Search IconSearch
May 23, 2023/Living Healthy/Sleep

A Good Night’s Sleep Starts With a Good Mattress

Look for a firmer mattress and then make adjustments as needed

A couple lie on a matress at the store to test firmness.

Archeologists searching caves above a South African river found evidence of the world’s first mattresses. These sleeping mats made of leaves and grass date back an estimated 77,000 years.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Consider that the start of humankind’s quest for the perfect sleep surface.

A comfortable mattress is key to a good night’s sleep — and thankfully, we’ve advanced well past leaves and grass. But the question is: What kind of mattress offers the most optimal slumber? Chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC, has some suggestions.

What type of mattress is best?

A classic bedtime story might be the best game plan for selecting a mattress. Basically, take the Goldilocks approach: Not too soft, not too hard, but just right. That’s typically a mattress that carries a medium-firm designation.

Research shows that a medium-firm mattress can improve sleep quality by 55% and help reduce chronic back pain.

Another bonus? A firmer mattress gives you options. “Starting on the firmer side allows you to make adjustments as needed,” says Dr. Bang. “You can always add softness to a mattress by using a foam topper or other type of topper for more give.”

Adjustable mattresses are on the market, too. Air chambers within these mattresses can be deflated or inflated to customize firmness. “It gives you a lot of control to meet changing needs,” notes Dr. Bang. (Wallet warning: Adjustable mattresses tend to be pricey.)

Buying a mattress

Manufacturers use their own methods to rate and describe firmness, as there’s no set standard for the industry. That means a medium-firm mattress from one company may feel vastly different than another.

So, spend time lying on mattresses in a showroom to see what feels comfortable and what feels like an ache waiting to happen.

“Be your own investigator,” advises Dr. Bang. “You’re the best source for what feels right to you.”

And check on the return policy for a mattress in case it doesn’t work out. Many manufacturers offer that option. “Even if you have to pay a fee, it’s worth it,” he adds. “You don’t want to be stuck with an uncomfortable mattress for years.”

How often should you replace your mattress?

It’s possible to buy a mattress with a 20-year or 30-year warranty. The product may even hold up that long for you. Here’s the issue, though: Your body can change a lot over a few decades, notes Dr. Bang.

“What you’re looking for in a mattress will probably change as you age,” he continues. “What’s right for the 30-year-old you might not be the best choice for the 50-year-old or 60-year-old version of yourself.”

Given that, it’s best to change mattresses about every 10 years — especially if you’ve experienced physical changes such as an injury or a significant weight gain or loss.

Keep tabs on the physical condition of your mattress, too, as well as the box spring or frame. If they look worn … well, they probably are. “Any of these can lose their integrity over time — and that’s not going to help you sleep,” says Dr. Bang.


Other sleep factors

Your mattress is important when it comes to getting a good night’s rest, but it’s not the only thing that matters. If you’re waking up with aches and pains, you also may want to consider:

  • Sleep position. You spend about eight hours sleeping every day. If you’re in an awkward position for that long, expect to feel the consequences when you wake up. (Learn more about the best positions for sleep.)
  • Pillow type. Remember “memory foam” when you’re pillow shopping. The sponge-like material contours to your body, combining the comfort you crave with ample support for your head and neck. (Get more information on picking a pillow.)
  • Sleep environment. Keep your bedroom cool (60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit/15 to 19 degrees Celsius), dark and quiet for optimal snoozing.

Final thoughts

Think of your mattress as a significant purchase that deserves your attention, time and research. “You’re going to spend about one-third of your day on it,” says Dr. Bang. “That makes it a big deal.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Happy couple sleeping in bed together, holding hands
June 3, 2024/Sleep
The Scandinavian Sleep Method: A Surprisingly Simple Fix for Couples Struggling With Blanket-Hogging

Sleeping with separate blankets can help you get the ZZZs you need — without fighting for covers all night

Person sitting on bed in pjs with head in hand, eyes closed
May 29, 2024/Sleep
Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Stress, weight gain and forgetfulness are just a few effects of losing sleep

Person in bed experiencing nightmares
May 22, 2024/Sleep
7 Reasons You’re Having Nightmares

Stress, alcohol, sleep apnea and (you guessed it!) scary movies are a few common causes of bad dreams

Person sitting in chair writing in tablet
May 21, 2024/Sleep
Should You Be Keeping a Dream Journal?

Recording your dreams may help you become more mindful, understand your thought patterns, process your emotions and even reduce your stress

Person sitting in bed in the evening, reading a book, with cup of tea on bedside table
May 15, 2024/Sleep
Restless? Try These Bedtime Teas for Better Sleep

Chamomile, lavender and valerian root teas may offer a faster route to dreamland

Person asleep in bed, talking in their sleep
May 3, 2024/Sleep
Why Do People Talk in Their Sleep?

Many factors can contribute to sleep talking, like stress or anxiety, lack of or low-quality sleep, or even more serious sleep-related conditions

Young child in bed reading at night
May 2, 2024/Children's Health
Nighty-Night: Tips To Get Your Kid To Stay In Bed

A consistent, structured routine, which may include incentives, can help children learn to stay in bed and get the ZZZs they need

Person in bed at night without covers, with fan blowing on them
April 17, 2024/Sleep
9 Reasons Why You’re Sweating in Your Sleep — And How To Get Relief

Getting to the root cause of night sweats — like menopause, medication side effects, stress or anxiety — can help you manage them

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims