Back Sleeping Guide: How to Choose a Mattress that Makes You Sleep Like a Baby

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You should be able to find a mattress that lets you wake up rested, relaxed, and pain-free, no matter what position you sleep in. To improve the quality of your sleep, we have researched the specific characteristics to look for in a mattress for back, stomach, and side sleepers. After reading this article, you will know what kind of mattresses and pillows best complement your sleep position.

How can sleeping on your back affect your health?

Sleeping on your back is the most recommended sleep position by doctors, but why do only 8 percent of us sleep this way?

Sleeping on your back can be detrimental for snoring, acid reflux, neck, and back pain. It can also cause discomfort during pregnancy.

How firm should my mattress be if I sleep on my back?

Sleep Guide informs us that "Back sleepers need a firmer mattress than side sleepers. Too soft and your spine curves. However, too firm and you run the risk of causing pain in your lower back or snoring." Why do back sleepers prefer a firmer mattress? “When sleeping on your back your body weight is spread out rather evenly, meaning less direct pressure points & less conformability needed to caress your body,” according to Home Mattress Center Owner Andy Bloom and Sales Professional Shane Carey. 

Mattress Advisor elaborates, “Back sleepers need a mattress that offers support and contour in equal measure to keep your spine in a neutral position. The support is what holds up your spine and neck, while the contour is what allows your bum and other curvy parts to rest peacefully.”

The site advises that we look for a medium-firm mattress. “[Firmness] is the most important factor to keep in mind when choosing a new mattress. A soft, sink-on-in mattress will put your body in an arch position, and won’t provide you with enough support. But a mattress that tilts too far in the other direction can feel like a concrete slab to a back sleeper — this puts too much pressure on your back and shoulders, so you wake up with aches in the a.m.”

You may need to look for different mattress support, depending on your weight. Mattress advice site Tuck recommends different firmness ratings, depending on how much you weigh. If you are a back sleeper weighing less than 130 pounds, you should look for a medium soft or softer mattress. Those weighing 130 to 230 should shop for a medium to medium-firm mattress, and people weighing more than 230 pounds should look toward medium firm or firmer mattresses.

What kind of mattress is best for back sleepers?

You can find a compatible mattress from any category: innerspring, latex, memory and poly foams, as well as hybrids. Just make sure that you are looking for a medium-firm mattress that conforms well to your body to provide consistent support and prevent your back from sinking down too much.

What kind of pillow is best for a back sleeper?

Back sleepers should use a pillow, or possibly two. “You may benefit from a thinner pillow (so your neck is not thrown too far forward) that has an extra loft in the bottom third to help cradle your neck. Loft just means how much lift the pillow has, so having extra loft at the bottom means it will be a little thicker in this area. Memory foam is a good option, because it molds to the shape of your head and neck, as is a water pillow, since it offers all-over consistent support,” The National Sleep Foundation explains on “Also, try sleeping with another pillow under your knees to alleviate pressure on your lower back.” This under-the-knees pillow should be about the height of about two of your fists

How do I avoid buying a poor fitting mattress?

Proper education and expectations are key when mattress shopping. When looking for your firm or medium firm mattress, you should be aware that the firmer the mattress, the more motion transfers. Best Mattress Reviews warns, “Be ready for motion transfer if you decide to go with very firm mattresses: Very firm mattresses have little give. That means every movement you make isn’t absorbed by the mattress. Rather, it transfers to your bed frame or partner.”

Mattress Advisor points out that we often change sleeping positions during the night. “Additionally, many back sleepers cite side-sleeping as their secondary position, especially snorers whose sleeping partners beg them to roll over. Is this you? If your sleep position changes over time, or you share your bed with another person, look for an even more versatile mattress.”

Consider a magic adjustable air mattress from brands like Sleep Number or Habitat Furnishings. These will allow you to adjust the comfort level of your bed. The Sleep Number even uses a technology that automatically adjusts to your body while you sleep. This is super helpful, especially for those of us that move around or switch positions while sleeping.

What kind of retail mattress policies should I look out for?

Check to see if a return or exchange policy is available before you purchase a mattress. More and more, retailers are offering an in-home trial that lasts at least one month. Keep in mind the fees for any return or exchange come in different shapes and sizes, whether in the form of an opt-in fee, a pick-up fee, a shipping fee, or a charge to re-select a mattress. Sometimes it is a flat rate of $100 or more, and sometimes it is a percentage of your original purchase.

Know that many retailers require that you sleep on your new mattress for a couple weeks to break it in before you can initiate any return or exchange. In addition, policies vary. Some companies offer a refund, while many more allow for a one-time comfort exchange and selection of a new mattress.

Choosing a mattress isn’t an exact science. Check out a retailer’s policies before you even walk into a store, or press “add to cart.” Make sure that you are looking for a medium firm mattress that offers enough support and pressure point relief for your frame when you sleep on your back.

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