A Bed-buying Guide for Combination Sleepers

Ever wonder how your sleep habits compare to other people’s? Want to know if your nighttime movements are “normal” compared to others in your demographic?

Research published in Nature and Science of Sleep can answer these questions and more. The studySleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms—explores the popularity of different sleep positions and how often people shift positions throughout the night.

The researchers used biosensors to monitor 363 men and 301 women while they slept. Collectively, the participants spent 54.1 percent of their time in bed in the side position, 37.5 percent in the back position, and 7.3 percent in the front position, meaning they slept on their stomach.

On average, the participants changed position 1.6 times per hour, with men shifting more frequently than women. Men also made more arm, thigh, and upper-back movements than women. Interestingly, participants ages 20 to 34 shifted less than participants 35 or older.

So, what does this study say about human sleep patterns? It demonstrates that even though people have preferred sleep positions, they don’t always remain in the position throughout the night. Rather, they occasionally shift around or change sleep positions entirely in their sleep.

The chances are that you, too, move around and change positions during the night. If you do so more frequently than the study participants, then you may want to consider investing in a mattress that can accommodate your fluid sleeping habits.

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Sleep Position Indecision

The first step to finding the right mattress for you is understanding the pain points and ideal mattress features associated with each sleep position. The following lists call out the commonly reported pros and cons of each.

Side Sleepers

Pros of Side Sleeping:

  • If you sleep on your left side, you’re less likely to experience heartburn
  • You may snore less compared to when sleeping on your back
  • Curling up in a fetal position is ideal for pregnant mothers and the baby since as it allows for better circulation
  • Side sleeping is conducive to “side spooning,” which can release oxytocin and help relieve stress

Cons of Side Sleeping:

  • Sleeping on your right side may increase your chances of having heartburn and acid reflux
  • It can cause stiffness in the shoulders and tightness in the jaw
  • Research suggests it may contribute to wrinkles
  • Side sleeping aggravates pain for some people with arthritis
  • Curling up while side sleeping can lead to shallow breathing
  • It may contribute to sagging breasts

Common Pain Points:

  • The shoulders and neck may become sore if your pillow is too high or low. Ideally, your head should align with your spine so that both are in a straight line.

Preferred Mattress Features:

Side sleepers tend to prefer mattresses with medium firmness. They also often look for pressure relief points around the shoulders and hips.

Back Sleepers

Pros of Back Sleeping:

  • It’s the best position for your spine because it distributes your weight, reducing any pressure in particular areas
  • Can help relieve pain in the knees and hips
  • Can reduce the likelihood of wrinkles because avoided “side-gravity pull”
  • If you elevate your head slightly, back sleeping may help with heartburn

Cons of Back Sleeping:

  • People who snore frequently or have sleep apnea often report increased symptoms when they sleep their back
  • If you typically sleep on your back and become pregnant, you’ll have to switch to side sleeping at the end stages of the pregnancy

Common Pain Points:

  • With the wrong mattress, it can make existing back pain—especially lower back pain—worse

Preferred Mattress Features:

People who sleep on their backs, also called the supine position, tend to find most mattress types suitable for their needs. Whether you like memory foam, innerspring, or latex models, you’ll be able to find a mattress that adheres to your preferences in firmness, contouring, and pressure relief.

Your main objective should be to find an option that keeps your spine, neck, and head aligned.

Stomach Sleepers

Pros of Stomach Sleeping:

  • In general, health professionals discourage people from sleeping on their stomachs. However, stomach sleeping may relieve snoring for those with sleep apnea.

Cons of Stomach Sleeping:

  • Requires you to strain your neck to one side so you don’t sleep face down on your pillow
  • Puts strain on the muscles and joints, possibly causing you to feel numbness and tingling
  • May result in soreness the next day

Common Pain Points:

  • Stomach sleeping often contributes to neck and back pain

Preferred Mattress Features:

A firm mattress provides resistance for your muscles and can help keep the spine straight. However, no type of mattress can prevent the strain on your neck that stomach sleeping naturally entails.

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The Best Mattresses for Combination Sleepers

“Combination sleepers” refers to people who either don’t have a strong preference for a particular sleep position and change it up each night and those who frequently switch positions throughout the night. Because of this frequent tossing and turning, combination sleepers need to find a mattress that can accommodate all three sleeping positions.

That’s not an easy task, but luckily there are mattresses out there that fit the bill. When shopping for your next mattress, look out for these specifications:

Hybrid Construction

As its name suggests, a hybrid mattress is a mixture of innerspring or coils and foam or latex. In general, the coils or springs provide greater support, while the foam or latex part of the mattress provides comfort and pressure relief.


Double-sided mattresses have two different levels on either side. Owning a lightweight, flippable mattress gives you the option to rotate sides as often as you wish.


Adjustable mattresses and bed bases allow owners to change their bed’s positioning either remotely or physically.

Adjusting your mattress’s position—for example, raising the incline of the upper half of the mattress—allows you to easily adjust the bed based on the position you’re currently in. Adjustable mattresses tend to cost more, but they do offer more flexibility than many other mattresses.

Excellent Motion Isolation

If you move around a lot and sleep with a partner, motion isolation will ensure it doesn’t disturb them. A high-quality mattress will absorb the movement, minimizing disruption.


A highly responsive mattress morphs with pressure and quickly returns to its original state when it is removed. If you struggle to get comfortable before dozing off or shift frequently throughout the night, you’ll want a mattress that “bounces back” and contours again as soon as you change positions.

A Combination of Features for Combination Sleepers

Combination sleepers tend to be pretty picky about their mattresses, and it’s no wonder considering the varying impact of each sleep position. However, there is an ideal mattress for even the pickiest combination sleeper. To find it, identify which of the factors listed above are most important to you and shop around based on those features.