Privilege Blog

Why Does My Mattress Cost More Than Everything Else In My Bedroom Put Together?


Somewhere on the way to refurbishing a master bedroom, you might find you need a new mattress. Round here, I’m still sleeping on the full-size bed I bought for the apartment of my post-divorce years. It’s neither cozy nor romantic. It’s small. So we’ve been looking at king-sized options.

Unfortunately, enter the Princess and her associated Pea.

First, I injured my shoulder, back in January, in part because I ‘m a side-sleeper. Imagine a broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped person lying on their side. Weight rests on the relatively rigid hip, while shoulder and multiple associated bones fold uncomfortably forward. This, along with other modern insults to the body, can provoke a tendinosis of the shoulder. In the world of mattresses, only memory foam provides equal support to someone with 18 vertical inches of shoulders and 13 vertical inches of hip. Vertical inches is a term I just made up. Please bear with me and pretend it’s real.

Second, I am also ridiculously sensitive to chemical vapors, and highly wary of the effect of petrochemicals on the environment. Almost all memory foams are made of polyurethane, prone to diffusing volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.

Enter Essentia.

My Internet research showed me that while there are many “natural” mattress companies, and many makers of memory foam, Essentia makes, today, the only mattress both natural and foam. How about we define “natural” as, “made with materials that as often as possible are produced without petrochemicals or other toxic ingredients or by-products?” Everyone good? It’s kind of a squishy concept.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Essentia makes memory foam mattresses in a unique process using latex rubber, essential oils, and plant extracts. To finish, they cover their mattresses in organic cotton, charge you huge sums of money, add a 20-year warranty, and tell you latex fends off bed bugs and dust mites. This last blunts the financial pain, a little bit.

A final selling point, one which I did not see articulated in Essentia’s literature, but derived? Researchers are beginning believe that good sleep consolidates memory. In which case, it may help ward off dementia. Dementia runs in our family, my mother is losing her memory, my grandmother followed a similar trajectory. So, research. We want sleep spindles, as you can imagine. And I only just now realized, on Tuesday October 7th, at 6:14am Pacific Time, the irony of the term “Memory Foam.” Huh.

I’ve ordered the Dormeuse. As a side sleeper, I need softness. I tried it out at the company’s barebones storefront in Berkeley, and felt so comfortable. Apparently they don’t need to do much marketing in-store; people show up already sold. BTW, back sleepers will prefer the Beausommet.

If I might ask, do you face sleep issues? And if so, have you found solutions?


No consideration has been received for this post, nor will any links generate commissions unless there are elves in the Internet about which I do not know.

78 Responses

  1. No sleep issues. Sometimes my dreams are very real which can be quite entertaining, or not in the least entertaining, depending on the night’s subject matter. Similar to watching a movie.

  2. We have an Essentia mattress as well (did I tell you about them when you were discussing mattresses?) and the Dormeuse style too. We’ve had it for about 8 months. Love it, you’ll be thrilled.
    I do have sleep issues, and this has helped some a lot with some of them. For the other issues, I need a lobotomy.

    1. Lisa, I believe you get two free pillows with your mattress order, and I do sleep with mine, my husband finds it too firm, likes very soft, feathery pillows, but loves the bed too, and you’re right about the memory foam, if one of us is having a restless night, the other is not disturbed, until I start pounding on his arm.

  3. Thanks for the info on this new to me memory foam mattress company. I’m chemical sensitive too and this is a great alternative it seems. We have a Sleep Number bed and love it! I too, also have a family history of dementia, as well as sleep issues and didn’t realize sleep can have an effect for that condition. My mother had terrible sleeping problems and developed early onset Alzheimers. Have you tried melatonin? It is a real help to me and my son who also has sleep issues. Start on a low dosage and if you don’t seem to fall asleep easier and go back to sleep if interrupted, easily then up your dosage accordingly. I buy the 1 mg. dose so I can customize my evening dose. It’s a subtle sleep aid without the side effects of other sleep aids.

    Have a beautiful Tuesday! Brenda

    1. @Brenda, I have some melatonin, but haven’t tried it yet. Are there studies of its impact on brain patterns during sleep? Spindles?:) Sorry about your mother’s condition.

