Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
How to Find the Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
When shopping for a new mattress, your sleep position should be one of your top concerns, but there are other factors you should consider which we’ll explore in this buying guide. Back sleeping is the second most common sleep position, after side sleeping. Research from the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service says almost 15% of people sleep on their backs.
There are two common back sleeping positions: the soldier and the starfish. In the soldier position, you sleep flat with your arms down by your sides. With the starfish, you sleep on your back with your arms up beside your head and the pillow. Because of the strain back sleeping can put on your spine, choosing the best mattress is vital to waking rested and not sore.
If you’re pregnant, back sleeping is not recommended as research has shown it increases the chances of stillbirth. Otherwise, back sleeping is fine so long as you’re getting a good night’s sleep. Research from UC Irvine shows that poor sleep can lead to obesity, heart disease, poor immune function, depression, and Type 2 diabetes. You can see that choosing a quality mattress is a health concern.
This buying guide will help back sleepers choose the best mattress for them. First, look at the pros and cons of sleeping on your back.
Pros and Cons of Back Sleeping
Sleeping on your back can bring many health benefits, but not everyone can master this sleep position. Some people find their back is tight when they lie down, and it’s hard to relax, so they can fall asleep on their back. Gently stretching your spine before lying down can help you ease into a comfortable back sleeping position.
Optimally, you should try and sleep with no pillow to align your neck, but if you snore or have acid reflux, this approach isn’t recommended. Some people find more comfort by sliding a pillow under their knees and keep their knees a comfortable distance apart. Some people like to back sleep with a pillow on their chest they hold.
Here’s what you should know about the pros and cons of back sleeping.
Pros of Back Sleeping
- Spinal health – With a good mattress, sleeping on your back can be great for your back because it can keep your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position.
- Minimizes wrinkling – Because your face isn’t smashed into the pillow, your skin doesn’t fold onto itself, and when you’re face up, there’s no pull on your skin.
- Helps acid reflux – For those that struggle with acid reflux, back sleeping can be beneficial so long as you sleep on a pillow that keeps your head and esophagus above your stomach.
Cons of Back Sleeping
- Increased snoring – For those prone to snoring, back sleeping can aggravate your nocturnal noise because your tongue can fall back into the airway.
- Aggravates sleep apnea – If you have sleep apnea, back sleeping is not recommended because your airway can become obstructed.
If you’re not currently a back sleeper but want to reap the health benefits of sleeping supine, you can train yourself to adjust your sleep position. Try setting a wall of pillows beside you to block you if you try to roll onto your side. You can also click on a fanny pack with the pack facing to your side and a couple of tennis balls inside so that if you roll, you’ll hit the balls, and revert to your back.
Next, take a brief look at our top five best mattresses for back sleepers.
Top 5 Picks for Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
|Amerisleep AS1||Memory Foam||8||$1,199|
|Novosbed||Foam||5 and 7||$1,099|
*All prices are for a queen-sized bed.
Is a Firm or Soft Mattress Better for You?
There are two distinct aspects to every mattress: firmness and comfort. These are not the same thing and, in fact, are controlled by the two different parts of your bed. Each bed has a support core and on top of that, one or more comfort layers. The support core determines the firmness of your bed and how well it will keep your spine aligned for healthy sleep.
The comfort layer(s) determine contour and how well the bed hugs your body and relieves pressure on your shoulders, hips, and other sensitive spots. For back sleepers, a firmer bed is recommended. The industry rates mattresses on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being softest and 10 being firmest. The number assigned to a bed is less important than how it feels to you.
Very soft beds usually don’t provide enough support and sleep hot while extra firm beds can feel too rigid. Most mattress makers sell beds in the soft to firm range with very few making beds at either end of the spectrum since those don’t suit well for most sleepers. Here is a deeper look at the numbers across the scale:
- (1) Very soft beds let you sink in deeply with little support and can sleep hot.
- (2-3) Soft mattresses provide more support but still has significant sink-in.
- (4-6) Medium and medium-firm beds support and conform with greater comfort.
- (7-9) Firm mattresses offer considerable support with some cushion.
- (10) Very firm beds have little padding, don’t conform, and may feel rigid.
Optimal firmness for back sleepers
For those that sleep on their backs, a medium-firm bed is recommended. Your spine must be kept in a neutral position that keeps the natural “S” curve in place. A bed that is too soft will let you sink in too deeply and throw off the curve, putting pressure on your spine. A bed that’s too firm will strain your spine from excessive pressure. Shop in the 5-7 firmness range for best results.
