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When you’re choosing a mattress, you need to think through a lot of factors, and a quite important but commonly overlooked one is thickness.
Thickness determines not only how the mattress will look in your bedroom but also how comfortable you’ll feel on it.
So, how thick should your mattress be?
Well, the short answer is: it depends. You need to consider the type of your mattress, your body composition, preferred sleeping style... And don’t forget about your health!
Thankfully, this mattress thickness guide will cover all these factors!
What Makes Up the Thickness?
Before we dive deep into our mattress thickness guide, let’s take a look at what thickness is actually made up of.
So, if we take off the mattress cover, we’ll see a few layers made of foam, coils, latex, or other materials.
These layers are divided into four main groups:
- Comfort layers. Also commonly referred to as upper layers, these are the closest to your body. They are typically made of softer memory foam, latex, or polyfoam. The main goal of a comfort layer is to provide cradling and prevent pressure points.
- Support layers. Support layers go right under the comfort layers and are a bit firmer and more responsive. They are responsible for supporting your natural spine alignment and allow you to shift between positions more easily throughout the night.
- Transition layer. Located above the base layer, the transition layer prevents you from feeling the base through the support and comfort layers. It may have higher density (if made of foam) or lower coil gauge (for coil layers).
- Foundation layer. This is usually the thickest and firmest layer of the mattress. It can be made of coils, high-density foam, or firm latex, and its main goal is to enhance the properties of all the layers above. The foundation — also referred to as the base — often determines the basic features of the mattress, such as motion response or edge support.
And here comes a huge misconception about mattresses:
Some people believe that thin mattresses are always firmer and thicker ones always feel soft and cradling.
The reality is a bit different.
See, the mattress design follows the idea of a smooth transition between a firm base and a soft top. Most of the time, more layers above the base will give you a more gradual shift in firmness, which might explain why this misconception appeared.
However, the order of layers and the choice of materials also matter. There are many mattress companies who by altering the construction of one particular model can design it in different firmness levels without changing the height.
Standard Mattress Thickness Chart
So, mattress thickness varies depending on the height of the base layer and the number of the layers above it. Here are the main ranges of thickness:
- Thin: 2-5 inches. Japanese futons, crib mattresses, and floor mattresses fit into this category. Usually, they are made of just one or two layers of foam or fiber padding.
- Low-profile: 5-8 inches. Having 1-2 comfort layers above the base, these models make a good fit for occasional use, e.g. as a mattress for a guest bed. But they can also work for minimalists who appreciate the low-profile design.
- Standard: 8-12 inches. This is a typical mattress thickness for most brands available on the market today. It will likely pack enough layers to offer a good amount of comfort for an average sleeper or couple. Plus, this thickness range tends to have the best value for money.
- Medium-to-thick: 12-18 inches. Now we’re moving to the thicker side of the spectrum. A good example of medium-to-thick mattresses are hybrid beds that have a thick layer of coils and more comfort layers on it, to compensate for the bounciness and rigidity of coils.
- Thick: 20 inches and more. These models are not very common nowadays because of the rise of more compact beds. Besides, such drawbacks of thick mattresses as bulkiness and transportation difficulties outweigh the advantages.
How Thick Should a Mattress Be?
Okay, now you have an idea of how thickness is formed.
But the question of choosing the right one remains open, as the average mattress thickness may not be perfect for everyone. In fact, your ideal thickness can depend on your weight or health problems.
Fortunately, I can provide you with some recommendations for the most common scenarios.
...If You Suffer from Any Kind of Pain
Pain can affect your sleep:
- it can make choosing a comfortable position difficult;
- it can limit your mobility;
- it tends to make you a more sensitive sleeper.
So, a mattress should be able to solve these problems.
For chronic and non-specific pain, choose mattresses with more cradling to relax your muscles and relieve unpleasant symptoms. The standard mattress thickness (8-12 inches) with softer comfort layers or a pillow-top will work.
