Mattress Height: Does It Matter?

by SleePare

By Dustin Morgan | 5 Minute Read

There is nothing better than climbing into a big, luxurious bed paired with a soft, cushiony pillow and a warm blanket. It may feel good, but did you know your sleep surface has a profound effect on your sleep quality as well as your overall health?

However, when out shopping for mattresses and other bedding accessories such as pillows, people often feel overwhelmed with the number of choices available. Most of the time they are tempted to get thick, cozy mattresses and plush soft pillows, but the fact is a mattress thickness doesn’t necessarily define its comfort.

Why Mattress Height Matters

Comfort, support and feel are the common factors when buying a mattress. Sleepers also select beds based on material and construction style. However, we tend to ignore one of the most defining aspects of the mattress — its height. 

Today, you can find a mattress as thin as 6 inches and even as thick as 16 inches; each designed to suit your individual needs. Thin mattresses tend to be firmer to keep your back straight and even; whereas thick ones are plush and soft to conform to bodily curves for pressure-point relief.  

Thicker mattresses are not necessarily more comfortable; it highly depends on your sleep position and body type. The heavier you are, the thicker the mattress you will require to prevent compression and sagging.

However, the thickness is a contributing factor when assessing the support and feel of the mattress. A thicker mattress is not always high-performance. Material and construction make a huge difference in the level of comfort and durability that you experience in a mattress.

While it’s not a standalone factor for choosing a mattress, considering thickness while buying helps you narrow down the list.

Common Mattress Heights

Today, you can find a myriad of mattresses ranging between 6-16 inches thickness, each claiming superior quality and utmost comfort. 

The most preferred mattress height in any material is around 8-12 inches. Most mattress brands offer their product line within a specified range. You can find dozens of 16-18 inches of mattresses on sale. Super-thick mattresses are not the norm though numerous brands do offer a thick mattress line between 9-14 inches. 

To choose the perfect height of your mattress, you must first need to know the different mattress thicknesses, specifications, features, and benefits.

 

Type

Height (In Inches)

Availability

Features

Low-Profile

2-5

  • Mostly foldable mattresses
  • Available in foam mattress only
  • Ideal for floor level and bunk beds
  • Works well with high foundations that have storage drawers
  • Not suitable for heavier individuals 

Thin Mattress

5-8

  • Mostly used in kid’s beds and cribs
  • Available in foam mattress rarely in box spring
  • Ideal for low-slung bed frame
  • Suitable for newborns, toddlers, and lightweight adults
  • May not work well in guest bedroom

Standard Mattress

8-12

  • Available in different materials such as latex, foam, spring coil with varying firmness levels
  • Comparatively expensive due to numerous layers of the mattress
  • Can be used with most of the bed frames
  • Suitable for various sleep positions and body types

Medium-to-Thick Mattress

12-20

  • Mattresses with 12-18 inches height are most commonly purchased due to quality, comfort, and durability
  • The height works well for dual mattresses
  • Multiple layers add up the inches for enhanced comfort and support
  • Works well with all kinds of bed frames 
  • Can be placed on the floor as well

Very Thick Mattress

20 and above

  • Rarely available in the market
  • Complements Tudor style bedroom furniture and royal bedchambers
  • Highly expensive 
  • Cannot be box shipped
  • Difficult to find bed sheets and covers due to the deep design

A Layer-by-Layer Mattress Breakdown

Usually, a mattress is comprised of 2-5 layers depending on the materials used, comfort the mattress offers and functions it performs. 

The top comprises 1-2 comfort layers with 1-3 inches thickness to contour the to the body’s curves while providing that initial plushness. Often the layer is paired with pillow top for enhanced cushioning. These layers also play an effective role in temperature regulation, motion isolation and responsiveness. 

The middle layers are the support layers with 2-5 inches thickness to provide flexibility and rigidity for spinal alignment. This layer works to support the lumbar region, hips and neck to maintain the posture. It also plays its part in providing stable edge support and motion isolation. Comfort and support layers, together, offer adequate back support, pain-relief and contouring.

The last is the foundation layer with a height of 5-7 inches to provide a sturdy base to the mattress. This layer affects the durability of the mattress and offers deep compression support to heavier individuals. 

