If you sleep on your back, consider yourself unique! According to The Better Sleep Council, fewer than 15% of sleepers sleep on their back. Everybody else mostly sleeps on their side, with a few sleeping on their stomach.
Are You a Soldier or a Starfish?
Identify Your Back Sleeping Position
|Soldier/Savasana Position||Starfish Position|
8% of sleepers sleep on their back with their arms extended down by their sides
5% of sleepers sleep on their back with the arms up beside their head
Source: The Better Sleep Council
Pros and Cons of Sleeping on your Back
First, the cons: Back sleepers are much more prone to snoring and sleep apnea. More snoring can lead to less restful, lower-quality sleep, as one study found.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million adults snore on a regular basis, and 12 million of those have obstructive sleep apnea.
When air can’t move into the lungs during sleep, both snoring and sleep apnea can occur. These conditions are more prevalent in back sleepers because the throat muscles are less open than when you’re lying on your side, as the American Sleep Association explains. Thanks to gravity, the base of your tongue collapses into your throat when you sleep on your back, causing the throat muscles to be less open or to close intermittently. In fact, this is why so many doctors encourage back sleepers to try sleeping on their side in order to reduce snoring, as the New York Times reports.
However, sleeping on your back is not all bad! Here are a few of the benefits:
- Back sleepers leave their face open to the ceiling, so they get fewer face wrinkles from their pillows than side and stomach sleepers, according to one CBS report.
- Back sleepers don’t have to worry about alignment the way side sleepers do, either, as their head, neck, and spine rest more naturally in alignment when on the back than when on the side.
- Plus, the National Sleep Foundation notes that sleeping on your back can prevent acid reflux. Since your esophagus is elevated above your stomach, it’s more difficult for food to bubble up from your digestive tract.
Now that you know the good and the bad of sleeping on your back, read on to find a mattress that helps accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. Our guide will help you answer questions like:
- What mattress is most supportive for back sleepers?
- How can I get adequate pressure relief for my back?
- Which mattress type will provide the best hug when I’m asleep?
What Is the Best Mattress for Back Sleepers?
Back sleepers need a mattress that will fully support the natural curve of their spine while sleeping. The ideal mattress for a back sleeper will allow you to sink into the mattress enough (but not too much) so that you’re not lying fully above it, which causes ache and strain for your spine.
A supportive mattress will keep your spine level while you’re sleeping. After support, look at the contour ability of the mattress – this will indicate how well the mattress will mold to your body. Ideally, the mattress should hug and contour to your body to support all of you equally. The third thing back sleepers should consider is firmness.
Ideal Firmness for Back Sleepers
Medium firm mattresses, right in the middle of the firmness scale, are best for back sleepers. Choose a slightly softer mattress if you weigh less than 130 pounds, and one that is slightly firmer if you weigh more than 130 pounds.
What Are the Best Mattress Types for Back Sleepers?
Remember, the key is to keep your spine in alignment and comfortably supported. Let’s review the common mattress types so you can choose the best one for you.
As you can see from the chart below, the best mattresses for back sleepers are memory foam and latex mattresses. They provide superior contour ability, although a memory foam topper can be added to an innerspring bed to achieve a similar effect for a lower cost.
Beds primarily lose their supportive function through sagging, so it’s important that back sleepers choose a mattress with longevity. This puts latex and memory foam mattresses ahead of hybrid mattress, although they all share comparable contour ability.
|Mattress Type||Innerspring or Coil||Memory Foam||Hybrid||Latex||Airbeds|
|Description||What springs to mind when people envision a mattress. Uses coils for support with foam and fabric on top for comfort.||Designed specifically to contour to your body shape. The support core is polyurethane foam and the top layer is visco-elastic foam.||A combination of innerspring mattress with a layer of memory foam, gel foam, or latex.||Constructed entirely of all-natural latex or a combination of natural with synthetic latex.||Main support is provided by air, vs. springs or foam, with a foam comfort layer. The bed is inflated using an electric air pump.|
|Durability||3 years||7 years||4 years||8 years||1 year|
|Additional Considerations||Widely available and provide better edge support than all foam bed, but poor motion transfer and prone to collect dust||Superior motion isolation, but harder to move, can trap heat, initial offgassing odor, and inferior edge support||Provide support without fully enveloping the body, great edge support, and superior temperature regulation||Can be fully organic, but harder to move, limited availability in stores, trap heat, initial offgassing odor||Tend to lose air during the night, typically only support up to 300 lbs|
|Back Sleeper Grade||C||A||B||A||F|
What Else Should a Back Sleeper Consider?
Besides the mattress itself, what else might a back sleeper like yourself need to know?
To maintain proper spine alignment, back sleepers should look for pillows on the firmer side with divots for the head and neck.
“You want a pillow that’s a little firmer so the head’s not going back too far. It’s got to contour a little bit better and take on the shape underneath your neck.” – Rocco Monto, MD
Many back sleepers choose memory foam pillows to provide the needed height and support. If you go this route, look for one that’s perforated or has cooling gel; otherwise, the enveloping nature of the pillow can uncomfortably heat your head while sleeping.
If you snore or have sleep apnea, look for a wedge pillow with a little more height to help keep your airways open.
Mattress cost can vary widely by type of mattress, quality, and where you purchase it from. As you saw in the chart above, the best mattresses for back sleepers (memory foam and latex) tend to be on the higher side, but you can find more affordable options from online mattress dealers. Review our Buyer’s Guide for more information on mattress types and costs.
The Return Policy
Most brick-and-mortar mattress retailers will give you at least 30 days to return your mattress for a refund or exchange. Online retailers, such as Casper, Helix, and Leesa, provide 100-night trials and free returns.
Try to give yourself the fullest extent of the trial period before giving up on your new mattress. It will take about 30 days for your mattress to fully “break in” and adjust to the firmness, support, and comfort level you can expect for the long-term.
Additional Resources for Back Sleepers
For more information on issues unique to back sleepers, check out the resources below.
Online resources for back sleepers:
- Consumer Reports reviews their best mattress picks for back sleepers.
- WebMD provides tips for reducing back pain while sleeping.
- The National Sleep Foundation explains causes of and suggested solutions for snoring.
- The American Sleep Association provides an in-depth overview of obstructive sleep apnea.
- The Mattress Subreddit connects consumers to discuss everything related to the mattress industry.
- Health.com rates the best pillows for back sleepers.
Additional resources from BestMattressReviews.com:
- How to Buy a Mattress Online provides detailed information to guide you through what’s different about purchasing a mattress online.