  4. I agree that getting enough sleep is essential. (Alzheimer’s runs through the paternal side of my family. I have been tested and do have the APOE4 gene to go along with the family history.) Getting enough quality sleep was a struggle, as I got up by 5:30 for my work commute. My best sleep has always been in the early morning hours. In 2013, I retired, largely because I wanted/needed more and better sleep. Getting enough quality sleep has been life changing. I had no idea how much difference it would make until I experienced it.

    1. @diane, Oh that’s wonderful to hear, that you are sleeping well. I have also appreciated the absence of work stress from my middle-of-the-nights. I admire you for getting the genetic test, I believe I would do the same. Best of luck, and here’s to scientific advances as so many baby boomers age.

  5. I have fibromyalgia, thankfully under control at the moment. I found an incredible wool mattress topper on a fibromyalgia website. Under it, I have a natural latex mattress, which is due to be replaced, I’m sad to say. Sleep issues are common for people with fibro but my sleep has been much, much improved since I found my Cuddle Ewe topper. If I’m having sciatica, I sleep with a rolled up towel under the curve of my back to support my spine. Memory foam makes me hot so that’s out. And soft mattresses give me morning back ache.

    Pillows are my issue. Following a back rear-end collision in my twenties, I have developed arthritis in my neck. I’ve have struggled for a couple of years to find a pillow that doesn’t go flat in three months and doesn’t make my neck worse. The search goes on…

    1. @Wendy Bird, Cuddle Ewe:). Very cute. Glad to hear it has worked for you. In terms of pillows, I find large and heavily stuffed down ones to be very comfortable.

  6. Oh dear, I dread the mattress shopping in my future. We bought a pillow top contraption about 8 years ago and have hated it for 7 1/2 of those years. My husband is a side-sleeper and I am a back/side/stomach sleeper, which confuses matters. The cost of new, quality mattresses blows my mind. I have driven cheaper cars.

  7. Many sleep issues but mostly due to others, husband is a restless sleeper and a king-sized bed seems to have solved that. My daughter has night-time epilepsy which has caused me to be very nervous and jumpy at night just in listening for her, that’s been going on for 6 years and I have a nice little sleep disorder from it, I wake several times a night with my heart racing. Now that our dog watches over her at night I’ve started taking melatonin, which is working, I still wake up but without the adrenalin surge. Sleeping better these days!
    Your mattress looks lovely and look it’s Canadian! I will keep that in mind for my next mattress.

    1. @DaniBP, Oh I can only imagine what your daughter’s experiences would do to your sleep, to say nothing of the impact of a restless partner. I will say, memory foam does not transfer movement, so you really don’t get woken by someone else’s tossing and turning. And cheers to Scout, earning his keep in a big way:).

  8. We have a king sized Sleep Number bed, and while we sleep very well upon it, there have been ongoing quality issues which have plagued us from the start, and I would not buy it again. It is ideal, however, for the restless sleeper on the other side of the bed issue, as we each have our own air chamber, and when one sleeper moves, the other doesn’t feel the bounce. On our guest bed, we have a hard as a rock queen mattress, which we acquired in a trade with our daughter who needed a smaller bed. To counter that I bought a memory foam topper which, even after it stopped smelling, (two months with nearly constantly open windows), is not comfortable to me. I feel by morning that I have sunken into that foam that serves as packaging: the kind that has the shape of the product indented into it. And having been more or less immobilized by my bed all night, the arthritic me wakes up even stiffer and creakier than before.

    I would love to get more sleep, and since Alzheimers is my major health concern , it is a priority, but I have yet to find the mattress of my dreams, and more importantly, I sleep with our 18 year old cat, who is just as much of a challenge as my restless 71 year old husband. Since I know that the cat will not be with me much longer, (and who knows about the old husband!)I cater to his whim at my own expense, on an every other night basis, figuring that sleeping through the night half the time is better than nothing.

    All that being said, I know very few women over 60 who would say they sleep well, regardless of their mattress or sleeping partner. Its always something to srive for, but harder and harder to achieve!

