Rest and Recover with The Sleep Doctor’s 7 Best Mattresses for Athletes
Those who lead an active lifestyle work hard to get fit and strong; and yet, in order to crush your workout, you also need to get plenty of rest. That’s why choosing the best mattress for athletes is so important. Your mattress plays a major role in determining your quality of sleep, and it’s even more crucial for active individuals to sleep on a supportive mattress, so they can get the rest they need to recover.
“Recovery is “the secret weapon” of any type of athlete, whether you are a weekend warrior, semi-pro or a professional athlete. In my work with Olympians, professional sports stars and even in my own personal training (I’m a cross-fitter and runner), getting high quality sleep, in a supportive and comfortable sleep system is the “edge” we are all looking for to win,” says Dr. Breus.
But with so many bed-in-a-box mattresses on the market, it can be difficult to know which is right for you. That’s why High Performance Sleep Coach, Michael Breus, Ph.D, a board-certified sleep specialist known as The Sleep Doctor partnered with the experts at Mattress Advisor to find the best mattress for athletes, based on testing conducted in the Mattress Advisor lab in North Carolina.
Here are 7 of the best beds for athletes, plus helpful tips for how to select the right mattress for you based on your unique sleep style and preferences.
- Expert Pick: Bear Hybrid
- Best Innerspring Mattress: Saatva
- Best Mattress for Back Pain: Casper Wave Hybrid
- Best Cooling Mattress: Helix Midnight Luxe
- Best Adjustable Mattress: Saatva Solaire
- Most Responsive Mattress: Brooklyn Bedding Spartan
- Best for Back Sleepers: Purple Hybrid Premier
What to Consider When Shopping for the Best Mattress for Athletes
As you look for the right mattress to support an active lifestyle, consider some of the most critical performance factors. Finding the best mattress for athletes is one of the most important steps you can take towards optimizing your physical and mental acuity.
Firmness of the Best Mattress for Athletes
Mattress firmness is one of the most essential shopping considerations. While athletes don’t necessarily need an extra-firm mattress, they should seek something that supports a healthy, neutral spine position, and that doesn’t make them feel like they are sinking too deep into their own bed, which can cause spine misalignment.
A supportive mattress that offers enough pushback to keep the spine aligned reduces the risk of waking up with sore joints, and also helps relieve soreness by limiting the amount of pressure placed on the lower back. Medium-firm mattresses are nice picks in this regard, as they offer a good balance of support and comfort.
However, another aspect athletes need to consider when it comes to picking the right mattress firmness is their workout regimen. On days when you workout––whether that’s strength training, running, or some other sort of physical activity––you’ll want a softer surface that cushions your joints and pressure points. A softer surface allows you to sink into the mattress more for much needed pressure relief, which helps your sore muscles recover after a tough workout.
On rest days, athletes may want something firmer that provides more sturdy support. The best mattress toppers make for an easy and affordable way to switch up your mattress’s firmness; you can quickly remove or add a topper to the surface of your bed as a simple way to customize your bed’s feel.
To help relieve any joint pain, athletes should seek a mattress that evenly distributes their body weight, keeping the strain off of sensitive spots like the hips and shoulders. By sleeping on a mattress that contours along areas of tension, you can enjoy a more restorative night’s sleep without the fear of waking up with aches and pains. Look for a mattress that earns at least an 8 out of 10 in pressure relief to ensure your bed supports active recovery by properly cushioning your pressure points.
Spine alignment is essential for all sleepers, but athletes should especially ensure their mattress promotes proper spine alignment. Active individuals, and specifically those who lift weights or run, are more likely to place a greater amount of pressure on their lumbar region.
But by sleeping on a mattress that maintains a neutral spine position, you greatly reduce the amount of strain placed on your lower back and sleep in a healthy posture. This is why spine alignment in a mattress is key to reducing back pain. And if you already have a sore back from working out, sleeping on a too-soft mattress that causes you to sink into the bed can end by exacerbating your back pain.
The best mattresses for back pain typically score at least an 8.5 out of 10 in spine alignment. This means that the mattress will do a great job of keeping your spine in neutral alignment, thus limiting the amount of pressure placed on your back and helping to mitigate discomfort.
Because athletes run warm and can be considered hot sleepers, cooling is a key factor for the best mattress for athletes. Once you start working out, your core body temperature increases. For those who work out in the evening, your body may not have cooled down enough by the time you go to bed. This is because your body temperature stays elevated for about 4 hours after you’ve finished exercising. And if your body hasn’t properly cooled down by the time you go to bed, it can interfere with your sleep and keep you alert.