In high-quality mattresses, the foundation makes up 50 percent of the total height to prevent premature sagging, enhance durability and offers adequate support to heavyweight sleepers.

Factors Affecting Mattress Thickness

There are several things you should consider when it comes to which mattress is right for you. As we mentioned earlier, a heavier person will  often want a thicker mattress, and your health or sleeping positions are to be considered as well.

The Size of Your Body

Sleeping requirements and choices vary from person to person. Some people opt for a plush surface while others go for firm support to alleviate back pain. Side sleepers require a softer mattress to contour their shoulders and hips for a comfortable sleep.

Similarly, those who weigh more than 250 pounds require thicker mattresses for deep compression. These mattresses adequately support a person’s weight without losing comfort and durability.

Heavyweight individuals would feel most comfortable buying a mattress at least 12-inches high with a 6-inch thick comfort plus support layer and 6 inches of the foundation layer. Also, the sleep surface needs to be firm to prevent sinkage and premature sagging.

But if you weigh somewhere below 250 pounds, then a mattress with 9-10 inches will suit your needs. A soft surface will provide ample support and cushioning to the body curves for pressure-relief.

Your Age

Your age is likely to affect the height of your mattress because as you grow, you need to opt for taller beds. The mattress thickness should be proportional to your height so that you don’t strain your body while getting in and out of bed. A mattress with the right height offers maximum comfort and edge support.

The Positions You Sleep In

Different sleep positions require different mattress thicknesses, but the material and construction needs to be the same. Here, we have categorized the needs and right mattress height for every sleep position.

  • Back Sleepers: They need a firm mattress with 6-8 inches height for a comfortable sleep night after night. The mattress should have at least 4-inches of foundation layer made up of either high-density polyfoam or box spring as per the sleeper’s preference.
  • Side Sleepers: A soft, 8-10 inch thick mattress would be an ideal choice for side sleepers as it will allow the shoulders and hips to sink without feeling stuck. The material shall be highly responsive and buoyant so that sides can easily be changed. Polyfoam is best suitable for side sleepers as it is resilient and durable.
  • Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers require firmer mattress for proper support so that they don’t feel stuck. A thick HD foam base mattress is highly recommended for them as it prevents compression and helps maintain spinal alignment.

Nothing below 10-inches will work for stomach sleeper as thicker mattress means less sinkage. A mattress between 10-15 inches works well for stomach sleepers, especially if they are heavyweight. Buoyant innerspring paired with Dunlop latex works well as it resists pressure.

Health Conditions

People with backaches often opt for firm mattresses as it helps in spinal alignment. However, people suffering from the following ailments require softer and thicker mattresses for proper cushioning at hips, neck and joints.

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis 
  • Hip and shoulder pain

Individuals with rheumatic arthritis require higher beds due to mobility issues. Those who use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or crutches, also opt for high beds for a smooth transition back and forth without straining their legs, back and arms. 

Balancing is highly essential for those who have mobility concerns that can only be addressed with the thick mattress as it has exceptional edge support. 

Durability

It’s a common notion that thicker mattresses tend to last longer than 10 years. Mattresses, especially with denser foundation layer with more than 5-inches height, are expected to last for 12 years or so. 

However, the materials used also affect the durability of your sleep surface — HD polyfoam foundation layer mattresses have a longer lifespan. They do not compress or break when pressure is applied.

Room Size Restrictions

The height of the mattress also affects the overall aura of your bedroom. Thin mattresses placed on low bed frames offer a spacious look to your room. Short beds complement the minimalist theme of your room. But if you have a high ceiling, then a tall bed will be just perfect. 

The luxurious appeal of the mattress enhances as the height increases. So, if you have a big guestroom, a plush thick mattress will effectively help you impress your guests.

Do Mattress Materials Affect Thickness?

Your choice of mattress material should depend on your specific bodily requirements. A person suffering from backaches requires a thinner but firmer mattress whereas, for strained muscles and aching joints, thick plush mattresses are suitable. 

The choice of materials not only affects the feel but also plays a significant role in the comfort level and mattress thickness. Latex and memory foam of the same height will provide different levels of support and firmness levels; although both are categorically foams. 

