If you’ve been shopping for a new bed recently, you’ve probably noticed mattresses come in a wide variety of thickness levels. How thick should a mattress be? The answer is — it depends. We’ll break down all the facts so you can choose the right mattress for your sleep needs in this easy-to-follow mattress thickness guide.
Mattress Thickness Guide
Even though there are no official standards for mattress thickness, you’ll often see mattresses grouped into different categories based on their height. Here are a few of the most common ones you’ll see:
2 to 5 inches: Low Profile
These mattresses are typically airbeds, trundle beds, or foam mattresses designed for toddlers or small children. A low-profile mattress often isn’t supportive enough to keep an adult body comfortable.
5 to 8 inches: Slim
Slim beds offer more cushioning than a low-profile mattress and are typically used for guest beds, children, or those with mobility issues who can’t have a mattress with deep sinkage.
8 to 12 inches: Standard
Most mattresses fall into the standard range. Standard mattresses are made of a wide variety of materials and suit most sleepers.
12 to 16 inches: Thick, Deep, or Tall
Thick mattresses are normally made of multiple foam layers. Some thick beds also have a hybrid construction. This extra cushioning can help support heavyweight sleepers or add extra pressure relief to help keep side sleepers comfortable.
More Than 16 inches: Extra Thick, Extra Deep, or Extra Tall
It is uncommon to find a bed that is taller than 16 inches. These beds are expensive and hard to get into, but some sleepers find them very comfortable and right for their needs.
Comparing Mattress Thickness
The thinnest mattresses are in the low profile category. These are primarily used cribs and toddler beds, however, they can also fit into some trundle and Murphy beds. Beds this thin typically don’t have enough support for adults and older children — their bodies need more layers to prevent sinking too close to the bed foundation for comfort.
Slim beds are slightly thicker than low-profile mattresses, but still don’t have enough support for an average-sized adult to sleep comfortably night after night. They are usually made out of foam layers and are better suited for children, adults with petite body types, or those with limited mobility who need a mattress that makes it easier to get in and out of bed. They also could be good guest room beds.
Most of the top-reviewed mattresses on the market are the standard size. These beds provide enough cushioning for most body types. While the thinner mattresses are typically made of foam, these beds can be made of a wide variety of materials, such as memory foam, innerspring coils, latex, or in the case of hybrid beds, a combination of two or more different materials.
If you have a heavyweight body type or like to sink very deeply into your bed, you might prefer a thick mattress. Otherwise, this extra cushioning isn’t necessary. Very thick mattresses are often unnecessary and expensive — your body is unlikely to press deeply enough into a mattress to feel the extra layers.
What Factors Determine Mattress Thickness
Mattresses are built with multiple layers that are stacked on top of each other. A mattress’s thickness is determined by how many layers it is made of, and how thick these layers are. There are three main types of layers and each layer serves a different function in the bed.
Comfort layers are located near the top of the mattress. These layers are designed to provide cushioning and contouring around your natural curves. This feature allows the mattress to relieve pressure from the areas of the body that press into the mattress as you sleep, such as your hips, shoulders, and legs, to support your natural posture and prevent discomfort.
A mattress may have one or several comfort layers. Comfort layers can be made of several different materials, including memory foam, latex, polyurethane foam, or natural fibers such as wool or cotton.
Your mattress may have transition layers sandwiched between the comfort and base layers of the bed. The transition layer helps add support to the bed — it’ll prop your body up gently so you don’t sink uncomfortably far into the bed and into the stiff base layer. Transition layers are typically made of a sturdy foam that gently contours to your curves while still providing a bit of pushback, but they also can be made of innerspring coils or latex.
The base layer, also called the foundation layer, provides the durability and stability for the bed. This layer is dense, firm, and supportive, and sits near the bottom of the bed. Base layers are typically made of dense memory foam or innerspring coils. Beds may have multiple base layers made of different materials to help increase the level of support and the lifespan of the bed.
Mattress Type Vs Thickness
A mattress type is different from its thickness. While mattress thickness is determined by how tall a bed is, the mattress type describes what materials a mattress is made of. Mattresses can be made of a single material or in the case of a hybrid bed, several different materials combined into a single bed.
Foam mattresses are made with layers of soft polyurethane or memory foam. While foam beds come in a variety of firmness levels, they tend to have a soft, squishy feel that hugs your body as it sinks into the bed. Foam beds are great for deep contouring comfort and pressure relief, but they may not be as stable as other mattress types — which is important if you have difficulty getting in and out of bed.
