Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
While we typically think of bed as a place to “lie back and relax,” when it actually comes time to sleep, most people don’t stay on their back. But even if it’s not the most popular sleeping position, sleeping on your back, for many people, can bring a natural calmness and alignment to the body.
At the same time, back sleeping can also pose problems if the natural bend in the spine at the lower back is not properly supported by a mattress. For this reason, choosing a great mattress is a high priority for back sleepers who want to wake up feeling as well as they possibly can.
In this guide, we offer our top 5 picks for the best mattresses for back sleepers. You can jump straight there if you’re short for time, or you can keep reading to learn all about the types of mattresses on the market, which ones work best for back sleepers, and all of the other shopping considerations that need to be accounted for in selecting the best mattress available.
Types of Mattresses
What are foam mattresses?
Foam mattresses are made with a mixture of types of foam products. Usually, there are multiple layers of foam within the mattress, and these layers are chosen to give the mattress a particular feel and particular characteristics. Most customers have heard of memory foam, which is often used in the topmost layers of foam mattresses. It is utilized in this way because of its contouring properties — it compresses, or responds, to pressure in a way that conforms to the body. Polyurethane foam (polyfoam), which can be produced with a wider range of characteristics, is also regularly used in foam mattresses. Some of these mattress models may also include a layer of latex foam. You will often see foam mattresses built with a bottom layer of polyfoam and then one or more layers of memory foam or softer polyfoam that serve as a comfort layer.
Are foam mattresses good for back sleepers?
Yes, usually. Foam mattresses usually are built to respond proportionally based on how weight is applied, which means that they can offer more cushion to the parts of the body that most need it. In back sleepers, this can help keep the lower back and pelvis properly supported to prevent lower-back stiffness. A slightly more firm foam mattress often works best by preventing excessive sink that can make back sleepers sleep hot or feel stuck in the mattress.
What are latex mattresses?
If a mattress is built entirely with latex — and not with other foams or materials — we refer to it as a latex mattress. It can also be called a true-latex or all-latex mattress to help differentiate it from other mattresses that may have only a single layer of latex. This type of mattress may be made with many thin layers of latex or with one or more large chunks of this material. Latex used in mattresses can be produced naturally, synthetically, or can be a blend of these two.
Latex is a more resilient material than most foams, which means that it recovers its shape more quickly when there is no longer pressure being applied to it. This resilience gives it a bouncier feel, but at the same time, it retains an ability to conform to the body.
Latex is generally described as either Talalay or Dunlop latex based on the production method. Talalay latex normally has more bounce. A number of all-latex mattresses use both types of latex.
Are latex mattresses good for back sleepers?
Yes, usually. As with foam mattresses, latex offers the kind of contouring that provides a welcoming and supportive sleep surface for back sleepers. At the same time, the resilience of latex can keep back sleepers from feeling like they are sleeping in rather than on the mattress. Latex usually also has fewer issues with sleeping hot compared to many foam mattresses.
What are innerspring mattresses?
Innerspring mattresses have the longest history in the mattress industry. They are built using metal coils that compress when weight is applied and then spring back when the weight is removed. Most of the innerspring mattresses that you will find online are made with pocketed coils, which give each spring more of its own ability to compress independently of the other coils. An innerspring with pocketed coils is thus usually more responsive to how weight is applied to the mattress compared with more traditional types of spring-based mattresses.
To make them more comfortable, many mattress makers add a comfort layer on top of the coils. This comfort layer could be made with latex, polyfoam, memory foam, or a fiber fill, and the selection of materials for this layer will directly influence the performance of the mattress.
For definitional purposes, if the top layer of the mattress is thicker than 3”, we classify the mattress as a “hybrid” rather than an innerspring.
Are innerspring mattresses good for back sleepers?
Sometimes. Back sleepers can have more evenly distributed pressure points than sleepers in other positions (such as side sleepers), so some straightforward innerspring mattresses can be workable for back sleepers. However, over time, these mattresses may fail to give enough support in order to maintain the natural curvature of the lower back. Innerspring mattresses with a responsive comfort layer are more likely to be able to assuage these fears about potential back pain.
What are hybrid mattresses?
Hybrid mattresses, like innersprings, have a support core that is built with compressible metal coils. A hybrid is different, though, because the layers that are placed above the coils are 3” or thicker. Any number of different materials may be used for the comfort layers, including polyfoam, memory foam, latex, or fiber. The purpose of designing the mattress in this way is to get the spring-like feeling of coils while layering on more contouring from the comfort layer materials.
Are hybrid mattresses good for back sleepers?
Yes, often. In merging the resilience from coils and responsiveness of foams, hybrids can in many cases give the kind of sleep surface that is beneficial for back sleepers. That said, this is highly variable given the wide range of different types of hybrids on the market. If a hybrid does not have a well-designed comfort layer, then it is unlikely to be able to offer a restful and ache-free night’s sleep to stomach sleepers.
What are airbeds?
