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Best Mattress for Athletes

Austin Meadows

Written by

Austin Meadows, Sleep Product Tester

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

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Methodology

We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guide to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn More

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We have updated this list to include the GhostBed Venus Williams Legend Hybrid as best for muscle recovery. The Bear Hybrid remains our best overall mattress pick for athletes.

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If you are physically active, then you understand the importance of a good night’s rest. Whether you run, bike, swim, or lift weights, a mattress that reduces pressure in your most sensitive areas and helps your body recover overnight can be an invaluable investment. And if your bed does not share these qualities, you might wake up feeling stiffer and more strained than before you turned off the light.

Some mattresses are designed specifically with athletes and other physically active people in mind. They are constructed with pressure-relieving comfort layers, support materials that won’t sag too much, and innovative covers engineered to alleviate aches and pains even after your toughest days at the gym.

We’ve outlined the mattress features that are beneficial for athletes, along with a few strategies for choosing a new bed based on your body and how you are active. First, let’s take a look at our picks for the best mattresses for athletes among models sold today. We’ve chosen each bed based on a combination of feedback from mattress owners and hands-on product testing.

The Best Mattresses for Athletes

Product Details

Bear Hybrid

Best Overall

Bear Hybrid

Bear Hybrid
Price Range: $1,248 - $1,998
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night break-in period)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night break-in period)
Warranty: Lifetime warranty
Warranty: Lifetime warranty
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Back, side, or stomach sleepers who prefer a medium feel
  • People who like sleeping on responsive mattresses
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Innovative Celliant fabric cover is intended to improve post-workout recovery
  • Conforming, pressure-relieving feel, without too much sinkage
  • Medium firm feel presents a versatile choice for most sleepers
Bear Hybrid

30% off sitewide, plus 2 free Cloud Pillows with mattress purchase

The Bear Hybrid’s strong performance for athletes can mostly be attributed to its cover woven with Celliant fabric, a material that is designed to absorb your body heat, convert it into infrared energy, and then retransmit it back into you through your skin. Although this process has a different effect depending on the sleeper, some experience increased tissue oxygenation, muscle recovery, and temperature regulation – all of which can make you feel more comfortable after a day of physical activity.

Like many competing hybrids, this model provides a balance of body-conforming and responsiveness. Two foam comfort layers offer a medium (5) feel and contour somewhat closely, while pocketed coils reinforce the bed to keep you on an even plane. The top layer of the mattress is infused with cooling gel to resist heat build-up on the surface, and the coil layer promotes steady air circulation for added breathability.

If you feel most comfortable on a firmer mattress, then there’s a good chance you’ll find the Bear Hybrid too soft. However, we’ve found the bed’s mid-level firmness makes it a good choice for sleepers across different body type and sleeping position groups.

Compared to other hybrid models, the Bear Hybrid has a very reasonable price-point. The Bear Hybrid will be shipped for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. in a manageably sized mattress in a box.  But, if you’d rather not set up the bed yourself, this company also offers White Glove delivery. The mattress is backed by a 120-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.

Zoma Hybrid

Best Value

Zoma Hybrid

Zoma Hybrid
Price Range: $849 - $1,748
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 100 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 100 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 10 Year
Warranty: 10 Year
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, Split King
Who it's best for:
  • Value seekers
  • Side sleepers
  • Hot sleepers who like the feel of memory foam
Highlights:
  • Zoned memory foam comfort system offers targeted pressure relief
  • Perforated foam and breathable coil support core limit heat retention
  • 100-night sleep trial
Zoma Hybrid

Get $100 off a Zoma Mattress. Use Code: SF

The Zoma Hybrid offers thoughtful construction and balanced performance at an affordable price-point. The memory foam comfort system is zoned at the head and foot of the bed to provide targeted pressure relief to sensitive areas. This foam layer is also perforated with small holes and infused with cooling gel to combat heat retention.

Underneath is a layer of denser polyfoam that limits uncomfortable sagging and adds a cushion between the comfort system and the coils. This layer also helps evenly distribute weight across the surface to promote spinal alignment. The support core is composed of pocketed coils that prevent excessive sinkage and keep the body on an even plane. These coils rest on a polyfoam base layer, and a stretchy polyester/spandex blend cover encases the mattress.

The mattress’ medium firm (6) feel and thick foam comfort system are best suited to side sleepers, especially those weighing between 130 and 230 pounds. The foam layers closely contour to the body to alleviate pressure in the joints, which is a common issue for side sleepers. Back sleepers weighing up to 230 pounds may also appreciate the even sleep surface created by the mid-range feel.

Thanks to the foam hybrid design, the mattress feels responsive without sacrificing pressure relief. Sleepers should find they can easily move across the mattress’ surface, which is great for couples who value sex performance as well as combination sleepers. The coil support core also provides a strong perimeter that allows sleepers to lay or sit closer to the edge without feeling like they’re slipping off. Airflow through the coil support core and aerated foams also keep the mattress cooler than many other models with foam layers.

Zoma offers free shipping to customers in the contiguous U.S. and a 100-night sleep trial. Customers can return a mattress after the 30-night break-in period for a full refund. Zoma Hybrid purchases are backed by a 10-year warranty that covers structural defects.

DreamCloud Mattress

Most Comfortable

DreamCloud Mattress

DreamCloud Mattress
Price Range: $699 - $1,299
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 365 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 365 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: Lifetime, limited
Warranty: Lifetime, limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who need extra pressure relief
  • Shoppers looking for a responsive yet contouring surface
  • Couples who are sensitive to each other’s movements
Highlights:
  • Polyfoam quilted into cashmere cover for extra cushioning
  • Individually encased coils help reduce motion transfer
  • Gel-infused memory foam designed to prevent overheating
DreamCloud Mattress

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on DreamCloud mattresses

The DreamCloud Mattress is a hybrid bed constructed using memory foam, polyfoam, and steel coils. The mixture of foam and coils work together to provide ample support and pressure relief, which may help prevent or reduce back pain for physically active individuals.

The top layer of the DreamCloud is a cashmere blend cover with polyfoam quilted into it. The polyfoam provides additional cushioning, which is intended to help sleepers relax into the surface of the bed. Beneath the cover is gel-infused memory foam, which is designed to evenly distribute body weight and relieve pressure from sharper areas of the body while keeping cool. Those who sleep on their side or who struggle with aches and pains will likely benefit from the additional contouring.

Beneath the foam comfort layer is a polyfoam transition layer, which forms a durable barrier between the sleeper and the support core. The coil core is composed of individually wrapped springs, which contributes to the medium firm (6) feel of the mattress.

The individually encased coils help reduce motion transfer, which could be beneficial for couples who are easily awakened by their partner’s movements. The coil core is also durable enough to promote proper spinal alignment and prevent sagging over time, which may help sleepers avoid or reduce back pain.

DreamCloud offers free shipping within the contiguous United States, and White Glove delivery is available for an extra fee. Each order comes with a 365-night sleep trial, including a 30-night minimum to help sleepers adjust to the new bed. Additionally, the mattress is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Luxury Firm WinkBed

Best for Back Pain

Luxury Firm WinkBed

Luxury Firm WinkBed
Price Range: $1,149 - $2,049
Mattress Type: Innerspring
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 120 nights (30 night requirement)
Trial length: 120 nights (30 night requirement)
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Couples
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who experience painful pressure buildup
Highlights:
  • Pressure-relieving Euro-top construction
  • Coil system offers robust support
  • Sleeps cool
Luxury Firm WinkBed

Get $300 off all mattresses

The WinkBed is a robust hybrid mattress built with a quilted Euro-top and coil design that provides notable pressure relief, edge support, and comfort. While the bed is available in a range of different firmnesses, the Luxury Firm model provides an excellent balance of contouring and support that suits it well for people who experience back pain during sleep.

The Luxury Firm WinkBed starts with gel-infused polyfoam quilted into the top of the bed’s Tencel cover for cushioning and temperature regulation. This is followed by a layer of higher density polyfoam that further cushions the body but is also firm enough to keep the body from sagging into the core.

A bed of sturdy, individually wrapped coils acts as the bed’s support core. These coils are zoned and banded together in different arrangements depending on the bed’s firmness, providing different degrees of pushback to different parts of the body as needed. The perimeter of the bed is reinforced, providing standout edge support that allows sleepers to use the full surface of the mattress.

Side sleepers between 130 and 230 pounds should find the Luxury Firm very comfortable, as well as back and stomach sleepers up to 230 pounds. The coils and breathable Tencel facilitate ample air circulation, making this bed a good option for hot sleepers, as well.

