Our Back Pain Mattress Testing Methodology
I tested all of the mattresses in this guide. I put the beds through several objective tests and slept on them for at least 14 nights. Unless otherwise noted, I tried each models queen size.
I mostly sleep on my side, with some stomach and back time. I am 6 feet tall, 205 pounds, and sleep hot. Plus, I have chronic lower back pain.
When shopping for a mattress for back pain, the most important factors to consider are comfort, motion isolation, and the home trial policy. To get additional information on what to look for in a mattress, I spoke with two experts: Tamara Huff, MD, a Georgia-based, board-certified orthopedic surgeon and health disparities advocate, and Amit Jain, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chief of minimally invasive spinal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Test results for the main attributes we tested:
Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:
Comfort: Based on my years of experience testing dozens of mattresses, I subjectively assess how supportive the bed feels, how hot it sleeps, the firmness, and how my back feels in the morning.
Heat dissipation: I rely on objective laser thermometer measurements. I take readings before lying down, immediately after spending at least an hour on the bed, and two minutes after getting up.
Best Latex Hybrid Mattress: Nolah Natural 11
Nolah Natural 11
- Firmness: 5 to 6 out of 10
- Best for shoppers with non-latex allergies
- Available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and California king
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Those with allergies
- Hypoallergenic materials can help you get a good nights sleep without worrying about allergy or asthma flare-ups
- Tri-Zone® coil support offers back and pressure point relief
- Talalay latex offers one of the coolest sleeping experiences
The Nolah Natural 11 is a great hybrid mattress for sleepers of any position, as long as youre under 230 pounds. It provides excellent back support and comfort, and by opting for latex over memory foam, this mattress does not trap heat.
The hypoallergenic materials used in the mattresss construction will also appeal to anyone with allergies or a sensitive nose. Its slightly more responsive than most memory foam hybrid mattresses and has a good but not perfect motion transfer response, which means you may wake your partner when getting up.
Buying A Mattress From A Store
In a store you can see and feel the bed for yourself. Depending on what kind of store you go to, you might also be able to compare different brands under one roof. There will also usually be a sales assistant who you can ask questions right on the spot.
On the other hand, these pros can also be seen as cons. Trying a bed for a few minutes in a public place with your shoes on doesnt really give you a sense of how that bed will feel in your room, night after night and year after year.
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Consult Your Health Provider
Along the same lines as we have discussed above, if you have suffered from physical pain, such as your neck and/or back, you must consult your health provider or physiotherapist so that they can recommend what is best for you. Bear in mind that doctors are no experts when it comes to mattresses, however, they may be able to give their opinion based on what is best for you, considering your medical history.
What Sleeping Position Is Best For Upper Back Pain
Sleeping on your stomach is particularly strenuous for your upper back, according to the Keck School of Medicine. This is because the position forces you to turn your head to one side overnight.
Aside from avoiding stomach sleeping, people with upper back pain can make sure they have a supportive pillow if they like to sleep on their side.
According to Keck, sleeping on your back is likely the best position to avoid upper back pain. However, its not a good sleeping position for pregnant people. And for some people, it can be difficult to sleep deeply in this position, too.
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Why Is There Fiberglass In Mattresses
Fiberglass is often used as a material to meet flame retardancy standards made by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The internal structures of mattresses, like mattresses-in-a-box and hybrid mattresses, often include materials to promote heat diffusion, cushioning softness, and better support for the body. Mattresses also need to meet certain flame retardancy standards, ensuring they can resist and withstand sustained exposure to open flames.
These standards were set in 2007 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and require all mattresses to contain enough flame retardants to resist catching fire from a two-foot wide blowtorch flame for at least 70 seconds. One of the most commonly included materials to meet that requirement is fiberglass, a relatively inexpensive glass and reinforced plastic.
Using fiberglass as a cheap flame retardant for products isnt new. Its found in a variety of furniture pieces, rugs, curtains, and the insulation of homes. Its materials are woven together to create a protective layer that can protect the more flammable properties of a mattresssuch as memory foamfrom potential exposure to an open flame. That interior layer is often covered by other materials and, of course, the actual exterior cover of the mattress.
How It’s Used In Beds
Viscoelastic materials were designed to contour the sleepers curves and take the strain off of sore joints. It is usually a softer material that fosters quite a bit of cushioning. Some brands will cut it into an egg-crate shape to help with the airflow and cooling.