Foam can also tend to trap heat, but choosing a hybrid foam bed or one with cooling materials, like gel or charcoal-infused foam layers, can help keep a foam mattress cool. Foam beds also are available at a wide variety of prices, but the cheaper models tend to break down and sag more quickly than the more pricey ones.
Click to see our picks for the best foam mattresses of the year.
Mattresses made with layers of latex are naturally bouncy, responsive, and hypoallergenic. Latex mattresses can also be organic or all-natural, depending on the type of latex used. These beds offer gentle pressure relief without the deep sinking feel of memory foam. Latex is also naturally aerated, so these mattresses sleep cool. While these beds have a lot of great features, they often come with higher price tags than other mattress types and some sleepers may have latex allergies.
Check out our roundup of the best latex mattresses of the year.
Innerspring mattresses are made of a layer of innerspring coils sandwiched between two thin foam layers. Innerspring beds are one of the most popular bed types and have what many people consider a “traditional” mattress feel. Innerspring beds sleep cool and are springy, responsive, and supportive. They have a firmer feel, making them good picks for those who need more support like heavyweight sleepers and back sleepers, but they often aren’t a good choice for those who need pressure relief.
See our list of our team’s favorite innerspring mattresses.
Hybrid beds are made with two or more different materials so you can benefit from the features of several mattress types in a single bed. Hybrid mattresses are often made up of a layer of innerspring coils combined with layers of latex or memory foam to offer a balanced feel with firm support and pressure relief. Most sleepers could be comfortable on a hybrid bed, but the complexity of hybrid construction can make these mattresses less affordable than other mattress types.
Take a look at our top choices for the best hybrid mattresses.
What To Consider When Deciding On Mattress Thickness
Finding the right mattress thickness for you depends on a wide variety of factors. This is an important decision to make, because the thickness will determine the feel, firmness, support level, and durability of your bed. Consider the following factors to figure out which mattress thickness is the right one for your sleep needs:
Each of the different sleeping positions requires a different level of firmness and support to keep you comfortable throughout the night.
- Stomach sleepers – If you sleep lying face down on your stomach, you’ll need a bed that has firm support to prevent your midsection from sinking too far into the bed and causing back pain. Although a firm bed on the thinner side could work for stomach sleepers, they can benefit from a softer layer near the top of the mattress to provide some gentle pressure relief around the chest and shoulders as they press into the bed.
- Back sleepers – Back sleepers also need a bed with firm support, but with more pressure relief to avoid putting stress on the low back as you snooze. A bed usually requires several layers to create this balanced amount of support and comfort.
- Side sleepers – Side sleepers need a mattress on the thicker side that is built with soft layers closer to the top of the bed. This is because the hips and shoulders need to be able to sink comfortably into the bed without bumping into the firm base layer, which could cause discomfort.
Your body type is also a determining factor for your mattress thickness because the same mattress can feel completely different depending on how much you weigh. Mattresses tend to feel firmer to those with lightweight body types, or those less than 130 pounds, because their bodies don’t sink as deeply into the bed’s comfort layers. Heavyweight sleepers, or those who weigh more than 250 pounds, may feel that a mattress is softer because their bodies press deeper into the bed’s layers. Here’s what bed thickness levels work best for different body types:
- Lightweight Sleepers (less than 130 pounds): Lightweight sleepers typically need a bed that is at least 12 inches thick. Anything thinner than 12 inches may feel too firm for a lightweight sleeper. A bed that is overly thick, however, may be a waste of money for those with lighter body types since your body won’t sink enough into the mattress to feel all the different comfort layers.
- Average Weight Sleepers (130 to 250 pounds): Average weight sleepers tend to need a bed that is at least 10 to 12 inches thick, depending on firmness preference. Those who prefer a bed that is on the firmer side can get away with a thinner bed, but those who prefer a softer mattress should choose a bed that is at least 12 inches thick. If you like an extra plush surface, average weight sleepers could also opt for a thicker bed with more plush comfort layers.
- Heavy Sleepers (more than 250 pounds): Heavyweight sleepers should choose a mattress that is at least between 12 and 14 inches so the bed has adequate support and will hold up over time. Heavy sleepers could also benefit from a thicker mattress if they want extra support layers or extra cozy comfort layers for a soft sleeping experience.
Sharing The Bed With A Partner
If you share a bed with a partner or pets, you’ll need additional support for the extra weight in your bed. You’ll want a bed that is at least 10 to 12 inches thick to make sure your bed will be durable enough to prevent sagging and also stay supportive of you and your sleep mates.
Health And Medical Conditions
If you experience pain at night or have certain medical conditions, choosing a mattress with the right thickness level could help alleviate some aches and pains.
