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Home / Best Mattress / Best Mattress for Athletes

Best Mattress for Athletes

Keith Cushner

Written by

Keith Cushner, Sleep Product Expert

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

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Methodology

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

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We recently updated this list to include the Brooklyn Bedding Spartan as our best pick for muscle recovery and the Viscosoft Edge Mattress as best for spinal alignment. The Bear Hybrid remains our best overall choice for athletes.

We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Products or services advertised on this page may be offered by an entity that is affiliated with us. Learn more about our process here

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.

Product Details

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)
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
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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.

Best Value

DreamCloud Mattress

DreamCloud Mattress
Price Range: $799 - $1,499
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 365 nights (30-night requirement)
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
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

DreamCloud flash sale starting November 8: Get 25% off all products + $599 in free accessories

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.

Most Comfortable

Helix Midnight

Helix Midnight
Price Range: $799 - $1,549
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 100 nights (30-night requirement)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who weigh up to 230 pounds
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Medium firm hybrid design balances even contouring and sturdy support
  • Zoned coils protect the edges from uncomfortable sinkage
  • High-quality hybrid design at an approachable price
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Get up to $350 off + 2 free Dream Pillows

Finding the right mattress for your sleep position is pivotal to alleviating the aches and pains that occur after physical workouts. Helix Sleep’s extensive mattress line includes more than a dozen hybrid models, each one designed for specific body types and sleep positions. The Helix Midnight is intended for side sleepers between 130 and 230 pounds, but our testing has shown the mattress is both comfortable and supportive for most side and back sleepers weighing 230 pounds or less.

The Midnight begins with a memory foam comfort layer, followed by a polyfoam transitional layer. The mattress is considered medium firm (6) but these foam layers create a plush, adaptive feel with deep cushioning around the shoulders and hips – two common areas of pressure buildup for side sleepers. Both foam layers absorb movement well and can cut down on sleep disruptions for co-sleepers. This makes the Midnight a good choice for anyone who easily awakens when their partner changes positions or gets in and out of bed.

The Midnight’s support core consists of pocketed coils over a base layer of high-density polyfoam. Extra reinforcement along the perimeter makes the mattress feel stable and prevents sinkage along the edges. Steady air circulation through the coil system and a breathable knit cover also help the mattress sleep cool. For an additional fee, you can add a proprietary GlacioTex cooling cover with phase change material that dissipates body heat on contact.

If you’re intrigued by the Midnight’s design but worry the mattress is too soft or too firm, we recommend taking the Helix Sleep mattress survey on the company’s website. This comprehensive questionnaire uses your weight, height, sleep position, and other factors to determine which Helix hybrid is best suited to you.

An affordable price-point and free shipping to all 50 states make the Midnight a solid option for value-seeking U.S. customers. You’ll also receive two Helix pillows with your purchase at no extra cost. The mattress comes with a sleep trial that runs for 100 nights, and those who choose to keep their purchase also receive a 10-year warranty against structural defects.

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan

Best for Muscle Recovery

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan

Brooklyn Bedding Spartan
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)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, Split California King
Who it's best for:
  • People who wake up feeling stiff or sore after physically active days
  • Hot sleepers
  • Couples who share adjustable bed bases
Highlights:
  • Cover fabric engineered to aid physical recovery by converting body heat into infrared energy
  • Adaptive foam layers contour to the body and alleviate pressure
  • Three firmness options
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The Spartan is one of Brooklyn Bedding’s most popular mattresses to date – especially with athletes. The bed’s most prominent feature is a cover infused with Far Infrared Rays (FAR) technology, which is meant to promote muscle recovery in athletes or anyone with an active lifestyle.

The bed is available in three firmness options that correspond to medium soft (4), medium firm (6), and firm (7) feels. The mattress starts with CopperFlex polyfoam layer followed by a memory foam layer that enhances pressure relief. The two softer models feature a third layer of memory foam, while the firmest model has a polyfoam layer for a more responsive feel. Pocketed coils over a base layer of dense foam make up the support core.