That’s why a cooling mattress that helps regulate temperature, like the Helix Midnight Luxe, is a phenomenal choice for athletes. Cooling mattresses use materials like coils, which don’t trap heat like memory foam does, combined with other heat-wicking materials like graphite or Celliant to keep you cool and sweat-free. Innerspring, latex, and hybrid mattresses are typically the coolest types of mattresses. Athletes should avoid memory foam beds unless the mattress contains other cooling properties that help mitigate heat.
The Best Pillows for Athletic People
There’s no point in selecting a great mattress to support an active lifestyle if you also don’t have the proper pillow. According to The Sleep Doctor, your mattress is the most important investment when it comes to your sleep, but pillow selection may be almost as critical as mattress selection when it comes to sleep quality. That’s because the right pillows will offer enhanced support for the head and neck, while also supporting healthy spinal curvature. Athletes should look for a pillow that fills the gap between their head and shoulders.
The Best Sleep Positions for Athletes
In seeking a mattress that promotes restful, restorative sleep, it’s important for athletes to have some self-awareness about their preferred sleeping position and how it can help or hurt their sleep quality.
Those who sleep on their side will want a mattress that supports healthy, neutral spinal alignment, and allows them to feel like they’re being “hugged” to sleep, but not smothered. This cradling sensation for side sleepers is especially important, because it’s what cushions their pressure points for pain relief. Pressure relief is key for athletes who sleep on their side, so they can get the pressure relief they need to wake up pain-free and ready to attack their workout.
Plus, athletes who have sore joints from working out need a mattress that provides relief and aids in recovery.
For back sleepers, it’s important to find a mattress firm enough to offer support and spine alignment, while still allowing for some cushioning and contouring. The back sleeping position is a nice choice for athletes, because you’re providing more support for your muscles and your spine. You also have less of a chance of experiencing neck pain when sleeping on your back.
Stomach sleepers will also want a mattress that offers plenty of support; typically, stomach sleepers need a mattress that falls on the firmer end of the spectrum so that their hips don’t sink into the mattress. Stomach sleeping also runs the greatest risk for spine misalignment, so if you lead an active lifestyle and sleep on your stomach, you may want to reconsider your sleep position. Sleeping on your stomach can aggravate any lingering back or neck pain.
Combination, or multi positional sleepers are those who tend to change positions during the night. For them, responsiveness is a key concern so look for a mattress that adapts and adjusts to your movements. For athletes who switch positions frequently, the more responsive a mattress is the less work you have to do when changing positions so keep this in mind if you want an easy and comfortable night’s rest. Combination sleepers should look for mattresses that score at least an 8 out of 10 in responsiveness, which ensures ease of movement and support in every position.
Types of Mattresses Athletic People Should Consider
Different types of mattresses offer their own pros and cons. Here are some of the most common types of mattresses for athletes to consider.
Memory Foam Mattresses for Athletes
A memory foam mattress offers plush contouring and is a great option for athletes in need of pressure relief who enjoy being hugged to sleep at night. Memory foam’s cushy feel makes it a great material for alleviating aching muscles, which is helpful for athletes in need of pain relief. The one thing to watch out for is that memory foam mattresses tend to retain body heat, so be wary of this if you’re a hot sleeper.
And for athletes especially, heat is an important factor. Your core body temperature increases once you start working out and can take some time to cool off even after you’ve finished your work out. Because of this, memory foam may not be the best choice for athletes, as it does sleep the warmest out of any other mattress material.
Hybrid Mattresses for Athletes
A hybrid mattress combines some of the best properties of other mattress types, ideally offering the best of all possible worlds. Hybrid mattresses offer phenomenal support for athletes and typically excel in spine alignment––a key factor athletes need for a therapeutic night’s rest. That’s thanks to the coil and foam combination typical of hybrid mattresses; the foam also provides pressure relief, which is helpful for athletes looking to cushion sore joints.
Innerspring Mattresses for Athletes
A mattress made with an innerspring coil system offers ample support and enough pushback to keep your spine aligned. Innerspring mattresses also offer the “bouncy” feel that many sleepers love, and provide considerable ease of movement through their springy support system. That’s why innerspring beds are good choices for athletes in need of reinforced support; the spine alignment promoted by innerspring mattresses helps maintain a healthy posture and reduces back pain.
Latex Mattresses for Athletes
Latex is one of the best options for those who want something organic or all-natural. Additionally, latex mattresses are naturally pressure-relieving and responsive, which helps athletes relieve sore joints and adapt quickly to their movements.
