A Basic Guide To The Best Mattress For Back Sleepers

Written by
Purple Staff
Last Updated
January 26, 2023
min read

If you're a back sleeper looking for a comfortable, supportive mattress, this is the guide for you. Sleeping on your back has many health benefits, such as proper alignment for your spine. However, it can also aggravate certain medical conditions like acid reflux and sleep apnea.

What features can back sleepers look for in a mattress to enjoy a good night's sleep? Keep reading to find out more about our seven recommended mattress types for back sleepers. We'll tell you what materials they're made of and what their best features are!

What Is A Back Sleeper?

A back sleeper is a person who prefers to sleep while lying down on their back. This sleeping position distributes the weight of your body evenly across your body. If you don't like sleeping on your stomach or your left or right side, you're probably a back sleeper.

Sleeping on your back is considered a good sleep position for neutral alignment of the spine and potentially alleviating some types of back pain. Back sleeping can also help you breathe more easily if you have a stuffy nose, provided that you elevate your head and shoulders so you sleep partially upright.

Facts About Back Sleepers

Will back sleepers find it cozier to sleep on flatter or plumper pillows? Is back sleeping more or less common amongst adult sleepers? These incredible facts about back sleepers may help you improve your sleep quality:

  • Those who sleep on their back are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Gravity presses down on the soft tissue located around the back of your throat, blocking your airway and causing sleep apnea.
  • If you're a back sleeper, you may want to raise your body slightly with a fuller, higher pillow. This alleviates pressure in your neck area and reduces the chances of suffering from acid reflux, a common health issue for those who sleep on their back.
  • Back sleeping is a highly uncommon sleeping position. Only 8% to 10% of adults sleep on their backs. Far more adults sleep in the fetal position or another variation of side sleeping.

Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Back

Sleeping on your back has many benefits. Here are a few that may make other sleeper types consider switching to back sleeping:

  • Sleeping on your back prevents wrinkles and skin irritation, as your face isn't constantly pressed against your pillow every night.
  • Sleeping on your back is said to reduce sinus buildup, helping you breathe more easily if you have a cold.
  • The biggest perk of back sleeping is that it promotes neutral spine alignment. When you sleep in positions that increase stress on the spine, it may lead to body pain in the morning. A neutral position follows the spine’s natural curves and reduces stress on those pressure points.
  • Back sleeping spreads your body’s weight out evenly, avoiding uncomfortable or unnatural curves. This can potentially relieve pain in high-pressure areas like your neck and shoulders.

Choosing The Best Mattress For Back Sleepers

Choosing the ideal mattress for your sleep position has a significant impact on your comfort. A comfortable mattress will give you gentle pressure relief and good support for your sleep posture, helping you sleep soundly.

Don't underestimate the difference that a good mattress can make. Remember that your mattress will be your main sleeping surface for years until it needs replacement. Because you’ll spend so much time sleeping, napping, and resting on it, it ought to be as comfortable and supportive of your sleeping position as possible.

There are many mattress options that back sleepers can choose from to get a good night's sleep. We'll explain the differences and key considerations of each one further in this guide.

Read our guide on how to choose a pillow.

Important Mattress Features For Back Sleepers

Different sleeping positions have different needs that can be addressed by a quality mattress. Here are the most important mattress features for back sleepers.

Postural Support & Flexibility

Back sleepers might consider looking for a mattress that has good flexibility and responsive materials. A supportive mattress will have both pushback and cushioning. Back sleepers’ posture may benefit from the slight “pushback” of a medium-firm mattress, which has been found to potentially relieve back pain.

Apart from flexibility, a good mattress ought to have enough cushioning for your joints. If your mattress feels like it’s cradling you comfortably, this may help you sleep more soundly.

Spinal Alignment

Look for a mattress that can help maintain your spine’s natural alignment. Also known as neutral alignment, this describes the spine’s natural curvature. Studies have found that improper alignment may cause body pain and discomfort, making it hard to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

You may find yourself tossing and turning to get a good night’s sleep if your mattress doesn’t address this concern. Talk to your preferred mattress manufacturer to find out if you need features such as a different mattress firmness or additional comfort layers.

Pressure Relief

While we sleep, our body's weight digs into our mattress, and pressure points can accumulate a lot of extra tension. The additional stress at those points can accumulate, and this may lead to uncomfortable, restless nights.

A good mattress will ease the tension in these high-pressure areas by distributing your body weight evenly. This feature is called pressure relief. Different sleeper types need different levels of firmness and plushness to get gentle pressure relief while lying down.


Pressure relief and comfort are two closely related factors. A mattress that provides gentle pressure relief may feel more comfortable. However, comfort level can also be affected by other things like breathability, body contouring, and motion transfer.

Some sleepers associate softness with comfort, but this isn’t always the case. A mattress that’s too soft may not provide enough support. They may also be harder to get up from because of their plushness. Back sleepers can consider a firmer mattress – at the right firmness level, your mattress can help you sleep more comfortably.

