Shape and Weight, and how it Affects Sleep
You are unique and there is no one like you. The support, contour, temperature, and comfort of each mattress are highly affected by your body type and weight.
Your mattress should feel just as supportive when you are lying on your back as you lie on the floor with your legs up on a chair. A good way to test this is to bend your knees and put your feet flat down on the bed moving your feet closer to your butt until you feel equal support across your back. This is what the perfect mattress should feel like when your legs are flat on the bed, eliminating any pressure points and allowing your muscles to relax. This allows your body to have great circulation and relaxation while you sleep. If a mattress does not give us consistent support, it will lead to tight muscles and sore areas from our muscles being too tight and from our legs pushing back to get the support they need.
The importance of finding the right mattress for YOU continues from your back to your side. With all the shapes and sizes we come in it is important for us to have great spinal alignment when we are sleeping on our side. This should be done with your mattress pillow. When we put a pillow between our knees to make it so that we have a good spinal alignment if it slips it will disturb our REM sleep. The key is minimal pressure between the knees!
Sometimes we can find the perfect mattress on our back and then we go over to the side and it's almost there, it’s usually as simple as your pillow. It is very important that you do not drop your knees one in front of the other when testing a bed because it takes your spine out of alignment. This is important for you to have great blood flow and relaxed muscles throughout the night.
A mattress that is too firm distorts your back and pressure is concentrated into your shoulder in your pelvic or hip area and knees. If a mattress is too soft your body will sag and there will be improper back support. This will cause you back pain, tiredness, stiffness, and yes… Pressure between your knees.
The perfect mattress will elevate your legs enough to align your spine into its natural position and will have optimal pressure distribution across your whole body, which will help with great blood flow for circulation. This is when your neck and head or held at the right level, your shoulder dips down enough that they don't have pressure, and your waist is supported as well as your hips all the way down to your feet. The place where your feet touch should be completely aligned with your spine, not dropdown.
Your weight in addition to your shape will make a difference in how much you sink into the mattress as well as how much it will contour. Depending on your weight and body type you may need a specific type of mattress or support system to create the ideal comfort and support that your body needs. I’ve provided the following guidelines to help you align your weight and preferences with the ideal mattress:
1. You’re a lighter sleeper (150 pounds or less) and want a medium feel– lighter sleepers don’t sink as deeply into the mattress, this can make mattresses with denser top layers not as comfortable. Universal comfort mattresses are a great fit for these sleepers. If you’re lighter I usually recommend my readers choose a mattress that’s 0.5-1 firmness points below what they feel they actually need. This is because most medium firmness feels are rated based on an average sleeper (180 pounds).
2. You’re an average sleeper (150-200 pounds) and want a medium feel– you’re in the market sweet spot. Most mattresses are designed for average size sleepers. Anything in the universal comfort range or any mattress characterized as a medium, medium-firm, luxury firm, or rated 5-7 out of 10 is very likely going to be a great fit.
2. You’re a heavier sleeper (200 pounds or more) and want a medium feel– heavier sleepers put more pressure on the mattress, so we need to adjust for that. Look for mattresses that have a comfort layer of at least 4″. This will ensure consistent support and comfort for your size. If you have extreme cooling needs and/or you need a mattress with exceptional edge support you will likely need to consider luxury innerspring / coil-on-coil mattresses. If these needs aren’t as important for you then you can focus more on the foam side where you’ll get better contouring hugs and body shaping.
3. If you are over 210, the best mattress is latex. End of story.
4. You’re a lighter sleeper (150 pounds or less) and want a soft feel– as a light sleeper you have the advantage of not sinking as deeply into foam mattresses. This allows you to get the cloud-like comfort you’re looking for, but without being excessively hugged or creating as many heat retention issues. Mattresses characterized as soft, plush, plush soft, or in the 3-4 out of 10 range are good options.
5. You’re an average sleeper (150-200 pounds) and want a soft feel– your needs are similar to lighter sleepers in this area. If you’re closer to 150 then you can follow the same rules as lighter sleepers. As you get nearer to 200 pounds you’ll want to consider the increased hug/sinkage of the mattress. Softer mattresses already have an increased level of hug and sinkage. For side sleepers this can be ideal, however, for many back sleepers and almost all stomach sleepers, this will create a negative situation for the support of the mattress for you.
6. You’re a heavy sleeper (200 pounds or more) and want a soft feel– this is one of the most difficult-to-find mattress combinations. Heavier sleepers already sink deeper within the mattress and soft mattresses amplify this further. A mattress that’s designated as soft will create dramatic sinkage and hug for heavy sleepers. It is incredibly important to find a mattress that still offers great deep compression support. This means a minimum of 4″ of comfort foam, which usually will only be found in mattresses that are 12″ or thicker. If you don’t like the foam mattress options you’re seeing a pillow-top coil mattress can be a great fit for this area. They’ll provide great deep compression support, but can still bring the soft feel you’re looking for.
7. You’re a lighter (140 pounds or less) or average (150-200 pounds) sleeper and want a firmer mattress– firmer mattresses are a little easier to diagnose, mostly because there’s a smaller degree of variation in their feel…i.e. you don’t deal as much with balancing hug, cooling, contour, etc. A firmer mattress floats sleepers on the surface of the mattress, as opposed to hugging the sleepers (like many foam mattresses will). For lighter and average sleepers that want a firm feel, you’ll want to look for mattresses characterized as firm or in the 8-9 out of 10 ranges.
8. You’re a heavier sleeper (200 pounds or more) and want a firmer feel– since you’re a bit heavier you’ll want to adjust your targeted firmness. If you’re looking for something that’s an 8 out of 10 this means you’ll be looking at mattresses that are in the 8.5-9 range. Add 0.5-1 points. That said, I would recommend caution in ever going above a 9 on the firmness scale. Beyond this, you are effectively sleeping on the floor.