How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance
Why is sleep so important for individuals who lead an active lifestyle? For starters, because it helps minimize injury and aids in muscle recovery. Plus, it promotes greater mental clarity during the toughest moments of a work out. There are several ways in which a good night’s rest can be impactful for prowess on the field or in the gym. Consider:
- Sleep begets energy. Sleep can improve glycogen use (basically, the body’s fuel source), produce greater levels of testosterone, and lead to overall improvements in energy level.
- Sleep improves reaction time. Studies confirm that sleep helps athletes respond more nimbly and more effectively at key moments.
- Sleep assists visual tracking. Getting a good night’s sleep may actually enhance basic hand-eye coordination, ensuring athletes catch passes or connect bat to ball.
- Sleep enhances recovery. A good night’s rest can also help the body recover more quickly and more fully, both physically and mentally. As The Sleep Doctor mentions in his blog on 10 Things Your Personal Trainer Doesn’t Know About Sleep, sleep has a direct connection to physical activity, and it’s during sleep that your muscles and joints are finally able to fully repair themselves.
What does The Sleep Doctor think?
“I believe that sleep is a performance activity, just like being a runner. If you have the right shoes, the right gear, and the right tunes, you perform better. When you are thoughtful about your mattress, pillow, sheets etc., you will sleep better because you have the right equipment for sleep,” says Dr. Breus.
All of this points to the importance of finding a mattress that promotes healthy sleep; in particular, one that’s designed to optimize athletic performance. The Sleep Doctor and Mattress Advisor team has assessed some of the top options on the market today. These mattresses are well-suited for athletes at any level, from highly paid pros to casual joggers.
Our Top Picks for the Best Mattress for Athletes
1. Expert Pick: Bear Hybrid
The Bear Hybrid mattress is a fixture of these lists, and not without reason: when it comes to mattresses that have been scientifically designed to accommodate the particular needs of athletes, there’s really no better product on the market today. What exactly sets the Bear mattress apart? Start with the fact that it’s made with Celliant, a special fiber that’s actually approved by the FDA as a medical device. Celliant harnesses the natural energy of the body and channels it as infrared energy to support muscle recovery, to regulate body heat, and to ensure a good night’s sleep, according to the data on the website.
The Bear’s combination of foam and coils also offers the perfect balance of comfort and support, and scores a near-perfect score (a 9.5/10!) in our spine alignment testing. This ensures athletes can get the support they need for a healthy back, and also helps mitigate any back pain caused by strenuous exercise. Between the Celliant top layer that regulates temperature and the coil system, the Bear Hybrid will also help you sleep cool, and even made The Sleep Doctor’s list of the best cooling mattresses.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
- Firmness: Medium-firm
- Warranty: 20-year
2. Best Innerspring Mattress: Saatva Classic
The Saatva mattress is made with high-quality components that ensure a deep sleep for athletes. Cushy foam layers combined with a robust steel coil system allow for even weight distribution and durable support. In fact, Saatva’s impressive coil system is the reason why The Sleep Doctor named it one of the best innerspring mattresses; encased in foam and designed for maximum strength, this dual pocket coil system prevents sagging and pushes back against your movements for near-perfect spine alignment. Earning a 9.5/10 in spine alignment, the Saatva assists athletes with recovery by limiting the amount of pressure placed on the lower back and promoting a neutral posture.
Athletes will also get their pick of different firmness levels; you can choose between plush, luxury firm, and firm. The plush and luxury firm options would work well for side sleepers, while back and stomach sleepers could opt for either the luxury firm or firm settings. Also note that the durable construction of the Saatva means it should hold up well for a good many years: it earned a 10 out of 10 in durability!. Free white-glove delivery and setup are sweet bonuses for this truly outstanding bed.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
- Firmness: Choose between Plush, Luxury firm, and Firm
- Warranty: 15-year
3. Best Mattress for Back Pain: Casper Wave Hybrid
The wear and tear of athletic competition can take a toll on the body, leading to stiffness, soreness, and lower back pain. For those who need some pain relief and recovery, the Casper Wave Hybrid is an excellent pick––it was even awarded the ‘best for back pain’ title in The Sleep Doctor’s top picks for firm mattresses..