    1. @Ellen, It’s a good point – how many people do sleep well, as they age, and what counts as “sleeping well?” You are a good soul, to accommodate your cat. I don’t think I’d be so generous, as I become another person altogether when my sleep is disrupted.

  9. A good nights sleep is hard to come by and anything that can improve your experience is worth it short of narcotics! Sounds like you have a great mattress…we are happy with our Beautyrest. It is a very comfy bed and I like down pillows, a down duvet and high thread count sheets.
    I do wake up several times most nights unless I have a super busy day to the point where I am exhausted(yesterday) and waking up refreshed this morning I am so grateful for a decent nights slumber.
    How is the rest of your room coming together?

    1. @Bungalow Hostess, Yes to down pillow and duvet (in the winter, otherwise just a cotton blanket) and yes to luxury linens:). As far as the room goes, we received the Moroccan rug from Garnet Hill and love it. Now on to the bed itself…

  10. I take “Mid Nite” which is a brand of Melatonin. As long as you have at least 3 hours to sleep, you can take it. It doesn’t leave you groggy at all. And you can even take it in the middle of the night without water because it dissolves on the tonque.

    The only pillows that work for me are foam pillows. At least they don’t go flat for ages.

    1. @Anan, Clearly I should try melatonin. And as for foam, I just don’t like the bounce. I think that’s one of those like blue like red kind of things;.

  11. When we bought our last Matress we went organic latex from the place on 4th street. It was ok. We added memory foam (chemically soaked) and it was perfect. I was done breast feeding my kids and worried less about the chemicals but I’d love to get something cleaner. Sleep issues — hugely improved with a move to a house surrounded by woods where we only hear birds and squirrels.

    1. @Jb, Ah, the sounds of nature. Seriously. Sounds like Essentia makes your mattress exactly, sans chemicals. And BTW it’s on 4th street too!

  12. That’s only about 65 cents a night if you keep the mattress for 20 years.
    Sounds like a bargain!

  13. Sleep issues?!? Am I, or am I not, a menopausal woman? I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I’ve found better sleep through pharmaceuticals, although I’d much rather find it through an organic mattress.
    And I’m so happy to know that your thalamus and cortex are communicating with one another again, Lisa!

  14. I hope that works out for you. I recently bought a side sleeper pillow to encourage myself to sleep on my side. I feel like it improves my breathing, fractured breathing is supposed to spur dementia. Given the fairly strong familial pattern I’m not so sure that anything we do really makes much difference in avoiding it.

    I’m extremely allergic to latex and even though I’m sure the mattress doesn’t exude latex in such a way that the body breaths it in or comes into contact with latex particles, it would be a no-go for me.

    I’ve grown fond of the Sleep Cycle app. I’m not sure that it improves my sleep but I love the alarm, which makes an effort to wake you at a wakeful time in your sleep cycle.

    1. @RoseAG, You too with the family connection to dementia? I am expecting, or at least hoping for, a real explosion in our understanding of the condition. Not to mention a different name. Don’t you think we should call it, SMI, for Significant Memory Impairment, instead? Dementia sounds so scary.

      Hadn’t heard of Sleep Cycle, might give it a shot.

  15. I too am a side sleeper and 2 years ago I tossed my old mattress and feather bed for a Sit N Sleep brand Firm Plush.(name brand relabeled as Sit n Sleep)
    Love the bed however a year later I got a horrible pinched nerve in my neck radiating down my shoulders and arms.
    While I was healing from it I made 2 life changing purchases,
    Good Housekeeping recommended the Pacific Coast Down
    Double Down Around gusseted pillow as the best for side sleepers. It is indeed. I sleep on 2 of the firm ones and can not say enough good about them. Buoyed by my satisfaction with the pillows I got their Hotel style feather bed. 2 of the best purchases I could have made.
    Top the pillows with silk pillow cases and absolute heaven!!!!

