How to choose a mattress for your sleep position

A woman with brown hair lies on her stomach on top of a mattress for front sleepers that she has chosen to buy
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Learning how to choose a mattress for your sleeping position is worth the effort, as the ideal bed for a side sleeper feels very different to the ideal mattress for a back sleeper. Pick the wrong mattress for your sleep style and you'll be at risk of aches and pains and many a sleepless night. Pick the right one and you'll fall asleep faster and feel much more comfortable all night long.

We've tested a wide range of mattresses for our best mattress of 2024 guide, so we know which types of mattress (and which materials) suit specific sleeping positions.

Here we'll explain which type of mattress is ideal for side, back, front, and combi sleepers, what to look for and what to avoid. Plus, we've rounded up our top picks for different sleepers in this month's mattress sales.

What are the four major sleeping positions?

An illustration showing the main sleeping positions on a mattress

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A sleeping position is the position your body assumes while asleep, but it can also refer to the body position you assume when trying to fall asleep, too. There are four main sleeping positions:

Side sleeping position: If you sleep on your side, you are not alone. Side sleeping is the most common sleep position, 60% of Americans falling asleep on their side. The position involves lying on your left or right side, with your shoulders and hips pressing against the mattress.

Back sleeping position: Sleeping on your back is the second most common sleep position, with a third of us (37%) of us sleeping in this position at night. It's also considered the healthiest sleeping position as it keeps our backs in correct alignment. 

Stomach sleeping position: Front, stomach, or belly sleeping is not only the least common sleep style, with only 7% of adults sleeping in the prone position, but it's also the worst position for back support.

Combination sleeping position: Of course, not everyone sticks to one position, with some sleepers changing position throughout the night. Combi sleepers, sometimes referred to as restless sleepers, can switch between two or even three positions while asleep.

How to choose a mattress for side sleepers

A woman with dark curly hair sleeps on her side in a pink nightdress

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Shoulders, knees, and hips are the key pressure points when side sleeping, so they need the most relief. The best mattresses for side sleepers will offer cushioning pressure relief to these areas and soothe any joint pain. 

What to look for and why

To find body-cradling comfort that will relieve side-sleeping pressure points, you'll need to choose a mattress that isn't too firm. A lot mattresses for side sleepers are medium to medium-firm, usually coming with a firmness rating somewhere between 5 and 7. However, some medium mattresses may be too soft for sleepers who weigh over 230lbs, so heavyweight side sleepers may want to opt for medium-firm (6-7) or the softer side of firm (7-8).

In terms of design, side sleepers should go for a mattress between 12 and 14 inches tall (though anything 10 inches and over will be supportive) as thicker mattresses tend to have more comfort layers. The best memory foam mattresses also tend to suit side sleepers as the body-hugging foam can cradle pressure points. However, there are plenty of beds in our best hybrid mattress guide that suit side sleepers, too. 

What to avoid and why

Side sleepers should avoid any mattress that's shorter than 10 inches tall, as thin beds won't have enough comfort layers to provide enough pressure relief. You'll also want to avoid firm mattresses as these are designed for stomach sleepers who need to keep their hips upright for correct spinal alignment. 

While there are plenty of latex mattress that can provide enough cushioning comfort for side sleepers, be warned that latex isn't the best material for pressure relief, due to its natural buoyancy. 

Our top 3 mattresses for side sleepers

1. Helix Midnight Luxe: was from $1,373 $1,030 at Helix Sleep

1. Helix Midnight Luxe: was from $1,373 $1,030 at Helix Sleep
The Helix Midnight Luxe is our top pick for side sleepers. In fact, our reviewers for our Helix Midnight Luxe review were most impressed with its outstanding pressure relief. Helix has now kick-started its 4th of July mattress sales, with a 25% off discount, bringing a queen down to $1,780.40 from $2,373.This is a much better deal than the standard Helix mattress sale, comes with a 100 night sleep trial, 15 year warranty, and free shipping. 

2. Leesa Sapria Hybrid: fwas from $1,349 now $1,011 at Leesa

2. Leesa Sapria Hybrid: fwas from $1,349 now $1,011 at Leesa
Our Leesa Sapira Hybrid mattress review found this bed to be excellent for side sleepers thanks to its medium-firm feel and dense, high-quality foams. The current 25% off deal means that a queen size Leesa Sapira Hybrid is $1,499 from $1,999, which translates to a healthy saving of $500 off. There's also a 10-year warranty and a 100-night trial period.