Airbeds use a totally different model for support than the other types of mattresses described here. The “material” that serves as the support core in these beds is air. An air chamber, controlled by a remote or by an app, can be inflated or deflated to provide a very specific feel and firmness level that the sleeper wants. Quite often, each half of the bed will have its own air chamber and remote, letting each person select the firmness level that is best for them. Some airbeds also have additional layers of material above the air chamber that are intended to boost the responsiveness or plushness of the bed.
Are airbeds good for back sleepers?
Sometimes. A problem that air mattresses have for sleepers in most positions, including for back sleepers, is that they don’t have a means of providing variable levels of support to different parts of the body. As a result, adjustments to the air chamber can only go so far as to promote proper spinal alignment. For some back sleepers who weigh less or have less acute pressure points, an airbed may be sufficient. But otherwise, unless the airbed has a significant responsive comfort layer on top of the air chamber, it is likely to fall short when it comes to support.
Top Picks: Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
Mattress shopping has always been a challenging proposition with a bevy of brands and models and marketing jargon. With more and more mattresses being sold online, customers have more options and information than ever, but sometimes that can be overwhelming. To help, we’ve narrowed down to the top 5 best mattresses for back sleepers:
|BRAND||MODEL||MATTRESS TYPE||FIRMNESS LEVEL / OPTIONS||PRICE|
|Novosbed||Foam||Soft / Medium / Firm||$1,299 (Queen)|
|Pure Green||Latex||Soft / Medium / Firm|| $899 – $1,199
|Zenhaven||Latex||Reversible (Luxury Plush / Gentle Firm)|| $1,899
|Alexander Signature Hybrid||Hybrid||Medium or Luxury Firm||$1,199 (Queen)|
Keep scrolling through this section to get more details about each of these mattresses and why they’ve made our list:
Leesa is among the most successful online, direct-to-consumer mattress companies. Leesa has sold thousands and thousands of mattresses and receives rave reviews from most customers. The Leesa is an all-foam mattress with three layers. The bottom layer is a thick slab of polyfoam. The middle layer is memory foam, and the top layer is a resilient polyfoam that the company calls Avena foam.
The use of both the latex-like Avena foam and memory foam enables the Leesa to give the responsiveness that back sleepers need while also providing a springiness that hedges against feeling stuck in the mattress. The Leesa is only offered in medium-firm, but this is the top comfort preference for most back sleepers.
Even before promotions or discounts, the Leesa is available for under $1,000 for a Queen mattress, and with its track record and design, it makes for a winning choice for back sleepers.
Memory foam is a great material for back sleepers as it is extremely responsive and can give each part of the body the support that it needs. Novosbed, which has been selling mattresses online for longer than most competitors, sells three versions of its memory foam mattress. Back sleepers can choose between Soft, Medium, and Firm and can rest easy knowing that all of these are built with dense, thick layers of memory foam that are likely to stand the test of time.
With its contouring properties, customer satisfaction ratings, and reasonable price tag ($1,099 for a Queen), the Novosbed clearly makes our list of top choices for back sleepers.
Sleep on Latex Pure Green Mattress
Latex mattresses historically have been among the most expensive mattress types on the market, but this does not apply to the Sleep on Latex Pure Green mattress. Even though it includes high-quality latex poured into large slabs, this mattress can still be purchased in a Queen for under $1,200. The price depends on which height (7” or 9”) and firmness option (Soft, Medium, Firm) that a customer selects.
Customers who have slept on this mattress report high levels of satisfaction and find that it manages to provide both responsive support and comfortable bounce. This winning combination of feel, price, and company reputation makes the Pure Green mattress one of our top 5 choices for back sleepers.
The Zenhaven is an all-latex mattress made with Talalay latex. It is made with several layers of quality latex and has a unique reversible design. This means that one side of the mattress has a different firmness feel (Luxury Plush / 4-5) than the other (Gentle Firm / 7-8). The benefit to this is that customers can change the feel of their mattress by simply flipping it over.
The latex in this mattress is soft and pliable enough to cushion the body’s pressure points, but it also retains plenty of bounce and resilience to keep the sleeper from feeling overtaken by the mattress. Though it comes at a higher price point, this careful design and excellent materials used in this mattress make it a top option for back sleepers.
Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Hybrid
For back sleepers who want a thicker comfort layer but have fond feelings for the support provided by an innerspring base, the Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Hybrid mattress makes for a compelling option. It uses a 7” support core of innerspring coils to give a foundational level of bounce, and this is topped with foam, including a responsive layer of copper-infused memory foam, and a quilted pillowtop.
There are two different firmness models — Medium and Luxury Firm — and while the Medium is likely to be too soft for many back sleepers, many customers nevertheless appreciate the ability to select among these different options. With its blend of resilience and contouring, this hybrid can give the comfortable sleeping surface that back sleepers need to wake up refreshed and free of aches and pains.
