What is the Right Mattress for Athletes?
Athletes work hard to train and prepare so that they can constantly be improving and performing at their best. Often overlooked, though, is the role that sleep plays in maximizing athletic pursuits. Rest and recovery are necessary for both the body and mind, and having the right mattress can be essential so that athletes can get the sleep that they need.
Of course, having a great mattress and getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone, not just athletes. Most of the principles that guide the search for the best mattress for athletes are the same that guide almost anyone looking for a new mattress. Support and comfort are critical to facilitating uninterrupted sleep that doesn’t lead to any aches and pains.
In this guide, we’ll cover what athletes need to know when looking for a new mattress. We’ll discuss the importance of sleep for performance and the factors to consider when mattress shopping. Keep reading to find this information, or click here to read in detail about our top 5 best mattresses for athletes.
Best Mattresses for Athletes
|BRAND||MODEL||TYPE OF MATTRESS||FIRMNESS/FEEL||PRICE|
|Bear Mattress||Foam||Medium-Firm||$850 (Queen)|
|Luxi 3-in-1 Adjustable||Foam||Adjustable Firmness||$1,299 (Queen)|
|Layla||Foam||Adjustable Firmness||$899 (Queen)|
|Alexander Signature Hybrid||Hybrid||Medium or Luxury Firm||$1,199 (Queen)|
|Aurora||Hybrid||Soft, Medium, Firm||$1,699 (Queen)|
Importance of Sleep for Athletes
A host of research studies have found direct links between sleep and athletic performance, and professional sports teams have increasingly focused on sleep — in addition to practice and conditioning — as an essential element of the preparation of their players. Sleep is vital for athletes for several reasons:
- Physical recovery: sleeping well is important for your body’s physical well-being. During different cycles of sleep, your cardiovascular system, including your heart, can rest. While you sleep, your body also releases hormones that are important for muscle recovery and building muscle mass. Sleep helps empower the immune system to generate the cells that it needs to continue fighting infections and keep you healthy. For athletes at any level, all of these processes are essential. A handful of different research studies — including this study in basketball players and this study in football players — found that better sleep equated to better athletic performance.
- Mental sharpness and focus: if you’ve ever tried to focus on a difficult mental task while sleep deprived, you know that it can be taxing or downright impossible. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, sleep is critical for a range of brain functions. While there is a great deal that researchers still don’t understand about sleep, they do know that it’s necessary for brain cells to be able to more effectively communicate, which is important for memory and concentration. Many sports require a combination of physical and mental focus, and getting enough sleep is critical for both of these.
- Overall health: the more research that is done on sleep, the more it becomes clear that sleep is vital to our overall health. Getting plenty of sleep encourages healthy metabolism and weight, promotes mental health, improves mood, and positively affects virtually every part of the body. Remember that the body is a system, and an integral way that this complex and intricate system recovers and regains strength is through the biological process of sleep.
Sleep Tips for Athletes
Having a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow can help athletes get a night of quality sleep. Some other tips that can assist athletes in improving their sleep include:
- Develop healthy routines: consistent routines are already known as a normal part of athletic training, but they are also a big component of good sleep hygiene. Most experts recommend trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Bedtime routines can also involve stretching, meditation, or other relaxation methods to help get you ready for bed. If you take naps during the day, try to take those at the same time as well (and ideally not too soon before bedtime).
- Optimize your sleep environment: your mattress and pillow are two obvious elements of creating a welcoming sleep environment, but there are many other steps you can take to make your bedroom as pro-sleep as possible. Make sure that all of your other bedding, including sheets and blankets, are comfortable and don’t cause you to overheat. Try to keep screen time — including on TVs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones — to a minimum in the bedroom as the light from these devices can stimulate the brain in ways that disrupts sleep. If there is too much light in your bedroom, consider new curtains or an eye mask. And if there is too much noise, consider a white noise machine or earplugs. In short, try to eliminate anything that might disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: both of these substances can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. The stimulant properties of caffeine, especially late in the day, can make it harder to get to sleep. Alcohol also can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and more importantly, the quality of the sleep that you get. If you decide to drink, try to do so in moderation and with as much time before bed as possible.
How Much Sleep Do Athletes Need?
It can be hard to say exactly how many hours of sleep a person needs per night. In part, this can vary based on the person. In addition, not all hours of sleep are created equal since uninterrupted sleep is generally more valuable from a health perspective.
