If you sleep on your back, you represent fewer than 15% of sleepers. According to The Better Sleep Council, about 8% of all sleepers sleep on their back in the savasana position and 5% of sleepers sleep on their back in the starfish position. Which type are you?
Savasana and soldier-style back sleepers sleep on their back with their arms down by their side. Starfish-style back sleepers sleep on their back with their arms bent at the elbows and their hands at head-level.
What You Need to Know About Sleeping on Your Back
What are the pros and cons to sleeping your back? Let’s get the bad news out of the way.
Sleeping on your back contributes to snoring, sleep apnea, and all-around lower quality and less-restful sleep (thanks to the aforementioned snoring and sleep apnea).
How does sleeping on your back cause snoring, you might ask? When you sleep, your muscles relax, including the tissues around your throat. This narrows (in the case of snoring) or momentarily blocks (in the case of sleep apnea) your airway. Because of the associated risk with sleep apnea, doctors encourage back sleepers to try sleeping on their side instead.
There are other contributing factors to sleep apnea, as the US National Library of Medicine explains. Men are more at risk than women, and your risk increases as you age. Sleep apnea is commonly associated with high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. Consult a doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Now, on to the good news: there are benefits uniquely enjoyed by back sleepers. For one, back sleepers don’t have to invest in special pillows like stomach and side sleepers do, because lying on your back naturally keeps your spine aligned. Plus, studies have found that back sleepers aren’t prone to developing facial wrinkles from their pillows the way side sleepers are. Finally, sleeping on your back helps prevent acid reflux, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
What Is the Best Mattress for Back Sleepers?
The best mattress for back sleepers is one that supports the natural alignment of your spine while you sleep.
The ideal mattress will keep your spine straight rather than allowing it to sink too far down into the mattress or leaving you stuck with a gap between parts of your spine and the mattress. Either extreme causes backache and strain, so it’s important to find a mattress that offers the right combination of firmness, support, and contour for you as a back sleeper.
Ideal Mattress Firmness for Back Sleepers
Back sleepers of average weight (between 130-230 pounds) should look for a medium firm mattress. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most firm, this would equate to a 5-6. Heavier sleepers should choose a slightly firmer mattress, and lighter sleepers should choose a slightly softer mattress.
Which Types of Mattresses are Best for Back Sleepers?
The best mattresses for back sleepers are memory foam and latex mattresses. Both are designed to slowly conform to the shape of your body, providing support for the back and pressure point relief for the joints. The result is a mattress that supports the natural curvature of your spine.
Plus, both of these mattresses are known for having long lifespans. Why does this matter for back sleepers? The shorter the lifespan, the sooner the mattress begins to sag. A sagging mattress quickly becomes an unsupportive mattress, which is bad news for back sleepers who need spinal support.
Learn more about each of these mattress types, and others, to help you decide on the best mattress for your personal sleep style.
Tuck Mattress Guide for Back Sleepers
|Mattress Type||Memory Foam||Latex||Hybrid||Innerspring/Coil||Airbeds|
|Lifespan||7 years||8 years||4 years||3 years||8 years|
|Back Sleeper Grade||A||A||B||C||F|
Innerspring mattresses use coils for support with foam and fabric on top for comfort. Because they’re prone to sagging after a few years and don’t contour to the body, they’re not a good choice for back sleepers. However, back sleepers can improve the contour ability by purchasing a memory foam topper.
- Price*: Starting at $150 for a queen size, average about $1,100
- Lifespan: 3 years
- Pros: Widely available, provide better edge support than all foam beds
- Cons: Poor motion transfer, prone to collect dust, tend to sag, don’t contour to the body
Memory foam mattresses are notable for their ability to contour to your body shape. The support core is made of polyurethane foam and the comfort layers are visco-elastic foam. Thanks to their dense support core, superior contour ability, and longevity, memory foam mattresses are a great choice for back sleepers.
- Price: Starting at $150 for a queen size, average about $800
- Lifespan: 7 years
- Pros: Superior motion isolation and support, long lifespan, excellent contour ability, more affordable
- Cons: Harder to move, can trap heat, initial offgassing odor from foam, inferior edge support
Hybrid mattresses combine an innerspring coil support core with comfort layers of memory foam, polyfoam, natural fibers, or latex. While they don’t last as long or contour to the body as well as memory foam mattresses, hybrid mattresses can be a good alternative for back sleepers who sleep hot. These mattresses will stay cool throughout the night, unlike memory foam and latex mattresses which tend to trap heat.
- Price: Starting at $400 for a queen, average about $1,100
- Lifespan: 4 years
- Pros: Provide solid support without fully enveloping the body, great edge support, superior temperature regulation
- Cons: Heavier and harder to move, shorter lifespan, more expensive
Latex mattresses are constructed entirely of all-natural latex or a combination of natural with synthetic latex (known as latex hybrid mattresses). Latex mattresses are extremely dense and durable, making them a long-time supportive choice for back sleepers. They’re especially popular among eco-minded consumers since all-natural latex beds can be fully organic.
However, they are more expensive than memory foam mattresses and have a springier feel.
- Price: Starting at $750 for a queen, average about $2,300
- Lifespan: 8 years
- Pros: Can be fully organic, good contour ability, extremely durable
- Cons: Harder to move, limited availability in stores, trap heat, initial offgassing odor from latex, expensive
Airbeds use an electric air pump to inflate the support core of the bed and typically include a foam comfort layer on top. Because the main support is provided by air, rather than springs or foam, they tend to sag during the night and don’t conform to the body. As a result, they don’t provide the reliable support back sleepers require.
- Price: Starting at $1,000 for a queen, average about $2,300
- Lifespan: 8 years (but often need to replace a part of the bed within that timeframe)
- Pros: Extended durability as long as individual parts are replaced
- Cons: Tend to lose air during the night, typically only support up to 300 lbs, poor contour ability, expensive
*Prices as of 2017. Sourced from over 200 mattress retailers by Tuck research team.ADDLINKHERE-
Buying a Mattress
The price of a mattress can vary widely based on several factors: the type of mattress, retailer, brand, quality, and any customizations you may request.
Of the two mattress types recommended for back sleepers, memory foam mattresses are typically less expensive than latex mattresses and could be the better option for price-sensitive consumers.
If you want a great deal on a mattress, consider buying one online:
Many consumers get scared off by the fact that they can’t “try before they buy” a mattress online. However, online retailers more than make up for this with extremely generous trial periods of 100 days or more. And the return process truly is easy "
Regardless of the mattress you buy, pay attention to the warranty and spend a few minutes reading the fine print. Opt for a mattress that offers a trial period of at least 30 days, as that’s normally how long it takes for a mattress to truly break in. At that point you’ll be best equipped to decide whether your new mattress is a perfect fit, or if it may be time for a return.
Additional Resources for Back Sleepers