Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best mattresses for athletes

A solid night’s sleep is one of the most important yet often neglected elements of a healthy lifestyle. For athletes, sleep is even more important because this is the time when the body rests, recovers, and rebuilds between workouts. This makes a high-quality, supportive mattress one of the best investments an athlete can make. In some ways, an athlete’s mattress is just as important as their equipment, training, and even diet.

What makes a mattress great for athletes, exactly? The best examples strike a balance between comfort for sore muscles or joints and proper support and body alignment. Healthy body alignment not only prevents soreness, particularly in the back and neck, it also reduces the risk of muscular imbalances that can increase the risk of injury. In addition, sound body alignment helps with proper breathing during sleep, which is essential to get your muscles the oxygen they need to recover. 

Take a look at our buying guide to mattresses for athletes. Our top picks are obviously geared toward active individuals and competitors, but we’re confident one can improve anyone’s sleep regardless of their physical activity. 

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On average, mattresses last six to eight years. However, with proper care, a quality mattress can last twice that long before showing serious signs of wear.

Key considerations

Every athlete and every body is different. Athletes should consider their build, any injuries, and preferred firmness when shopping for a mattress. Larger, heavier athletes may enjoy medium-firm to firm larger mattresses, whereas petite competitors may prefer softer, smaller alternatives. This isn’t always the case, however. Let’s run down the key considerations when shopping for a mattress. 


First is size. Obviously, you want to consider your height and weight, the size of your space, and your partner’s wants and needs while making this choice. The standard sizes for mattresses are below, measured width by length. Depth may vary within each category, but a typical range is between 9 and 12 inches. 

  • Twin: 38 x 75 inches
  • Twin XL: 38 x 80 inches
  • Full: 53 x 75 inches
  • Queen: 60 x 80 inches
  • King: 76 x 80 inches
  • California King: 72 x 84 inches


Mattresses come in several types, with the main categories being innerspring, air, foam, and hybrid mattresses. Yes, waterbeds still exist, but we don’t recommend them for athletes. 

Innerspring mattresses, also known as coil mattresses, have long been the standard design in the industry. They’re based around an internal configuration of metal springs that provide support, with various levels of padding for comfort. Well-made innerspring mattresses do a great job of supporting all parts of your body. Cheaper versions tend to have fewer coils and less padding, however. Generally, the more coils the better, but the quality of each coil is a huge factor, too. 

Air mattresses feature internal air bladders that inflate and deflate for a variable amount of firmness. The level of firmness can be dialed in simply with a remote, a control panel, or even an app. One of the main benefits of air mattresses is the ability to set each side of the bed to a different firmness, allowing people with different preferences to enjoy the same mattress. These mattresses are expensive, though, and the air pumps can be noisy. 

Foam mattresses have no innerspring. They provide support with multiple layers of memory or latex foam. Some include layers of gel for motion isolation and cooling comfort. The heavy viscosity of foam is great for supporting your weight evenly while contouring to your body shape. Foam mattresses are often the go-to for people with back pain. These mattresses are less prone to sagging than innerspring mattresses. However, they are more expensive and can feel uncomfortably warm if you sleep hot. 

Hybrid mattresses, as the name suggests, combine elements of innerspring and foam mattresses. A wire or metal coil innerspring is the foundation for support, and multiple layers of foam and gel on top of it provide pressure relief and comfort. 

On the whole, we recommended foam or hybrid mattresses for athletes and active people. Providing you select the right model, a mattress with layers of foam provides the best balance of firmness, comfort, and contour.


Ask ten people their preferred mattress firmness and you might get ten different answers. Levels typically range from “plush” to “firm” or “extra firm,” depending on the materials used and how they’re arranged. Some manufacturers use numbers to designate firmness, with 1 being the softest and 10 the firmest. 

The level that works for you depends almost entirely on personal preference, but if you suffer from back pain, a firmer mattress may help. If we use the numerical scale, an ideal firmness level for someone with back pain is in the 5 to 7 range. A good rule of thumb is to avoid extremes at either end. Extremely soft and extremely firm mattresses are unlikely to provide a healthy night’s sleep for most customers.

It can take time for a mattress to fully decompress after shipping. We recommend opening the box as soon as possible to give the mattress room to “stretch” and acclimate to the new environment.



Pillow top 

A pillow top adds yet another layer of cushioning and warmth to your mattress, and you’ll find one on many high-end and luxury mattresses. Pillow tops are generally made of cotton and are very soft. They’re often quite breathable and efficient at wicking away moisture. They provide additional protection from old mattress springs as well.


One downside of memory foam is that it doesn’t always have a defined edge. The lack of support there can make it hard to maneuver in and out of bed, and some sleepers prefer a secure “lip” for that cozy feeling. 