WinkBeds offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S. The mattress is backed by a 120-night sleep trial that has a 30-night break-in period. The WinkBed is also protected against defects by a limited lifetime warranty.

GhostBed Venus Williams Legend

Best for Muscle Recovery

GhostBed Venus Williams Legend

GhostBed Venus Williams Legend
Price Range: $1,995 - $3,990
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 101 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 101 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin XL, Queen, King, Split King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • People with achy joints
  • Those with physically active lifestyles
Highlights:
  • All-foam construction provides strong contouring and pressure relief
  • Ghost Bounce foam offers a slightly responsive feel similar to latex
  • Infused with technology aimed at promoting muscle recovery
GhostBed Venus Williams Legend

30% off all GhostBed mattresses & 2 free pillows. Free weighted blanket ($479 Value) with a minimum $1.5k order.

The GhostBed Venus Williams Legend is an all-foam bed engineered specifically with athletes in mind. The foam layers are carefully constructed to provide an even balance of support and contouring for maximum sleep optimization. The mattress is also infused with a specialized technology that is meant to promote physical recovery in your sleep.

The top layer is composed of memory foam that contours closely to the body, ensuring deep pressure relief for athletes who might be experiencing joint pain or aches. The foam is infused with Venus FIT, a proprietary technology that is engineered to convert body heat into infrared energy, which in turn promotes muscle recovery and blood circulation. Beneath is a layer of Ghost Bounce foam, which has the contouring properties of memory foam but also features a moderate bounce akin to latex. The support core is made up of a thick layer of high-density polyfoam for support and durability.

With a medium firm (6) feel, the Venus Williams Legend has an above-average firmness compared to the average all-foam bed. This is due in large part to the responsive feel of the Ghost Bounce layer. The memory foam absorbs a good amount of motion, which allows co-sleepers to move at night without disturbing each other. Side and back sleepers up to 230 pounds will experience a strong balance of cushioning and support, though stomach sleepers may prefer a firmer bed.

GhostBed ships this mattress for free to customers in the contiguous U.S. The bed is backed by a 101-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan Hybrid Luxe

Best Pressure Relief

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan Hybrid Luxe

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan Hybrid Luxe
Price Range: $1,099 - $1,299
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Soft (4), Medium Firm (6), Firm (7)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, Split California King
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Shoppers seeking a high performance mattress that is competitively priced
  • People with active lifestyles
Highlights:
  • Three firmness options
  • Infrared technology converts body heat to promote physical recovery and temperature neutrality
  • Multiple foam layers provide strong cushioning
Brooklyn Bedding Spartan Hybrid Luxe

Save 20% on a Brooklyn Bedding mattress with this code: sleepfoundation20

Mattresses that cater to athletes typically feature thoughtful designs and high performing materials that can drive up the sticker price. The Brooklyn Bedding Spartan Hybrid stands apart from the competition by boasting an approachable price-point without sacrificing the performance features like enhanced pressure relief that make it suitable for active lifestyles.

The Spartan Hybrid is available in three firmness levels to accommodate a wide range of sleep styles and body types – medium soft (4), medium firm (6), and firm (7). The foam layers vary in thickness and firmness depending on the model you choose, but all models begin with a layer of CopperFlex foam that contours the body while offering a bit more responsiveness than conventional foam. Next is a layer of Titanflex foam, which enhances the balance of contouring and responsiveness, followed by a final layer of polyfoam or memory foam, depending on the model. A support core made of pocketed coils delivers strong pushback, with a zoned design that offers support to areas of the body that require more of it.

The cover is made with a performance fabric featuring infrared technology that is meant to promote physical recovery. This technology converts body heat into energy, so it is also effective at reducing heat retention. TitanCool, a phase change material that enhances temperature regulation, is infused into the foam to further cool the bed at night. The softer models excel at contouring and pressure relief while the firmer models provide very good edge support and ease of movement across the bed.

Brooklyn Bedding offers free shipping within the contiguous U.S. Shoppers receive a 120-night sleep trial with their purchase, with a mandatory 30-day break-in period. The bed also includes a 10-year warranty.

