Sleepology Resource Center
Sleep Styles and Sleep Positions
If you spend a majority of the night on your back, you’re part of the 14% of Americans that sleep this way. Sleeping on your back can have significant health benefits if you suffer from jaw pain and TMJ, or if you tend to grind your teeth at night. This is because sleeping on your back on a quality mattress and pillow holds your head, neck and shoulders in a neutral position that allows your jaw to relax.
Sleeping on your back, however, is not recommended for those that snore or suffer from sleep apnea. If you suffer from these conditions and sleep on your back consider an adjustable frame that can lift your head and upper back while maintaining proper spinal alignment.
Back sleepers can comfortably sleep on anything from soft mattresses to firm mattresses, depending on their weight and comfort preferences. Ensure that you have a quality pillow that supports your head to maintain proper spinal alignment.
If you spend a majority of the night on your side, you’re part of the estimated 64% of Americans that sleep this way. Side sleepers can experience pain in certain pressure point areas, including their hips and shoulders. Plus, depending on how your legs relax onto your bed, your spinal alignment can suffer. Side sleepers should consider sleeping with a pillow between their knees.
Because side sleepers tend to put more pressure on the shoulders and hips, a soft to medium firmness mattress is best in order to reduce pain in these areas. Memory foam or latex foam are particularly good for side sleepers since they contour to the curves of your body and reduce pressure point pain.
If you spend a majority of the night on your stomach, you’re part of the 16% of Americans that sleep this way. Stomach sleepers tend to experience the most back and neck pain since this position throws spinal alignment off and puts pressure on the face and jaw. However, it is possible to sleep comfortably in this position with a softer pillow and the right mattress.
It is recommended that stomach sleepers use a medium-firm to firm sleep surface since this will help support proper spinal alignment. Softer mattresses will not support the hips and abdomen adequately and can lead to lower back pain. Another important element of sleeping comfortably on your stomach is to make sure your pillow is soft to allow for better alignment through the upper back and neck.
Body Type and Sleep Health
In addition to sleep position, your body type, height and weight will play a significant role in deciding which mattress is right for you. Each factor affects how much support you need to avoid issues with circulation, chronic pain and tense muscles.
Your weight, and how it is distributed across your body, will impact what firmness level and type of support you need from your mattress. Independent studies confirm that the heavier you are, the more you are likely to benefit from a thicker and firmer mattress.
If you are taller and/or heavier than the average sleeper, consider looking beyond low profile mattresses or one- to two-layer foam beds that are traditionally sold online. Look for a mattress that provides enhanced support, specifically hybrid mattress and those with considerable transitional layers. Also consider foam options that have greater contouring support, like latex and memory foam.Body Type
If the majority of your weight is centered on your upper abdomen and chest, a medium-firmness mattress with a firmer pillow might be a good choice. If the majority of your weight is at your hips and you tend to sleep on your side, a medium to firm mattress will give you the support you need without irritating pressure points.
Healthy Sleep and Your Mattress
Your mattress can have a profound impact on your overall health, especially if you suffer from chronic conditions like pain and fatigue. If you have important health considerations, make them a part of your search for the right mattress. Below are a few guidelines for determining if a mattress will be right for you and your individual needs.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain, no matter how severe, can lead to a host of other conditions. Chronic back pain can stem from muscular issues, from genetic conditions and even from your lifestyle. Thankfully, choosing the right mattress can help reduce chronic back pain. These are just some of the ways the right sleep set up can help relieve the symptoms of some health conditions.
Adjustable bases are a great way to find relief from some types of chronic back issues. By having the ability to lift your head, your feet—or both—you can drastically increase circulation to certain parts of the body, and relieve pressure on areas like your hips and shoulders. This can lead to better relaxation of the muscles and decompression of the spine, which in turn can help alleviate some chronic back pain.Memory Foam Mattresses for Back Pain
If your back pain stems from pressure on certain areas of the body, specifically the knees and shoulders, memory foam mattresses can help to reduce pressure point pain and increase healthy circulation at night. Memory foam mattresses have inherent contouring properties that hug the body’s curves, making them a great option for sleepers who require gentler support in their bed.Latex Foam Mattresses for Back Pain
Similar to memory foam mattresses, latex foam and latex alternative foam mattresses contour to the curves of the body more gently than traditional innerspring mattresses, but do so with faster responsiveness than memory foam. If you require gentler contouring and pressure point relief but need your mattress to better support movement at night (the case for many sleepers who are prone to muscle spasm or weakness), latex might be a good choice for you.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea and snoring are two closely related conditions that interrupt normal breathing patterns during sleep. This is usually caused by inadequate support of the head and neck, causing a partial blocking of the airways. Certain mattresses, pillows and foundations can help relieve symptoms of these conditions.
Sleep apnea and snoring are usually caused by obstructed airways, which is exacerbated by sleeping flat on your back. Adjustable bases allow you to uniformly prop up the head and neck without causing poor spinal alignment, making them a great option for sleep apnea sufferers.Pillows with Variable Firmness Options for Sleep Apnea
Similar to adjustable bases, many cases of sleep apnea can be alleviated by supporting the head and neck at night. Pillows that have firmness options, allowing you to opt for a firmer pillow rather than a softer one, can help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea. Consider options like shredded foam pillows that are overstuffed for easy removal and adjustment of loft, and firm latex pillows.
Tingling and Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, causes a pins and needles or burning sensation in the legs that ranges from mild to severe. Generally, restless leg syndrome becomes worse at night when you are neither moving nor distracted from the discomfort in your legs and feet. Though often requiring medications and other medical interventions to treat, RLS symptoms can sometimes be alleviated by choosing the right mattress.
Memory foam mattresses are exceptional at reducing pressure point pain and increasing healthy circulation in the limbs during sleep. Since RLS is often a byproduct of circulation issues, a memory foam mattress can be an effective way of reducing the sensations caused by RLS.Latex Foam or Latex Alternative Foam Mattresses for RLS
Similar to memory foam, latex foam and latex alternative foam offers greater contouring and gentler support than traditional innerspring mattresses. This can help alleviate circulation issues in sleepers that suffer from RLS and can help to reduce the painful sensation caused by this condition.
Swelling and Numbness
Swelling and numbness in the limbs is often a symptom of poor circulation during sleep and can be exacerbated by pregnancy or diabetes. Similar to RLS, contouring memory foam or latex foam are great options for those who suffer from this condition. Adjustable bases can also reduce swelling by allowing you to raise your legs during sleep, helping to ease circulation between the limbs and the trunk of the body.