Buying Guide – How to Shop for Mattresses as a Combination Sleeper
The term ‘combination sleeper’ refers to anyone who regularly sleeps in more than one side, back, and/or stomach position during the course of a single night. Most people are technically combination sleepers, even if they largely prefer one specific position over other options.
Combination sleeping is not technically ‘correct,’ nor is is ‘better’ than singular sleep positions. The health benefits of combination sleeping largely depend on the sleeper’s unique routine, although exercising multiple positions can improve blood circulation and minimize the risk of limb numbness.
Finding a mattress that provides adequate support regardless of sleep position can be a tricky undertaking. This guide will look at some important mattress considerations for combination sleepers.
What You Need to Know about Combination Sleeping
Spinal alignment is a key factor for combination sleepers. Whether they are sleeping on their side, back, or stomach, the spine should be aligned with the shoulders and pelvis. Spinal misalignment can cause pressure points to develop all over the body, particularly in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips. Here are some factors to keep in mind about spinal alignment in different sleep positions:
- Side sleeping is the most popular sleep position, and is widely preferred among people with back pain and pregnant women. This is because sleeping with your hips and shoulders on a supportive sleep surface can align the spine and help alleviate pressure points. People who snore and/or experience acid reflux symptoms also tend to sleep better on their sides because this position provides the best air circulation in breathing passages. However, side sleeping can cause facial wrinkles to develop more quickly. Additionally, side sleeping may require additional pillows between the knees and under the legs in order to be sufficiently comfortable.
- Back sleeping, like side sleeping, promotes natural spinal alignment. However, people with larger, heavier stomachs — including pregnant women — may develop lower back or hip pain due to uneven weight distribution on top of their midsection. Back sleeping is also associated with more snoring, and it may exacerbate acid reflux symptoms.
- Stomach sleeping is generally not recommended because of the high potential for pain and discomfort. Because we tend to carry a high concentration of weight in our midsections, stomach sleeping can cause strain on the spine and lower back when this weight pulls the rest of the body toward the mattress. Additionally, most stomach sleepers crane their heads to the left or right, which can cause neck aches.
If a combination sleeper develops aches and pains during the night, this may be the result of either sleeping in a position that leads to discomfort or using a mattress that does not provide adequate support in any position. It’s important to note that some mattresses are specifically designed to accommodate sleepers in singular positions. These models may not be suitable for combination sleepers.
Choosing the Best Mattress for Combination Sleeping
Because spinal alignment is so important to combination sleepers, support should be one of their first considerations when selecting a new mattress. Support refers to the mattress’s ability to provide a flat, even surface that conforms in certain areas to properly align the spine. Unsupportive mattresses, either too firm or not firm enough, have uneven surfaces that lead to misalignment.
Mattress firmness is assigned on a scale of 1 to 10, with ‘1’ being the least firm and ’10’ being the firmest. Most mattresses sold today fall between a ‘3,’ or ‘Soft,’ and an ‘8,’ or ‘Extra Firm.’ The right firmness for a given sleeper will largely depend on his or her weight. Those in the average weight group — 130 to 230 pounds — tend to prefer mattresses that offer a balance of softness and firmness, but preferences differ for those weighing less than 130 pounds or more than 230 pounds.
The table below illustrates optimal firmness settings for combination sleepers in all three weight groups.