Nolah Evolution 15

Best for Spinal Alignment

Nolah Evolution 15

Nolah Evolution 15
Price Range: $1,099 - $1,699
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium (5), Medium Firm (6), Firm (8)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who enjoy high-profile mattresses
  • Those who frequently sleep near the edges of the bed
Highlights:
  • Thick foam layers provide strong pressure relief
  • Three firmness options
  • Reinforced perimeter enhances edge support
Nolah Evolution 15

Get an additional $30 off the Nolah Evolution Mattress for total savings of $730 with code: SF730OFF

The Nolah Evolution 15 is a hybrid mattress with a plush Euro-top and zoned support coils. This well-rounded design offers a mix of support and cushioning ideal for promoting healthy spinal alignment.

The mattress has an above-average profile that begins with a cover composed of ArcticTex, a soft fabric that feels cool to the touch. The cover is quilted with a thick layer of foam, and a breathable gusset helps release some of the heat that tends to get trapped in foam. Beneath is a layer of AirFoamICE, a specialized foam engineered to draw heat from the body, followed by two layers of transitional polyfoam with a firmer feel. The support core is made of pocketed coils that are zoned to provide enhanced support to the lumbar region and moderate pressure relief in the upper body. The edge is reinforced to prevent sagging when you sit or sleep near the perimeter.

Shoppers can pick from three firmness options – plush, luxury firm, and firm, which correspond to medium (5), medium firm (6), and firm (8) on a 10-point firmness scale. All three models provide good to excellent pressure relief and motion isolation due to the thick foam surface. The range of firmness options means that most sleepers should be able to find a model that suits them, regardless of sleep position and body type.

The Nolah Evolution 15 comes with a 120-night sleep trial, which allows customers to return the bed for a full refund following an initial 30-night break-in period. The bed also includes a lifetime warranty and ships free to the contiguous U.S.

GhostBed Luxe

Best for Side Sleepers

GhostBed Luxe

GhostBed Luxe
Price Range: $1,845 - $3,990
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium (5)
Trial length: 101 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 101 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, Split King
Who it's best for:
  • Athletes who weigh under 230 pounds
  • Sleepers needing pressure point relief
  • Couples who prioritize motion isolation
Highlights:
  • Close-contouring foam relieves pressure build up
  • Multiple cooling features increase temperature control
  • High-density foam isolates motion
GhostBed Luxe

30% off all GhostBed mattresses & 2 free pillows. Free weighted blanket ($479 Value) with a minimum $1.5k order.

The all-foam GhostBed Luxe provides substantial pressure relief that may be beneficial for athletes who experience pain or soreness in their joints. It has a medium firm (6) feel that is most supportive for people who weigh under 230 pounds. Its mid-range firmness ensures spinal alignment and comfortable cushioning for most side and back sleepers in this weight group.

The Luxe’s design has multiple cooling-specific features, beginning with its cover. The fabric is infused with phase change material (PCM) to help wick heat and excess moisture away from your body. The cover also feels quite plush, thanks to the memory foam quilted directly into it.

Two additional layers of foam contour closely to your body, helping to evenly disperse your weight and combat pressure buildup. The memory foam is infused with gel engineered to help you stay cool. A high-density polyfoam support core anchors the mattress and provides a stable base. Altogether, the mattress layers work to cradle your body while keeping your spine evenly supported.

The Luxe’s foam construction also isolates motion quite well, trapping movement before it can be transferred across the mattress’ surface. Those who awaken easily when their partner shifts will find they’re less likely to be disturbed on this mattress than they would on a more responsive model.

GhostBed offers a 101-night sleep trial and free shipping within the contiguous U.S. Each mattress is covered by a 25-year warranty.

Birch Mattress

Best Cooling

Birch Mattress

Birch Mattress
Price Range: $1,349 - $2,099
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 100 nights (30-night requirement)
Trial length: 100 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Warranty: 25 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Those who tend to overheat
  • Side, back, and stomach sleepers
  • Shoppers who prefer natural materials
Highlights:
  • Made with organic New Zealand wool batting
  • Talalay latex comfort system relieves pressure
  • Zoned coil support core provides ample support
Birch Mattress

SleepFoundation readers get $400 off a Birch Mattress.

