How thick should a mattress be? Your guide to picking the right height

A woman looks at the thickness of a mattress she is thinking of buying
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When shopping for the best mattress for you, you're likely focusing on the price, materials, and firmness – but what about height? How thick your mattress should be will depend on a variety of factors. You may believe that the taller the mattress, the more cozy it'll be – but that won't be the case for everyone.

To help you figure out the right mattress thickness for your needs, we've put together this handy explainer guide. Here you'll discover what influences the height of a mattress and find out why you might want to opt for a less lofty bed instead. 

While thick mattresses tend to cost more due to all of the materials they use, this year's Presidents' Day mattress sales are coming up, so now is a great time to buy a bed, no matter how short or tall.

Does mattress thickness matter?

Whether you are buying one of this year's best hybrid mattresses, packed full of foams and coils, or you're opting for a more streamlined yet contouring memory foam mattress, thickness (height) matters a lot. 

You should always consider the thickness of a mattress along with other characteristics like materials and firmness. A mattress that's too thick (or too thin) will negatively affect your sleep quality if it doesn't suit your body type or sleep position. 

Plus, if you have mobility issues, you'll have a harder time getting up and down from a taller mattress. You'll also want to consider the size of your bedroom; an extra-thick mattress could clutter a smaller space.

Mattress thickness chart

Here's a brief rundown of the most common mattress thickness levels and who (and what sleep scenarios) they are best for:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TypeRangeBest For
Low Profile2 to 5 inchesBabies and infants, bunk beds, foldaway beds
Slim5 to 8 inchesKids, people with mobility issues, small bedrooms
Standard8 to 12 inchesMost adults and sleep styles
Thick/Deep12 to 16 inchesPlus-sized adults, couples, side sleepers
Extra Thick/Extra Deep16 inches or morePlus-sized adults, families, extra large bedrooms

What determines mattress thickness?

A woman with long dark hair feels the firmness of a mattress she is looking at

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A mattress consists of a base layer plus one (or several) comfort layers. The base layer typically accounts for most of the height of a mattress and consists of springs, dense polyfoam, or latex. This is the support core of the mattress – and the thicker it is, the longer you can expect the mattress to last.

Comfort layers range from 1 to 4 inches thick and are usually made of foam, latex, cotton, or wool. Their main purpose is to provide pressure relief and dampen movement. There are also gel-infused comfort foam layers to help dissipate heat. Some mattresses may add a pillow-top or Euro-top for another layer of cushioning and a more luxurious appearance. (They're common among luxury mattresses.)

How to choose the right mattress thickness

You may dream of owning an extra-thick mattress but it could end up being a nightmare if it doesn't mesh with your preferences. Here are four things to keep in mind when choosing the right mattress thickness for your needs:

Sleeping position

Are you a side, back, or front sleeper – or a little bit of each? How you fall into bed at night and wake up in the morning will determine how thick or thin your mattress should be:

  • Side sleepers benefit most from a thicker mattress (12 to 14 inches) with multiple comfort layers to alleviate pressure from their shoulders and hips.
  • Back sleepers should fare well with a standard mattress height (10 to 12 inches) that keeps their spine aligned while relieving pressure from their lower back.
  • Stomach sleepers can opt for a mattress that skews thinner (10 inches) to keep their hips upright.
  • Combination sleepers are best suited to a mattress with a standard thickness (12 inches) that can comfortably accommodate any sleep position.

Body Weight

You'll want to choose a mattress thickness that can comfortably support your body weight. Anything too firm or soft will result in unpleasant aches and pains in the morning:

  • Lightweight sleepers (130lbs or less) will want to look for a tall mattress (at least 12 inches tall) with multiple comfort layers they can gently ease into. 
  • Average-weight sleepers (130lbs to 230lbs) should be fine with a standard-height mattress (10 to 12 inches tall) with a medium-firm feel. Note that this will depend on your primary sleep position and the construction of the mattress.
  • Heavyweight sleepers (230lbs or more) will need a tall mattress (12 to 14 inches tall) with at least a 6-inch base layer and thicker comfort layers for maximum contouring and support.

A man sleeps on his side

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Health conditions

The average bed height (with mattress) is 18 to 25 inches. You should be able to sit at the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Anything too tall or short will make it difficult for you to get in and out of bed in the morning – especially if you have limited mobility. Sleepers with back or joint pain should aim for a medium-firm mattress at a manageable height.

Sleeping arrangements

Thicker mattresses can handle more weight. If you're sharing a bed with a partner, your kids, and/or your pets, look for a mattress that's between 10 to 12 inches thick. Anything thinner will wear out sooner.

Also, account for the size of your bedroom. A thick mattress will fit nicely in a palatial space – but in a smaller room, it could make you feel claustrophobic.

How thick should a mattress be?

Thick mattresses can seem luxurious – but they're also a practical choice for many sleepers. Before you click "buy" on that super tall mattress, consider what else you need to sleep comfortably. And as always, don't buy a mattress without a trial period – you won't get a feel for a new bed until you've spent enough time with it.

Buy a thick mattress if...

✅ You're a side sleeper: Pressure relief is key for side sleepers because their shoulders and hips are right against the surface. Taller mattresses with multiple comfort layers can ease any tension that may build in those areas.

✅  You're over 230lbs: Thicker mattresses boast more layers and taller support cores. Heavier sleepers need a mattress that's built to comfortably sustain them.

✅ You share a bed: Whether you're sharing a bed with one person or as a family, thicker mattresses are able to withstand more weight than thinner ones.

Don't buy a thick mattress if...

❌  You have trouble getting around: If you have mobility issues, it'll be hard to get out of bed that's too tall for you to manage. Not to mention, they can be a real hassle to move and rotate, especially on your own.

❌  You don't have the space for it: Tall mattresses just don't look good in a smaller bedroom. It'll feel like your bed is taking over the entire space, which could disrupt the overall vibe of your room, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

❌ You don't have the cash to splash: Thicker mattresses use more materials – and that's reflected in their pricing. You could find ways to save during regular mattress sales, but you should still expect to pay more than you would for a thinner bed.

Read more: Mattress firmness guide and how to choose 

Alison Barretta
Freelance reviewer and writer

Freelance writer and editor Alison is an expert mattress tester for Tom's Guide, and hails from Philadelphia, USA. Alison has reviewed a wide range of mattresses, pillows and other sleep accessories for Tom's Guide, putting the latest hybrid, memory foam and cooling mattresses from Casper, Nectar, Awara, Brooklinen and other leading brands through their paces. Alison has been sharing buying advice and retail news for over a decade. When she isn't reviewing mattresses, other home products or hunting for great deals to save you money, Alison can be found teaching/training in martial arts, fawning over skincare, and indulging in her quarantine-borne hobby: cooking.