If you prefer sleeping on a memory foam mattress due to its ultra-supportive texture, then you enjoy exceptional conformity and contouring of body curves. Typically, side and back sleepers prefer sleeping on memory foam mattresses which offers soft to a medium-firm comfort level. 

You do not necessarily require a super thick memory foam mattress to alleviate aches and pains. A high-density memory foam with 6-14 inches is suitable for most of the sleepers due to comfort and durability. 

If you are looking for a natural hypoallergenic mattress material, then latex is the best available option. Dunlop and Talalay latex offer different comfort levels and support as the prior is dense and firm, suitable for back and stomach sleepers. Talalay is airy, plush and bouncy to support combination and side sleepers.

Type

Ideal Height (In Inches)

Features

High-Density Memory Foam

6-14

  • Alleviates aches and pains
  • Good for couples
  • Contours to the body

Latex

9-12

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Good for heavy-weight sleepers
  • Best for combination and side sleepers

Innerspring-Hybrids

6-10

  • Ability to change positions easily
  • Targeted support and limited motion transfer
  • Offers lumbar support and pressure relief

The ideal height of a latex mattress is between 9-12 inches for sleepers weighing 225-275 pounds. It provides them with stable edge support, responsive structure to prevent sinkage and cushioned body curves to maintain body posture.

Innersprings are preferred for their bounciness as they allow sleepers to change sleep positions easily. However, innerspring mattresses are ineffective in motion isolation, and that is why they are often paired with foam or latex to offer the most restful sleep.

Usually, a pure pocketed coil mattress is 6-inch high to cater to various needs of the sleepers. However, its hybrid versions are thicker for more plush support and limited motion transference, making it ideal for couples. The coil mattress is often categorized in various zones to provide optimum lumbar support and pressure relief.

Each mattress material has a different feel thus the height varies in each mattress type based on the desired features.

Mattress Thickness for Cribs

The federal government has regulated the size and thickness of crib mattresses, but buyers still have multiple options depending on the crib model. The standard crib mattress size is 27.5 inches wide, 51.25 inches length and 4-6 inches thick. 

When placed, the gap between the crib frame and mattress must not be more than half inches at each side. The coil mattress tends to be thicker with a range of 5-6 inches depth to offer firm and bouncy support. 

Foam mattresses with a height of 4-inches are highly suitable for cribs as the foam is dense and resilient offering optimum conformity yet buoyant support. Also, foam mattresses are lighter in weight, making it easier to lift and rearrange. 

However, the sizes for non-standard cribs and bedding vary, but they are usually paired with their customized mattresses and accessories.

Finding the Right Pillow

Pillows are mainly used for head and neck spinal alignment to ensure restful sleep. However, shopping for the right pillow is often overwhelming due to the number of options available in the market. 

Different material types, loftiness, and height add to the confusion as each offers unique benefits. Performance is not ultimately dependent on the price bracket as numerous brands offer great value at an affordable price. 

Many of us outright buy a pillow that feels perfect at the store. However, Susan Gordon, a physiotherapist, affirms that it takes at least 20 minutes for your neck to relax on the pillow. Furthermore, it takes more than a week to adjust to the new pillow. This is why most companies offer a trial period and risk-free returns.

To be on the safer side, experts suggest a more methodological approach for buying the right pillow. Sleep position, body type and age are a few common factors to consider, but pillow fill and height are also the key determinants for comfort and performance.

Why Pillow Thickness Matters

At times, you are just stacking or folding pillows for a comfortable sleep all night long but are unable to get the right support. There is nothing such as the perfect pillow as the definition varies from person to person. 

Material and feel play a vital role when buying a pillow, but its height is equally important. The right height adds comfort and also plays a significant role in supporting your body. It keeps the neck, shoulder, back, and hips well-aligned to alleviate aches and discomfort. 

You can find pillows in different heights to suit your unique body shape and sleep positions. Today, you can even find pillows in multiple sizes and shapes designed to suit specific conditions such as pregnancy and backaches.