The Birch Natural Mattress is a hybrid model that uses breathable materials such as Talalay latex, organic wool batting, and a zoned coil core to provide sleepers with a cool and responsive surface. The bed has a medium firm (6) feel. Athletes and those with active lifestyles will likely benefit from the bed’s mixture of contouring comfort and sturdy support, which helps relieve pressure and keep the spine in a neutral position.

Birch holds GREENGUARD Gold and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifications, which attest to the organic nature and sustainable sourcing of their products.

The mattress is constructed with several layers. The top layer is composed of organic wool batting, which helps cushion the body without conforming too closely. Beneath the wool is a layer of ventilated Talalay latex, which is durable and supportive while offering sleepers some contouring to help relieve pressure. Since wool and latex are highly breathable materials, this bed offers sleepers above-average temperature regulation and may be a good choice for those who tend to overheat.

The bed’s primary support comes from the zoned pocketed coil system, which promotes proper spinal alignment. The medium firm feel of the mattress is designed to accommodate all sleeping positions and body types as it offers moderate contouring and helps prevent sinking in throughout the night.

Birch offers free shipping within the United States, and the mattress comes with a 100-night sleep trial. To qualify for a full refund during the trial, sleepers must keep the mattress for a minimum of 30 nights to allow their body enough time to adjust to it. The Birch Natural Mattress is also covered by a 25-year limited warranty.

Eight Sleep Pod

Most Innovative

Eight Sleep Pod

Eight Sleep Pod
Price Range: $2295 - $2995
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 100 nights
Trial length: 100 nights
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited (foam) 2 Year, Limited (technology)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited (foam) 2 Year, Limited (technology)
Sizes: Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Couples with different temperature preferences
  • Sleep data trackers
Highlights:
  • Advanced sleep-tracking technology with biometric sensors
  • Direct heating and cooling for the perfect sleep temperature
  • Excellent pressure relief
Eight Sleep Pod

Get $150 off an Eight Sleep Mattress. Use Code: FOUNDATION150

The Eight Sleep Pod is equipped with state-of-the-art sleep-tracking technology known as the Active Grid. This layer is located beneath the Pod’s cover, and it records sleep data based on hours asleep and awake, nighttime movements, and other metrics. This allows you to monitor your sleep quality and duration after both workouts and less active days, and make adjustments as needed to feel more rested and alert when the alarm clock starts ringing.

The Active Grid can also warm up or cool off either side of the bed. This makes the Pod ideal for hot sleepers, couples who prefer different temperature settings, and anyone who feels a bit warmer after exercising. The Active Grid is connected to a hub that controls temperature changes, while a network of tubes funnels water into the comfort layer for instant heating and cooling.

Comfort layers of polyfoam and memory foam ensure very good pressure relief, particularly if you are a side or back sleeper. The foams cushion the shoulders and hips to align the spine for side sleepers and reduce pressure in the lower back, while also supporting back sleepers around the midsection so they don’t sag too much. The mattress, which has a medium firm (6) feel, may be too soft for some stomach sleepers, but those who weigh less than 130 pounds should receive adequate support.

The Eight Sleep Pod is fairly expensive, as you might expect from a mattress with these advanced features. Free ground shipping is available throughout the contiguous U.S. The Active Grid is backed by a standard two-year warranty.

Lulu Original Mattress

Best for Shoulder Pain

Lulu Original Mattress

Lulu Original Mattress
Price (Queen): $799
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 101 nights (28-night requirement)
Trial length: 101 nights (28-night requirement)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Sizes: 
Who it's best for:
  • Individuals with active jobs or lifestyles
  • Sleepers up to 230 pounds
  • Those who prefer a medium firm feel
Highlights:
  • Unique cover is designed to improve tissue oxygenation and blood flow
  • Designed for physically active people
  • Excellent pressure relief, without the “sinking” feel of some foam beds
Lulu Original Mattress

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Lulu mattresses

The Lulu Original Mattress is a medium firm (6) all-foam model designed with athletes in mind. It measures 10 inches tall, featuring a comfort layer of gel-infused memory foam over a high-density foam base. The standout feature of this mattress, however, lies in the cover, which uses a proprietary Lulu ION Miracle Yarn that reflects Far Infrared Rays back towards the sleeper, which is intended to improve tissue oxygenation by dilating blood vessels and increasing circulation.

The goal of this material is to shorten recovery times and increase sleepers’ energy levels. It is designed to work through your mattress protector, sheets, and clothing. The cover itself is removable and machine washable.

