If you live with pain, you probably know that spending a set amount of time in bed doesn’t automatically translate to good sleep. You likely don’t feel very rested if you spend most nights tossing and turning in hopes of easing discomfort.
Sleeping on a decent mattress is a great start toward improving sleep quality. It may not provide an instant cure, but many people find that sleeping on a better mattress really does help relieve back and neck pain.
We explored top-rated mattresses on the market, paying careful attention to features important for pain relief. To create our list, we considered:
Firmness: All the mattresses on our list offer a medium-firm option, which research has shown may be most effective at supporting proper spinal alignment.
Customer reviews: Many brands say their mattresses can relieve pressure and pain, but reviews from other shoppers often present a more accurate picture. We read what customers had to say to see how these picks actually helped improve their pain and sleep quality.
Company reputation and transparency: We focused on brands known for good business practices, quality mattress construction, and a reputation for providing good customer service.
Company policies: Most brands understand the leap of faith required to buy a mattress online, and many offer a trial period so you can return the mattress if it doesn’t work out. Reputable mattress brands generally offer a lengthy warranty to cover product defects and excessive sagging.
Expert insights: We consulted peer-reviewed studies for more information on the connection between sleep and pain and the qualities that make a mattress good for pain relief. We also reached out to Krystle Howald, PT, DPT, owner of Expecting and Empowered and Empower Movement Physical Therapy, for her tips on getting pain-free sleep.
Vetting: The mattresses on our list have been vetted to ensure that they align with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. You can read more about our vetting process.
There’s plenty to consider as you shop for a mattress. The elements below are particularly important to keep in mind when looking for a mattress to help relieve back and pain.
Hybrid mattresses are a great option for most sleepers. They offer a good mix of support, from their coil base and pressure relief from their foam comfort layers. They also come in a wide range of materials, so you have a lot of options for finding what feels best for you.
Foam mattresses can be a good option for side sleepers looking for a softer mattress, but they might not provide enough support for sleepers with more weight.
According to a 2015 review of 24 studies, medium-firm mattresses may improve sleep quality and promote proper spinal alignment. This could help decrease back pain. In addition, a 2021 review similarly pointed to a medium-firm mattress as the best choice.
Personal preference matters, of course, since you won’t sleep well if you can’t get comfortable on a mattress that feels squishy or unyielding. Look for a mattress that supports you without feeling hard.
The best mattress firmness for back pain may also be based on your weight. If you have more weight, you might sink more deeply into a mattress, which can trigger back pain.
Memory foam mattresses aren’t recommended for people who weigh 230 pounds or more. The foam may not provide enough support, even with different types of foam layers within the mattress.
Mattresses tend to get softer overtime, so your best bet is to purchase one that is as firm as you can comfortably sleep on.
A mattress that provides good pressure relief will gently conform to your shoulders and hips. For good pressure relief, look for all-foam mattresses or hybrid mattresses with foam comfort layers. You may also want to consider a latex mattress or a mattress that contains a latex blend foam.
“Comfort” is a subjective metric, and what works for one person might not work for another. When it comes to pressure relief, your best bet might be to give a bed with a generous in-home trial policy a try.
A 2010 study found that participants saw an improvement in back pain after sleeping on mattresses that were chosen for each individual’s dominant sleeping position. So, it’s important to consider that while shopping.
Side sleepers generally prefer softer mattresses, since they often provide relief for the extra pressure placed on hip and shoulder joints.
If you’re a back or stomach sleeper, you’ll likely prefer a firmer mattress with coils to prevent the heaviest parts of your body (like your hips and shoulders) from sinking into the mattress and to keep your spine aligned.
If you have more weight, try opting for a hybrid mattress to take advantage of the supportive coil base, but keep in mind that you might need to choose a firmer option to feel properly supported.
Note what type of sleeper and sleeping position each mattress is recommended for in its product description. But take care to read reviews, too. People who have experience with the mattress can offer more insight.
Foam, particularly latex foam, may work best for sleepers with back and neck pain. Coils alone won’t provide enough contouring and pressure relief, so opting for a hybrid with latex foam comfort layers can help meet that need.
If you get hot while sleeping, note whether mattresses feature any cooling technology, such as phase-change materials, gel foam, or perforated foam. While sleeping hot might not necessarily cause you pain, tossing and turning all night can leave you feeling uncomfortable all the same.