That said, the general recommendations for sleep include that adults get 7-8 hours per night. For teenagers, that recommendation is 9-10 hours. Athletes often benefit from leaning toward the top end of those ranges or even sleeping an hour or so more than that. For example, adult athletes may benefit from 8-10 hours of sleep and teenage athletes from 10-11.
What Athletes Need in a Mattress
We know that sleep is important for athletes and that having a good mattress plays a big part in getting a restful night’s sleep. When looking for a quality mattress, these are some of the key considerations that athletes should have in mind.
Support is a way of describing how well a mattress promotes proper spinal alignment. Different parts of the body need different amounts of cushioning, and the most supportive mattresses will make sure that the appropriate amount of cushion is given so as to prevent any misalignment of the body that could cause aches and pains. This is especially important for athletes who generally put more strain on the body and can’t risk aggravating any injuries while sleeping.
One of the main ways that a mattress provides support is by being responsive to the body. This means that the design of the mattress is such that it accommodates the body proportionally to where the most pressure is applied. Some materials are naturally extremely responsive. For example, memory foam contours closely to the body and can relieve pressure points, though some people find that they sink too deeply into memory foam. Materials such as latex can also be very responsive even without the same degree of contouring as memory foam. Innerspring mattresses are usually not as responsive, but this can depend on their design. Hybrids, which involve innerspring coils in the base layerand other materials in the comfort layer, can often provide a balanced middle ground using these different materials.
It is easy to confuse comfort and support, but when looking for a mattress, you want to remember that they are actually distinct. While support relates to alignment of the body, comfort relates to how the mattress feels. This is inherently subjective as what feels comfortable to one person can be dramatically different for someone else.
Having a comfortable mattress is important for athletes because it is a core part of creating a welcoming sleep environment. A mattress that meets your firmness preference is going to be inviting and will help you fall asleep and get back to sleep quickly if you happen to wake up in the night. For athletes who push their body during the day, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of a truly comfortable bed to retire to at night.
Firmness is central to comfort, and it is usually described on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being extremely firm. Most sleepers do best with a mattress that is medium-firm, falling between a 5-7 on that scale, but some people prefer a mattress that is quite a bit more firm or plush.
Having a mattress that can stand the test of time and not break down with regular use is important for anyone but also has particular importance for athletes. First and foremost, a durable mattress helps make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. Since a mattress can be a major investment, getting as much use out of it as possible is a meaningful consideration. Second, when a mattress starts to wear out, one of the first things to go is its level of support. A worn-out mattress is more likely to sag or sink, which can create major issues when it comes to maintaining spinal alignment.
The biggest factors affecting durability are the quality of the materials used in the mattress and the attention to detail in the design and manufacturing of the mattress. This focus on quality should be present throughout the mattress since one weak layer can downgrade the performance of the mattress as a whole. With quality choice of materials, most mattress types can last 8-10 years or more.
Some mattress materials have a tendency to retain heat, and this can cause disruptions to sleep from overheating in the night. A term that is commonly used for this is “sleeping hot.” For athletes who place a priority on uninterrupted sleep, sleeping hot can be a serious problem.
The mattress material that has the greatest tendency to sleep hot is memory foam. This happens because of the way that the foam contours to the body, which can limit cooling airflow around the body. In recent years, though, many mattress makers have worked to redesign their memory foam mattresses to reduce heat retention without sacrificing responsiveness.
Keep in mind, too, that many other factors influence how hot your bed will be. The ambient temperature of your bedroom, your sheets and blankets, and even the clothes you wear to bed can all affect your nighttime temperature. Work to find a comfortable balance of all of these to incorporate into your sleeping routine.
If you’ve ever shared a mattress with someone who moves a lot in their sleep, you are probably familiar with “motion transfer.” Motion transfer is when movement on one part of a bed is felt on another part of it. On many traditional innerspring mattresses, motion transfer was a major issue, and one person tossing and turning could mean a restless night’s sleep for both people.
A mattress that has good motion isolation properties helps to protect against sleep disruptions caused by a partner moving on the mattress. Typically, the more responsive a mattress is, the better it is in terms of motion isolation since the mattress only compresses or moves in the place where pressure is directly applied. Memory foam usually has excellent motion isolation, but other mattress types, including latex and hybrids, also often provide sufficient motion isolation for most people.
