How to Choose a Mattress

How to Choose a Mattress for Health and Comfort

Purchasing a mattress can be a significant investment, but it is a worthwhile one so long as you choose a mattress that can improve your sleep quality.

Getting inadequate sleep is linked to everything from an increased risk of cardiovascular disease to memory and cognitive problems. That is why you should take a little time to learn about mattresses and how to choose a mattress that will give you the best sleep. 

Many experts recommend replacing your mattress around every eight years. But you may need one much sooner if you notice any issues with your sleep.

Key Point: Choosing the perfect mattress for your’s (and your partners’) body comes down to knowing a few facts about your sleeping styles and the materials that compose your new mattress. 

How to Choose a Mattress: Firmness Needs

How to Choose a Mattress for Health and Comfort

Are you someone who likes to sleep on their backs during the night?

Or are you one of the 56% of Americans who sleep on their sides? Maybe you’re neither of these two, and you prefer to sleep on your stomach or a combination of these positions throughout the night. 

No matter which sleeping position you choose, some types of mattresses and pillows will help you sleep more soundly and wake up more refreshed than others.

The primary factor that determines the most comfortable mattress for your particular sleeping position is the firmness of the mattress you choose. 

Back Sleepers

Sleeping on your back has its advantages and disadvantages.

Back sleepers tend to experience less back pain than other types of sleepers because this sleeping position maintains the alignment of your spine while decreasing pressure points on the body experienced by other sleeping styles.

Back sleepers tend to prefer a firmer-feeling mattress with minimal sink. Softer mattresses will cause the spine to come out of its neutral alignment in back sleepers, ultimately causing points of increased stress that will cause low back pain upon waking. 

For the best night’s sleep as a back sleeper, choose a firm-feeling mattress. 

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers will find a very firm mattress uncomfortable, and some will find that an incredibly soft mattress doesn’t give them the best sleep.

If you have ever slept on the floor during a sleepover and you’re a side sleeper, you know how uncomfortable this situation can feel.

One of the first things you will feel when lying on your side on the hard floor is that your body weight is being concentrated where your hips and shoulders are touching the ground.

The increased pressure without adequate give at the hips and shoulders will cause you to wake with pain and discomfort. This situation illustrates the need for side sleepers to use a medium firmness mattress.

How to Choose a Mattress for Health and Comfort

Side sleepers need cushioning and give toward the top of the mattress so that pressure is relieved from the hips and shoulders and firmness toward the middle and end depth of the mattress for spinal support.

Too soft of a mattress will cause your body to continue to sink into the mattress and cause wedging of the side of your body that is not in contact with the mattress. 

For the best night’s sleep as a side sleeper, choose a medium-firm-feeling mattress. 

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers are prone to low back pain and neck pain primarily because they are not utilizing a mattress designed for this kind of sleep.

When sleeping on your stomach, extra pressure is placed on the curve of your lower back. Firm mattresses don’t allow for the mattress to give in the regions of your chest and stomach.

When you breathe in while stomach sleeping on a firm mattress, your lower back receives more stress due to the belly expanding and contracting.

A softer mattress allows the mattress to conform to your stomach’s shape and give while breathing so that extra pressure and strain is not transferred to your back. 

For the best night’s sleep as a stomach sleeper, choose a softer-feeling mattress. 

Combination Sleepers

Combination sleepers change sleeping positions throughout the night. Those sleeping with a partner whose sleeping styles differ would also fall under this category.

Combination sleepers who primarily sleep on their side or back should choose a medium-firm mattress, sometimes called a luxury firm mattress. This feel will give the best support for the person’s spine.

If you tend to switch between side and stomach sleeping a medium-soft mattress will be your best bet for the most comfortable night’s sleep. 

Some mattresses allow you to select different firmnesses for each side of the bed. These kinds of mattresses are perfect for people that sleep with partners with significant differences in sleeping styles and softness needs in mattresses.

For example, if you sleep primarily on your back and your partner sleeps mainly on their stomach. These mattresses tend to be slightly more expensive, but are well worth the price when considering your health and how you feel in the mornings. 

For the best night’s sleep as a combination sleeper, choose a medium-firm (or luxury firm) mattress. 

Which is Better: Innerspring, Memory Foam, or Latex?

Deciding between innerspring, memory foam, or latex depends on several factors including the sleeping position you prefer, whether or not you’re a hot sleeper, and ultimately your individual preferences. 