Innersprings and hybrids accomplish this by placing thicker coils on the outside of the mattress. If you have your mind set on a memory foam mattress, though, high-end versions often have defined edges in the form of metal rods, wood, or extra-firm polyurethane foam.


Along with physical support, the main factor in determining the comfort level of a mattress is its ability to regulate temperature. A mattress can contour to your every curve, soothing every ache and pain, but if you’re too hot at night, your sleep will suffer. This is especially important to keep in mind with memory foam products because they tend to retain heat.

To improve cooling, many mattresses have less dense foam at the surface, and some have gel layers, graphite infusions, or Celliant for improved airflow. These materials not only keep you comfortable, but they also help you get the oxygen you need to recover by regulating body temperature. 

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Some mattress brands offer risk-free trials that let you try their products before buying. Certain companies offer a 365-day trial, but 90 or 100 days is more common.

Mattresses for athletes prices

Quality mattresses for athletes aren’t cheap but consider one an investment. Healthy sleep can exponentially improve athletic performance and daily life overall, and a good mattress can last a decade or more. Here, we’ve used the popular queen-size mattress as our reference point.

Inexpensive: If you need a new mattress quickly, you can buy an inexpensive queen for $300 to $500. Mattresses in this range are usually innerspring or memory foam of medium firmness. These will do the trick for a while, but they simply won’t last as long as more expensive units. 

Mid-range: The $500 to $900 range is the most common price bracket for mattresses for athletes. The quality improves considerably here, with multiple firmness options available and more durable materials. Expect to find innerspring, foam, and hybrid mattresses in this range. 

Expensive: If you’re in the market for a premium, luxury mattress, prepare to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for a queen. Hybrids are still very popular at this price, but you may find some boutique air mattresses as well. Products at this price point are extremely comfortable and supportive, with durable materials including organic cotton, pillow tops, and well-thought-out cooling technology. 

Motion isolation can be extremely important if you share your bed with a partner. Mattresses with foam or gel layers absorb and confine motion instead of transferring it. This means you won’t wake your partner every time you move.



  • Clean your mattress. Just like your sheets, blankets, and pillow cases, a mattress should be cleaned regularly. Failing to do so can cause your mattress to trap moisture, collect dirt, and attract bed bugs. A thorough vacuuming can do the trick, but a steam cleaner provides a deeper clean.
  • Rotate your mattress. We recommend doing this every three months because the weight of your body puts more pressure on one side than the other. This applies to both foam, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses. Doing so will improve its lifespan.
  • Assess your bedding. Mattresses often have gel layers and high-airflow foam to improve cooling, but your bedding also plays a huge role. Before returning a mattress you deem too hot, examine the rest of your setup for possible improvements. 
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A good way to prevent back pain is to keep your spine aligned in its natural position. Try to sleep as straight as possible, from the nape of your neck to your tailbone. This will be significantly more difficult if your mattress is lumpy or saggy.


Q. How do I break in a mattress?

A. If you’ve just bought a new mattress and aren’t satisfied, don’t start the return process just yet. It might take a few weeks to fully “break-in” your new bed, and in the interim, it may not feel as soft and supportive as you’d like. This is especially likely if it came packed tightly in a box.

After opening the box to air out the mattress, we recommend rolling or walking on its surface to even out the interior. Even then, it may take 30 days or more before the mattress fully settles into its final shape. 

Q. How often should I replace my mattress?

A. Mattresses can last several years if cleaned, rotated, and cared for properly, but they don’t last forever. The lifespan of yours can vary depending on your body type and activity level, but the materials in the mattress play a big role as well.

Typically, an innerspring mattress lasts for about seven years, with memory foam/gel and hybrid mattresses lasting a bit longer, approximately ten years. Air mattresses and waterbeds can last significantly longer, assuming the internal bladders and pumps are not damaged.

Rather than tracking a set number of years, though, keep an eye out for signs of wear. These can include worn tops, exposed or sharp springs, or sags and dips. Listen to your body as well. You may not see a visible dip in your mattress or feel a coil in your back, but if you notice deterioration in your sleep quality, degrading athletic performance, or an uptick in allergic reactions, it might be time for a replacement. 

Q. Other than a quality mattress, what other ways can I improve my sleep?

A. If you choose the right mattress, it can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. That said, it’s not the only factor that determines how well you sleep. Here are a few quick tips to improve sleep overall:

  • Set a consistent sleep schedule. You’ll start to feel tired naturally and predictably.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or eat right before bed. Both engage your metabolism, which can keep you awake into the night. 
  • Limit exposure to bright screens and blue light. Turn these off one to two hours before bed. Studies have shown that these lights can overstimulate your brain and make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise. This helps reduce the effects of insomnia and sleep apnea.


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