Is It Bad Sex ... or Is It Just Your Mattress?

Two chiropractors weigh in on just how problematic having an old mattress can be when it comes to sex, and what couples should consider when shopping for a new one

couple in bed
Photo: Getty

Picture it: You and your significant other are cozied up during a Friday night Netflix-and-chill session. Things get hot and steamy on the couch, and after a passionate makeout session, you head to the bedroom to officially seal the deal … and the vibe is abruptly killed by a squeaky mattress and a shaky headboard. Post-coital cuddling becomes awkward thanks to your sinking mattress and its hard coils that have you tossing and turning all night. This is what it’s like when bad mattresses happen to good people.

Now that everyone is spending more time at home, it’s given us all lots of time to realize how much we hate our furniture: A study by ACI Worldwide found online retailers saw a 97 percent rise in transaction volumes in home products and furnishings. Mattresses are no exception. After all, what’s the use of good sex on a bad mattress? Dr. Jan Lefkowitz, D.C. and Dr. Diana Salazar, two chiropractors from New York City’s Body In Balance Chiropractic, know that a low-quality mattress is going to cause you relationship pain as well as back pain.

“Sex is a sport and you always want to bring your A-game,” Dr. Salazar tells PEOPLE. “Just like if you’re running and there’s a pebble in your shoe, a bad mattress will negatively impact your performance in bed. Sex on anything that isn’t 100 percent comfortable can create imbalances to the spine and pelvis, causing a chain of events such as sore muscles and achy discomfort. You're left with pain instead of a vibrant post-sex glow.”

couple in bed

According to Dr. Salazar, the mattresses that are most likely to cause uncomfortable sex are foam mattresses (like some of the boxed ones you’ve probably seen on Instagram) and those with low-quality springs. That’s because these mattresses typically don’t keep their integrity over time, developing wear and tear that can pull your attention from the main event. “If you’re distracted by springs or a dip in the mattress, you’re no longer fully present,“ she says.

One easy way to tell whether it's time to toss your mattress is by assessing the length of time you’ve had it; according to The Sleep Foundation, mattresses should be replaced every six to eight years.

“If you notice that there is significant sagging in the mattress then it's time to move on,” says Dr. Lefkowitz. “Also, if you notice that you wake in the morning feeling worse and with neck, shoulder or back pain but feel better later in the day, that may be a sign as well. Take note if you feel better when you sleep at a hotel or at a friend's house, as that can be a sign that your mattress is the culprit of your pain.”

The doctors both say that a medium-firm mattress is most conducive to spinal alignment and restful sleep, “which allows for increased energy and magnetic sex,” says Dr. Salazar. If you have a particularly restorative sleep on a hotel bed, do your research to find out which mattress it was. It turns out you can actually buy most hotel chains’ beds, and this list tells you exactly where to purchase them from. If you’re intimidated by a giant mattress store, you could also take advantage of the free trials offered by many direct-to-consumer mattress companies.

Dr. Lefkowitz says that as a clinician, he sees many patients who have difficulty enjoying sex at their highest level possible because of inadequate comfort. “It's a common problem for many couples … but people may feel too embarrassed to ask for help and guidance on this subject, so they may suffer and not enjoy sex as much as they could and should,” he says. “To fully enjoy sex, to have the deepest connection with your partner and to be able to perform at your highest level takes complete synergy and balance of mind and body. … It’s your physical body, it’s mental, and it’s the food and nutrients you put in your body to get all systems working optimally in order to fully enjoy sex. It’s also the ‘equipment’ that you use, which would include the mattress you sleep on and the environment that you are in. It’s all important."

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