What is the best mattress?
We spend one-third our life sleeping or attempting to do so. We all know what a restless night and a lack of sleep can do: it can affect our immune system and affect both our physical and mental health. When you spend over a third of your life in bed, you want to make sure it’s comfortable and well-suited for your needs.
So what is the best mattress?
First, it’s important to note that no matter what a company advertises, there isn’t any reputable research or study that demonstrates one brand or style is superior to the rest. Endorsements by physicians might make the brand seem more appealing but those are based more on preference than on science.
Ultimately, the best mattress is one that supports your spine. Your spine is not a straight line: there are curves to optimize flexibility and shock absorption. The ideal mattress is one that supports these curves without sacrificing comfort. You allow your spine to rest and recover overnight while you sleep.
Some people equate support with the firmness of the mattress, but this is not necessarily the case. An overly firm mattress can be as equally harmful as an overly soft mattress that doesn’t provide any curvature support for your spine. Anyone who has slept on a hard mattress can testify: it can cause undue pressure on your body leaving you with muscle aches and pains in the morning. It can also exacerbate already existing conditions like hip bursitis, which is an inflammation of the sac overlying your hip bone. A firm mattress can cause additional pressure on the hips and potentially aggravate the bursitis further.
Finding the best mattress can be a challenging task. But the fact of the matter is, you need to determine it for yourself because you’re the only one who can determine what’s best-suited for you. But there are some general guidelines that you can follow:
If you sleep on your side, the weight of your body rests on a smaller surface area. A softer mattress will better distribute your weight over a larger surface area, thereby reducing pressure on your hips and shoulders.
Medium firm mattresses are recommended for stomach sleepers. If the mattress is too soft, the hips and pelvis sink below the shoulders, which can strain your spine.
Back sleepers have the most freedom in choosing their mattresses because their weight is more evenly distributed over a larger surface area. In general, the more you weigh, the firmer you want your mattress to be so your body doesn’t sink too much into the mattress.
Studies show that those experiencing musculoskeletal pain or those looking to improve their sleep quality have improvements after sleeping on medium firm mattresses. Two separate studies demonstrated that medium firm mattresses reduced clinically diagnosed back pain, shoulder pain, spine stiffness, and improved sleep quality even in individuals with minor sleep disturbances.
But again, you have to experience the mattress for yourself and determine which one provides the most comfort and support for you. You can visit a mattress store and lay on mattresses in the showroom before purchasing. Some companies also allow you to try a mattress for a trial period.
Remember: just because it’s the most expensive mattress in the showroom does not necessarily mean it is the best for you. We have seen patients spend upwards of $3000 for a mattress only to say they woke up with more back pain after sleeping on it!
Educate yourself and ask questions. Be critical. So is it time for an upgrade? If your old mattress is starting to creep up there in years, it may be time to consider buying a new one. It’s all about personal comfort! It is something you will have to sleep on for an average of 7 hours per night for the next 5-10 years, so choose wisely. Do not let outside factors such as advertising sway your decision. You want to avoid waking up in the morning with persistent back stiffness and for those who already suffer from low back pain, avoid waking up feeling worse. A consistent good night’s sleep is tied largely to your overall health. The true answer to “what is the best mattress” is the mattress that provides you with the most level of comfort while providing adequate support and allows you to wake in the morning with your muscles and joints feeling refreshed.
I hope this video and blog helps you when choosing your next mattress. Until next time, this is Dr. John Shim.
- Jacobson BH, Boolani A, Smith DB. Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems. J Chiropr Med. 2009 Mar;8(1):1-8. PubMed PMID: 19646380
- Ancuelle V, Zamudio R, Mendiola A, Guillen D, Ortiz PJ, Tello T, Vizcarra D. Effects of an adapted mattress in musculoskeletal pain and sleep quality in institutionalized elders. Sleep Sci. 2015 Nov;8(3):115-20. PubMed PMID: 26779317
Last modified: April 1, 2021