Sleep affects an athlete’s performance, but athletes may not know just how much a poor night of sleep can cost them. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the chances of a sports injury, disease, or obesity. And athletes need more sleep than most to keep up with their active lifestyle.
The best mattress for athletes should help them reach the deeper stages of sleep for better, faster recovery. In this guide, we cover what an athlete should look for in a mattress and other steps they can take to improve their sleep.
Our Recommendation: Zoma Mattress
We designed our Zoma Mattress specifically to help athletes achieve peak performance. By improving your sleep, your body can recover faster and you can perform better. Three foam layers make up the 11-inch thick mattress, each layer with its unique purpose.
First is a 2-inch top layer of gel-infused memory foam. The cooling gels within this top layer help the sleeper stay cool, while the soft memory foam contours to the body for pressure and pain relief.
The first layer also includes our Triangulex™ technology for added breathability and zoned support. The midsection of the foam is solid, to keep the hips and torso elevated, but the shoulders and legs areas contain triangle-shaped cutouts. These cutouts allow for more contouring, giving extra relief to your shoulders and legs.
Second is a 2-inch layer of highly-responsive Reactiv™ foam. Reactiv™ has a latex-like nature that adds bounce and keeps a sleeper from sinking too deeply into the mattress.
Third and last is our 7-inch base layer of Support+ foam. Support+ foam gives the mattress shape and structural support.
The Zoma Mattress is protected by a polyester mattress cover with a little bit of elastane added for stretchability. As the cover stretches, it makes air channels to allow for better air circulation.
Our Zoma Mattress is $750 for a queen; it comes with free shipping, a 100-night sleep trial, and a 10-year warranty. If you’re not satisfied with your mattress just give us a call and we will issue a full refund. We’ll also have a local partner pick up the unwanted mattress and recycle it.
Sleep Needed for Athletes
The importance of getting a good night’s sleep is well known, but you may not know athletes need more sleep than the average person. Athletes should aim to get an extra hour or so of shut-eye each night so that they can spend more time in the restorative stages of sleep.
Getting more sleep can improve a player’s performance. A 2011 study looked at the sleep habits of 11 college basketball players. After two to four weeks spent establishing their baseline, players tried to spend at least 10 hours asleep for five to seven weeks.
Athletic performance was measured after every practice, and the study found the players’ throw accuracy improved after getting more sleep.
For the best recovery, we recommend going to bed an hour earlier rather than taking a nap during the day. This is because it takes time to reach the deeper stages of sleep, so a nap won’t help you recover as well as sleeping for an uninterrupted period. That said, a 2018 study found that an hour or a two-hour daytime nap can help athletes get the full sleep they need.
And what if you don’t get enough sleep? You may do damage beyond just being tired.
A 2014 review observed student-athletes who regularly get less than eight hours of sleep are more likely to injure themselves. A 2017 review further noted that sleep-deprived student-athletes are not only at greater risk of sports injuries but also more likely to develop a serious illness or chronic disease.
Sleep deprivation may also throw off an athlete’s diet. A 2014 study found that a lack of sleep changes our responses to food— we may find unhealthy food more appealing and increase how much we’re eating.
Sleep is important to athletes, and finding the right mattress is a key part of getting the sleep they need.
What an Athlete Needs From a Mattress
To find the best mattress, athletes need to look for a bed with the right mix of pressure relief and support, along with cooling features and motion isolation.
Pressure Relief and Support
A mattress with good pressure relief and support can promote recovery and prevent soreness. By minimizing the pressure that can build up in parts of the body, a quality mattress can soothe the aches and pain an athlete may have.
A supportive mattress is not only durable but should offer zoned support for better spinal alignment. The mattress should be firmer around the torso and flexible around the shoulders and hips, as these areas often experience pressure buildup.
Many athletes are at risk of sleeping hot because exercising raises the body’s core temperature. A cooling mattress for hot sleepers can prevent an athlete from waking up overheated by their surroundings.
Cooling technology can be found in the mattress and the mattress cover. Cooling gels, copper, graphite, and charcoal can help a mattress stay cool by absorbing heat and moisture and moving both away from the body.
Covers may include breathable materials such as cotton and bamboo, or sleep technology such as Celliant® fabric or phase-change material. Celliant® takes body heat and converts it into infrared energy, which has been found to help people get better sleep. Phase-change material absorbs body heat until it reaches a temperature limit, whereupon it will stop absorbing heat and distribute it across the mattress.
Motion isolation keeps a sleeper’s movements from disturbing themselves or others. Restless sleepers or those who share a bed can benefit from a mattress that isolates movement.
Foam mattresses such as memory foam and latex are the best materials to prevent motion transfer. Hybrid mattresses with a memory foam comfort layer and wrapped coils can provide adequate motion isolation. Most innerspring mattresses are too bouncy to offer decent motion isolation.
