What is the best mattress for a back sleeper? | Bedshed
Sleep & Health

What is the best mattress for a back sleeper?

A back sleeper on a comfortable mattress

Have you ever dozed off on the morning train or found yourself yawning after lunch? Is the snooze button your best friend? You might think your daytime drowsiness is a side effect of ‘the hustle’, but it could actually be caused by your mattress!

Every type of sleeper requires a different sort of mattress in order to avoid aches, pains, and sleeplessness so if you’re a back sleeper, a side sleeper, or a tummy sleeper who is waking up feeling less than refreshed, it could be a sign that you’re not sleeping on the right mattress! For tips on finding the best mattress for a back sleeper, read our guide below.

The right support

No mattress is perfect for everyone. Different sleeping positions put different parts of the body under pressure and your mattress has to try and counteract this effect. The main thing you need to look after is your spine, as it must be set in a natural position. The at-risk area for back sleepers is the hips and lower back. You’ve got to check that there’s enough support around your hips, so they are lifted into alignment with the shoulders and back. Thankfully, that niggling tension in your lower back can also be solved with deep pressure relief from the right mattress.

Mattress firmness

You’d think a soft mattress is always the right choice, considering the really comfy mattresses are usually described as ‘cloud-like’. But most of the time you need a reasonably firm mattress to get that supportive, pain-reducing experience. The best mattress for back sleepers is normally a medium-firm mattress, as this prevents parts of your body sinking downwards and stops your spine from over-flexing.

Try a variety of medium-firm mattresses in order to determine which comfort level best prevents your body from sinking out of its natural alignment. You want to find the perfect balance between firm support and pressure-relieving softness to help bring your spine into a neutral position.

Foam, springs, or hybrid?

Memory foam mattress icon


A lot of people love the sensation of sinking down into a soft memory foam mattress because it contours to your body and makes you feel like you’re sleeping on - you guessed it - a cloud! Most back sleepers will quickly regret buying the softest mattress available though, as they simply don’t provide enough support! This doesn’t mean you should avoid memory foam altogether. Memory foam mattresses that provide medium to firm support can be a great choice for back sleepers because they conform so well to the body which can take pressure off of heavier areas. Since they’re made from highly flexible materials, foam mattresses are also ideal for pairing with an adjustable base. Adjustable beds allow for much greater control over the elevation of different ‘zones’ on your mattress and can help back sleepers to optimise spinal alignment.

Spring mattress icon


Then there’s the mattress we’re all familiar with - traditional spring mattresses! Spring mattresses can be great for back sleepers, but you’ll want to look for options that provide zoned support and you should be careful not to choose a mattress that is too firm! Just like extra-soft isn’t always the best, extremely firm support is not going to help you either. That’s why spring mattresses don’t always make the best bed for back sleepers. When they’re too firm and this can push your hips up too high and cause back pain. If you’re going to get a spring mattress, make sure it has a nice, soft comfort layer to cushion your pressure points and align your spine.

Hyrbird mattress icon


Remember that properly deep sleep you had when you were a kid? The type of sleep that’s uninterrupted by thoughts of unlocked doors, early morning meetings, and lists of chores. Well a hybrid mattress could recreate this sort of sleep for back sleepers. It’s got the perks of both springs and foam, with the support of the coils softened by a comfortable layer of memory foam. Many hybrid mattresses also pair well with an adjustable base, which can be an excellent choice for back sleepers as they can help them to get into a sleeping position that properly supports spinal alignment.

How do you know if it ‘feels’ right?

There are a few major purchases that come with a lot of pressure: a house, a car, an engagement ring, and even a mattress. They all change your life and involve a major investment. Buying a mattress isn’t like buying a dining table, as it can dramatically impact your health and wellbeing. So, if you’re feeling the pressure of buying the right mattress and are worried that you won’t be able to tell which one is best for you, here’s some tips:

  • Take your time: Lay on the mattress for at least 15 minutes. Let your body properly sink in and wait to see whether it becomes uncomfortable.

  • Wear comfy clothes: It’s hard to relax when you’re wearing uncomfortable clothes, so put on a loose, soft outfit and take off your coat when you lay down.

  • Move about: Many sleepers move during the night, so roll around a bit and shift positions to ensure the mattress can adapt.

  • Don't shop tired: Anything will feel comfortable if you’re tired, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep before going to the mattress store.

  • Check for discomfort: If you feel any pain or stiffness in any of your usual sleeping positions, try another mattress.

The ultimate mattress testing trick for back sleepers:

If you want to check that the mattress is the right firmness for a back sleeper, lie down and slide your hand under your lower back. The space should be a bit tight to get under. If your hand slides under really easily, then the mattress is too hard. If you can’t get your hand under there at all, then the mattress will be too soft.

What pillow is best for back sleepers?

Don’t overlook the pillows. If you just spent a fair amount on the best mattress for a back sleeper, you may be tempted to keep using your old, deflated, stained pillows - this isn’t a good idea. Just like there’s a certain mattress type for a back sleeper, there’s also a certain pillow. Back sleepers should use medium-firm pillows of medium ‘loft’ (about 10cm high) to ensure your head is in a neutral position and your spine is aligned.

Need expert advice?

bedshed assistant

If you’re keen to talk to a human in-person before you make your choice, then come and visit us in-store. Otherwise, we also have a handy mattress selector to make the process as simple as possible.

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