Keeping fit means different things to different people. But whether you’re a professional athlete, daily workout junkie, or just a weekend warrior, you still want to make sure your muscles get the rest they require at the end of the day. One of the best things you can do to support an active lifestyle is to take sleep seriously.
Finding the best mattress for athletes
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from the same approach to sleep that the pros take. Still, every athlete (whether you’re a pro or not) knows that the pathway to peak performance is as much about recovery as it is preparation. Sleep plays a leading role in recovery because it replenishes energy, revitalizes the nervous system, and releases critical hormones that aid in mood and muscle development.
Simple drills and exercise become impossible without proper amounts of sleep,” Jamal Liggin, a professional trainer of many of the NFL’s top players, tells Saatva. (Check out his top sleep tips here.) College coaches have embraced that philosophy too, monitoring players’ sleep and even tucking them in at night.
Much has been made about professional athletes’ unique and regimented sleeping habits. Michael Phelps, to cite just one example, famously slept in an altitude chamber prior to the 2012 Olympics to get himself acclimated for high-altitude competition. Most of us are not going to these (dare we say) heights when it comes to our sleep. But there are simple ways non-Olympians can improve athletic performance, starting with the right sleep surface.
The best mattress for an athletic lifestyle
A body that’s in pain, or one that can’t get comfortable, is not going to get restorative rest. Finding the best mattress type of athletes comes down to a variety of factors. Here are the top qualities athletes look for in a mattress:
Comfort level: The key to pain-free and regenerative rest is a good mattress that maintains your spine in proper alignment. That means taking your sleeping position into account when choosing a comfort level. If you’re a side sleeper, a slightly softer mattress will help take pressure off hips and shoulders and keep numbness or tingling at bay. If you sleep on your stomach, a firmer mattress will guard against waking up with back pain. Back sleepers have more flexibility in mattress choices (this is actually the healthiest position for your body), but generally, a slightly firmer mattress is ideal for keeping your spine in a neutral position overnight.
Lumbar support: Any sort of pain can seriously throw you off your fitness game, so protecting your back while you sleep is a must for professional and amateur athletes alike. The best mattresses for athletes come with added lumbar support, in the form of reinforced foams or other zoned support in the center of the mattress, where most of the body’s weight is typically concentrated. That keeps hips and shoulders from sinking too low and preserves the natural curvature of the spine. Sleeping on a mattress without adequate lumbar support night after night could cause lower back pain and can even lead to early onset arthritis.
Anti-sagging: The best bed for athletes should have anti-sagging features, so if yours is dipping in, it may be time for an upgrade. Mattresses that sag don’t give your spine the support it needs. This causes fitful sleep, which makes for sub-optimal performance, on and off the field. If an innerspring mattress is your bed of choice, look for one that features a solid base of support coils along with foam-encased edge support, as both of these will help prevent sagging. In a memory foam mattress, the denser the foam, the less likely the mattress is to sag. (Here’s why early morning workouts can help you sleep better.)
Cooling features: Working out gets you all hot and sweaty, so pick a mattress that you can be sure will sleep cool. Certain mattress materials (like foam) trap body heat, while others (like coils) are better at promoting air circulation. A hybrid mattress-one that combines innerspring coils with foam-might be a good option because they’re strategically layered to promote air flow. Latex mattresses sleep naturally cool, so they’re another safe bet if sleeping hot is an issue that concerns you. Many memory foam mattresses these days incorporate cooling features, such as gels and heat-dissipating graphite layers. (Learn about the benefits of eco-friendly memory foam.)
Adjustability: After a long session at the gym, we bet that all you want to do is stretch out your muscles and relax. Enter adjustable base beds for athletes: Elevating your legs post-workout will help aid in muscle recovery while you sleep, so you don’t have to worry about waking up with annoying aches and pains.
See why Saatva was named a best mattress for athletes by Men’s Journal.