Earning an endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association, the Casper Wave Hybrid’s four dense memory and latex foam layers work in tandem with a base of pocket coils to provide phenomenal spine alignment and pressure relief. With a 9/10 spine alignment score and a 8.5/10 pressure relief score, the Casper Wave Hybrid evenly distributes body weight and keeps the burden off joints and the spine. This is great for athletes in need of support and pain relief, as this mattress will contour along sore spots, relieving tension, while still supporting the back.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
- Firmness: Medium-firm
- Warranty: 10-year
4. Best Cooling Mattress: Helix Midnight Luxe
On the field, athletes tend to work up a sweat. The last thing they want is to sweat through the night, plus sleeping in a cooler environment can promote deeper sleep which active individuals desperately need. Some mattresses do a better job than others of mitigating body heat, and the Helix Midnight Luxe tops the list with a feature in The Sleep Doctor’s top choices for the best cooling mattresses.
This hybrid mattress is made with a cool-to-the-touch cover paired with innerspring coils, which helped it earn an impressive 9.5/10 in cooling. And, the stalwart foam and coil construction also provides athletes with excellent pressure relief, spine alignment, and responsiveness, earning a 8.5/10, 9/10, and 8.75/10, respectively. This ensures athletes get the support and pain relief they need for a rejuvenating night’s rest, so they can wake up fully rested and restored. Still, the name of the game is cooling, and the Helix more than delivers.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5
- Firmness: Medium-firm
- Warranty: 15-year
5. Best Adjustable Mattress: Saatva Solaire
For athletes who are on the fence about their preferred firmness level, the Saatva Solaire adjustable air bed may be a good mattress to consider. That’s because it comes with 50 custom firmness levels to choose from. With the flick of a remote, you can make your mattress firmer or softer––and because this is an adjustable mattress, you can also elevate your head and feet as needed. Once you adjust the mattress’s firmness and elevation settings to your liking, you’ll be able to enjoy the cushy layers of memory foam and natural Talalay latex that rest atop a sturdy base––hello support! The base uses a multi-directional box baffle design to provide support no matter the firmness level.
Active individuals will appreciate the Saatva Solaire’s excellent pressure relief and responsiveness scores, 8/10 and 8/10, respectively. This ensures athletes get the cushioning they need to relieve joint pain, so they can recover as needed after a long day at the gym. And for athletes who are combination sleepers, the Saatva Solaire makes it effortless to switch positions.
- Mattress Type: Adjustable Airbed
- Customer Rating: 4.9 out of 5
- Firmness: 50 Custom Firmness Levels
- Warranty: 25-year
6. Most Responsive Mattress: Brooklyn Bedding Spartan
For athletes who are combination sleepers, or just enjoy a springy feel to their bed, the Brooklyn Bedding Spartan is a prime contender. Available in multiple firmness settings, the Spartan is made with dense foam and pocket coils that respond to your movements with ease, backed by a 9/10 responsive score. This high responsiveness makes it easier to move on the surface of the mattress, so if you’re wiped out from your gym sesh––you won’t have to do much work to get comfy on the Spartan. And the variety in firmness gives you some options: the soft and medium models work nicely for side sleepers looking to alleviate joint pain, while the medium and firm options offer the kind of sturdy support back and stomach sleepers need.
Plus, for athletes in need of back pain relief, the Spartan scored a 9.5/10 in spine alignment, which helps keep pressure off your lower back and ensures a neutral spine posture.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 5 out of 5
- Firmness: Choose between Soft, Medium, and Firm
- Warranty: 10-year
7. Best for Back Sleepers: Purple Hybrid Premier
Finally, for athletes who are back sleepers, consider the Purple Hybrid Premier. Not only does this mattress offer ample cushioning, as it has a soft top layer that contours along pressure points, but the coils ensure that the mattress offers a truly supportive sleep surface. Ideally suited for back sleepers, the Purple Hybrid Premier boasts high marks in the factor that matters the most to back sleepers––spine alignment.
With a 9.5/10 spine alignment score, the Purple Hybrid Premier’s unique polymer layer flexes under your joints and the pocket coils bounce back against your movements promoting a neutral spine position. This is also an attractive feature for athletes who sleep on their backs, as your lumbar region may be under more stress if you’re active more so than the average back sleeper. Plus, excellent edge support (it earned an 8.5/10!) attest to a mattress that keeps you in the middle of the mattress so you can soak up all of that support. Solid edge support is also a good sign of a sturdy bed that resists sagging.
- Mattress Type: Hybrid
- Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5
- Firmness: Medium-soft
- Warranty: 10-year
Final Thoughts on How to Choose the Right Mattress for You
As you consider the type of mattress that’s best suited for your body type and athletic needs, there are obviously a lot of good options. Consider any of these top-rated recommendations to ensure you get the restful sleep you need before your next game day.
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