3.Purple Mattress: was from $999now$799 at Purple

3. Purple Mattress: was from $999 now $799 at Purple
Our testers for the Purple Mattress review loved the cushioned yet supportive comfort this memory foam bed offers to side sleepers. Plus, the new Purple mattress deal knocks up to $400 off Purple's signature bed, which brings the price of a queen down to $1,099. Last year, a queen cost $1,259, so this is one of the strongest savings we've seen from Purple. You'll also get free shipping and a 100-night trial.

How to choose a mattress for stomach sleepers

Man asleep in bed, lying on his stomach

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As belly sleeping doesn't encourage the correct spinal alignment, those who sleep on their stomach need something firm and supportive to correct their posture. Hips should be kept upright and therefore aligned with the spine, so you won't wake up with lower back pain. 

What to look for and why

The best mattresses for stomach sleepers need to be firm enough to keep their hips upright and spine correctly aligned. Front sleepers should choose a mattress that's medium-firm (6-7) to firm (8-9), with heavier bodies weighing over 230lbs opting for something firm and lighter bodies (130lbs or less) opting for something more on the medium side of firm.

In terms of design and materials, hybrid, latex, and innerspring mattresses tend to be supportive enough for front sleepers, but you can find plenty of firm memory foam beds, too. And if you're wondering how thick your mattress should be, anything between 10 to 12 inches should be suitable. 

What to avoid and why

Stomach sleepers should avoid anything plush and unsupportive. If a mattress is too soft, your hips will dip into the mattress's surface, causing the spine to become misaligned - which then leads to lower back pain.

Avoid anything with an ultra-plush, pillow-top surface, or any bed with a design that's less than 8 inches tall. While you shouldn't rule out memory foam mattresses altogether (there are a lot of memory foam mattresses with a firm surface), be aware that memory foam can be a bit too soft and squidgy for some stomach sleepers. 

Our top 3 mattresses for stomach sleepers

1. Helix Dusk Luxe mattress:was from $1,373 now $1,099 at Helix Sleep

1. Helix Dusk Luxe mattress: was from $1,373 now $1,099 at Helix Sleep
Our front-sleeping reviewers for the Helix Dusk Luxe mattress review loved the firm feel and found that the Dusk Luxe's zoned support helps ease back pain. Helix's 25% off discount is back for Independence Day on the Dusk Luxe, with a queen size Helix Dusk Luxe costs $1,780.30 today, with a 100-night trial and a 15-year warranty.

2. Siena Memory Foam mattress:was from $499now$199 at Siena Sleep  

2. Siena Memory Foam mattress: was from $499 now $199 at Siena Sleep  
Our Siena Memory Foam mattress review ranks this as the best cheap mattress if you want firm support for front sleeping. The regular Siena mattress sale knocks up to 60% off this memory foam mattress, with a queen down to just $399. Plus, there’s generous extras such as a 180-night sleep trial and free shipping and returns. 

3. The DreamCloud: was from $839 now $449 at DreamCloud Sleep

3. The DreamCloud: was from $839 now $449 at DreamCloud Sleep
Our DreamCloud mattress review found this to be one of the best luxury mattresses for stomach sleepers on a budget. The standard DreamCloud mattress sale knocks 50% off, taking a queen down to $665. You'll get some generous extras, too: a 365-night trial, a forever warranty and free shipping and returns.

How to choose a mattress for back sleepers

Woman sleeping with eye mask

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While stomach sleepers need something firm and supportive, and side sleepers need something plush and comforting, back sleepers need a good mixture of both. So, the ideal mattress for back sleepers will need to combine soft comfort layers with sturdy support layers.

What to look for and why

Back sleepers usually need something that's comfortable and firm enough to support their hips, so choose a medium-firm mattress if you sleep in the supine position. Hybrid mattresses made from memory foam or latex tend to be the best for back sleepers as they provide enough comfort and support layers for the lower back region.

Heavier back sleepers who weigh over 230lbs should go for something on the lower side of firm (7-8), which lightweight sleepers who weigh 130lbs or less should go for something plusher (6-6.5). In terms of height, anything 10 inches or over is suitable, but couples and plus-sized adults may need something thicker. 

What to avoid and why

Back sleepers should stay away from anything too plush or too firm, so try to avoid any mattress with a firmness rating of below 6 or over 8. A hard mattress will feel too hard, while a medium-plush won't support your hips properly - which may lead to lower back pain.

Our top 3 mattresses for back sleepers

1. Birch Natural mattress: was from $1,373.80 now $1,030 at Birch Mattress

1. Birch Natural mattress: was from $1,373.80 now $1,030 at Birch Mattress
Our reviewers for our Birch Natural mattress review found this natural latex bed to be the best organic mattress for back sleepers thanks to its ultra-supportive surface. Birch's current sale cuts 25% off its Natural mattress, reducing the price of a queen size to $1,405.30. 

