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What Is The Best Mattress For A Back Sleeper?

what is the best mattress for a back sleeperWhat Is The Best Mattress For A Back Sleeper?

If you have come here expecting me to sell you the one best mattress for a back sleeper, you’ll have to look somewhere else. I believe the answer to the question, “what is the best mattress for a back sleeper?” is more complex than providing you a one size fits all answer.

Instead,  I’ll take you through some facts on back sleeping, exactly what back sleepers need from a mattress, and explain how some of the mattress materials available on the market could work for you. Sure I’ll point you to some of my reviews of mattresses I think would be great for you, but the real aim of this article is to arm you with good information so you can go forward and decide which is the best mattress for YOU.

Back Sleeping Facts

If you want to get a bit fancy and technical, another way to describe this sleeping position is “supine”. Supine is the medical term for lying on your back. I believe I mostly sleep on my back myself: I fall asleep on my side but always wake up on my back.

  • Sleeping on your back is widely considered to be the healthiest sleeping position for your back, because it keeps your spine in a straight position.
  • If you want to do even more to promote the natural position of your spine as you sleep and get a little extra support, adding a small pillow under your knees is a good trick to try.
  • If you have lower back pain, sleeping in a recliner position helps some people. To achieve this from a bed, you’ll need an adjustable bed. Luckily, most modern mattresses go just fine on top of an adjustable bed base.

Pros And Cons of Sleeping On Your Back

Pros

Pros
  • Helps keep your spine and neck in a straight, or neutral, position
  • Your body weight is evenly distributed
  • Some research suggests lying on your back can help reduce the formation of wrinkles!

Cons

Cons
  • Can make sleep apnea worse
  • Not recommended for pregnant women

I’m not sure if my own wrinkles have been kept at bay by sleeping on my back though… maybe I sleep more on my side than I think!

This short video from The Sleep Foundation goes into a bit more detail about the most common sleeping positions. Sleeping on your back is discussed first.

What Does A Back Sleeper Need From A Mattress?

In general, back sleepers need a mattress that is reasonably firm. This is so it can give your spine the support it needs. I’d recommend you look for mattresses that are around a 6-7 out of 10 on the mattress firmness scale (1 is feather soft and 10 is rock hard, 6-7 is considered medium firm).

If you are a lighter person, a 6 out of 10 should be fine for you. You’d be great on a 7, too. My own mattress is rated 7 or 7.5 out of 10 and I find it very comfortable, I weigh around 140lb at the time of writing this. I have an Ecosa mattress, which I bought myself (I live in New Zealand, no way are any companies gonna ship freebies to me). You can read my review of it here.

If you are a heavier person, you will need a firmer mattress because you will want to make sure you are not going to sink through the comfort layer. You should look for at least a 7 out of 10, if not even 8 or 9 depending on your personal preferences. Here is a link to an article with more specifics on what heavier people need from a mattress. Here is a link to a detailed review of mattresses designed with heavier people in mind.

How’s that different from what other people need?

  • Side sleepers put a lot of pressure through their shoulders and hips when they sleep. They need a mattress that is going to yield to the pressure going through those two points. This means side sleepers need a softer mattress than back sleepers. If a side sleeper sleeps on a firm mattress, they can experience shoulder pain or a numb arm. You can read my article about sleeping on your side here for more information.
  • Stomach sleepers put lots of weight through their hips, which can make their lower spines dip. They therefore need a mattress at least as firm as, if not firmer than, back sleepers to stop their hips sinking too low.

a happy back sleeping smurf on the right mattress for a back sleeperWhat Is The Best Mattress For A Back Sleeper?

As I said earlier, there is not going to be a one size fits all mattress that suits the needs of all back sleepers. The only real generalization I can make for you about what is the best mattress for a back sleeper is the firmness, which I have explained above.

There are a variety of mattress materials and prices available in the market today, you are spoilt for choice! I will run through the materials so you can decide which one you might like best, but you will want to make sure of these basics when making your choice:

  • high quality materials, including a comfort layer that is at least 3 inches thick for good pressure relief
  • a firmness level that is right for you
  • a sleep trial of at least 100 nights (this gives you precious, risk free time to test drive the mattress)
  • a warranty of at least 10 years

What about material type? You will find that there are mattresses of all materials that come with a firmness rating that works for you. I do not believe there is one particular material that is better for back sleepers than others. It comes down to personal preference. Some people love the hug and slow, conforming sink memory foam provides, others like the bounciness of latex.  Let’s take a quick look at the properties of some of the most common mattress types.

  • Latex: natural latex is durable, non toxic, and should be sustainably sourced. Latex is known for its ultra responsiveness to pressure,  and bouncy feel. It is naturally good at dissipating body heat.
  • Foam: there are a variety of foam options available. Memory foam is hugely popular, and many companies have created their own foams which are pretty much memory foams, but they will call them “proprietary foams”. Memory foam has a slower response to weight than latex, which creates that well known memory foam “hug”. Some people believe this is the best mattress type for pain relief. Memory foam is not inherently good at dissipating body heat, but technologies such as gel infusions and ventilation systems have made newer memory foams perform a lot better in this regard.
    • One of my favorite memory foam mattresses is the Snuggle-Pedic, because it can be fully customized to the exact needs of the customer (for no extra charge).
    • My own mattress, which I linked to above, is an Ecosa memory foam mattress.
  • Hybrid: a hybrid mattress will have a pocket coil support system and a comfort layer made up of either latex and/or memory foam.
    • One of my favorite hybrid mattresses is the Avocado Green Mattress, which has latex as the comfort layer and New Zealand wool in its cover.
    • Another great hybrid choice for back sleepers is the DreamCloud, which has latex and memory foam in its comfort layers.

That’s it, folks!

Now you have some facts about side sleeping, you know what firmness of mattress you should be looking for, and an idea of what material you would like your mattress to be made of.

You’re ready to go ahead and find that perfect mattress just for you! I wish you the very best of luck in your search for your new mattress, please ask a question in the comments if you’re unsure of anything. I’m here to help!