Temperature control is a major strength we noticed during our hands-on mattress tests. The Spartan’s FAR cover is fairly breathable and the foam layers shouldn’t retain too much heat. Another cooling component is the coil system, which generates enough airflow throughout the interior to maintain a comfortable temperature for sleeping. With so many firmness options to choose from, the Spartan should feel comfortable for most sleepers regardless of their sleep position or body type. Sleepers over 230 pounds may find the firm model most comfortable, while those under 230 pounds may prefer the two softer models.

The Spartan is available in seven sizes, including a split California king for couples who use adjustable bed bases. The price-point falls well below average for that of a hybrid model, and shipping is free of charge for customers in the contiguous U.S. Brooklyn Bedding backs each purchase with a 120-night sleep trial and a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.

WinkBed

Best for Back Pain

WinkBed

WinkBed
Price Range: $1,149 - $2,049
Mattress Type: Innerspring
Firmness: Medium Soft (4), Medium Firm (6), Firm (7), Firm (8)
Trial length: 120 nights (30 night requirement)
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • People who tend to overheat while they sleep
  • Those carrying extra weight in the torso and hips
  • Anyone who isn’t sure which firmness level is best for them
Highlights:
  • Zoned coils create an impressive support system
  • Available in four designs, each with a different a firmness level
  • Cover is made of breathable, moisture-wicking Tencel fabric
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Get $300 off all mattresses

For many sleepers, physically active lifestyles and back pain go hand in hand. Those who wake up with stiffness or soreness in the shoulders, lumbar region, and hips should invest in a mattress that reduces pressure and supports the body in equal measure. The WinkBed is a great starting point. This luxury hybrid combines the cushioning of adaptive foam with a robust coil system to help ensure less pain in your upper or lower back.

The WinkBed is available in four firmness levels. These include three options for the standard WinkBed, which contains a layer of plush foam quilted into the cover followed by a denser foam to cushion and reinforce your body. The Softer (4) WinkBed is a medium soft (4) feel, and best suited to side and back sleepers under 130 pounds. These sleepers generally need deep conforming to feel less pain and pressure along the spine. The Luxury Firm is medium firm (6), making it the most balanced option for anyone weighing up to 230 pounds regardless of their sleep position. The Firmer (7) WinkBed provides the most support among standard models, so this may be ideal for people who weigh more than 230 pounds.

The fourth option is the WinkBed Plus (8), which – like the Firmer WinkBed – is geared toward those weighing more than 230 pounds. Unlike the Firmer with a second foam layer, the Plus contains 2.5 inches of responsive latex. The latex is divided into different firmness zones, ensuring extra reinforcement for the midsection and a softer feel elsewhere. Sleepers in this weight range who dislike the feel of foam should consider the Plus.

All versions of the mattress contain a pocketed coil support core. Like the latex layer in the Plus, the WinkBed’s coils are zoned for additional support where it’s needed and gentler cradling for lighter areas of the body. You’ll feel heavy push-back around the chest, back, stomach, and hips, but the foam layers serve as a buffer to prevent the mattress from feeling too stiff. The coils are also reinforced along the perimeter to prevent sinkage when you lie near the edges of get up in the morning.

The Plus costs slightly more than standard WinkBeds, but all models are priced within average ranges for hybrid mattresses. WinkBed also ships the mattress free of charge anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Your purchase includes a 120-night sleep trial. If you aren’t satisfied with your initial firmness selection, you can exchange the original mattress for a model with a new feel within 30 to 90 days of the delivery date. Your replacement mattress also comes with a 60-night trial. WinkBeds backs all mattresses with lifetime warranties.

Nolah Evolution 15

Best for Side Sleepers

Nolah Evolution 15

Nolah Evolution 15
Price Range: $999 - $1,699
Mattress Type: Hybrid
Firmness: Medium (5), Medium Firm (6), Firm (8)
Trial length: 120 nights (30-night requirement)
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
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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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.