7 Best Types of Mattress For Back Sleepers

different types of mattresses

We’ve put together a simple primer to the seven best mattress types for back sleepers. Note that mattress brands offer mattress types as models with differences in construction, materials, and other features. However, these models will have similarities that put them squarely within these types. The type that best suits your sleeping needs and position will depend on your personal preferences.

GelFlex Grid

Definition: GelFlex Grid mattresses are made from hyper-elastic polymer. This mattress type uses Purple’s proprietary GelFlex technology to provide a flexible, supportive surface that contours around the body during sleep.

Key features: Temperature control and flexible design

Back sleepers looking for a mattress that adapts to their sleeping position may consider trying a GelFlex Grid mattress. Because of its breathability and responsiveness, it keeps your bed from feeling too warm while cradling your pressure points. While not sinking too far in to prevent your back and neck from cranking back

Memory Foam Mattresses

memory foam mattress

Definition: Memory foam mattresses are made with comfort layers of memory foam on top and a firm foam layer at the base. These mattresses can be made using traditional viscoelastic memory foam, gel memory foam, and open-cell foam, with each type having varying levels of temperature control.

Key features: Soft and plush cradling sleeping surface

Back sleepers ought to look into the plushness of a memory foam mattress to see if it feels cozy and cradling at night.  Memory foam mattresses also come in a variety of firmnesses, so check your firmness level of yours to see if it’s most comfortable for your sleeping position.

All Foam Mattresses (Memory Foam + Polyfoam)

Definition: All-foam mattresses consist of top comfort layers made of different foam types, placed on top of firm polyurethane foam (a.k.a. polyfoam) base layer. The addition of memory foam makes this mattress type a soft, plush choice for mattress shoppers.

Key features: Contouring and cushioning

All-foam mattresses are flexible, responsive, and very compressible. They also come in a variety of firmness options that can suit a wide range of sleeping positions and body weights.

Hybrid Mattresses

hybrid mattress

Definition: A hybrid mattress is made with a top layer of latex foam or memory foam with innerspring coils. Some hybrid beds have a transition layer with polyurethane foam or micro-coils for additional support under the foam top.

Key features: Improved ventilation and cushioning

The combination of a firm innerspring coil core and a softer foam top can provide pressure relief to weary sleepers. Back sleepers who want a combination of cushioning and firmness might find that this mattress type gives them the support they need.

Multi-Layered Mattresses

Definition: Multi-layered mattresses consist of separate foam layers stacked on top of each other, which each layer rearrangeable to suit your tastes. The firmest layer is typically used as the base, while softer layers are placed on top for additional cushioning.

Key features: Adjustable firmness

If you’ve recently shifted sleep positions and are uncertain which firmness level is most comfortable for you, try sleeping on a multi-layered mattress. You can rearrange the foam layers until you get a sleeping surface that feels coziest and most breathable for your sleeping preferences.

Pocketed Coil + Memory Foam Mattresses

pocket coil mattress inside

Definition: A pocketed coil and memory foam mattress consist of a top comfort layer of memory foam with a pocketed coil core base. The pocketed coil core has coils that are nested in individual casings instead of being wired together.

Key features: Enhanced durability and flexibility

Back sleepers may be interested in getting this mattress type, as its sturdy coil construction provides a firm, stable sleeping surface. The comfort layers of memory foam give this firm option some extra plushness so it doesn’t feel too hard against a sleeping back.

Latex + Pocketed Coil Mattresses

latex mattress

Definition: Latex and pocketed coil mattresses consist of a latex foam top with a pocketed coil support core. The latex foam top can be made of natural or synthetic latex or a combination of both types.

Key features: Temperature control and comfort

Back sleepers may consider getting a latex and pocketed coil mattress because of its plushness and increased airflow. The latter feature is especially comforting for hot sleepers, who need extra ventilation to keep them cool while they snooze and prevent sweat from being trapped.

Best Mattresses For Back Sleepers With Localized Pain

Sleeping on your back can promote better sleep posture and more restful nights. However, you may still feel pain in specific areas, disturbing your slumber. Here are some of the best mattresses for back sleepers that have localized pain concerns.

Best Mattress For Back Sleepers With Hip Pain

Some back sleepers may suffer from hip pain, which can be caused by underlying medical conditions. However, in some instances, it can be caused by a worn mattress that needs replacement. If your mattress is deformed and sagging or you’ve had it for at least seven years, it may be time to start looking for a new one.

Note that experts don’t always recommend a softer mattress. In some cases, a softer mattress may make hip pain worse because it causes the hips and shoulders to sink into its plush surface. This can disrupt spine alignment and can worsen hip tension.

Best Mattress For Back Sleepers With Lower Back Pain

If you’re a back sleeper with lower back pain, you may consider looking for a firmer mattress. Several studies have found that sleeping on a medium to firm mattress can relieve back pain.