For those that have arthritis or experience joint pain, such as aches in the shoulders or hips, a softer mattress could be your best pick. Soft beds will help relieve pressure from these tender areas by redistributing your weight along the length of the bed. A mattress that is 12 to 14 inches tall would be ideal.
If you suffer from back pain, the sweet spot is a bed that is about eight to 12 inches. A thinner mattress may not have enough pressure relief to contour to your natural curves — which could cause additional pain. A thicker mattress, however, may be too soft and allow too much sinkage to support your neutral, healthy posture.
If you have mobility issues, you should opt for a mattress on the thinner side. Choose a bed that has just enough height to provide the support and comfort you need. Thinner beds are typically easier to move around on. They provide more stability and support, and there are less layers for you to sink into and get stuck in.
Toddlers and smaller children should have a thinner mattress because a shorter bed reduces the risk of a tumble. Kids also have small and light bodies, so they don’t need many layers to be supported or stay comfy. If you’re shopping for a senior citizen, you also might want to look at a bed on the thinner side to provide extra stability when they’re getting in and out of bed.
Height Of Your Bed Base
If you already have a bed frame, foundation, or box spring at home, you’ll need to get a mattress that is the correct height for your bed base.
Pros & Cons Of Thick Mattresses
Depending on your needs and preferences, a thick mattress could make or break your quality of sleep. Here are the pros and cons:
Pros Of Thick Mattresses
- More cushioning: Thick mattresses are made with more layers, which means they could provide additional comfort. This is a huge plus if you prefer a softer bed, have sore joints, or sleep on your side.
- Durability: The extra layers in thicker beds provide extra support. This extra reinforcement helps keep your body from sinking into an unhealthy posture and can help prevent the mattress from sagging over time.
- Support: The additional support from added layers in a mattress makes them a good pick for couples and heavy sleepers.
Cons Of Thick Mattresses
- More expensive: Since thicker beds are made with more materials, they often cost more than thinner models.
- Heavier: Thicker beds are heavier and bulkier than their thin counterparts, which can make them more difficult to move.
- Height: A thick mattress may be too thick for your bed base. If you opt for a thick bed, you may need to buy a new bed or foundation.
Pros & Cons Of Thin Mattresses
Thin beds typically aren’t the best choice for the average person, but they could be great picks for certain types of sleepers.
Pros Of Thin Mattresses
- Less expensive: A thinner bed is a good pick if you’re on a budget — since these beds are made with less layers, they’re typically also less expensive.
- Easy to move: Thin beds are smaller and lighter than the average mattress which makes them easy to maneuver and move around.
- More stability: Since thin beds are closer to the ground, they make it easier to get in and out of bed.
Cons Of Thin Mattresses
- Durability: Thin beds tend to break down faster than thicker mattresses, so while they’re less expensive — you have to replace them sooner.
- Less support: Thin mattresses don’t provide the same level of support as thicker models, which can cause discomfort.
- Sagging: Since thin beds are less durable and supportive, they’ll start sagging faster which can cause back pain.
What is the best mattress thickness?
The best mattress thickness for you depends on your needs. A standard mattress between eight and 12 inches thick typically suits the average sleeper. Thinner mattresses are better for toddlers, kids, and seniors, or if you have a trundle bed that doesn’t have space for a thicker bed. Thicker mattresses are better for those who need extra support or cushioning, heavyweight sleepers, or those who sleep with a partner or a pet.
What thickness memory foam mattress is the best?
Unless you are shopping for a child or senior with mobility issues, most adults will be most comfortable on a memory foam bed that is at least 10 to 12 inches thick.
Are thicker mattresses better?
Thicker mattresses are typically more durable and provide more support, but thinner mattresses can be better for children or those with mobility issues.
How thick is the average mattress?
Most mattresses are between eight to 12 inches, although some thicker beds can be up to 16 inches tall.
Is an 8-inch mattress thick enough?
An 8-inch mattress is technically a “standard” size that would suit the average sleeper, but it may not be thick enough depending on your sleep needs and preferences. An 8-inch mattress will typically be on the firmer side. If you’re a lightweight sleeper, you’ll need a slightly thicker bed so that your mattress doesn’t feel too firm. Likewise, heavyweight sleepers will be more comfortable on a bed that is at least 12 inches thick so they get the support they need.
How thick a mattress should be depends on your unique sleep needs and preferences. Your mattress thickness determines your bed’s level of support, pressure relief, durability, and how it fits on your bed base, so make sure to consider all the factors that you find most important to choose the best mattress for you.