Are there mattresses for different sleeping positions? Sure there are – different people have different sleeping positions and it would be good if you had a mattress designed for yours. A side sleeper obviously needs more pressure point support than a stomach sleeper, whose weight is more evenly spread over the mattress. Here are some common sleeping positions and the best types of mattress for each.
When referring to ‘types’ of the mattress, we are not talking brands but whether a foam, memory foam or innerspring might be best. The following suggestions will not be definitive because each person is different. However, it will explain in general terms what type of mattress may be best for you. How does your sleeping position affect you, and what is the one that is most recommended?
To help you make your choice, consider you are lying on a solid board. In each of the example sleeping positions considered below, think of what parts of your body will be in contact with the board if the board did not flex or bend like a mattress might. We shall ignore your head since a good pillow will support your head, and possibly also your neck – or upper cervical area.
Table of contents
1. Back Sleepers
When lying on a board, your shoulders, lower spine (coccyx area), buttocks, and feet will be in contact with the surface. You, therefore, need support for your mid and lower spine and the back of your knees. The mattress you choose should be able to support these areas in one way or another.
This is a very common way of sleeping – in fact, it is generally one of the most common. It is the sleeping position most recommended by doctors because it is the one that is most likely to keep your spine straight. It also helps your joints, because they are generally not flexing while you sleep. However, it puts a strain on your lower back which tends to bend to become level with the rest of your spine. This can cause injury to your spine. It can also promote snoring, particularly after a good night out!
Pocket Springs: To counter back issues you will need support for your lower back. You have a number of options for this, but let’s start with pocket spring mattresses. These contain springs sitting in their individual pockets of fabric. Each spring can compress without moving its neighbor. That means that when your shoulders and buttocks compress the individual spring beneath them, these parts of your body sink down until the curvature of your back is also supported by the springs.
Latex Foam: Another good option is latex foam. A latex foam mattress not only cushions your spine but also has a springy action that prevents the spine from assuming an unnatural position.
Memory Foam: Memory foam is another option. Because memory foam tends to fit to the contour of your body, it fills the gaps that occur naturally when you lie flat – those gaps that would remain as gaps if you lay on your back on a solid board. Memory foam does not resist your weight in the same way that a latex foam mattress would. Instead, it molds to its shape.
Some prefer this to the resistance and springiness of latex foam. Each of these two types of foam is significantly better for back sleepers than an innerspring or air mattress. Pocketed coils are your best bet if you prefer spring mattresses.
2. Side Sleepers
Again, consider lying on your side on a solid board. Your spine will basically be straight except at your neck and waist which will not be supported. Most pressure will be on your shoulders and hips. This way of sleeping can cause neck pain and pain in your lower back or lower lumbar region. Fundamentally, you need support for your neck and back, and pressure taken off your hips and shoulders.
If you sleep on a regular mattress, the weight of your middle body will result in you sleeping in a curved position. This is not recommended because it can lead to severe back pain and spine misalignment. You need a mattress whereby the entire center third of the mattress does not bend into a bow when you sleep. Here are the best options:
Memory Foam: This is the sleeping position where memory foam comes into its own. It allows your hips and shoulders to sink into the mattress, while your neck and lumbar region are well supported by the foam.
Memory Foam and Latex Foam: Another option is a memory foam top and harder latex foam underneath. This enables the shoulder and hip to sink into the memory foam, while the lower layer provides support for your neck and lower back. Keep in mind that you are laying on your side here. Left side or right, it makes no difference.
Memory Foam and Pocket Springs: A third option is a layer of pocketed springs beneath a layer of memory foam. The springs compress only where your body is in contact with them. So your shoulders and hips will compress pocketed springs more than the side of your chest. The memory foam allows your body’s pressure points to sink into the mattress for a high level of comfort.
3. Front Sleepers
If you prefer to lie on your front in bed, then the pressure is put on your chest and lungs, and your belly or abdomen. For women, the breasts can be a particular issue. It is not generally a recommended way to sleep, but many do it. A latex mattress would not be good here because it pushes back on you as you sink into it. This increases the pressure on your front and internal organs. An innerspring mattress should also be avoided unless covered with a thick (at least 6-inch) layer of appropriate foam.
Memory Foam: The best type of mattress for stomach sleepers is soft or plush memory foam. The softness enfolds round you while also offering a degree of support. The memory foam follows the contours of your body, and a plush memory foam will allow your stomach area and breasts to be gently supported rather than compressed.
Memory Foam and Latex: Alternatively, a medium hardness latex foam base would work well for a front sleeper if it has a top layer (at least 4 inches) of plush memory foam. The memory foam provides comfort for your chest and belly, while the latex foam offers support.
Sleeping Positions: Summary
While there is no ‘bad’ way to sleep, there are recommended ways. Most of those recommendations are determined by the way your body lies in each of the above three sleeping positions.
However, there are ‘bad’ types of mattress that relate to each of these ways of sleeping. Thus, ‘stomach’ or ‘front’ sleepers should not use hard foam or an innerspring mattress. Neither of these protects your stomach area – or your breasts if you are female. They simply compress them. Too hard of a mattress cannot provide support for the curvature of your spine if you sleep on your back. You need a soft to medium latex foam mattress or a memory foam.
Innerspring Mattress Limitations
Innerspring mattresses are historically the first choice for most people. This is because they have historically been the most common type of mattress after the old flock or wool-filled mattresses. Innerspring mattress can conform to the contours of your body if they are made using individually pocketed coils. These are fundamentally a spring version of a latex foam mattress.
Other forms of spring mattress, such as continuous coils, do not offer this benefit. They may be more suitable for side sleepers than back sleepers, but few spring mattresses have the ability to protect the softer sleeping surfaces of the front or stomach sleepers that a soft or plush memory foam does almost perfectly.
Test Your Mattress First
If you are in doubt, it pays to purchase your new mattress from an Amazon vendor where you get a free trial period in your home. If the mattress does not suit you then you can return it after a number of days – anything up to 100 days in many cases.
Make sure your mattress suits your regular way of sleeping. Make sure you feel that it is supporting your whole body, not just the pressure points. If the latter is the case, then your spine will ultimately start to deform and cause you considerable pain. You want to check that out before the ‘no return’ date.
You will have your new mattress for a long time, so take your time in choosing it. Make sure it keeps you feeling comfortable with your way of sleeping. Different sleeping positions require different mattress types! Your mattress may last you longer than your car, so take the same care when choosing it.
Keep Reading: Bed Sizes and Mattress Sizes Chart US, UK and Australia »