The very best mattress for back sleepers will be the mattress that supports the body in a neutral position.
What do we mean by that? Well, the best mattress will be able to not only support your body weight, but also simultaneously provide the proper contour necessary to maintain that neutral position.
Your neutral position is how you look standing upright, nice and relaxed; it’s the way your shoulders line up with your hips. If you turn to the side and look in the mirror, you can see the natural curvature of your spinal column and how your seat curves down to your hamstrings.
This is what we’re trying to replicate while back sleeping: everything should look as close as possible to how it looks while you’re standing upright. All that natural curvature needs to exist while you’re sleeping. If it doesn’t, you’ll wake up with soreness due to the stress of being mispositioned during the night.
For back sleepers, please pay special attention to the hip region. The heaviest bone group in the body is the pelvic region. If proper contour isn’t achieved in this area, it throws off the entire alignment.
If the bed is too firm, and hips are held too high, once sleep sets in and the body relaxes, the hips will be forced upwards (towards the ceiling) in an unhealthy way, and ultimately flatten out the natural curvature of the low back region. The discs in between each vertebrae can’t rehydrate properly, resulting in back pain. The musculature isn’t relaxed in a healthy position, but is flexed, resulting in tension/pulling sensations: back pain. See where we’re going with this?
If the bed is too soft, the hips/pelvic region drop in too far into the mattress, creating a swayback effect. This creates musculature tension along the lumbar spine due to exaggerated curvature: back pain. And again, the intervertebral discs can’t rehydrate properly when they’re pinched.; back pain results.
Do you need a soft, medium, or firm mattress? The answer is dictated by your weight.
We suggest throwing the terms “soft” and “firm” right out the window. Shop according to flexible support that allows proper positioning. Find a mattress that holds you properly, then take a good long look at the warranty to see how long you may expect it to do so. Beware, again, of “comfort impression” caveats. Please refer to our article: Mattress Warranties—What You Need to Know Before You Buy for more information on how to de-code warranties: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2012/12/mattress-warranties-what-you-need-to.html
Next up: What’s the best mattress for stomach sleepers?