Nectar Premier

Best Cooling

Nectar Premier

Nectar Premier
Price Range: $799 - $1,698
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 365 nights
Warranty: Lifetime, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, Split King
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Couples and co-sleepers
  • Shoppers looking for a mattress with a long sleep trial
Highlights:
  • Phase change material infused into the top layer helps release body heat from the surface
  • Excellent motion isolation and no noise
  • All orders include a sleep trial that lasts 365 nights
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

33% off all Nectar products

A comfortable temperature in bed is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep. As a physically active person, you should also choose a mattress that reduces pain and soreness throughout the body. The Nectar Premier combines cooling and pressure relief to create a mattress that should appeal to a wide range of athletes. A balanced medium firm (6) feel and adaptive all-foam design makes the Premier particularly well suited to people who want a balance of contouring and even support.

The Premier contains a top layer of memory foam treated with phase change material, which is engineered to capture and release body heat in order to maintain a cool, comfortable surface at all times. A cooling gel infusion enhances the breathability of this layer. Transitional and base layers of denser polyfoam create a solid support system. These layers provide additional cushioning, but sinkage shouldn’t be a major issue for most people who weigh up to 230 pounds.

Our testing shows the Nectar Premier excels at motion isolation. We noticed very little transfer on either side of the bed when our testers changed sleep positions, rolled around, or even got out of bed. The mattress is also completely silent when bearing weight. These two qualities should ensure that you and your partner won’t wake up when the other person moves on their side of the bed.

Our team’s side and back sleepers found the Nectar Premier comfortable during our hands-on tests. The most favorable ratings came from side sleepers weighing at least 130 pounds, and back sleepers weighing less than 130 pounds – but most ratings from both position groups were “good” or better across all weight categories.

The Premier is competitively priced and shipping is free for all customers in the contiguous U.S. Nectar Sleep’s 365-night sleep trial is among the most generous in the online mattress industry. Should you decide to keep the mattress, you’ll also receive a lifetime warranty covering structural defects for as long as you retain original ownership.

ViscoSoft Edge Mattress

Best for Spinal Alignment

ViscoSoft Edge Mattress

ViscoSoft Edge Mattress
Price Range: $1,550 - $2,250
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium (5)
Trial length: 120 nights
Warranty: 10 Year
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Who it's best for:
  • Side sleepers up to 230 pounds
  • People seeking a foam bed that retains less heat
  • Those with painful pressure points
Highlights:
  • Mixed-foam design balances support and cushioning
  • Memory foam closely cradles joints
  • Phase change material reduces heat retention
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

Many foam beds excel at contouring but fall short when it comes to support. The Viscosoft Edge Mattress addresses this issue with a thoughtful foam design aimed at boosting support while keeping the signature conforming feel of foam.

The mattress begins with a 2-inch layer of memory foam with an above-average firmness, followed by another 2-inch memory foam layer with a plusher feel. Beneath is a polyfoam layer boasting a slightly responsive and buoyant feel, similar to latex. A high-density foam support core stabilizes the entire mattress. The knitted cover is infused with a phase change material engineered to regulate temperature, so this bed is a worthwhile option for sleepers who enjoy the feel of foam but find conventional foam beds too hot.

With a medium (5) feel, the Edge Mattress felt most comfortable for side-sleeping testers up to 230 pounds and back sleepers under 130 pounds. This group found the bed comfortably cradled their shoulders, hips, and spine while still supporting the lower back to ensure good sleep posture. The bed also absorbs most motion, so you’re less likely to wake up if your co-sleeper moves around the surface or gets out of bed.

Viscosoft allows customers to try out the mattress for 120 nights, during which you may return the bed for a full refund. The mattress also comes with a 10-year warranty. Shipping is free to addresses in the contiguous U.S.

Lulu Original Mattress

Best for Shoulder Pain

Lulu Original Mattress

Lulu Original Mattress
Price Range: $699 - $1,299
Mattress Type: Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm (6)
Trial length: 101 nights (28-night requirement)
Warranty: 10 Year, Limited
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
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
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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.

Still have questions?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] or call us at (877) 672-8966 with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Keith Cushner

Sleep Product Expert

Keith is a sleep product expert with nearly a decade of experience researching, developing, and testing sleep products.

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.