Your sleep position is a top consideration when choosing a mattress, but not the only one. You should also examine your needs and preferences. Next, we look at what makes up your sleep style.
Consider Your Sleep Style
In addition to your back sleeping preference, there are other factors to inform your mattress choice. How hot or cold you run at night, whether you sleep alone or with a partner, and any health concerns should all influence your mattress purchase decision to make sure you get the best mattress for sleeping on your back. Here are some considerations:
Do you sleep alone?
If you sleep alone, your needs and preferences are all that matter. But if you co-sleep with someone, their needs also matter. If one of you side sleeps and one back sleeps, you might need to go slightly softer since side sleepers need additional cushioning on their pressure points. If your sleep styles are drastically different, you might want a split design bed to accommodate both your preferences.
Do you move around a lot at night?
Motion transfer is the energy displaced across the mattress surface when someone moves. If you have a bouncier bed and shift a lot at night, you can wake yourself or your partner. Innerspring beds are the worst for motion transfer while latex and memory foam better prevent it. Firmer beds allow more motion transfer, but materials selection can minimize the effects.
Do you run hot or cold while sleeping?
If you run hot at night, a softer bed or one with traditional memory foam may aggravate your night sweats. Some people are naturally hotter, but hormones and some medications can make you sleep hot. Innerspring and hybrid beds sleep cooler. If you run cold at night, a plusher comfort layer or memory foam bed will keep you warmer while you doze.
Do you have chronic low back pain?
For those with chronic low back pain, medium-firm mattresses are optimal, according to research from Harvard. Sleeping with your spine in a neutral position can help. Back sleepers may want to try sleeping with a pillow below their knees to ease tension on the low back. Gentle stretching before bed can help relax your lower spine and get a better night sleep with less back pain.
Do you wake with aches and pains?
If you wake with aches and pains that go away after you’ve gotten up and moved around, this can be a sign that you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s not good for you. If the bed is old, that can be the problem. However, it might be that your current mattress is too soft or too firm to meet your needs. That’s why it’s important to assess your needs carefully before you buy your next bed.
Do you have sleep apnea?
Back sleeping can aggravate sleep apnea but may be the most comfortable position if you sleep with a CPAP mask at night. A medium firm bed can work but you may need to consider loftier pillows that elevate your head, so the angle will keep your tongue from falling back into your throat. You might even consider a wedge pillow with a traditional pillow over it.
Do you have a high BMI?
The more you weigh, the more support and durability you’ll need in your mattress. Beds feel softer the heavier you are, so you may want to go slightly firmer the higher your BMI. The quality of mattress materials also matters. If the bed is of poor construction or have inadequate support, you can feel a hammock effect that can throw your spine out of alignment and wreck your sleep quality.
Are you underweight?
For back sleepers with low BMI, a firmer mattress can be problematic. If you’re underweight, you may not be able to sink in enough to engage the comfort layer to give you the cushion you need. You will want a slightly softer bed if you are a lightweight or stick with a firmer bed but select a plusher comfort layer such as memory foam or latex to ensure you get the pressure relief you need.
Now, look at the best mattress materials for back sleepers.
The Best Mattress Materials for Back Sleepers
As mentioned above, beds have two sections: the support core and the comfort layer(s). The support core determines the mattress firmness, and the comfort layers drive how soft the bed feels. A more rigid or dense support core makes a firmer bed. Thicker and plusher comfort layers make a bed feel softer, but what’s most important is how the bed feels to you while sleeping on your back.
Mattresses can be foam, innerspring, or latex. A hybrid bed is one with an innerspring core and comfort layer(s) made of foam or latex. The most luxurious mattress material is latex, and it’s the costliest. Foam and innerspring beds can vary widely, and it’s important to assess the quality of the components to make sure you get a bed that’s not only comfortable but also durable.
The best mattress for back sleepers may contain these components:
Innerspring beds have been around since the 1800s and remain the lowest cost mattresses. While there are still beds with traditional open metal springs, most innerspring beds now contain pocket coils. These are wire coils in fabric sleeves. The sleeves are attached by glue or sewn together so that they move in a coordinated manner to support you as you move in your sleep.
On top of the coil layer is one or more comfort layers to provide the cushion as you can’t sleep directly on innerspring because it would be too rigid. Innerspring beds are known for motion transfer and noise, but the materials in the comfort layer can mitigate these sensations. Innerspring beds can be good for back sleepers because they’re very supportive, but the quality of the comfort layer is critical.