Best Mattress For Back Sleepers With Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is something that can be caused by a variety of factors, be it a too-soft mattress, medical problems, or poor sleep posture. Because there’s no single solution to shoulder pain and spine alignment, try a range of mattress firmnesses or types in-store to determine which one offers the most pressure relief for you.

Best Mattress Topper For Back Sleepers

A mattress topper can make a too-firm mattress feel softer to sleep on. However, if a topper is too soft, it might cause more discomfort if it doesn’t provide enough support.

Back sleepers can see if a memory foam topper makes a comfortable addition to their bed. Layers of memory foam can provide additional cushioning for your body’s main pressure points. For those who want better temperature regulation, a cooling gel-infused memory foam topper is an ideal option.

Some added features to look for in a mattress topper include a washable, breathable cover for easy maintenance. If you're a restless sleeper, consider getting a topper with an elastic skirt to keep it in place while you sleep.

Best Mattress Topper For Side Sleepers With Lower Back Pain

Side sleepers with lower back pain can consider getting a memory foam mattress topper, too. Those extra layers of memory foam create a cradling sensation that offers cushioned, plush comfort.

Choosing The Right Mattress For You

Choosing the right mattress for your preferred sleeping position and body type is key to getting a good night’s sleep. If your mattress isn't right, you can have a hard time dozing off and could wake up with a fatigued, aching body.

We spend so much of our lives sleeping to get rest and feel refreshed for everyday tasks, so having a comfy mattress makes a big difference. Talk to your preferred mattress manufacturer to find out which mattress would suit you best. Every sleeper has different preferences for firmness options, materials, and temperatures, and a reputable manufacturer can help you pick one that ticks off all the boxes.

Check Your Mattress Support And Firmness Levels

Back sleepers may benefit from a mattress that conforms to the natural curve of their spine. Medium firmness is recommended for back sleepers to maintain this neutral spine alignment. 

The wrong firmness level makes your mattress lack support. This can make you feel restless during sleep as you struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. Note that if your mattress is too soft, this can cause parts of your body to sink into it and become misaligned. On the other hand, a mattress that’s too firm won’t cushion high-pressure points and reduce tension.

Check how your mattress affects your spine alignment to see if it provides enough support for sleeping on your back.

How A Purple Mattress Helps Back Sleepers

Purple mattresses are designed with GelFlex grids to maximize your comfort and support while sleeping. Their flexible surfaces create a firm sleeping surface that contours around your body’s pressure points. They’re not too soft so you don’t sink too deeply as you lie on your back, but they’re not so firm that your joints will ache from lack of cushioning.

The level of support your mattress provides can have a profound effect on your sleep quality and health. A good mattress has the following benefits:

  • Even weight distribution
  • Promotion of better sleep posture
  • Maintenance of neutral spine alignment
  • Reduced pressure on your body, especially in high-tension areas like your hips and shoulders

Poor mattress support, on the other hand, can have the following harmful effects on you:

  • Poor sleep posture
  • Daytime aches and pains
  • Sleep disturbances (a.k.a. restless sleeping)

If your mattress is sagging, damaged, or otherwise unsupportive, consider replacing it with a Purple mattress for a good night’s sleep.

Best Purple Mattress For Back Sleepers

Purple mattresses are praised by customers because of their comfortable, cooling GelFlex layers. Back sleepers may find that the responsive surface and cradling and contouring cushioning is suitable for them.

Worried that you picked the wrong Purple mattress type? Our 100-night sleep trial and 10-year warranty allow you to exchange your Purple mattress so you can get the right type and firmness levels for you.

If you're not sure which Purple mattress is best for your preferred sleeping position and body type, contact one of our Sleep Specialists. They'll ask you more about your sleeping needs and help you choose a Purple mattress for cozy, restful nights.

Mattresses For Back Sleepers FAQs

How do you pick a good back sleeper mattress?

You can pick a good back-sleeping mattress by keeping the following factors in mind while shopping:

  • Mattress firmness
  • Temperature regulation
  • Body contouring
  • Advanced pressure relief
  • Materials used for mattress construction

If you're not sure if a mattress is right for you, check if it comes with a sleep trial so you can make sure you're satisfied. Don't be afraid to ask manufacturers questions that will narrow down your choices!

How does sleeping on your back affect sleep?

Sleeping on your back affects your sleep by making you more prone to sleep apnea and acid reflux. Back sleepers can also experience localized pain in areas like the lower back and neck. Consider adding extra pillows on or under these pressure points for extra support and gentle pressure relief.

Which mattress firmness is best for back sleepers?

The mattress firmness considered best for back sleepers is a medium-soft to the medium-firm mattress. A medium-firm feel has been shown by studies to promote neutral spinal alignment while alleviating body pain. A mattress that’s too soft may make parts of a back sleeper’s body sink too deeply into certain sections, negatively affecting sleep posture.