2. Bear Original mattress: was from $699now $490 at Bear

2. Bear Original mattress: was from $699 now $490 at Bear
Our testers for the Bear Original mattress review found that the all-memory foam mattress is greatly supportive of back sleeper's hips and lower back. Plus, there's now a 30% off Bear mattress sale that takes a queen-size down to $699. 

3. Brooklyn Aurora Luxe: was from $1,199$899.30 at Brooklyn Bedding

3. Brooklyn Aurora Luxe: was from $1,199 $899.30 at Brooklyn Bedding
The Aurora Luxe is a hybrid that's available in three different firmness options, but our Brooklyn Bedding Aurora Luxe mattress review says back sleepers won't go wrong with a medium or a firm. Regular deals knock 30% off MSRP, and there's a 120 night trial included. If you have a little more cash to splash, we think the pillow-top upgrade is well worth it.

How to choose a mattress for combination sleepers?

A man with dark hair sleeps on his side covered by a white comforter

(Image credit: Getty)

Shopping for a mattress as a combination sleeper can be tricky as you'll need a bed that suits two or three positions. However, if you have a dominant sleeping position, then it's best to let it be your guide. For example, if you mostly sleep on your side but  also your front, then you may want to choose something that's medium-firm instead of medium. On the other hand, if you sleep on your back but mostly on your stomach, you may need something that's more firm than medium-firm. 

What to look for and why

When in doubt, a medium-firm mattress should suit most sleep positions, and you can also choose a mattress based on your body type, too. For example, those who weigh over 230lbs are better off with a firm mattress no matter what position they sleep in,

In regard to material, you'll need a bed with a responsive, bouncy surface that will allow for ease of movement when changing positions. Latex, hybrid, and innerspring mattresses tend to have enough bounce for combi sleepers. 

The only downside is that the bouncier the bed, the less motion isolation it will have - which can spell bad news if you share a bed with someone. So, if you're waking up your partner when changing sleep positions, it could be one of the signs you need a split king mattress.

What to avoid and why

Memory foam beds tend to be the worst for responsiveness due to their slow-moving foam, so combi sleepers should avoid anything with a sink-in soft feel.

You'll also want to avoid any mattress with a firmness rating that's incompatible with one of your sleep styles. For example, if you're a stomach and side sleeper, you should avoid anything too soft for stomach sleeping or too hard for side sleeping. 

Our top 3 mattresses for combination sleepers

1. Saatva Classic Mattress: was from $1,395 now $1,186 at Saatva

1. Saatva Classic Mattress: was from $1,395 now $1,186 at Saatva
Not only is this our top recommendation for best luxury mattress, it's also great for all sleep styles thanks to it's three firmness options: Plush, Luxury Firm, and Firm. It's also available in two heights, so you can customize this mattress to fit your sleeping position. Our Saatva Classic mattress review also praised its naturally breathable cover and excellent pressure relief, and there's a 15% off Saatva mattress sale, which takes a queen mattress down to $1,781. Generous extras include free white glove delivery, 365-night sleep trial, and a lifetime warranty. 

2. Awara Natural Hybrid mattress: was from $1,299$649 at Awara

2. Awara Natural Hybrid mattress: was from $1,299 now $649 at Awara
Not only is this the best organic mattress for those on a budget, but our testers for our Awara Natural Hybrid Mattress review found this to be perfect for all sleeping positions, too. Right now you can save up to $765 on the Awara Natural Hybrid, which takes the price of a queen size mattress down to $949. 

3. Signature Hybrid Mattress: was from $665 now $498.80 at Brooklyn Bedding

3. Signature Hybrid Mattress: was from $665 now $498.80 at Brooklyn Bedding
Our Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid Mattress review praised the wide range of size and firmness options for all sleep styles and felt it's a good match for bed sharing couples. We also feel it's one of the best mattresses under $1,000 as you'll never have to pay over $999 for a  queen thanks to a permanent discount. 

Frances Daniels
Sleep Staff Writer

Frances Daniels is a Sleep Staff Writer at Tom's Guide and her role includes covering all mattress and sleep news, in addition to mattress reviews and buyer's guides, plus sleep accessories such as pillows and mattress toppers. Frances is a PPA-accredited journalist and is hugely interested in the relationship between good sleep and overall health. When not writing about mattresses and sleep for Tom's Guide, Frances enjoys writing about women's issues, health and wellbeing, the environment, and her native Wales.