Everyone may use the word sleep” to describe what they do at night, but the reality can look completely different from person to person. You might fall asleep on your back and not move a muscle all night, while your partner is constantly switching from side to stomach and back to side again. Why does that matter? Because the best mattress for you and your preferred sleep position might be-in fact, chances are it will be- totally different from the best mattress for someone else.
Matching the mattress to your sleep position
Here’s how to pinpoint your own ideal mattress, depending on your typical sleep position.
If you’re a back sleeper
Unless you have sleep apnea or snore, this is actually the healthiest position for your body to be in while you sleep,” says Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It keeps your spine in alignment and your neck in a healthy, neutral position-as long as you avoid using too many super-thick pillows under your head.
Another bonus: Back sleepers have more flexibility when deciding on the kind of mattress to buy. As a general rule, a slightly firmer bed helps support the spine and hips in proper alignment, with enough cushioning on top to conform to the natural arch in the lumbar region.
If you’re a side sleeper
The majority of people fall into this category of sleeper,” says Breus. Side sleepers need to be careful about their mattress, making sure they have a slightly softer bed made from foam or latex or, if it’s a spring bed, that has a pillow top.”
Why so particular? When you sleep on your side, your hip bone and shoulder need to be able to sink down a bit into the mattress. If you have too much weight pressing on that bottom hip, it can crush capillaries and form an uncomfortable tingling sensation,” Breus explains. A softer mattress will also help maintain the natural curvature of your spine throughout the night.
If you’re a stomach sleeper
The choice here is more about what you don’t want. In this case, you’ll want to avoid anything too soft. If you sink down into your mattress while sleeping on your stomach, you’ll put a lot of stress on your back,” says Nancy H. Rothstein, director of Circadian Corporate Sleep Programs. Opt for a medium-firm surface as opposed to very firm, since you still need a little give to accommodate your body’s contours and reduce pressure on the ribs and hipbones.
If you’re a combination sleeper
Constantly changing your sleep position from back to side to stomach? A mattress with a medium-firm support layer will be most comfortable across a range of positions. Choose the comfort layer that’s best for the position you’re in most often. But be careful not to go too plush with the comfort layer, which can make it tougher to switch positions.
If you sleep with a partner
When you share a bed, you have to think about motion transfer, which is what happens when your partner (or pet) tosses and turns or gets in and out of bed during the night. For an innerspring mattress, individually pocketed coils are good here,” says Breus. “They aren’t connected to each other, so they can lower motion transfer.”
Foam and latex are also good options for couples, since they have a stability that isolates movement when one person changes position. Rothstein offers another expert tip for sleeping comfortably with a partner: If you can fit a king bed in your bedroom,” she says, “do it!”
If you suffer from back pain, we’re here to help. Here’s how to choose the best mattress for back support.