Top Sleeping Tips for Heavy People: Positions, Mattresses, And More
Everyone wants a good night's sleep, but that's easier said than done. If you have a bigger body type, it can be difficult to get quality shut-eye for a variety of reasons.
Your typical sleeping position, your mattress, and sleeping conditions like sleep apnea and acid reflux can all impact your quality of sleep.
Here’s our guide to improving your sleep quality as a heavier person.
The best sleeping positions for better breathing
Whether you have sleep apnea or acid reflux, these sleep positions can help ensure you're comfortable while you sleep.
Unlike sleeping on your stomach or back, sleeping on your side keeps your airways fully open, ultimately allowing for better sleep.
Moreover, sleeping on your back can intensify both sleep apnea and acid reflux, which can greatly reduce your quality of sleep.
A reclined position keeps your head raised, improving airflow and breathing while you sleep. This position can also help with neck pain.
To sleep in a reclined position, use pillows to prop up your head and neck, or invest in an adjustable bed you can adjust into a reclining position.
A bit less pronounced than the reclined position, the ramp position keeps your head raised at a gentle incline while you sleep.
This position may be easier to sleep in than the reclined position and works well to improve airflow and oxygen intake.
The best mattress types for heavy people
In order to find a high-quality mattress that will be comfortable for you and last a long time, there are a few things to take into consideration. These include:
- Mattress firmness and thickness
- Mattress material
- The type of mattress
- Edge support
- Motion isolation
Now, let's take a look at what the ideal mattress would look like for a heavier person.
Mattress firmness level and mattress thickness
People with body weight over 230 pounds should generally opt for a medium-firm to an extra-firm mattress.
A firmer mattress will provide enough support to keep your spine aligned properly, help with pressure relief, and reduce the sagging of the mattress. A soft mattress typically won’t last as long.
When it comes to the thickness of a mattress, a thicker mattress is generally better for heavier people. These mattresses offer more support when compressed. Generally, a mattress should be at least 12 inches thick for a larger sleeper to offer extra support. (Here's how to make your mattress feel firmer.)
Mattress material and type of mattresses
When it comes to mattress materials, you have a lot to choose from. Most mattresses fall into one of five categories: innerspring, hybrid, latex, memory foam, and adjustable air. Each of these quality materials has its own pros and cons.
Innerspring and hybrid mattresses
Innerspring and hybrid mattresses are both made with a support base of steel springs plus layers of padding and fabric. In the case of hybrids, the additional layers may include memory foam, latex, or both.
Innersprings provide a solid base of support, and the open-coil construction prevents heat retention. Comfort layers of foam and/or latex provide contouring pressure relief and also help with motion transfer, so a person moving on one side of the bed doesn't jostle a sleeping partner.
If you're a plus-sized person who doesn't like firm beds, there are some other options for innerspring mattresses and hybrid mattresses. Try choosing an innerspring mattress with a pillow top or adding a mattress topper for extra cushion. (Learn about the oversized mattresses on the market that accommodate all body sizes.)
Memory foam shouldn't be your first choice as a heavier person. While memory foam mattresses don't have a weight limit, heavier people should avoid them.
Memory foam’s signature characteristic—its ability to compress and mold easily to your shape—can make a person feel "stuck" in the mattress.
Memory foam also tends to sag over time, potentially agitating pressure points. Memory foam also sleeps hotter compared to other materials, so anyone who worries about overheating at night or radiates a lot of body heat may want to steer clear.
Generally, unless made with high-density foam, heavier people should avoid memory foam mattresses.
Latex is a good option if you're a larger person. Because of its natural resilience and durability, latex foam provides an "uplifting" feeling similar to that of an innerspring mattress, with the added contouring quality of foam.
While latex doesn't sleep as cool as innerspring or hybrid mattresses, the material's open-cell structure keeps it relatively temperature neutral.
Latex mattresses are the best of both worlds—they combine the plush cushioning of a memory foam mattress with the responsive feeling of an innerspring.
Adjustable air mattresses have air chambers that can be filled and emptied to increase or reduce the level of firmness on each side of the bed. These customizable beds can also be great options, especially for couples of different sizes or sleep preferences.
Our Best Mattresses for Heavy People
Edge support can make a big difference when it comes to comfort, performance, and ease of movement. Memory foam mattresses, for example, will compress on the edges, while innerspring and hybrid mattresses typically have stronger edge support.
A firmer edge on a mattress will make it easier to get in and out of bed, which some heavier people struggle with.
Other sleeping tips for heavy people
Getting enough sleep every night is critical for maintaining your overall health and quality of life.
People with bigger bodies are at a higher risk of acid reflux. Symptoms often worsen when you lie down, which can be detrimental to your quality of sleep.
Elevating the head can help prevent acid reflux. You can do this with extra pillows or with an adjustable base that allows you to maintain your upper body at a constant incline all night.
Other ways to mitigate the effects of acid reflux include wearing loose pajamas, avoiding foods you know trigger heartburn for you, and quitting eating and drinking three hours before bed.
Beyond just snoring, sleep apnea is a more serious sleep condition that causes you to momentarily stop breathing while you sleep. This can be incredibly dangerous, especially if both you and your partner are heavy sleepers.
Nearly a quarter of men and 9% of women in the US are believed to have sleep apnea—but that number goes up considerably for bigger bodies, with up to 93.6% of high-weight men and 73.5% of high-weight women dealing with this condition.
To decrease your risk of sleep apnea, try side sleeping or elevating your head with pillows, a foam wedge, or an adjustable bed frame. Changing your sleep angle can help prevent the soft palate from collapsing, keeping the airway open. If noise isn’t an issue, you can also use a CPAP machine.
In the evenings, our bodies naturally cool down through a process called thermoregulation, which is crucial to both falling asleep and staying asleep. Getting too hot at night can throw this system out of whack and lead to poor sleep.
As a bigger-bodied person, you may find that you sink deep into your mattress, which can trap heat and make you feel uncomfortably warm while you snooze.
Selecting a mattress and bedding made with breathable materials can help move heat away from your body, keeping you cooler at night and more likely to sleep better. Innerspring, hybrids, and latex mattresses generally do a better job of helping hot sleepers stay cool at night.
There are also gel memory foam toppers on the market that provide a cooling effect throughout the night. Cotton, meanwhile, is a great material to look for in a mattress cover and sheets, as it's breathable.
Lower back pain
A medium-firm to firm mattress will help keep your spine aligned so you don't wake up with low back pain. You may also be able to find relief by adding a latex mattress topper to an existing mattress for added comfort and support.
Consider changing your sleep position too—side sleeping is the best for keeping your spinal alignment in neutral to help with lumbar support. The right pillow can help with pain as well. Learn when to replace your pillows so you can experience pain-free sleep.
Take advantage of sleep trials and warranties
The biggest tip for sleeping better as a heavier person is to find a comfortable, high-quality mattress that will last a long time.
Most mattress companies offer sleep trials that allow you to try a mattress for a certain number of days, usually around 100, and return it if not satisfied.
Make sure to look for a mattress that comes with a robust warranty as well. A warranty is a manufacturer's promise to replace or repair your mattress within a certain window of time. While normal wear and tear isn't covered by a warranty, premature or excess sagging due to something faulty in the mattress should be.
Most mattress companies offer 10-year warranties, 20-year warranties, or even lifetime warranties.
Where to buy a comfortable mattress for heavy people
Saatva is an eco-friendly, luxury mattress brand with comfortable mattresses for people of any size. Check out our mattress reviews for yourself.
We offer everything from the twin size mattress up to the California king size mattress, as well as supportive hybrid mattresses and some of the best cooling mattresses on the market.