How Thick Should a Mattress Be?

The average mattress is around 9 to 14 inches thick to provide adequate support and comfort. Some mattresses are as thick as 16 to 18 inches, though this is rare. Generally, thicker mattresses are plush and have a bit more give, while thinner mattresses are firm and provide a solid sleep surface.

While 12 to 14-inch mattresses are seemingly luxurious and more supportive compared to a standard 10-inch mattress, most sleepers don’t need a super thick bed. To help you understand what mattress thickness you need, we’ll talk about the various thicknesses and how they affect a mattress’s feel, comfort level, and durability.

Mattress Thickness Rating

Most high-quality mattresses are between 10 to 14 inches thick to accommodate the average-sized sleeper. However, we’ve listed other mattress thicknesses you might find along with their typical uses.

  • 2-4 inches (low profile): 2 to 4-inch mattresses are commonly used as foldaway beds, air mattresses, and crib and toddler mattresses because they’re so thin. Even though they can fit in tight spaces, they are not suitable for long-term use.
  • 5-8 inches (slim): 5 to 8-inch mattresses are good for children, short individuals, and people with limited mobility because they’re easy to get in and out of.
  • 9-12 inches (standard): 9 to 12-inch mattresses are the most common mattress option and most people are comfortable with mattresses within this size range. However, the several inch difference between standard mattresses can have an impact on your comfort level, as added inches may impact firmness or make it slightly easier to climb in and out of bed.
  • 13-16 inches (thick, deep): 13 to 16-inch mattresses may be a bit more comfortable for larger users or side sleepers, though they can be pricey to make up for the added durability and materials used.
  • 17+ inches (extra thick, extra deep): Mattresses 17 inches or thicker are rather obsolete as they’re unnecessarily large and provide little added support or comfort compared to thinner beds. No mainstream mattress brands make mattresses this thick, so you’d need to get one custom-made.

Mattress Structure

Beneath your mattress’s cover are multiple layers to provide your body with adequate support and cushioning. The two primary layers of any mattress are the comfort and base layers, though some beds contain a transition layer for extra support.

Comfort Layer

The comfort layer is a mattress’s top layer and affects its cushioning, pressure relief, and firmness. This layer is usually what most people usually think of when buying a mattress, though the other layers are equally important.

Comfort layers are made of memory foam, gel foam, or latex foam. Some contain additional technologies for breathability or support. The ideal comfort layer should be at least 2 inches thick to sufficiently support your body.

Transition Layer

A transition layer is usually 1 to 2 inches of memory foam, gel-infused foam, or latex, and it sits between the comfort and base layers. The transition layer is meant to provide extra support. Not every mattress has a dedicated transition layer, though this doesn’t mean they’re unsupportive or uncomfortable, merely simpler.

Base Layer

The base layer is the supportive foundation of every bed and is made using poly-foam, latex, or pocketed springs. The base affects the durability, lifespan, and support capability of a mattress (whether or not it consistently keeps your spine aligned).

The base layer of a high-quality mattress should make up 50 percent of the bed. If, say, your mattress is 12 inches tall, but only has a 4 or 5-inch base layer, it’s prone to sagging, wearing down, and being unsupportive. Aim for at least a 5 to 6-inch base layer for 10 to 12-inch mattresses.

Choosing the Right Mattress Thickness

When browsing for your next mattress, remember thicker mattresses (12 inches or more) aren’t for everyone. They may seem more luxurious, but a thinner mattress (10 to 12 inches) can be just as comfortable and supportive, so long as it meets a person’s needs.

Medical Conditions

People who struggle with health issues such as chronic hip and shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, or arthritis, might find the cushioning of a 12 to 14-inch mattress relieves their symptoms and prevents pressure build-up.

Similarly, pregnant women may be more comfortable on a 12 to 14-inch mattress, since they should sleep on their sides and a thick mattress is better suited for the position. This thickness may even relieve joint pain and pressure build-up.

