Here's How One Personalized Mattress Really F*cked With My Mind

by Kate Ryan

These days, everything is personalized. I'm not just talking about an aquarium gift shop keychain that has your generic, Anglo-Saxon name on it. I'm talking about products, subscriptions and experiences personalized to your unique needs.

In this you-centric, customizable tech age, menus are merely suggestions. How you hack an IKEA bookshelf is more important than the bookshelf itself. You can get your name etched on just about anything and choose your baby's gender without being accused of witchcraft.

Don't get me wrong -- I love it. The self-absorbed manifest destiny approach, in my mind, is the only way to fill your house with curated knick knacks. Which is why I was intrigued by Helix, a mattress company that specializes in customizing mattresses to suit every individual's needs.

Here's the process of getting your very own personalized Helix mattress.

I took a very personal questionnaire. I mean, they asked for my height, weight and if I believe in God (kidding). But as the questions became more specific, it got me thinking critically about my sleeping habits and the kind of sleep I hope to achieve.


Do I like my mattress on the firmer or softer side? Warm or cool? What's the current quality of my sleep on a scale from one to ten? Honestly, guys, I spent so much time agonizing over these questions, they became purely theoretical. I mean, isn't one person's soft another person's firm? What is the nature of "quality"? Are we even real?

So, after going on that philosophical journey, I had to go through the same gauntlet for my boyfriend because, as you might suspect, we sleep together. As in, we lay on opposite sides of the bed all night and keep our hands to ourselves (hi, Mimi!).

Side note: You can only choose to have one or two people on your mattress, so tough luck for threesomes.

Once you finish the questionnaire, you're ready to buy your very own customized mattress. They start at $600 for a twin and go up to $995 for a California King. Since Mike and I are still somewhere between fighting for the top bunk and legitimate adulting, we're rocking a full mattress, which comes out to $800.

It ships quickly -- ours arrived within two weeks of ordering it -- and comes vacuum-sealed in a dope six-sided box that makes unpacking a breeze.

You slide your mattress out of the box, rip open the plastic lining and watch it expand to its full size within seconds, working kind of like a giant Space Bag.

The wooshing sound it made particularly intrigued our dog, Benji.

Slapped on top of our dingy old Ikea mattress, the Helix model looked like a crystalline vision of a utopian future. We rolled around on it for a good ten minutes, cheesy mattress ad style, before tricking it out with clean sheets.

Mike O'Donnell

We also had a little too much fun with the photo shoot part...

Mike O'Donnell

*Cheetah print onesie not included.

Mike O'Donnell

It looked so comfy -- like, suspiciously comfy -- that by 11 pm, we were ready for bed.

Mike O'Donnell

Here's the part where I have to be completely HONEST.

Oh man, all caps means it's about to get real. The first night sleeping on our brand new mattress was horrible -- for me at least. I mean, worst night of sleep I've had next to crashing on a beer-stained futon in college. It was bad.

First, I couldn't fall asleep, so I lay wide awake looking at the ceiling wondering where I'd gone wrong in the questionnaire. Then, some time between one and midnight, I awoke from a "Fantasia" style fever dream lying in a pool of my own sweat.

I kicked off the sheets and fanned out, which helped me eventually drift off into another Disney nightmare. A few hours later, my sweat had dried and a cool breeze coming through the window rendered me freezing.

I was a mess. I was lost in the mattress abyss.

Watching my boyfriend and dog sleep soundly beside me, spooning like darling, innocent cherubs, only made things worse.

Safe to say, that first night was a bummer, man. I wanted to like this mattress so much. The quizzes, the price tag, the six-sided box! I was convinced it all had to add up to the best sleep of my life.

Here's what turned things around.

The next night, we slipped a thin cover over the mattress. It didn't really do much of anything as far as plushness goes, but it added one more layer between the top sheet and the mattress itself. We gave it another night, and to my surprise, it made a world of a difference.

Mattress covers are made for a reason, so I'm assuming it had something to do with the durable -- though criminally soft -- fabric encasing the mattress. Honestly, I don't care what did the trick because I've been sleeping soundly ever since.

It still begs the question though: What the actual f*ck went wrong that first night? One theory is that I'd been recovering from a cold, so I can at least blame my trippy dreams on a bad NyQuil and weed combo.

Secondly, adjusting to a new mattress takes a little time. For some, it's love at first sleep, while others take a little longer to feel the same warm and fuzzies. Reading other customer reviews proved I'm not alone in this.

We picked a mattress that was a medium on all fronts -- a Goldilocks model, you could say -- because Mike likes a slightly firmer mattress and I thought sleeping on a marshmallow sounded nice. While the mattress felt a little firm to me the first couple nights, it now feels like the answer to my prayers.

Ultimately, I think it's a matter of finding balance. Do I want to sleep on a literal cloud and not die? Yes. Do I need sufficient lumbar support? Also yes.

So, perhaps you can chalk up that first night to bad timing. Four nights in and I'm sleeping almost as angelically as the two boys who share my bed. As I write this story sitting luxuriously on my new Helix mattress, I feel both the comfort and support I so desperately need.

I'm beginning to think this mattress knows me better than I know myself.

The Final Verdict

Would I suggest you try one out for yourself? Most definitely. If you're looking for a major upgrade from the IKEA mattress your aunt Terry gifted you but not quite ready to throw down two-months' rent on a Tempur-Pedic, a Helix mattress could be the perfect solution for you. Between its gorgeous site design, impeccable customer service and 100-night return policy, you really can't go wrong.

At the end of the day or, in this case, night, I'm not the same person I thought I was. Realizing I'll never entirely know who I am or what I want initially rocked my foundation; but now that I've acclimated to change, my worldview has shifted to encapsulate an infinite range of possibilities.

Sometimes, what you want isn't as important as what you need. And, in rare circumstances, all you need is a new mattress to show you the way.

Mike O'Donnell

Sweet dreams, everyone.