Updated: Jun 16, 2019
One of my friends, and avid My Journey into Tiny follower, Julie, has been at me to sleep in my tiny pretty much since it had something resembling a roof on it. I put it off for quite a while because when you are working on a place, and there is no power apart from what you can connect to an extension cord from the shed, there’s just not a lot to do. When I go home after a day’s work I will have a shower (not ready in tiny yet), cook dinner (not ready in tiny yet), settle down on the couch and watch some tv (can do, but not in anything more comfortable than a camp chair) before heading to bed. Sleeping over at the moment requires me to go home, do all that and then drive 20 mins back to tiny. Its a bit of a hassle.
However, in the spirit of making sure that things that require research are started well in advance, I have started to test out various sleeping options. I am the type of person that will spend thousands on a bed if it gives me a good night’s sleep. I always find it to be a great investment. The constraints around bedding for a tiny house with a loft bedroom, however, are causing me to re-think the entire process. You can’t just walk into Snooze and ask for the best bed under $2,000. It just won’t fit. Ask for a futon mattress and they will send you away to Ikea. And there you start at the bottom of the market.
So first I used the resources I had at hand, including my facebook friends and the Tiny House Australia group. Seemed that many people believed that the excessive engineering that goes into my usual mattress selection could turn out to be unwarranted. When I consider how many people in the world sleep on a thin foam mattress versus what I sleep on, that’s probably true. But my back has got accustomed to the relative comfort. I decided that this was just going to require a lot of testing.
I have about 1020mm clearance between the floorboards and the highest point of my internal roof. I want to be able to sit up in bed so I took some measurements that told me that a 250mm mattress is out of the question (Facebook is insisting that I’d love a Koala mattress but it’s too thick). Ideally I keep the mattress below 200mm. 150mm would be awesome.
I am considering adding a Hydravent Mattress underlay to help improve air circulation under the mattress and prevent (or reduce) the amount of mildew likely to form. This will deduct another 20mm.
I also want to lay carpet on the floorboards to make crawling around in the loft easier on the knees, and keep it warmer during cold nights. Another 15mm gone.
Test 1: Air Mattress
I never expected this to be a long-term solution, but I figured it would satisfy Julie, and allow me to experience my first night in the tiny and enjoy my extortionately expensive Velux Skylight. I used the air mattress I usually use camping, which I usually find almost as comfortable as a normal bed. For reference, its an Exped Megamat. I have had the misfortune to have to use this on concrete once, thanks to a campsite booking that went wrong. I have since learned that air mattresses and concrete do not mix, and floorboards feel like concrete. Massive fail. Very uncomfortable night.
Test 2: Clark Rubber Comfort Deluxe Mattress (100mm) + Comfort Cool Gel Overlay (40mm) = 140mm
A friend of mine is living out of his van at the moment and he told me he used a 100mm Clark Rubber foam mattress and said it was very comfortable. His mattress sits directly on a plywood frame. So I went to Clark Rubber and explained my problem (needed to ensure the solution allowed enough clearance and was comfortable on floorboards) and they told me I could test it out and return it so long as it was returned in the original plastic packaging.
I had high expectations, however upon laying the mattress and topper into the loft I noticed that I could feel pressure on my hips just laying down. Understanding that my trial was likely more dependent on the kind salesperson and less likely backed up by any formal try-before-you-buy policy I decided to sleep on them that night and ensure it was comfortable. It was not.
The pressure points I felt by simply lying on the mattress were even worse sleeping on it over night. I woke up with my lower back aching, unable to find a comfortable position. As it was a warm night, I decided to try putting the doona under the mattress in an attempt to cushion the concrete-like firmness of the floorboards. Still no better. I think there may be a considerable difference between sleeping on hardwood floorboards and plywood. I got up the next morning, researched Clark Rubber’s range and drove back to exchange the mattress.
Test 3: Clark Rubber Comfort Premium Mattress (142mm) + Comfort Cool Gel Overlay (40mm) = 182mm
I kept the Gel overlay as I had no issue with it yet, but exchanged the mattress for the most expensive foam mattress the store had (hoping that would increase comfort). In laying the new combination into the loft I noticed that the clearance was now down to about 50mm. With the Hydravent underlay, carpet and a ceiling liner, I am now at my maximum mattress thickness. The issue of pressure points from simply lying on the combination appeared to have disappeared however.
To be tested.
UPDATE: After 2 months I can safely say that the last combination of Gel overlay and Premium Foam Mattress on the floor of my loft is a winner! Am finding it super-comfortable. I didn’t end up going ahead with the Hydravent Underlay, simply because I had not read any feedback on how effective it was. I’ll be monitoring the base for signs of mould before I explore that option again. The only issue I have found with this combination is that the gel overlay tends to end up pulled to one side (clearly I turn in one direction when I sleep!). The elastic at the corners is not quite effective enough to keep it in place. I might have to come up with a mid-mattress anchor, or else I just re-position it again every week or so. Feel free to comment if you have any suggestions!