Common Pillow Heights

Pillow Size

Height (In Inches)

Usability

Low Loft

3 or less

  • Those with smaller heads and narrow shoulders
  • Works well for stomach sleepers
  • Suitable for young children between the age of 2-10 years

Medium Loft

3-5

  • Average-built sleepers
  • Highly popular among back sleepers
  • Suitable for growing teens

High Loft

5 and above

  • Heavyweight individuals with broad shoulders and big heads
  • Ideal for side sleepers
  • Commonly used by adults

According to sleep experts, pillows play a significant role in sleep quality. Besides supporting neck and shoulder, pillows keep your head elevated to improve blood circulation and provide the airflow necessary for healing your own body aches. 

However, not every pillow will meet your requirements and provide you optimal comfort, and that is why you find them in multiple shapes and sizes. Majorly, you will find pillows in three different heights — this is known as pillow loft. 

The preferable loft for a sleeper is highly dependent on their body type and sleep position. However, the most popular pillow height is about 4 inches to provide comfort, maximum spinal alignment and relieve muscle tension in most of the sleepers.

Factors Affecting Pillow Thickness

If you wake up every morning with a stiff, sore neck or spinning head, then most probably it’s time to change your pillow. Gauge the feel and height of the pillow to ensure your neck and head are properly aligned.

Pillows and Sleep Position

Different sleep positions require pillows with different height to provide optimum comfort and pain relief. Today, you can find pillows labeled for specific sleep positions to ensure it meets your requirements. 

  • Side Sleepers: Those who sleep on their sides require a firm and thick pillow to keep the head elevated, support the neck and align the spine. Memory foam and latex pillows are the best choices for these sleepers, so they offer maximum give and respond to pressure. A well-designed contoured orthopedic pillow is an ideal choice for side sleepers suffering from headaches and stiff neck. You can also place a plush pillow between your knees to prevent backache and flatten the lumbar curve. 
  • Back Sleepers: A medium-firm or softer pillow is suitable for back sleepers as it contours the head and supports the neck. They tend to be thinner than the ones used by side sleepers to maintain the natural body curve. However, those suffering from sleep apnea and snoring require 2-3 pillows for higher elevation to prevent disrupted sleep. They can even use wedge pillows to prop up the upper body. 
  • Stomach Sleepers: If you sleep facing towards the mattress, you need a thin, plush and scrunchy pillow to prevent head elevation and choked airways. Down and alternative are the choicest pillow fills for stomach sleepers as they offer maximum conformity and help maintain the natural neck curve. They should opt for thinnest pillows to keep the head flat against the mattress for a straighter sleep posture. Use lighter fill pillows to improve air circulation and prevent suffocation. You can even place another thin pillow under the stomach and pelvic region for lumbar support.
  • Combination Sleepers: They use contoured pillows having a softer and thinner center, and firmer and thicker sides for optimal support in multiple sleeping positions. You can even get a pillow having a combination of fill types such as feather and buckwheat hulls for proper support all night long.

Body Structure

Your body-weight should be directly proportional to pillow thickness. The heavier you are, the thicker your pillow will be as thick pillows prevent compression when pressure is applied.

Those with petite a figure will require a pillow that is 4-inches or less as it perfectly conforms to the head and neck region. They also tend to use softer pillows for adequate support and feel.

Individuals weighing between 250-275 pounds require a pillow with 4-5 inches thickness to prevent sinkage and stuck-in feel. They should also choose memory foam or latex pillow with medium-firm comfort for proper neck support and spinal alignment.

People heavier than 275 pounds should choose a pillow more than 5 inches tall. They also prefer firm or extra-firm pillows that are resilient to weight and pressure.

Sleeper’s Age

As you grow, your body weight and head size increase which, in turn, affects the type of pillow you require for support and comfort. As your head grows bigger, it pushes the pillow deeper; thus straining your neck and spine.

It is safe to say that as you grow the height and firmness of your pillow should increase. But after a certain age, once you cross 50, you should opt for thinner and softer pillows as the nerves and muscles begin to weaken.

Health

People suffering from herniated discs or other spinal disorders require the right amount of back support for restorative sleep. A too high or too low pillow can cause your neck muscles to stretch and misalign your spine. 

People usually opt for the firm and dense pillows as softer ones allow their neck to recline at an odd angle causing soreness and stiffness. According to experts, orthopedic pillows provide the best spinal support for:

  • Spinal problems
  • Back alignment
  • Neck and head issues

Pregnant women and people suffering from hip pain require wider and thicker pillows to cushion the gap between neck and shoulders. 