There are very few all-memory-foam-beds being sold today. Memory materials are typically used in the comfort or surface layer of a mattress. In a memory mattress, the top 1 to 3 layers will use visco-foams, either quilted into the cover or layered beneath it, while the thicker base is constructed with a high-density polyfoam to add the needed support. Memory materials can also be a supplementary material in a hybrid to provide cushioning comfort for the sleeper.
The material can be used in many ways, but it will not normally be found at the base unless it is used in a dual sided mattress. It is not a very supportive material, and that is why it is typically followed up with a much stronger and denser base layer, something like polyfoam, coils, or latex.
Check Out Our Comparison:All-Foam vs Memory Foam Mattresses
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Smart Shopping Tip: Read The Fine Print
Trial Period and ReturnsEven if you try a mattress in store, you won’t really know how it’ll feel at home. This is where the sleep trial comes in. Make sure you take full advantage of your trial period.
Most sellers give an average of 100 days for you to try the mattress in your home. The length of a sleep trial can range from a few weeks to 365 days. Take this time to test for comfort and support. See if you consistently wake up feeling refreshed.
If it doesn’t work out, you can usually return the mattress for a full refund. Keep in mind that some companies make you try the mattress for at least 30 days before you return it.
Some mattress sellers charge shipping or restocking fees for returns. Make sure you ask about their policy before you buy.
DeliveryMost mattress stores charge a delivery fee. Many online mattress sellers offer free shipping within the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska. If you live in those states, you can still get your mattress shipped to you at an additional cost.
Mattresses are heavy and hard to handle. Luckily, many sellers offer white glove delivery. This means someone will carry the mattress into your room and set it up for you. You usually have to pay extra for this service.
WarrantyAlways make sure you read the warranty. Not all lifetime warranties are actually useful. Some warranties come with limits that make it hard to get your claim approved.
In addition to checking the warranty length, pay attention to:
How To Choose A Crib Mattress
There are several essential elements of choosing a crib mattress. Any crib mattress purchase should start first and foremost with safety. Key aspects of crib mattress safety include:
- Choosing a firm crib mattress as this can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome .
- Keeping the mattress clear of soft objects, including toys, blankets, and pillows. Loose and soft items can pose a risk of suffocation and SIDS and should not be kept in an infants crib.
Beyond safety, there are other factors to review that relate to the convenience and usability of a crib mattress:
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Do I Need A Bigger Bed
A lot has probably changed since you first got your mattress. Maybe your body has changed, or you now sleep with a partner or pet. Your mattress should fit everyone comfortably.
These are the most common mattress sizes:Mattress Size
|72 in x 84 in||Tall couples, tall people with children or pets|
Remember to take your room size into consideration. You should still have enough space to walk around your bed.
If your lifestyle might change in the next 8 to 10 years, consider a size that will grow with you. For example, you could get a queen as a single sleeper if you think you might share your bed later on.
Mattress ThicknessMost mattresses are 8 to 12 inches tall. For many people, mattress height isn’t a deal breaker. But if you’re especially tall, short, or heavy, mattress height affects how easy it is to get in and out of bed.
Many higher-end mattresses will be thicker because they have more layers. Simpler and cheaper mattresses are often on the thinner side.
How Thick Should A Mattress Be
Theres no one best mattress thickness. The average mattress thickness is between 8 to 14 inches, but we recommend going for a bed at least 10 inches thick if youre an adult. Overly thin mattresses can bottom out under your weight and wont provide enough support for your body.
Beyond the overall thickness of a mattress, be sure the beds support core makes up at least half of the bed. So, if you purchase a 12-inch mattress, the support layers should be no thinner than 6 inches thick. This way, the mattress will properly support your body and wont sag easily.
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How Much To Spend On A Mattress
Many people who I talk to have no idea what a mattress is supposed to cost. They hear specials on the TV along the lines of pillowtop mattresses, queen size sets for only $299! and they assume that its for a good quality every night use bed, and there are options even less than that.
The mattress industry does itself a disservice by advertising like this because thats usually the absolute rock bottom as far as price and quality go.
So how much should I spend on a mattress? You can find a mattress and boxspring set for as low as $200 all the way up to as high as you want to spend. For example, a Tempurpedic Grand Bed with a motorized base can run you almost 10,000 dollars, and that isnt even the most expensive mattress. So how much should you spend?
Ill give a breakdown of what you can expect at each price range. This will vary by retailer and by region. If you live in the northeast, the prices will be towards the higher end, if you are in the middle of nowhere, the prices might be a little less. Additionally, these prices are for a queen sized mattress and box spring sets. Subtract ~100-300 for the boxspring, or multiply by ~50% for a king.
$0-200: This is probably a used mattress from Craigslist. Eww.
Mattress Shopping Tips & Checklist
Now that youve learned all that factors that should influence your mattress buying decision, well simplify all that information down to the key questions you need to ask while shopping:
- Am I ready for a new mattress?
- Which material is best for me?
- Is this mattress high quality in all the right areas ?
- Are there any red flags I should avoid ?
- Does this mattress accommodate my sleeping position?
- What size mattress do I need?
- How much can I spend on a mattress?
- Where should I buy my mattress from?
- How can I get the best deal on my mattress?
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How Much Should I Spend On A Mattress
Before using our mattress guide to start shopping for a new mattress, consider what youre willing to spend.
There are mattresses ranging from $200 $10,000, which is a significant price range. If youre looking for a higher-quality mattress that youll be sleeping on every night, we recommend spending at least $600 for a queen mattress. As the price increases from here, youll often see an increase in product quality, the mattress materials used, and even customer service.
Figure Out What Mattress Firmness You Need
Beyond choosing the type of mattress you want, decide what mattress firmness is best for you. Mattress firmness affects how much cushioning, or give, your mattress has. An overly firm or soft bed can lead to pain, stiffness, and difficulty sleeping.
The main factors to consider when determining what firmness establishes the most comfortable mattress for you are your sleeping position and size.
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Where To Buy A Mattress
Besides understanding the best mattress for your needs, it’s also important to consider convenience. When it comes to actually buying your mattress, there are clear benefits and downsides to both in-store and online shopping.
Shopping in stores
The main benefit is that you get to feel the mattress in person. If you’re going to invest the money in a new bed, it’s certainly worth knowing what it’s going to feel like in real life. That being said, in-store mattress shopping can be more time consuming, feel overwhelming and make it harder to compare mattresses. Plus, it’s difficult to know how you’re going to sleep on a mattress just by lying down on it for a few minutes in a store. Before you shop, it’s worth doing some research online to make sure you’re not overpaying. Don’t be afraid to ask for a price match or discount if you find the mattress listed online for less.
This newer route is a great alternative if you have trouble making decisions since online direct-to-consumer brands often streamline their assortment. Not to mention, it’s easier to compare models and you get the comfort and convenience of shopping from home! Note that some online brands say they can offer a better price because they don’t have the markups of a brick-and-mortar store, though we’ve found that can be a marketing trick to mislead shoppers.
Either way, always check the trial period and return policy.
Brooklyn Bedding Aurora Hybrid Mattress
According to the manufacturer, Brooklyn Bedding Aurora Hybrid mattress helps keep users cool. It features six layers: four layers of foam, a layer of individually wrapped coils, and a cooling fabric topper.
The 1.5-in layer of the companys branded CopperFlex foam offers pressure point relief. This copper-infused foam has antimicrobial properties and helps draw away body heat.
According to the company, the CopperFlex foam also helps wick moisture away from the skin, and its open-cell structure encourages quick moisture release from the mattress.
This may help reduce a buildup of heat in the mattress, which could make sex and sleep uncomfortable.
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What To Look For In A Mattress
If youve done any research on mattresses already, youve probably noticed that the mattress industry has its very own lingo with words like responsiveness and motion transfer. While they might seem like meaningless marketing lingo, theyre actually important factors to consider when choosing a mattress thats going to best meet your needs. Well give you a breakdown of these key mattress featuresin plain Englishto help you understand why these are so critical when finding the best mattress.
Comfort and support are two of the main factors to consider when looking at a new mattress, so its important to note that sometimes you wont be able to realize how well a mattress performs on these factors until you try it out for a few nights. So if youre not sure what mattress is best for you, make sure to invest in a mattress with a risk-free trial period. Other important factors include spine alignment, pressure relief, shipping and return policies, and the firmness level.
You can learn more about each of these features and how we score them while we are testing a mattresss performance in Our Review Process article.
What Defines Memory Foam
This is sometimes called temper or viscoelastic polyfoam, but you likely know it as memory foam. Technically speaking, this is a type of polyurethane foam, but what makes it different is its viscoelastic properties.
Visco comes from the word vicious, meaning sticky and thick, and elastic means it can resume its original size and shape. The construction of memory materials uses a number of extra compounds that give it this unique feel, usually in response to heat and pressure in tandem.
Memory materials are made to distribute weight evenly over a surface and they typically do an excellent job at relieving pressure due to their close conforming properties. The material is made to contour to each of the sleepers curves, giving it that deep hug like feel. It is this same reason that many people feel like memory materials sleep too hot because the heat can get trapped up against their skin.
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