The comfort layer of gel-infused memory foam effectively contours to the sleeper, isolating motion and preventing pressure points. The firmer high-density base foam beneath reinforces the bed and provides support, keeping the sleepers’ body on an even plane. The bed’s medium firm feel and all-foam construction best suits sleepers who weigh less than 230 pounds.

The mattress is made in the U.S. of American materials. Lulu backs the mattress with a 101-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty and free shipping, though they do require customers to allow for a 28-night adjustment period before beginning the return process.

Which Mattress Thickness is Best for Athletes?


The term “athlete” is fairly broad when we talk about beds. The best mattress for weightlifters, for instance, may have a completely different design and materials than the best mattress for long-distance runners. However, the most important factor for choosing a mattress profile, or thickness, is you, the sleeper. The ideal thickness depends entirely on your body type and normal sleep position, as well as your personal preferences.

Mattresses sold today fall into three general categories based on their thickness, or profile.

Low-profile mattresses measure less than 10 inches thick. These beds may not provide enough support for heavier people, as many have shorter base layers that tend to sink beneath the shoulders and hips, but a low-profile mattress may be ideal for a lighter person. One thing to keep in mind: low-profile models tend to be a bit firmer because they lack the extra padding layers of their thicker counterparts.

High-profile mattresses, which measure more than 12 inches thick, tend to feel softer and conform closer due to these cushioning layers. However, this is not always the case – and many brands offer high-profile mattresses with medium firm or firm feels. These beds are also easier to get on and off for some larger people, whereas low-profile beds may sink a bit too much when sitting on the edges.

Many people consider medium-profile mattresses – which measure 10 to 12 inches thick – to be a good compromise of body-cushioning and ease of movement. Our recommendation: test out a few different mattress profiles either in a brick-and-mortar store or using online mattress brand sleep trials. These experiences can help you decide which profile range will be most suitable for your needs and active lifestyle.

What Mattress Firmness is Best for Athletes?

As with thickness, firmness is an entirely subjective preference. We can make firmness recommendations based on feedback from people with different body types and sleep positions, but ultimately, you should choose a firmness based on what feels comfortable, alleviates pressure, and provides the best support.

Firmness is measured on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 the firmest. Most beds sold today fall between 3 (soft) and 8 (firm). Softer mattresses usually conform more closely, so if you experience frequent pressure points or you sleep on your side and want better spinal alignment, a bed with a 3 to 5 rating will probably be most comfortable. Lighter people also tend to prefer softer beds because firmer mattresses do not conform enough.

Firmer mattresses do not contour as much, but they keep sleepers on an even plane using high-density foam, coils, and other supportive materials. This makes them well-suited for heavier people who sag too much on softer beds, especially back and stomach sleepers who need extra reinforcement to prevent their midsection from sinking further than the rest of their body.

If your firmness preferences tend to fluctuate from night to night, then a mattress with adjustable firmness – such as an airbed or a flippable model with two sleep surfaces – might be the way to go. Many couples also have different preferences, and in these cases, we recommend a mattress with dual-firmness, or a different feel on each side. This allows you and your partner to enjoy your preferred balance of comfort and support without impacting the other person’s sleep.

Which Type of Mattress is Best for Athletes?

In today’s mattress industry, most beds fall into one of five different categories. Despite some unique design details and variations in quality, models in each category share consistent features that distinguish them from other mattress types. These five categories are as follows:

Hybrid

Definition: A specific type of innerspring, hybrid mattresses are constructed with comfort layers of memory foam and/or latex over a support core of pocketed coils. Some hybrids also have transitional layers made of high-density polyfoam, latex, minicoils, and other supportive materials. The average hybrid costs between $1,600 and $2,200.

Balanced Feel: For many, a hybrid represents the best of both worlds. The comfort layers conform to your body, alleviate pressure, and isolate motion fairly well. Meanwhile, the coil systems offer strong reinforcement and also promote cooling airflow. A hybrid can be a great option if you’ve been dissatisfied with other mattress types.

Innerspring

Definition: Innersprings feature comfort layers of polyfoam, and possibly some memory foam, as well. The support core consists of Bonnell, offset, continuous-wire, or pocketed coils, depending on the model. Innersprings are widely found in brick-and-mortar stores, but less common from online brands. The average model costs between $900 and $1,100.