Finding the Best Mattress for a Back Sleeper
About Back Sleeping
When we talk about back sleeping, we don’t just mean dozing off on the couch but rather spending the whole night, in bed, in this position. Only around 10-20% of people sleep this way, and among them, there are variations in terms of how they position their legs and arms. In any alignment on your back, there are certain pros and cons.
Back sleepers are at less risk for wrinkles because this position does not involve pressing the skin of the face up against a pillow. It also avoids a lot of the twisting and turning of the body that can occur in other positions.
The primary downside of back sleeping is that it can cause serious issues with snoring. When on your back, the natural tendency of the muscles and soft tissues in the airway (at the back of the throat) are to become more constrained. With less room for air to pass through, snoring becomes more likely. For people who have issues with sleep apnea — a condition marked by halting breath during the night — this narrowing of the airway can become a serious health issue.
What Matters For Back Sleepers When Choosing a Mattress
When shopping for a mattress, there are a lot of different ways to try to separate the good from the bad. Even though we’ve already done the leg work to recommend our top 5 mattresses for back sleepers, below we’ve elaborated on the key points to evaluate when you’re analyzing a mattress for yourself.
- Responsiveness: our bodies are not uniform in their shape or weight, and so it doesn’t make sense for a mattress to support the body in a uniform way. When a mattress is able to tailor its cushioning to the actual weight and pressure applied by your body, we call it a responsive mattress. A mattress with a high level of responsiveness is important for back sleepers because it can make sure that the pelvis, lower back, and shoulders can get the right amount of cushion to maintain the natural curvature of the back without any exaggerated bending in any direction. This spinal alignment is important to avoid waking up with stiffness or soreness in the back.
- Firmness: mattress firmness is normally described using a scale of 1-10 in which 1 is the absolute softest and 10 is the absolute firmest. The level of firmness has a direct impact on how comfortable a mattress is for any given person, but it’s important to remember that what feels comfortable for one person may be too soft or too firm for someone else. Given that comfort is so subjective, there is no one clear best firmness level for back sleepers; however, most back sleepers do best with mattresses that are medium-firm to firm, usually falling from 5-7 on the typical firmness scale. Heavier back sleepers (over 230 pounds), in particular, usually do best with a more firm option.
- Bounce: there are several terms that may be used to describe this feel of a mattress — bounce, spring, resilience. Each of these terms means that a mattress comes back to its original form quickly after it has compressed in response to pressure. Because of this ability to quickly spring back to its shape, it has a bouncier feel. For back sleepers, this resilience can help prevent feeling like they are sinking into a mattress and can make it more comfortable to make minor adjustments to their sleeping position in the night.
- Durability: durability is an important consideration for any consumer product, but it takes on added importance for mattresses for two main reasons. First, the high price of mattresses makes it extra valuable to get the most use out of your purchase. Second, a mattress that starts to fail is one that is going to pose issues when it comes to support and responsiveness. As the materials lose their strength, it can give way to improper alignment and abnormal curving of the back during the night. The best way to identify mattresses that are likely to be durable is to look for those that are built with a focus on top-notch materials and for those that have a history of proven, verified reviews from real customers.
- Motion Isolation: most back sleepers don’t move too much in the night, but they may share a bed with someone who does. If this describes your situation, you’ll want a mattress with good motion isolation. Motion isolation in a mattress means that movement on one part of the bed is felt only minimally (or in some cases not at all) on other parts of the bed, limiting disruptions from the movement of a partner.
- Price: at the start of your mattress-buying process, you should think about what your total budget is and how much you can reasonably spend to get a mattress that delivers the kind of quality sleep that you are hoping for. Then, when you are looking at your options, consider the “all-in” price for a mattress, including any charges that may be levied for shipping and handling. Also think about if you will need to purchase anything else, such as a new bed frame or bedding to fit the mattress.
- Sleep Trial: the rapid growth of the online mattress industry has occurred in large part thanks to the no-hassle sleep trial. With a sleep trial, you can receive the mattress, set it up in your bedroom, and sleep on it for an extended period (often 100 nights or more) to see how it works for you. This is usually much more indicative of how well a mattress fits your sleeping position than just testing out a mattress for 15 minutes in a store. If it turns out that the mattress doesn’t deliver the support or comfort that you need, a sleep trial lets you return the mattress and receive a full refund. We are big advocates of only purchasing mattresses that come with a sleep trial that lets you really test it out in “real-world” conditions in your home.
- Warranty: while most warranties won’t cover normal wear-and-tear that can affect a mattress over time, they do offer a safety net if your mattress comes with a defect in the cover or one of the layers. Having a warranty without onerous terms and conditions can help offer protection for your purchase.
- Pillow: it doesn’t make sense to invest heavily in a mattress only to get a pillow that doesn’t give your neck the support it needs. Furthermore, a pillow that isn’t aligned with the mattress (in terms of feel and loft) can itself cause the neck or back to become curved in ways that can be problematic. Make sure to select a pillow that can work in concordance with the mattress that you choose.