The oldie-but-goodie innerspring mattress continues to a popular option among mattress shoppers even today and for good reasons. The coils started to be used in beds over 150 years ago; luckily, the spring technology has advanced over the years with springs that are triple tempered and resist sagging over time. 

The redeeming features of innerspring mattresses are its breathability and resilience (or bounce). Innerspring mattresses can keep sleepers from overheating, which is due to the spaces between the coils that allow air to move from one side of the mattress carrying heat that may accumulate due to a sleeping body out the other side. 

Many sleepers still enjoy that “bounce” sensation that only an innerspring mattress than deliver. Its that resiliency that pushes against the body when lying that helps keep the spine in a neutral pain-free position.

Unfortunately, this resilience is also what makes plain innerspring mattresses uncomfortable for sleepers, especially side sleepers. We mentioned previously that side sleepers have pressure points on their hips and shoulders that need cushioning. The inherent qualities of plain innerspring mattresses ‘push’ back and can magnify the effects of pressure points for side sleepers. 

Memory Foam

Not surprisingly, many mattresses are now composed entirely of memory foam. The popularity of memory foam is due to its ability to conform to your body’s curves, cradling pressure points so that you wake pain-free.

Many of us have seen advertisements of a hand pressed into and withdrawn from a memory foam mattress with the hand impression lingering in the mattress. For side sleepers and many others, this demonstration is almost too good to pass up. 

There are many different kinds of memory foams available on the market, and knowing the differences can be tricky to figure out. Some basic rules can help with this process. 

First, only purchase open-cell memory foam. Memory foam has a reputation for retaining heat throughout the night.

Open-cell memory foam differs from closed-cell in that some of the microscopic walls of the memory foam are not connected, which allows for increased airflow and heat dissipation. 

Secondly, you should always purchase gel-infused memory foam.

We are very serious about the heat retaining properties of memory foam, and so are the manufacturers, which is why one of them invented gel-infusion. The gel used in memory foam is very efficient at absorbing heat and moving it away from the body.

Gel-infusion makes a tremendous difference in how hot the sleeper feels during the night. 


Latex is a rubbery material extracted from the sap of certain species of trees.

Latex imparts mattresses with particular characteristics that are not achievable with other materials such as a combination of resiliency (bounce) and body-hugging properties. 

It makes sense that latex, a type of rubber, would have some bounce. But before you disregard this material as uncomfortable, you should know that many sleepers find the combination of bounce and body-hugging very comfortable.

This material does not have the degree of body-conforming properties that memory foam has; instead, it hugs the body. If you find memory foam too soft, but plain innerspring mattresses too hard, then you will likely find the feel of latex perfect. 

How to Choose a Mattress for Health and Comfort


You may be saying to yourself by this point, “I just want the best of an innerspring and memory foam or latex mattress.” Well, we are here to tell you that you can have it all with hybrid mattresses. 

Hybrid mattresses combine innerspring mattresses with wither memory foam or latex top layers. The combination of the two gives the sleeper a softer feel where the body meets the mattress for pressure point relief with resiliency and bounce deeper for support of the spine.

You should tailor the firmness feel of your hybrid mattress to match your sleeping style like we previously discussed. 

How to Choose a Mattress: Final Thoughts

Choosing the right mattress requires knowing your own personal preferences as well as your own sleep habits.

Knowing how you sleep, as well as what you would prefer to sleep on are vital decisions when it comes to choosing the right mattress.

While we can recommend the best the better quality, and most popularly preferred, types of mattresses, know that your needs might be different. Keep all this in mind when you decide how to choose a mattress.

Conclusion: To choose the best mattress, you need to experiment and monitor your sleep quality. It’s easy to be lured into thinking the most expensive mattress will provide the relief you need, but sometimes the opposite is true.

Avatar photo

Dr. Kasey Nichols, N.M.D.

Dr. Kasey Nichols, N.M.D. focuses on sleep disorders and drug-free pain management utilizing both conventional and alternative medicine at his private practice, Onyx Integrative Medicine and Aesthetics, located in Gilbert, AZ. He served as the Director of Medical Operation and Administration at a national substance abuse disorder corporation with 16 facilities across seven states. He graduated from Cleveland University-Kansas City with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Biology, graduating with honors, and holds a Doctorate from The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. He holds licenses in both Arizona and Kansas. Dr. Nichols has given numerous talks to professional organizations, given interviews for newspapers across the United States, and numerous television news interviews with ABC 15/CW 61 in Arizona, Channel 3 in Arizona, and others. Dr. Nichols has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, WebMD, Healthline, and many other health and lifestyle publications.