Those with mobility concerns should choose the thickness that won’t make their bed too high to climb onto. But in this case, the height of the bed frame should be taken into account too. If your bed frame is minimalist and low-profile, you should be able to pair it with a thicker mattress without ending up with an awkwardly high bed.
...If You’re a Large Sleeper
Weight is another important factor to consider because larger users tend to sink deeper into the mattress. If you choose an overly thin mattress, you may feel the rigid foam base through the comfort layers.
Also, if your mattress has to consistently support large body weight, it may start to wear out faster, especially if it’s thin and its upper layers can’t properly resist the weight.
So, if your weight is 225 pounds or above, the average mattress thickness you will feel comfortable on is 10 inches.
Obese sleepers, whose weight is 275 pounds or more, should look for a 12-inch mattress as a starting point.
If this seems too thin for you, you may go for a bulkier model or add a mattress topper for more cushioning.
In my opinion, though, there’s not much difference between a 12-inch mattress and a thicker model. You won’t be sinking into the layers deeper than 5-6 inches, and some 12-inch thick models can offer you the needed amount of comfort layers to compensate for the pressure.
...If You Sleep with a Partner
The key mattress characteristic of a couple-friendly mattress is low motion transfer.
Now, if you remember the physics lessons at school, you may recall that a more massive object has a greater tendency to resist changes in its state of motion.
That’s exactly why thicker mattresses generally have lower motion transfer.
Unless they are hybrids.
A coil base layer of a hybrid mattress is typically quite thick, so it remains responsive despite the upper foam layers. So, even a thick hybrid mattress will still have some bounce to it, which can be a turn-down if you’re a sensitive sleeper.
All-foam models, on the other hand, can absorb movements pretty well even if they’re below the standard mattress thickness.
...If You’re a Mixed Sleeper
Mattress thickness also indirectly affects how comfortably you will feel during sleep. A thicker mattress has more layers to cradle your body, so it can offer you better pressure relief and more comfort.
Choosing a proper mattress for a mixed sleeper boils down to checking preferred sleeping positions and weight.
Those who sleep on their side may benefit from thicker mattresses with more comfort layers that will hug their hips and shoulders. Back sleepers generally feel comfortable on most mattresses regardless of their thickness, and those who sleep on the stomach could use a firmer mattress with extra support for their lower back.
“Larger mattresses have lower motion transfer due to a larger surface area. For example, a King-size mattress gives you 16 inches more in width than a Queen bed. This means that you and your partner can lie further away from each other so that your movements will fade out before they reach your partner and vice versa.”
Other Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Mattress Thickness
The modern mattress market is pretty diverse, and you can find a lot of mattresses for any budget.
However, mattress thickness impacts the price because thicker mattresses require more resources and energy to be produced.
Plus, some brands may just stuff their products with regular foams and raise the cost.
So, if you have a limited budget for a mattress, sometimes it’s better to choose a thinner mattress made from better materials.
High temperature and sleep don’t go well together, and most mattress brands address hot sleeping by using natural and synthetic materials with a cooling effect.
However, if your mattress doesn’t feature coils that are better for air circulation, the excessive thickness can interfere with heat removal, and you will still feel hot despite the layer of gel foam.
So, if you’re prone to hot sleeping, try looking for mattresses with coils, or choose thinner beds made with natural materials, such as latex.
Room Size and Layout
Finally, mattresses that are too thin or too thick can mess with the harmony of your bedroom layout.
This might sound like an exaggeration, but your bedroom should be a perfect place to sleep. It’s hard to call something ‘perfect’ when it’s out of proportion.
Thankfully, there’s a rule that will help you to create a comfortable bed: its final height should be 25 inches from the floor. This height allows most people to sit with their feet flat and makes getting up from the bed easier. If you’re taller than 5’5”, then you can make your bed a little higher — up to 27 inches.
So, check the height of your bed frame, and you will know how thick your mattress would be.