The Bed Expert

Black Sheep Mattress is a Calgary-based mattress manufacturer and retailer specializing in custom-made mattresses, all constructed of natural and organic materials. I spoke with Christian Schmidt, owner and founder of the company, to learn more about mattresses and to get some tips on mattress shopping.

If you’ve spent eight hours in an uncomfortable office chair, you’ve experienced the after-effects: a stiff, sore back, knees and hips that creak, and overall bad posture. A bad mattress can be just as harmful, said Christian, as ideally you get to spend about eight hours a night there. “A bad mattress can be the source of a lot of problems,” he noted. “Sometimes we have customers who come in with back or neck issues, for example, and after finding a good mattress, their sleep improves.” For that reason, he urged, prioritize finding a good mattress, and take your time to do so.

While there are many different types and styles of mattresses, the main two are foam/latex and spring-based. “Neither one is necessarily better than the other,” Christian explained. “You can purchase a well-made model of either style, but they have a different feel and different support.” It’s not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to get a quality mattress, though Christian did qualify that a queen mattress for $199 is probably not your best bet.

There are several factors to consider when mattress shopping. The first and most important factor is firmness or density. “Firmness is key,” said Christian, “as it determines comfort and support.” Try to determine what level of firmness is best for you before you head to the store, and if you have no idea what you need, you can sample a range of mattresses in the showroom. “When someone comes into Black Sheep and has no preference, we have them start at the medium level of support and then increase or decrease the firmness, trying to narrow it down.”

Christian warned that an hour in the showroom is not necessarily enough time to find your best fit. If you find that the mattress is not right for you after taking it home for a test run, some companies, such as Black Sheep, will do adjustments, tweaking the mattress until it meets your needs and expectations. “We use zippered cases,” Christian explained, “so that we can open the mattress up, remove a layer, or adjust the springs.”

If you share your bed with a partner, you’ll need to consider how your sleeping styles differ and how your needs differ. For instance, if you and your partner are vastly different in weight and size, you may need mattresses with vastly different levels of support. Black Sheep and some other companies can tailor-make your mattress with a different level of firmness on each half. Allergies are a key component, as well. “If you find a mattress made with natural materials, you can likely eliminate potential or existing allergens.” Mattresses have different levels of temperature control, so that is another factor to consider; there are some “hotter” mattresses out there. Rule those out if you tend to overheat at night.

To extend the life of your mattress, flip and rotate on a regular basis. And if you purchased a mattress that is too firm, you can add a topper layer to increase softness. “If your mattress is not firm enough, there is probably not a lot you can do,” said Christian.

“Shop around and do your homework,” he advised, “and make sure you can check all the boxes. It’s a big factor in getting a good night’s sleep, so be active in the process.”

Contact Christian Schmidt at Black Sheep Mattress

This story was originally published in Dote Magazine Issue 4. Written by Laura Urban // Photographed by Natalie Andrusiak // Styled by Alexandra Joy Wig