Thinner beds (10 to 14 inches) are typically good mattresses for back pain to prevent sinking and overextending your back.

Mobility Concerns

Getting in and out of a thick bed may prove difficult for individuals with limited mobility. For instance, a wheelchair user may find climbing into or rolling out of bed is unideal and potentially unsafe. Finding the correct bed height and thickness is slightly subjective, as you’ll need to find a mattress and matching base to meet your height and mobility requirements.

Sharing a Bed

Couples should aim for at least a 12-inch mattress, especially if either person is heavier. Thicker mattresses typically have little motion transfer, so you and your partner won’t disturb each other during the night.

A thinner mattress might be okay in case you and your partner are both back sleepers, but it may not last very long beneath two people and a sinkhole might appear in the center of the bed.

Total Bed Height

Your bed’s total height includes the foundation, bed frame, and mattress. Generally, the top of your mattress with all its accessories should be around 25 inches off the ground. When getting in and out of bed, your feet should touch the floor entirely and your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle.

Some people put their mattress on the floor, though this voids most mattress warranties and can cause mold or mildew buildup, so we don’t recommend it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a thick mattress better than a thinner one? 

Thick mattresses (12-14 inches) are beneficial for their extra cushioning, an aspect particularly useful for larger individuals, couples, and side sleepers. With this in mind, thick mattresses are more heavy and expensive than thin beds (10-12 inches) since they contain more materials and have more layers. 

Thinner beds have their advantages just as thick beds do. A 10 to 12-inch mattress is typically firmer and better suited for back and stomach sleeping. They’re lightweight, so they’re easier to transport, and more affordable compared to thick mattresses.

Is it better to sleep higher or lower to the ground?

Sleeping roughly 25 inches off the ground is ideal so there’s no need to climb in or out of bed, especially for people with mobility issues or chronic pain. However, younger individuals or people with no health conditions can choose their bed height based on preference and aesthetics. 

Is an 8-inch mattress too thin?

An 8-inch mattress won’t provide enough support or cushioning for the average-sized adult. Children or shorter adults should be okay on a thin mattress, and it can be used as a temporary sleep solution for guests. However, the average adult should seek a mattress at least 10 inches tall for ample support and comfort.

How do I choose a good mattress topper?

Mattress toppers are a great way to add extra firmness or softness to your mattress. They’re typically 2 or 3 inches tall and relatively inexpensive.

Sleepers in search of extra cushioning might opt for a soft topper, and vice versa if you need more firmness. For an aging mattress, use a latex or memory foam topper for extra support (though we also recommend switching out sagging and unsupportive mattresses entirely).

Mattress toppers are available in a variety of different materials, such as down, memory foam, or wool. Hot sleepers might try cooling mattress toppers made of gel-infused memory foam or latex.

How do I get a fitted sheet to stay on a thick mattress?

The easiest way to keep your fitted sheet on your thick mattress is to use a deep pocket fitted sheet. Standard pocket fitted sheets stretch to stay on a thick mattress, so they’re at risk of popping off or wearing out. Aim for a fitted sheet with a pocket depth between 13 to 17 inches.

Another way to keep your fitted sheet on a thick mattress is by using sheet suspenders. You simply fasten the suspenders to each corner of your fitted sheet, effectively preventing the sheet from coming off.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you don’t need an extra thick mattress for a great night’s sleep. In fact, some people might find thick mattresses end up being a bit too bulky. When choosing your mattress’s thickness, keep in mind any health concerns and your sleep environment to narrow down your options. A decent thickness range for the average sleeper is between 10 to 14 inches.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Andrew Russell, Wellness Writer Andrew Russell

Andrew Russell is a part-time writer and full-time sleep enthusiast. At Zoma, Andrew lends his sleep expertise and writes many of our “better sleep” guides. Outside of Zoma, Andrew puts his advice to the test, always trying new ways to get deeper, more restorative sleep. We appreciate Andrew because he doesn’t give advice that he doesn’t follow himself, so you can feel confident his solutions for better sleep really do the trick.

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