Mattress Types for Athletes
There are four main mattress types on the market an athlete can choose from. However, some mattresses are better for an athlete than others. Athletes need a sturdy mattress that can alleviate pressure and keep their body temperatures low.
What draws many people to a memory foam mattress is its feel. The material is giving and molds itself to a sleeper’s body for full support and pressure relief. Memory foam is also excellent at preventing motion transfer and keeps quiet as a sleeper moves on top, preventing sleep disturbances.
Memory foam mattresses can provide the pressure and pain relief athletes need, but they should look for one with cooling features. Traditional memory can absorb too much body heat, creating a hot sleeping surface. Most manufacturers add a cooling component such as gel beads or copper to help heat dissipate.
Latex mattresses may be made with natural or synthetic latex. Natural latex is more durable and made from rubber tree sap, while synthetic latex is made with a combination of organic compounds. Because natural latex is made without harming the rubber tree or creating pollutants, it’s one of the more eco-friendly mattress options.
Latex is firmer and more responsive than memory foam but still conforms closely to a sleeper’s body. Plus, a natural latex mattress is durable and can last up to 15 years. However, while a latex mattress can be a good choice for an athlete, they often have high price tags.
Innerspring mattresses are easy to find in most mattress stores and inexpensive as well. Most of the mattress consists of a coil support system, which makes for a bouncy bed. A thin comfort layer tops the mattress, providing minimal pressure relief.
We recommend athletes avoid sleeping on an innerspring mattress, as they tend to provide little comfort and pressure relief. An innerspring mattress can also be a short-lived mattress, as their coils can sag in as little as 5 years.
Hybrids were designed to offer the best of memory foam and innerspring mattresses while minimizing their drawbacks. To qualify as a hybrid mattress, a bed must have 2 to 3 inches of foam on top of a coil support system. The coils provide more air circulation than a foam mattress, while the foam adds more contouring ability than an innerspring mattress.
Most athletes can sleep fine on a hybrid mattress. The coils keep the mattress cool and are typically wrapped for better motion isolation. However, hybrid mattresses can be expensive, and their average lifespan of six or so years may not be worth the price tag.
There are three main sleep positions— side, back, and stomach. If you’re unsure what type of sleeper you are, keep track of how you tend to fall asleep and wake up. Your sleep position influences what mattress firmness is best for you, as different positions need different firmnesses to keep the spine in a neutral alignment.
Side sleeping is arguably the healthiest sleeping position, as it offers a wide variety of benefits. By sleeping on their right side, a person can reduce pressure on the heart, open up their airway for better breathing, and prevent neurodegenerative diseases by helping the brain clean out waste proteins. Pressure tends to accumulate in a side sleeper’s shoulders and hips, however, which can cause pain if their mattress doesn’t contain pressure-relieving materials.
Soft to medium mattresses suit most side sleepers. Side sleepers may also want to keep a second pillow between their legs to reduce pressure and promote hip alignment. If you’re a side sleeper who struggles with how to place your arms, try hugging a pillow as you drift off.
Back sleeping naturally keeps the spine in neutral alignment, although back sleepers risk snoring and the development of sleep apnea. A second pillow under the knees can minimize pressure on the lower back.
A medium-firm to firm mattress suits most back sleepers. Sleepers who like a softer mattress may want to consider a medium mattress with zoned support.
Stomach sleepers risk chronic back pain and neck pain with their preferred position. Gravity pushes the torso into the mattress, extending the spine beyond its curvature. Stomach sleepers also have to keep their neck twisted to the side for hours to breathe.
We recommend stomach sleepers switch to side sleeping or back sleeping; however, if stomach sleeping is the only way you can fall asleep, a firm mattress can keep your spine aligned.
Every sleeper has a firmness level that best suits them, determined by their sleeping position, body type, and personal preferences.
Heavier people need a firmer mattress to better take on their weight, while a lightweight sleeper needs more soft cushioning from their mattress. The table below breaks it down.
|Less than 130 pounds||Soft to medium-soft|
|Between 130 to 230 pounds||Medium to medium-firm|
|More than 230 pounds||Medium-firm to firm|
Mattress companies measure firmness options by using the firmness scale of 1 through 10, with 1 as the softest possible mattress and 10 as the firmest. Most mattresses on the market fall between a 3 and an 8.
Firmness can differ by company and depend on the materials used, so take a moment to skim customer feedback and mattress reviews to see if anyone was surprised by a too firm or too soft mattress.
Sleep Trial, Warranty, and Return Policy
Many mattresses include not just the mattress and a cover, but also three policies— a sleep trial, a warranty, and a return policy. We recommend a mattress with a sleep trial and a warranty as they serve as the mark of a company’s faith in its product.