Other mattress performance considerations
Your specific sleeping needs can also guide you to other important features.
If you sleep with a partner, look for mattresses with good motion isolation. Foam and hybrids with pocketed coils tend to reduce motion transfer best.
Edge support is also important for couples, since you don’t want a rude awakening when you find yourself pushed toward the edge of the bed.
In-home trials give you the chance to try your mattress risk-free. Look for brands with sleep trials long enough for you to get a good feel for your mattress and see how it changes your pain. Don’t forget to double-check the warranty to make sure you know what it covers.
Persistent back and neck pain can have multiple causes, including:
muscle or ligament strain
normal effects of aging
pinched nerves or herniated disks
Another common cause? Sleeping on a bad mattress.
“You’ll know it’s time for a new mattress when you wake up sore, particularly in the neck and shoulders. You should feel better there after you’ve slept, but these areas tend to get sore with a bad mattress. You might notice sore hips and stiffness in your lower back and feel like it takes you a bit to get going in the morning,” Howald explains.
She says that most mattresses typically don’t last much longer than 7 to 10 years: “Once you begin to see indentations, you’ll probably want to consider buying a new mattress. Changing your mattress once it no longer feels supportive can relieve aches and pains and help you sleep more comfortably, for longer stretches of time.”
When pain, or anything else, disrupts your sleep, your brain doesn’t have the chance to filter out toxins and restore itself, which it normally does during deep sleep. Insufficient deep sleep can interfere with brain function and make it hard for your body to recover properly.
So even if it’s not pain keeping you awake right now, sleep loss could lead to pain a few months or years down the line. A mattress that improves your sleep can help you maintain your health and prevent this unpleasant cycle before it starts.
These strategies can also help ease lingering back and neck pain:
Replace your pillows
A pillow with a high loft can cramp your neck and cause pain, especially if you sleep on your back or stomach.
Generally, side sleepers need firm pillows that align the head and neck, while back and stomach sleepers need thinner pillows. If you only sleep on your stomach, you’ll want the thinnest pillow you can find — or none at all.
Consider a mattress topper
If your mattress offers support but feels too firm, a topper can provide more cushioning and make you more comfortable.
Your sleeping position may not be everything, but it can affect back and neck pain. Sleeping flat on your back with pillows under your knees can help relieve lower back pain. Try back or side sleeping for neck pain.
If you need to recline to get comfortable, consider a bed with an adjustable base. Many of the mattresses on this list are compatible with adjustable bases.
Sleep deprivation can affect everything from diabetes and heart disease risk to mood and memory issues.
So, if your back or neck pain is persistent and continues to disrupt your sleep, it’s best to meet with your healthcare professional to explore options. They can refer you to a physical therapist who can help you relieve pain and get to the root cause.
What’s the best sleeping position for neck and back pain?
It’s best to sleep on your side or back if you have neck and back pain. Sleeping on your stomach may put too much pressure on your back. It can also cause you to sleep with your head turned to the side in an unnatural position, which may worsen neck pain.
What sleeping position is best for upper back pain?
Sleeping on your stomach is particularly strenuous for your upper back, according to the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. This position forces you to turn your head to one side overnight.
Aside from avoiding stomach sleeping, people with upper back pain can use a supportive pillow if they like to sleep on their side.
According to Keck, sleeping on your back is likely the best position to avoid upper back pain. However, it’s not a good sleeping position for pregnant people. And for some people, it can be difficult to sleep deeply in this position, too.
What mattress firmness is best for back and neck pain?
Research from 2015 suggests that a medium-firm, self-adjusted mattress is best for back pain. However, firmness is subjective. What feels firm to you might feel soft to someone else. It’s best to try out a mattress in a store before buying or to choose a mattress with an in-home trial period.
Is my old mattress causing back and neck pain?
Yes, it is possible that an older mattress could cause you pain. Mattresses don’t last forever. They wear out over time and become less supportive, no matter which type you’re using.
Aim to replace your mattress every 8 years, or whenever you notice it doesn’t feel as comfortable as it used to.
A new mattress can make a big difference when back and neck pain keep you up at night, but it may not completely kick your pain to the curb.
It’s always a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional to rule out any medical causes, especially if you continue to toss and turn instead of getting quality shut-eye.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.
Last medically reviewed on June 28, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
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