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An illustrated mattress is on the left side of a pale blue background, with the text "The Science of Mattresses" in bold capital letters. In the bottom right corner, a "10 almonds" logo features a small pile of almonds. Discover the best mattresses through scientific insights.

What Mattress Is Best, By Science?

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The Foundations of Good Sleep

You probably know the importance of good sleep for good health. If not, here’s a quick refresher:

You should also definitely check out this quite famous book on the topic:

Why We Sleep – by Dr Matthew Walker

What helps, to get that good sleep

We’ve covered this a little before too, for example:

How to level-up from there

One of the biggest barriers to good sleep for many people is obstructive sleep apea:

Healthier, Natural Sleep Without Obstruction!

We covered (in the above article) a whole lot of ways of mitigating/managing obstructive sleep apnea. One of the things we mentioned as beneficial was avoiding sleeping on one’s back, and this is something Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Somers agreed with:

Back Sleeping, And Sleeping Differently After 50

“But side-sleeping is uncomfortable”

If this is you, then chances are you have the wrong mattress.

If your mattress is too firm, you can get around it by using this “five pillow” method:

Click Here If The Embedded Video Doesn’t Load Automatically

If your mattress is too soft, then sorry, you really just have to throw that thing out and start again.

The Goldilocks mattress

While different people will have different subjective preferences, the science is quite clear on what is actually best for people’s spines. As this review of 39 qualified scholarly articles concluded:

❝Results of this systematic review show that a medium-firm mattress promotes comfort, sleep quality and rachis alignment❞

~ Dr. Gianfilippo Caggiari et al.

Read in full: What type of mattress should be chosen to avoid back pain and improve sleep quality? Review of the literature

Note: to achieve “medium-firm” that remains “medium firm” has generally been assumed to require a memory-foam mattress.

How memory-foam works: memory-foam is a moderately thermosoftening material, designed to slightly soften at the touch of human body temperature, and be firmer at room temperature. This will result in it molding itself to the form of a human body, providing what amounts to personalized support for your personal shape and size, meaning your spine can stay exactly as it’s supposed to when you’re sleeping on your side, instead of (for example) your hips being wider meaning that your lumbar vertebrae are raised higher than your thoracic vertebrae, giving you the equivalent of a special nocturnal scoliosis.

It will, therefore, stop working if

  • the ambient temperature is comparable to human body temperature (as happens in some places sometimes, and increasingly often these days)
  • you die, and thus lose your body temperature (but in that case, your spinal alignment will be the least of your concerns)

Here’s a good explanation of the mechanics of memory foam from the Sleep Foundation:

Sleep Foundation | What is Memory Foam?

An alternative to memory foam?

If you don’t like memory foam (one criticism is that it doesn’t allow good ventilation underneath the body), there is an alterative, the grid mattress.

It’s very much “the new kid on the block” and the science is young for this, but for example this recent (April 2024) study that concluded:

❝The grid mattress is a simple, noninvasive, and nonpharmacological intervention that improved adults sleep quality and health. Controlled trials are encouraged to examine the effects of this mattress in a variety of populations and environments.❞

~ Dr. Heather Hausenblas et al.

Read in full: Effectiveness of a grid mattress on adults’ sleep quality and health: A quasi-experimental intervention study

However, that was a small (n=39) uncontrolled (i.e. there was no control group) study, and the conflict of interest statement is, well, interesting:

❝Heather A. Hausenblas, Stephanie L. Hooper, Martin Barragan, and Tarah Lynch declare no conflict of interest. Michael Breus served as a former consultant for Purple, LLC.❞

~ Ibid.

…which is a fabulous way of distracting from the mention in the “Acknowledgements” section to follow, that…

❝Purple, LLC, provided financial support for the study❞

~ Ibid.

Purple is the company that invented the mattress being tested. So while this doesn’t mean the study is necessarily dishonest and/or corrupt, it does at the very least raise a red flag for a potential instance of publication bias (because Purple may have funded multiple studies and then pulled funding of the ones that weren’t going their way).

If you are interested in Purple’s mattress and how it works, you can check it out herethis is a link for your interest and information; not an advertisement or an endorsement. We look forward to seeing more science for this though, and echo their own call for randomized controlled trials!


Sleep is important, and while it’s a popular myth that we need less as we get older, the truth is that we merely get less on average, while still needing the same amount.

A medium-firm memory-foam mattress is a very good, well-evidenced way to support that (both figuratively and literally!).

A grid mattress is an interesting innovation, and/but we’d like to see more science for it.

Take care!

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