We know that, as an athlete, you want to be spending more time training and conditioning and less time on the internet shopping for a mattress. To save you time, we’ve reviewed dozens and dozens of mattresses and narrowed down to the these top 5 best mattresses for athletes.
The Bear mattress is an all-foam option that includes 3.5” of foam in its comfort layer and features Celliant technology in the cover, which studies indicate can help with circulation and muscle recovery.
Why?: The Celliant material works to convert heat from the body into infrared energy, and there are indications that this can help rejuvenate the body overnight, which is obviously of great value to athletes. The top 1” layer of high-density memory foam can provide the kind of responsive sleeping surface that helps maintain proper alignment.
Why Not?: This mattress is only available in a medium-firm option, which makes it a poor fit for people who prefer something more plush or more firm. In addition, the memory foam layer is only 1”, which may make it slightly less supportive for people who are heavier (over 230 pounds).
The Bottom Line: Considering that it has an innovative technology in the cover, a highly-responsive comfort layer, and a very reasonable price tag, the Bear mattress is clearly a top choice for athletes.
This mattress offering has a unique foam design for its comfort layer and features high-density foams throughout. Customers have the ability to unzip the cover to change the layering of these foams and the feel of the mattress.
Why?: The Luxi mattress has several features that appeal to athletes. Its adjustability means that you can make modifications over time to determine the exact feel that works best for you. The foams are high-quality and high-density, promoting support and durability. And Luxi offers a 1000 night sleep trial, so it really is a no-risk option if it turns out that it isn’t the best mattress for you.
Why Not?: The Luxi mattress has been on the market for less than 5 years, which means that we have no data about how well this product will hold up over the long-term. This shorter track record in general makes it more difficult to know if these innovative foam designs will achieve all of their intended goals.
The Bottom Line: Despite having a relatively short history on the market, the extended sleep trial and quality of the foams used in this mattress make it a safe bet for athletes who want a responsive and adjustable sleeping surface.
The defining feature of the Layla mattress is that it is reversible, which means that you can flip it over to switch from a medium (5) to firm (7-8) firmness.
Why?: Both the top and bottom of this mattress use copper-infused memory foam, which may help to prevent the foam from retaining too much heat. In addition, the ability to flip the mattress to obtain a different comfort feel gives extra options to help ensure that you find a welcoming sleeping surface.
Why Not?: The foams used in the Layla mattress are of a slightly lower density than we would prefer to see in the comfort layers of a mattress, which may reduce the long-term durability, though the mattress does come with a lifetime warranty.
The Bottom Line: While sleepers over 230 pounds or people who place the utmost priority on durability might have concerns about the Layla mattress, its overall design and the flexibility it provides make it a solid choice for most athletes.
This hybrid mattress has a support core with innerspring coils with transition foam and comfort foam above. This gives a unique blend of support and bounce along with a thick quilted cover that provides an extra feeling of comfort.
Why?: The hybrid design captures many of the benefits of different mattress materials. The innerspring coils offer a core level of bounce and a hedge against sinking too deeply into the mattress while the copper-infused memory foam offers responsiveness and contouring. This mattress is also available in two firmness options (Medium or Luxury Firm).
Why Not?: Some customers may find that the quilted cover of this mattress is too plush, giving even the firmer model a feel that is too soft. The quilted cover may also lead to heat retention issues for some customers.
The Bottom Line: Nest Bedding has a strong reputation, and this hybrid provides many of the comforts of memory foam along with the bounce and resilience of an innerspring mattress. This combination can be a great fit for athletes.
Brooklyn Bedding has a long track record in the mattress industry, and this is their hybrid model that features innerspring coils with several layers of latex-like foam that serve as its comfort layer.
Why?: This mattress has numerous design elements that can contribute to a supportive and restful night’s sleep. The comfort layers include memory foam as well as two latex-like foams that provide more resilience and bounce and help to protect against sinking too deeply into the mattress. All of this is layered above innerspring coils that offer a base layer of resilient support. Customers can choose between three firmness options.
Why Not?: Though Brooklyn Bedding has a great reputation from customers, this particular mattress is their newest offering. In addition, the company does not disclose extensive specifications for its foams.
The Bottom Line: For athletes who want a responsive foam comfort layer that maintains a high level of support, the Brooklyn Bedding Aurora is a worthy choice in any of its firmness levels.