Sleep trials started as a way to reassure customers who bought the first bed in a box mattresses, though nowadays you’ll find some store mattresses with attached trial periods. If you’re not happy with your mattress during the sleep trial, you can return it or exchange it for another mattress. Most sleep trials last between 90 to 120 days.
Typically, it takes a sleeper about 30 days to adjust to a new mattress. Mattress companies sometimes discourage their customers from returns or exchanges within this time period, to be certain that a sleeper has failed to adjust to a mattress before opting for a new mattress.
You can get an idea of a mattress’s expected lifespan by looking at its attached warranty. Most mattresses come with a 10-year warranty, although a few lower-priced mattresses have warranties for 5 years or less.
Some mattress warranties last 20 to 25 years, although these are often prorated. A few mattresses come with lifetime warranties, although this may not be the deal you expect as warranties often do not cover expected damage from typical wear and tear.
Warranties commonly cover these defects:
- Sagging beyond an inch
- Torn seams
- Coils bursting through the mattress
- Splits or cracks in the foam
- Tears in the cover or damage to the zipper
We advise looking for a mattress that covers sagging under an inch and to avoid any warranty that will only cover sagging greater than two inches. Sagging is a sign of a mattress with compromised support, so it’s best to know if you can get it taken care of before it becomes a serious problem. Sleeping on a sagging mattress can mean developing health issues such as lower back pain or hip pain.
Return policies differ from sleep trials as they only allow for a return and tend to span only 30 days. It’s always a good idea to know how to make a return before you’ve even bought the mattress.
A return policy outlines how you can make a return and what condition the mattress must be in to be eligible for return. You may not be able to return your mattress if it’s been opened or if it’s been treated poorly.
Some companies have hidden fees for returns, such as a transportation fee or a restocking fee. And if you paid a shipping fee when you originally bought your mattress, it may not be refunded if you return it. If you have any questions about whether or not you’ll receive a full refund, reach out to customer service.
You may not be able to make a return immediately, as some companies ask that you give yourself a chance to adjust to a mattress before deciding it’s not for you.
See why Sleep Foundation ranks the Zoma Mattress as one of the top mattresses for athletes.
More Tips for Better Sleep
It may take more than a good mattress to help you get the full night of rest you need to reach peak performance. By changing up your habits for better sleep hygiene, you should see your play improve as well.
First, establish a sleep schedule that includes a set sleep time and wake time. Remember active athletes need at least an extra hour of sleep. Keep to your sleep schedule even on the weekends— yes, this means no sleeping in.
Come up with activities to help you wind down in the evening and better get your brain in gear for sleeping. These can include reading a book (not on a tablet), journaling, light stretches, and taking a warm bath.
There are a few things you’ll want to avoid in the later hours of the evening for a better night of sleep:
- Do not ingest caffeine up to six hours before bed.
- Turn off your electronics two hours before bedtime. The bright lights may keep you awake longer.
- Avoid eating close to bedtime. If you’re hungry, a light snack should be okay.
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t fall asleep right on schedule. Instead, give yourself 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re still awake, get out of bed and do a light activity like read a book or drink warm milk. Return to bed when you feel tired. Memory foam and latex are the best types of mattresses for athletes. Hybrid mattresses can work as well, but we recommend athletes stay away from innerspring mattresses. A good mattress for athletes should ease pressure points, promote body recovery, and be comfortable enough to let an active athlete sleep for 9 to 10 hours. A memory foam mattress can sleep hot if the foam is dense and lacks temperature-regulation technologies. To prevent a hot night of sleep, look for a mattress with cooling gels, graphite, copper, or charcoal. You can also use breathable bedding and wear light sleepwear. A memory foam mattress can sag, as can many types of mattresses. A higher percentage of innerspring and hybrid owners report problems with sagging than owners of a memory foam mattress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Memory foam and latex are the best types of mattresses for athletes. Hybrid mattresses can work as well, but we recommend athletes stay away from innerspring mattresses. A good mattress for athletes should ease pressure points, promote body recovery, and be comfortable enough to let an active athlete sleep for 9 to 10 hours.
A memory foam mattress can sleep hot if the foam is dense and lacks temperature-regulation technologies. To prevent a hot night of sleep, look for a mattress with cooling gels, graphite, copper, or charcoal. You can also use breathable bedding and wear light sleepwear.
A memory foam mattress can sag, as can many types of mattresses. A higher percentage of innerspring and hybrid owners report problems with sagging than owners of a memory foam mattress.
Did We Help?
Sleep is often overlooked in an athlete’s regimen but its importance cannot be overstated. More sleep can improve an athlete’s performance, while those who get less sleep may give a tired performance or even injure themselves. A high-quality mattress can promote muscle recovery for better sleep, and a sleep schedule can ensure an athlete gets the extra sleep they need for a great performance.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.