means that the spare arm can pe pushed up as well or the hand can be slipped under the end of the pillow to increase support.

And then there are the feet. Lying on my front, I can only be comfortable with my toes hooked over the end of the mattress, and this is only comfortable if the mattress doesn’t have one of those irritating beaded edges. The Tempur mattresses, being simple rectangular blocks of foam, are no problem, but sleeping away from home often is.

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.