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In South Florida, finding the right bed may now be easier

Selecting a mattress ranks as one of the most overwhelming shopping experiences. For many customers, the nightmare only gets worse when you finally get that new bed home and find out after the first night’s sleep that it’s not nearly as comfortable as it seemed in the store.

At least one mattress company, Kingsdown, believes it has a scientific solution that can help: the bedMatch technology system, based partly on research at Duke University. Baer’s Furniture is the only store in South Florida that carries the new system and one of only a handful across the country.

“This isn’t about ‘our mattress is better than somebody else’s,’ ” said Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, which came up with the system on behalf of its client Kingsdown. “Right now, there is no industry standard for firm and soft mattresses. It should be just like going to get fitted for a pair of shoes. The same thing should happen for mattresses. We need objective not subjective information.” That’s the idea behind Oexman’s system, which starts at a computer terminal kiosk asking the customer to answer basic questions like gender, age, sleep position, height and whether they wake up in the morning with pain in particular areas of the body.

Then the shopper lies down on a special test mattress where a scanner takes specific body measurements that include height, weight, width of the shoulders and hips, the flexibility of the lumbar curve and more.

By using a total of 18 statistical measurements and more than 1,000 calculations, the computer spits out a recommendation in minutes. With additional details, including weight range and clothing size, the system can take into account the needs of your sleep partner if he or she isn’t present.

Recommendations focus on firmness and support.

Every person is advised on the color of mattress best for him or her; mattresses come in gold, green, blue or red, and can be made with a different color on each side. (This isn’t a mood ring; the colors are simply a code that represents a different level of support and pressure relief, with gold being the least and red the most.) Once a customer finds out his or her recommended color, the list narrows choices of mattresses based on the store’s offerings.

Typically, that list includes both traditional coil-style mattresses and high-technology foam styles.

Recommendations vary in price but offer similar levels of support. At Baer’s, prices on a queen mattress recommended by the system range from $1,099 to $3,499.

“We don’t charge you more for the correct fit,” said Donald Kirisits, the South Florida account manager for Kingsdown. “You know they’re all still the right bed from your body, and you should still get a good night’s sleep.”

While the system is designed by Kingsdown to promote the company’s MySide beds, it can also be customized for a given retailer, so that all of its mattress brands can be included in the recommendations. At Baer’s, only Kingsdown mattresses currently are featured in the system.

Baer’s executives say the system has helped boost average sale prices and simplified the selling system for customers and employees. Baer’s overall mattress prices range from $297 to $5,299.

“This has made it a thousand times easier for us because it’s not left to chance,” said Cathy Baer, vice president of sales for the east coast of Florida. “This way when you get home, you’re as happy with the bed as you were in the store. People will buy a better mattress because they want to make sure they have the proper support.”

Sleep industry experts say anything that can help people sleep better is a step in the right direction. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But the amount of sleep most people get has been steadily declining in the last decade, with increasing pressure in society to cram more into already busy days. Lack of sleep can have a direct negative impact on a person’s health.

Mattress companies increasingly have created solutions for aging baby boomers and other consumers willing to buy an expensive mattress if it will help alleviate aches and pains. Options include adjustable beds, memory-foam mattresses and Sleep Number beds, which allow consumers to customize each side of their mattress with varying levels of air pressure.

Dr. Alexandre Abreu, director of UHealth Sleep Medicine Program, isn’t convinced the bedMatch system is the silver bullet to choosing a mattress, but he likes the idea of anything that can help a person create the proper sleep environment. That’s why Abreu and his wife used the system recently when they purchased their own bed from a furniture store in North Carolina.

“Choosing an ideal mattress is an extremely difficult mission,” Abreu said. “If there is software that can give more information to the customer, why not use it? Even if you don’t hit the jackpot, at least you’re getting closer to what would be your ideal mattress.”

The bedMatch technology system is the result of years of research conducted by Kingsdown’s Sleep to Live Institute and on the company’s behalf by doctors from Duke University.

In the initial research, 128 adults were asked to pick a mattress the same way they would in a store.

Then they were instructed to sleep on seven different mattresses for a month each to verify the impact of a mattresses on their sleep.

For most subjects, their initial mattress choice turned out to be no better than if they were randomly matched with a mattress.

“We found that the mattress does matter,” said Dr. Andrew Krystal, sleep medicine specialist and psychiatrist at Duke University.

“It was remarkable to me how much variation there was among people about which mattress turned out to be the best bed for them. It was not that everybody did the best on the one with the most support.”