However, those who have insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring require firm and high pillows for improved blood circulation, unblocked nasal region and an elevated head.

Mattress Type and Size

The perfect combination of pillow and mattress defines your night-long comfort and uninterrupted sleep. You should not pick a thick pillow with a softer mattress as it could disrupt your spinal alignment. 

A medium-thick pillow will support your shoulders as well as allineate your head, neck and back. However, on a hard mattress, you will require a thicker pillow even if you’re petite, as firm mattress does not compress when pressure is applied. 

You can even get a pillow concurrent to the size of your mattress. Let’s say, if you have a king mattress, you also get king size pillows, and similarly it is for Queen mattresses.

However, Twin and Twin XL are paired with standard and super standard pillow sizes. These sizes are also used along with King and Queen pillows on Cal. King and Split mattresses.

Does Fill Type Affect the Thickness of the Pillows?

The pillow fill can directly affect its loftiness. Some materials are denser and are used more to add height to the pillow; however, they provide firmer support. Consider the firmness level you require when choosing a pillow based on its fill type. Here, we have a detailed guide on fill type and its effects on pillow height:

  • Polyester: These pillows are resilient, synthetic fiberfill providing maximum head support and neck contouring to sleepers. They hold their position when pressure is applied to make them ideal for heavyweight individuals as well. However, they can’t give much height to the pillow, even when used in large quantities.
  • Memory Foam: This viscoelastic material is highly suitable for side and back sleepers. Its buoyant texture and firm feel offer exceptional pressure-point relief and adequate height to the pillow. However, thicker foam pillows can cause headaches and stiff neck amongst side sleepers.
  • Latex: Its dense cellular structure offers firm support to heavyweight sleepers. These pillows effectively hold weight and shape without much sinkage to maintain spinal alignment. Its measurement is an accurate indication of its dimensions as the structure doesn’t compress under pressure.
  • Natural: One of the most popular fill types, feather and down pillows are durable, airy and resilient. They are popular among back sleepers who require thinner head support yet great conformity at neck and shoulders. They create much texture and often plump up easily. However, the rate of compression is relatively high which flattens them over time.
  • Buckwheat Hulls: the increasingly popular fill type, buckwheat hulls exceptionally contour your head and neck. Although the adjustment period is long, they perform exceptionally well for all sleeper types and sleep positions. Since they do not plop, the measurements are true to the dimensions.

Pillows for Children

Kids before 18 months do not require pillows, especially if they are sleeping on their back or stomach. At the age of 2 years, they start sleeping on their sides and may need a thin pillow to keep the body even.

Natural latex fill is an ideal choice for a kid’s pillow as it is resilient, comfortable,and naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. It can be harmful for kids to sleep without a pillow, especially if they are side-sleepers. They tend to place their hands underneath the head for support, which can affect the shoulders. 

You can use a 4-5 inch thick pillow for kids who sleep on their back, after the age of two. For side sleeping kids, give them a 5-6 inches thick pillow for proper support. You can reassess pillow height after about year to see if you need to go up in size. Avoid stomach sleeping among young children as it can cause suffocation and Sudden Death Syndrome.

The definition of comfort varies from person to person; what is comfortable to you may not be as complacent to someone else — similarly, not all kinds of beds, pillows and other bedding accessories are ideal for all.

But there are specific criteria, such as weight, height, structure, position, material and many others that help us categorize products suitable for a group of individuals. If you need further assistance, feel free to use our mattress comparison tool! We hope this detailed guide will help you pick the one that will suit you best; be it pillows or mattresses.

 

 
Dustin Morgan

Dustin Morgan


Dustin is the lead content creator at SleePare. With a degree in Computer Science and extensive experience reviewing mattresses, curating comparisons and advising on "best of" guides, he's truly a mattress technology expert.

Dustin has perfected this method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he's not only able to discern the overall value of a specific bed, but to assign its value to different types of sleepers.

Along with creating honest and straightforward mattress features, Dustin enjoys creating pieces aimed at helping people get their best sleep ever.

When he's not creating helpful content, Dustin enjoys jogging, fishing, hunting and playing video games in and around his Virginia home.