Strong Support: Many innersprings have strong coil systems that keep sleepers on an even plane with little to no sagging. This makes them particularly well-suited for heavier individuals. They are inexpensive compared to other mattress types and may be a good choice if you don’t want to pay the sticker price of a hybrid.

Latex

Definition: Latex is a natural material produced from the sappy extract of rubber trees. An all-latex bed will have at least one support core of organic, natural, blended, or synthetic latex. Most also feature latex support cores. The average latex mattress costs between $1,600 and $2,200.

Durable and Responsive: Latex resists deep sagging and indentations, giving it more longevity than foam. Even synthetic latex has a healthy expected lifespan. The material contours to your body but also feels fairly responsive, so it’s a good alternative to memory foam if you don’t enjoy a deep body hug.

Airbed

Definition: An airbed is designed with motorized air chambers in the support core. You can adjust the firmness of the mattress by adding or releasing air from the chambers. Traditional airbeds have thin polyfoam comfort layers (or no comfort layer at all) but some newer models feature memory foam, latex, and other high-quality materials. The average airbed costs between $2,000 and $2,400.

Customized Comfort: Airbeds offer unparalleled customization. Many models can be adjusted between soft, mid-level, and firm feels in a matter of seconds, and some are designed for dual-firmness, making them suitable for couples with different mattress preferences.

Foam

Definition: A foam mattress will contain comfort layers of polyfoam and/or memory foam, along with a support core of high-density polyfoam. Medium- or high-density polyfoam transitional layers are also somewhat common. The average all-foam mattress costs between $900 and $1,200.

Close Conforming: All-foam beds, especially those with memory foam, offer a deep, pressure-relieving cradle for your body. Many liken the feeling of a foam bed to sleeping “in” – rather than “on” – the mattress. These models also isolate motion very well for couples and do not make any noise.

The Ideal Sleep Environment for Athletes

If you’re a physically active person, there are many ways to optimize your sleeping environment apart from choosing the right mattress. These include maintaining a comfortable sleep temperature and reducing your exposure to outside noise. You can also invest in additional products to enhance your sleep experience.

Pillows

Pillow selection is, arguably, just as important as mattress selection. The right pillow provides enhanced support to your head, neck, and shoulders, and also supports the spine. The wrong pillow can have the opposite effect, leading to added aches and pains, as well as spinal misalignment.

The best pillow will offer enough cushioning to fill the gaps between your head and shoulders. Pillows fall into three general loft, or thickness, categories: low-loft (less than 3 inches), medium-loft (3 to 5 inches), and high-loft (more than 5 inches). When choosing a pillow loft, be sure to consider your bed’s firmness level. A softer bed will conform more closely, causing you to sink beneath the surface, so a low-loft pillow might provide sufficient padding. For a firm mattress that contours very little, a high-loft pillow to fill the extra space may be the best option.

The best pillow loft also depends on your sleep position. While preferences vary by person, the table below lists optimal loft for most people based on how they sleep.

 

Sleeping Position Pillow Loft Recommended
Back Medium
Side Medium or High
Stomach Low

 

Also, be sure to consider pillow fill and density. Fill refers to the materials inside the pillow, and density refers to how heavy these materials are. Some fills have a higher density and will not compress as easily, creating a more stable and supportive surface for your head. Less dense materials will sink and conform closely, and may not provide enough neck support – especially if you are a physically active person dealing with cramps, strains, and other discomforts in that area.

The most common fills for today’s pillows include:

  • Memory foam: Some pillows contain a single piece of memory foam. They offer close conforming that is comparable to memory foam mattresses. Others contain shredded memory foam, which contours a bit and also sleeps somewhat cooler. Shredded memory foam pillows can often be adjusted for loft by adding or removing fill, whereas single-piece pillows have a fixed thickness.
  • Feather/Down: Feathers are the coarse outer plumage from geese and ducks, and down refers to the soft inner plumage. Feathers are often used to support the pillow’s center while down pads the outer chambers. That said feather/down pillows sink very deeply and provide minimal support.
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, the hard casings of buckwheat kernels. Some liken buckwheat pillows to stiff beanbags, but the material is very supportive and does not lose shape easily. You can also adjust your buckwheat pillow’s loft by adding or removing hulls.
  • Polyfill: Polyester fibers can be used as a less expensive down alternative fill, mimicking the soft and light texture of authentic feathers and down. Interlocking polyfoam, which provides more support, is also fairly common.