There are two types of foam used in mattresses: polyurethane foam (polyfoam) and memory foam. Foam beds can be of one or both types of foam. All foam is from a chemical process, but the two types of foam feel nothing alike. Standard polyfoam sleeps hotter as does regular memory foam. Memory foam is denser and lets you sink into the surface for enhanced comfort.
Polyfoam can be regular, high-density (HD) or high-resiliency (HR). You only want HD or HR foam, not regular foam as it’s low quality. Foam beds can be acceptable for back sleepers if they are supportive, not too soft, and of high quality. Memory foam shouldn’t be too plush, or it might throw off back sleepers by allowing excess sink-in. Look for gel or copper-infused foam for cooler sleep.
The best and most costly mattress material is latex which is considered a premium component. Latex can be synthetic or natural. Synthetic latex is made from a chemical process while natural latex is from the sap of the rubber tree. Some beds may be strictly synthetic or natural while others may blend the two materials. Either type of latex is conforming, has bounce, and sleeps cooler.
For back sleepers, latex can be an excellent material because it’s supportive without being rigid and contours and conforms without allowing excess sinking-in while you sleep. In a latex bed, firmer latex will make up the support core while the comfort layers will be softer latex that’s breathable and is designed to cushion sensitive pressure points.
Hybrid beds are made with a support core of pocket coils, and some even have a dual layer of pocket coils. Above that are comfort layers made of foam or latex, or a combination of both, usually with a transition layer between the coils and comfort layer. The pocket coils should be made with high-gauge wire, and a queen bed should have 800 or more pocket coils in the support core.
Hybrid beds provide the benefits of innerspring without the drawbacks of motion transfer. The innerspring core also cools down the comfort layer, such as memory foam, which may be too hot in an all-foam bed. Hybrid beds can be an excellent choice for back sleepers because they offer the support of an innerspring with a comfort layer to ease pressure points.
With this information on materials in hand, you’re ready to see our reviews of the top five best beds for back sleepers.
Best Mattress Reviews – Top 5 Picks for Back Sleepers
Every person has unique sleep needs. You must choose a mattress that meets your back sleeping needs and all your preferences. Mattress choice is highly subjective, and that’s when sleep night trials become crucial. All the mattresses on our top picks list have generous sleep trials so you can try the bed in your home and decide if it’s right for you.
See the pros and cons of each mattress on your list, what’s inside the bed, and why it made our top five list.
The AS1 is Amerisleep’s memory foam mattress and uses a sturdy foam Bio-Core™ support core. Above that is the comfort layer made of Bio-Pur™ foam that is much more breathable than traditional memory foam. The cover is Celliant® which is thermoreactive to help you sleep cooler and wick moisture. All foams in this bed are partially plant-based to be eco-friendlier.
The AS1 is Amerisleep’s firmest mattress and rates an 8 on the firmness scale which is perfect for a back sleeper. The firmness is offset by the memory foam comfort layer that will cushion pressure points, but that’s not too plush. The bed has very little off-gassing and sleeps cool. If you want a greener bed, the plant-based foams in Amerisleep’s products may be appealing.
With a price point of $1,199, this mattress is in the mid-range of our top five picks. One downside to ordering an Amerisleep bed is that they’re so well-liked that they are in high demand and it can take three to four weeks to get your bed. The mattress comes with a 100-night sleep trial, but there’s a mandatory 30-night break-in period before you can request a refund.
Why Amerisleep AS1 Stands Out
The foam density in the AS1 is very high which means this should be a very durable bed and the company promises the support core will last for decades. For back sleepers, this should offer a good night’s sleep unless you’re extremely lightweight, in which case it might be too firm for you. Because of the cooling foam and the firmness, this bed sleeps cool.
The Bear mattress is four layers of memory foam with a support core of high-density foam for durability. Above that is a transition layer designed for responsiveness and spinal alignment. The comfort layer is graphite-gel cooling memory foam which contours and comforts and is designed to sleep cooler than regular memory foam. The cover is Celliant® which promises health benefits.
The transition layer features pressure mapping to give more support where it’s needed which is an excellent selling point for back sleepers. At a price point of just $840, this is a very affordable mattress for the quality materials you’re buying. The Celliant® cover is made with minerals to reflect body heat in the form of infrared energy to promote muscle recovery and reduce inflammation.