  16. In my kindergarten stage debut (a very dramatic [wink] understudy-to-the-rescue scenario), I performed the role of the Real Princess in “The Princess and the Pea.” Who knew it would be so prophetic (though now the play might more accurately be called “The Princess and the [Middle-of-the-Night] Pee”). I’ve suffered from poor-quality sleep and insomnia off and on my whole life.
    I feel your pain regarding mattress pricing, but oh man is quality and low toxicity worth it! We went RoyalPedic about 10 years ago and haven’t looked back, though in future I’ll be looking for even greener components. The only complaint I have is that for some reason the king-size transmits motion more than the queen-size it replaced.
    Agree on melatonin (drops only). If noise–traffic, snoring–is an issue, Mack’s earplugs are comfy and a godsend. They’re squishy silicone blobs that moosh over the ear canal rather than sitting IN it. Made more of a difference for me than supplements or mattress.
    Looking forward to photos of bedroom!

  17. We tried a memory foam in our Twin Cities Condo, and the odor was so strong that we couldn’t tolerate it. Needless to say, it went back to where we got it, which was a very good quality furniture and mattress store. It also felt a bit hard once we got it home. We have now settled for a regular mattress, and it’s just fine…soft enough for this side sleeper and it has no odor.

  18. I have interstitial cystitis and it’s a very good night when I don’t have to get up every two hours to pee. I was also developing acid reflux (I know, I know get off the organ recital), so when I moved back to my childhood home I bought an adjustable bed, the whole enchilada, and a soft-sided pillow top mattress, which I then covered with an impermeable pad (to keep dust mites at bay) and a pillow-topped mattress pad. I sleep with the head of the bed raised somewhat and two down pillows (I simply don’t like foam, it’s too hot and it smells (forever, in my opinion) and the rebound is unpleasant to me) and high thread-count sheets that I’ve washed with bleach (yes, it shortens their life but it softens them deliciously) and a down comforter (I get pain in my hips and upper legs from childhood polio (very light case, thankfully) so I need a warmer bed than most people. I take Zolpidem too, but I’m thinking I’ll try melatonin. I LOVE my adjustable bed, it’s a lifesaver, has improved quality and quantity of sleep tremendously, plus it’s wonderful to support my back when I’m doing needlepoint and watching tv. Now if I can only figure out a way to keep my cat from nudging me off the side of the bed in his perpetual attempt (flattering but annoying) to get closer to me . . . .

    1. @Gail Upp, It sounds as though, faced with some sleep issues on the more serious side of the scale, you’ve solved them really well. I have no advice about the cat;).

  19. I hope there is a follow-up in the offing! You slept better, taught the mattress to make pancakes and were so well rested that you invented the next Facebook!

    We bought a hotel mattress. We slept on one in Vermont, loved it and tracked it down….they didn’t want to sell it to us, because it was so cheap. It’s still fabulous!

  20. We bought a Numbers bed several years ago and while we do have some issues with it, it is very comfortable and makes a huge difference in my quality of sleep. I am a side sleeper as well so sleep with a lot of pillows to support legs, arem etc. My pllow is filled with microbeads which gives beautiful support and doesn’t cause problems with my allergies. I take two Valerian every night along with a calcium, magnesium and zinc tablet woth B-6. Your body absorbs cakcium better at night and it helps to sooth your nerve endings.

    1. @Marilyn Leslie,
      The calcium, magnesium and zinc is one tablet. Several different companies have that combination. The magnesium and zinc make it easier for your body to absorb the calcium. I’ve been taking that along with the B-6 for over 20 years. Hope you find the right combination to help you get a good night sleep. I find soaking in epsom salts a big help for dissolving physical tension as well as doing some stretches.

  21. Lisa, For some years now, I have taken an exercise class for middle aged women (to promote core strength) at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. The center’s expert in nutrition speaks to us once a week. Today, she talked about the connection between good sleep and dementia. In other words, good sleep is important. This justifies your investment in a great mattress.

  22. Oh God, first the pharmacy and my Dr. warning me about long term possible side effects of Prempro, which now include dementia, and now this?

    Unfortunately I would have to spend that much money, if and when I had it on my roof,and that would certainly improve my sleep.

    I sleep best when I work out. Sometimes I have been known to take 1/4 of a xanax. Often a delicious warm bath.

    I love my mattress. I love my little bedroom and I love waking up in the middle of the night to find a cat or two snuggled up next to me.

