What Is A Healthy Mattress? 4 Key Definitions

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Defining what is a healthy mattress is going to be different for different people. It depends on what you mean by healthy, so I’m going to explain all the options for you.

Here are 4 definitions of what is a healthy mattress, we’ll go through each one.

  • Non “toxic”
  • Breathable and non heat trapping
  • Supportive for your pressure points and spine
  • Free of allergens like dust mites and mold

1. A Healthy Mattress Is Non “Toxic”

Why have I put toxic in “”? Simple. Toxic is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot with mattresses, but it would be illegal for companies to sell you something poisonous to sleep on so I take the term with a grain of salt when I see it in mattress marketing.

Yes, memory foam mattresses are made using man-made chemical based elements, but that doesn’t mean they are toxic. Every memory foam mattress I’ve ever seen in the current market meets stringent regulations around the chemicals they contain. Look for the CertiPUR- US certification on a mattress to rest assured the foams inside are low emission and free of:

  • Ozone depleters
  • Chemical flame retardants
  • Mercury, lead, or other heavy metals
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Saftey Commission (phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more flexible)

If your definition of a healthy mattress is one made of all natural materials, I have some great recommendations for you.

If you want to sleep on organic cotton and sustainably sourced organic or natural latex so you don’t have to even think about the things in the list above, you’ll want to go for either PlushBeds or Avocado Green, because they are my pick of the bunch for US made, environmentally conscious mattress brands that really fulfil their natural materials marketing speak.

2. Breathable And Non Heat Trapping

This one is pretty non-negotiable to me. Not only will a mattress that traps heat or is not breathable potentially also trap moisture, it will affect your sleep.

This is not healthy for two reasons:

  1. Trapping moisture could lead to mold growth, which is a DEFINITE sign of an unhealthy mattress. Once mold gets into a mattress it’s extremely hard to get rid of, and you’ll need to replace it.
  2. If you’re too hot while you sleep it will affect your quality of your sleep. The research is piling up about just how big an effect poor sleep has on our health and happiness.

How To Spot A Mattress That Won’t Trap Heat

  • If buying memory foam, look for gel infused beads, ventilation channels in the foam layers, or fabrics treated with phase change materials. You’ll also want a breathable and moisture wicking cover.
  • Look for a hybrid mattress design to ensure maximum air flow through the base of the mattress: air will always flow better through a coil system in a hybrid than through the foam base of an all-foam mattress
  • Look for natural or organic latex comfort layers: latex is naturally temperature regulating and breathable. Wrap this in organic cotton or wool and you’re onto a winner.

3. A Healthy Mattress Supportive For Your Pressure Points And Spine

What Is A Healthy Mattress - Correct Support Image

If you’re waking up with aching joints or a sore back, your mattress is not healthy for you. You need a mattress where the foams in the comfort layer are firm enough to provide support, yet soft enough to contour your pressure points. This is why so many mattress brands go for a “medium firm” comfort rating for their mattresses, as this is supposed to be what’s comfortable to most people. However, you’re probably not “most people”. Here’s what YOU need:

  • Side sleeper: you won’t want medium firm. You’ll want medium soft, or if you’re of lighter body weight, you’ll want soft. Why? To allow for deeper contouring of your shoulder and hips as you lie on your side to relieve those pressure points.
  • Back sleeper: you’ve got the most options, and the standard medium to medium firm will most likely feel comfortable for you.
  • Stomach sleeper: you need a firm mattress. Why? In this sleeping position, your hips need a LOT of support to keep your spine straight. A firm mattress does this best.
  • Combo sleeper: medium will probably work best.

If your mattress is getting old and losing its support, it’s time to do something about it to make it healthier so you can get the support you need. Mattress sagging is a big problem, but there are some simple things you can do to improve it.

4. Free Of Common Allergens

Dustmites, mold, any common household allergen can take up residence in your mattress and make it unhealthy. Luckily, modern memory foams and natural latex do an excellent job of repelling these things.

Things you can do to keep your mattress as clean as possible:

  • Don’t put it directly on the floor. Air can’t circulate underneath, which can cause mold to grow. Being closer to the floor attracts more dirt and dust.
  • Give it a regular vacuum.
  • Use a good mattress protector.


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of bestmattressforyou.com. Emily's scientific background gives her an analytical, critical, and discerning eye to bring unbiased, thorough, and helpful content to the site. Your good sleep is her top priority. Find out more about Emily and bestmattressforyou.com here.