Mattress Toppers

A mattress topper is a layer of cushioning that rests on top of the bed’s surface. Toppers are designed to change the firmness of a sleep surface. Most toppers make the surface feel softer, but some can add a firmer feel. For this reason, toppers are widely used for pull-out beds, RVs, and other sleeping areas where the mattresses are less than ideal.

A topper may also be suitable if you are dissatisfied with the firmness of your mattress, but cannot return or exchange it because your sleep trial has expired. Many mattresses adopt a different feel over time, and those with thick foam layers may lose shape as the material begins to deteriorate. Most toppers measure 2 to 5 inches thick, so using one is basically equivalent to adding a fresh comfort layer to your mattress. Toppers are also generally inexpensive, especially compared to buying a new bed.

Toppers tend to have shorter lifespans, so using one is, in all likelihood, a short-term solution to a permanent mattress problem. However, these layers may provide more comfort and pressure relief than your bed’s comfort layer, especially if you are physically active and want your sleep surface to promote physical recovery.

Bed Platforms, Foundations, and Box Springs

Most mattresses are designed for use with some sort of support system. Many mattress warranties strictly forbid placing the bed directly on your floor.

Traditional box springs are still fairly popular. These support systems consist of a solid wooden frame equipped with steel springs and a cloth cover. The frame has a flush surface for optimal support and the springs act as shock absorbers for you and your bed, making box springs very well-suited to heavier innersprings. Box springs are designed to fit into a taller bed frame with the mattress on top.

Foundations are similar to box springs, but they do not contain springs and have slatted side panels. They feel exceptionally firm and should provide adequate support for any mattress as long as the top surface is perfectly flush. Foundations are also designed to fit into bed frames.

An alternative to box springs and foundations is a platform bed, which features a wooden or metal frame and evenly spaced slats instead of a flush surface. The slats should not be too far apart. Otherwise, the mattress will begin to sag and lose support. Many mattress warranties also require certain slat widths, so be sure to read the fine print before choosing a platform bed.

What Mattress Features Are Important for Athletes?

As you shop for a new mattress, you’ll undoubtedly notice plenty of marketing hyperbole, such as “universal comfort,” “forever lifespan,” or “the perfect bed.” Ignore this jargon. You should select a new mattress based on your personal preferences and needs as a physically active person. The factors below should be your most important considerations.

  • Mattress Type: All-foam mattresses conform closely to the body. Latex mattresses also contour, but a little less so, while airbeds can be adjusted for different contouring levels. If you want a mattress that conforms less and provides more support, then an innerspring or hybrid might be your best option.
  • Contouring: Some people want a deep body cradle while others like to sleep on a flush, even surface that barely sinks. If you’re unsure which contouring level is best for you, visit a brick-and-mortar mattress store to test different models. Online sleep trials can also help you narrow down your ideal setting.
  • Mattress Thickness: For a lot of sleepers, mattress thickness is somewhat negotiable. However, a bed’s profile can ultimately affect how supportive it feels, and how easy (or difficult) it will be getting on and off the mattress.
  • Quality Materials: Mattress materials are linked to durability. High-density foam, organic latex, thick coils, and other components will probably last longer than materials of lesser quality. Materials also impact breathability, pressure relief, edge support, and other performance factors.
  • Firmness Level: Firmness and contouring go hand in hand. A softer bed will hug the body much more closely than a firmer model. This potentially means more pressure relief and better alignment for lighter people, but also more sagging and discomfort for heavier individuals. The opposite is also true. Lighter people may find a firmer bed does not conform enough, whereas a heavier person might find this mattress ideal.
  • Pressure Relief: If you experience pressure points due to physical activity or other reasons, you should seek out mattresses that conform closely enough to your body without sinking, sagging, or losing support. Consider your body type and sleep position, as well.
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About Our Editorial Team

author
Austin Meadows

Sleep Product Tester

Austin is a professional writer and researcher who has covered sleep science and sleep products for over a decade.

author
Jenny Iyo

Physical Therapist

DPT

Dr. Iyo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at an orthopedic clinic in Seattle. She specializes in hands-on therapy and tailored exercise programs.