    I think all these contribute to a good night’s zzzzzzzzz.

    o J

  23. I know you won’t believe this – I hardly do – but my partner and I sleep on a futon. That’s right – what the college kids do. We have slept on a futon for 30 years. The first one weighed 4 zillion pounds and was heavenly; the second one is light weight and………heavenly. No bounce so I’m not affected when he tosses. It is hard but we had to put sleep boards under because it was also ‘dippy’ (ha! like me!). I know it’s crazy but my back and neck and everything is happy. Maybe I’ll sleep in another bed one day and find I’m really in more pain than I know but until then……..

    BTW – many great reviews about organic mattresses sold only on the intertubes or even just Amazon. Great quality, lowish price. Check it out!

    Oh yeah – I’m 71 :)

  24. I found that egg carton foam – thick stuff ordered online from – not the thin stuff you find in the store – works wonders for pain when sleeping. They are located in San Francisco.

  25. Thank you for this post – my next mattress will definitely be memory foam and the Essentia selection sounds lovely. I’ve been working on going to bed more relaxed at night, and early enough to have a good 7 hours. Do you find you sleep better with heavier coverlets or light?

    There was a recent study done at UCLA that showed very positive results (albeit small sample size) in reversing memory loss with certain lifestyle choices and daily supplements. Sleeping 7 – 8 hours a night, and melatonin supplements were just two on the list –

    Another study from the Mayo Clinic showing the possible connection of middle age onset diabetes and high blood pressure with memory loss. My father developed the first two at age 70 and shortly thereafter dementia followed. Interesting for us middle agers –

    Sweet dreams with your lovely new mattress!

    1. @Candace, Thank you for the resources. And I sleep best with the window open for California’s cool night air, a light cotton blanket, and the duvet nearby to pull on when it finally gets cold.

  26. Considering the amount of time we spend on our beds, a great mattress is a worthwhile investment. If we are to break down the total cost of the mattress by the number of hours we’ll be sleeping on it for 10 years (assuming 7 hours of sleep per night), cost per hour would probably come out US$0.10. That’s how I chose to look at it when we got our mattress.

  27. I injured my shoulder last summer in the very same manner – it took months to heal.

    As for sleep issues, I suffer greatly from them. They improved somewhat when I cut alcohol out of my diet (for the most part, anyway). The other things that affect my sleep are not so easily cured – menopause and a snoring spouse. :( Having a memory foam mattress helps, though, environmental issues and all.

  28. I just have to indulge my naturally contrarian streak by asking:
    However did the human race survive – and thrive – all these years without luxe Western mattresses to sleep on? :-)

    1. @Catbird Farm, It’s a good question. I’m reading a book right now that advocates Paleo Movement, essentially, and she urges us all to get rid of our pillows. But in the Paleo days, were many people the age we are now?

    1. @Maria Killam, OK, so that makes two people, you and Kathy, that I think of as possibly possessing “insider” design trade knowledge, so I’m cheering and having the opposite of post-purchase cognitive dissonance;).

  29. Holy moly, that’s an expensive mattress. I have only recently made the switch to a memory foam mattress myself, but mine is definitely only 1/5th the cost. I was totally sold by the hip start-up marketing around

    Gotta say, I do love my mattress, though I have not tried an essentia so I’ll never know what I’m missing out on ;3

    1. @joanna, It’s very cute marketing, I agree. And if the memory foam didn’t off-gass, or you aren’t sensitive to it, sounds great. Who wouldn’t want a mattress designed by guys in nerd glasses! I mean that!

  30. My husband was not sleeping well for the longest time. He was like a Mexican jumping bean, moving every 5-10 secs. while I read next to him. It got so disruptive I used to leave the bed and sleep on the couch.

    Our last 3 mattresses have been Stearns & Foster and they all lasted for ten plus years. I did a lot of research online and watched for sales. We finally decided we had enough Labor Day weekend.

    The last pillowtop model we had lasted 14 yrs.. We were amazed at how much the technology for creating mattresses has changed during the period since that purchase. We settled on a hypoallergenic foam & gel mattress, the plush kind. Stearns & Foster again. It ran around $1015. We also treated ourselves to pillows made for side sleepers which are also foam with a gel insert that keeps them much cooler which is great in FL.