The Bear comes in only one firmness level, rated 6-7, which is medium-firm. It can be perfect for some back sleepers unless you’re very lightweight in which case it may feel too firm. Very heavy sleepers may find the bed isn’t supportive enough because of the foam support core. Because this mattress is newer on the market, it’s still establishing a track record for durability.
Why Bear Stands Out
The Bear mattress is FDA approved as a medical device because of the Celliant® technology. Studies show the infrared yarn woven into the cover help oxygenate muscle and improve blood flow. With these acknowledged health benefits plus the medium-firm support, this is a top choice for back sleepers. Bear offers a 100-night sleep trial to ensure your satisfaction after a 30-night break-in period.
Novosbed design varies by firmness with the medium and firm being best for back sleepers. The medium bed has a support core of premium foam under a transition layer of memory foam then a layer of airflow memory foam. The firm bed has the same support core with plush memory foam over the core and airflow memory foam over that. Both have a soft, moisture-wicking, washable Tencel® cover.
The memory foam is of good quality with high density and low motion transfer. The airflow foam is cooling to keep this bed from sleeping hot. Novosbed has a decade of market experience, so the brand is well-established, and reviews are solid. With two firmness levels of 5 and 7, back sleepers can choose their comfort level at a moderate price point of $1,099.
Novosbed offers a generous 120-night sleep trial but has a mandatory 60-night break-in period before you can request a return and refund. Some buyers have noted a slight off-gassing smell that quickly dissipates. The edge support isn’t as firm as you’d get with an innerspring bed, but that’s common with all-foam beds.
Why Novosbed Stands Out
Novosbed is another brand that works with you to try and adjust the bed to make you happy. They call this the Comfort+ program, and after 30 nights, if you’re not pleased, they send you a kit to fine-tune the feel of your bed and make it firmer or softer. The Comfort+ program is a big plus for back sleepers that aren’t certain how firm of a bed they want.
The Sapira hybrid starts with a support core of steel pocket coils with a layer of stabilizing foam on either side. Above that is a dual comfort layer. The innermost comfort layer is memory foam designed for pressure relief and contour effect. The outermost layer is cooling Avena® foam that keeps heat away and offers a nice bounce for movement and sex.
The Sapira is good for back sleepers because of its medium firm (6-7) feel with reinforced edge support. Motion transfer is low, but the bed is still responsive, so you don’t get a stuck-in feeling that comes with some memory foam beds. The quality pocket coil layer offers excellent support for back sleepers without being rigid, so you still get the pressure relief you need.
The Sapira comes in just one firmness, so there’s not a lot of choice to be had, but a 6-7 rated medium-firm bed will appeal to most back sleepers unless you’re very heavy or very lightweight. Some buyers reported heat retention, but most say it sleeps fine. At $1,495, it’s the spendiest bed on our list, but the materials are high quality and reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Why Sapira Stands Out
Sapira is made by Leesa, which is a well-established and reputable brand in the mattress market. The bed rates well with stomach, back and side sleepers, so if you ever change positions, you should remain satisfied with the bed. Data indicates that this bed is more durable than other hybrid memory foam products and there’s a 100-night sleep trial with a mandatory 30-night break-in period.
The Spindle has three layers of all-natural continuous pour Dunlop latex in an architecture that offers variable firmness levels. Two of the layers have drilled holes for better air circulation and breathability. The batting on top of the bed is organic wool that’s moisture-wicking, and the cover is organic cotton woven in a circular knit to complement the latex feel.
You answer a few questions about your height, weight, and sleep position and Spindle recommends the initial firmness setting and ships the mattress set to your preference. For back sleepers, medium to firm is optimal. Once you sleep on the bed, if you find it’s too soft or too firm, you can reconfigure the layers yourself at home based on a guide provided by Spindle.
At $1,349, the Spindle is a higher price point than other mattresses on our list, but the all-natural latex is well worth the investment. The company discourages returns by working with you to adjust the comfort of the mattress, and so they require a 60-night break-in period before you can request a return. Also, Spindle doesn’t recommend its products to anyone with a BMI greater than 30.
Why Spindle Stands Out
Spindle’s variable design makes it a top choice for back sleepers. You’ll likely do best on medium-firm, but if you decide you want a bit softer or firmer, you don’t have to hassle with a return and buying a new bed – you can unzip the Spindle, rearrange the layers, and have a new mattress ready to go. Plus, the high-quality latex is an excellent sleep surface for those that rest on their back.