    I am also a side sleeper and often my leg falls asleep before I get up. I’ve learned to sit at the edge of the bed to see how numb it is before trying to take any steps as I have twisted my ankle twice this year from not noticing one leg could not carry weight.

    My physical therapist suggested putting a small 18″ x 18″ cushion between my knees as I slept so as to straighten out and balance my position. What a difference! It helps the shoulders line up with the legs on a straighter plane and as a result, I am not waking up in pain anywhere. The new mattress is so soft and thick (14.75″), I don’t even notice hubby turning anymore. He is also finally getting a good night’s rest which is essential for a guy who does physical labor. It was worth every penny.

    1. @AJFlamingo, Sounds great. The issue with pillow tops, as you found out and was explained to me, is that you can’t flip them and the pillow part compresses pretty fast.

  31. I agree absolutely about memory consolidation during sleep. I clearly remember half-waking many times while in school, feeling concepts and newly studied ideas rearranging themselves spatially in my brain.

    My last boyfriend invested in the Tempur Pedic mattress for his back and never before in my life had I fallen asleep in one position and woken up 8-9 hours later in the same spot. I’m definitely keeping it in mind for my next investment. After all, I’ll be spending more than a third of my life there!

  32. 29 years ago I bought an expensive Swedish mattress, but my “sleep problem” was that my husband has left me to sleep with someone else! So I guess this was my consolation prize. Anyway, the mattress has been absolutely fantastic, and anyone sleeping on it in the intervening more than quarter century thought so, too. Though guaranteed for 30 yrs I think it will last pretty much forever as it is still giving identical support.

    1. @Duchesse,

      Did you buy a Duxiana perchance? Ours was the best money we’ve ever spent on *anything!* Lifetime warranty and blissful sleep!

  33. Not to minimize your pain in any way, only to celebrate your sense of humor.


  34. Got memory foam about 3 years ago after trying it out on vacation. Best investment we ever made. Cured all arthritis and back issues that had long interrupted sleep for both of us. The bed appears to weigh about 1000 pounds…might have to sell it with the house someday. ; )

    Wish we had known of this years earlier!

  35. My mattress is by far and away the most expensive piece of furniture in my bedroom and I continue to believe it is the best investment as well. I need softness as I sleep on my side, but like to spend some time on my back as well, and my back was fused when I was 15 so I have no bend. The mattress must both accommodate my unyielding body parts, and also offer support.

    Even if my body changes, and I need a new mattress before the 30-some year warranty is out, which my therapist tells me is not unlikely, it will have been a good investment.

  36. I know it’s not as natural as this mattress, but another good option might be the Leesa also.

    My SO and I have been sleeping on ours for a while now and really loving it. They’ve only been out for a few months now, but getting great reviews.

    I did quite a bit of research before buying, comparing the Essentia, Casper, Tuft & Needle, etc. This site in particular had some really great reviews on all of these, including this one on the Leesa

    Thought I’d at least toss it out in here in case someone else was going through the same motions as my SO and I. Hope it helps!

  37. Good to know about this mattress company in Montreal. Post-divorce, I thought I would have to invest in a new mattress, but I am still sticking it out on my little Ikea mattress that is okay for now. Glad to know about this company and I will consider them in the future when I end up needing a new mattress someday.

  38. It’s hard to bite the bullet and spend big bucks on a mattress… until you consider that you’ll be spending a third of your life on it, for the next 8 years. It’s worth it to spend the extra money on something that suits your needs.

  39. Thanks for sharing this! I never tried Essentia mattresses before but have heard good things! I currently like the Turf & Needle mattress, but maybe for my next mattress, I’ll give Essentia a shot.

    Like you, I’m a side sleeper…and I do sometimes wake up with shoulder pains. I guess you could say I found it out the difficult way, but mattresses DO play a super important role in how well you sleep as a side sleeper.

    As far as sleep problems…I hate to say it, but it sometimes gets really difficult for me to sleep at night. I believe it”s insomnia because I think too much!

    To fight insomnia, I actually wrote about 50 ways people can try to get rid of insomnia. There’s even an infographic to go with it. For anyone interested, feel free to check it out here:

    I think putting away your electronics when you sleep is a huge factor in how well and how quick you sleep!

    Jessica :)

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