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Numerous studies have established a direct link between healthy sleep habits and strong athletic performance. Well-rested athletes are faster, stronger, more accurate, and quicker to react than those who do not receive enough sleep. Additionally, proper sleep can supplement exercise routines, allowing athletes to build muscle, strength, and endurance more effectively. Those who don’t enough sleep often pay the price physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Choosing the right mattress can greatly impact an athlete’s sleep habits and routines. However, it’s important to understand the key differences between mattress types — such as innerspring, foam, latex, and hybrid models — in terms of support, comfort, firmness, and other important sleep factors. This page will look at the most important sleep considerations for athletes of all ages, as well as some mattress comparing and buying tips.
Why Is Sleep So Important for Athletes?
We all require a good night’s sleep in order to wake up feeling refreshed and function the following day. However, athletes face unique considerations when it comes to sleep. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to problems like slow reaction times, lengthier recovery times and diminished motor skills — all of which impact athletic performance.
Sleep deprivation and sleep debt are two important factors. Sleep deprivation is a condition characterized by lack of sleep that may be chronic or acute in nature. Sleep debt refers to incremental loss of sleep that accumulates over the course of a week or longer. Let’s say an athletic person receives seven hours of sleep each night from Monday to Friday, rather than the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. By Saturday, that person’s ‘sleep debt’ will reach five hours — and they will most likely feel the effects, which may include slower reaction times, lack of focus, and delayed physical recovery from athletic activities.
Sleep deprivation also impacts body chemistry. When we sleep, our bodies regulate production of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Lack of sleep can cause cortisol levels to rise. This hinders the body’s ability to produce glycogen and carbohydrates, which provide energy boosts during high-endurance activities (such as athletic events). As sleep debt accumulates and cortisol levels increase, our bodies become less and less equipped to perform. Many athletes rely on supplements to replenish their glycogen and carbohydrate levels, and these supplements may carry negative side effects.
Generally speaking, athletes require more sleep than non-athlete adults, particularly before and after major athletic events. The average man or woman requires seven to nine hours of sleep per night in order to properly function the next day. However, adult athletes should get roughly 10 hours of sleep whenever they are training or competing on a regular basis. This helps ensure strong athletic performance, as well as a speedy physical recovery. Likewise, adolescent athletes are urged to get at least nine hours of sleep per night during their active seasons.
In addition to more overall sleep, athletes require steady sleep schedules that consist of both light and deep sleep. Light sleep, known as non-rapid-eye-movement (nREM) sleep, is associated with cell division and regeneration, which is crucial for muscle recovery. Cortisol regulation takes place primarily during REM sleep. Additionally, athletes may experience longer REM latency — the time from falling asleep until REM sleep begins — than non-athletes, and not getting enough REM sleep can negatively affect athletic performance and reaction time.
The following studies highlight the importance of sufficient sleep for athletes in different sports and activities.
- A 2014 study found that adolescent athletes who received less than eight hours of sleep per night were 1.7 times more likely to get injured during an event or competition than those who received eight or more hours of sleep per night.
- A 2013 study found that ‘strike-zone judgment’ in baseball players was worse in September than in April of that year, due to the long-term effects of sleep loss and fatigue across a single season.
- Another 2013 study noted that baseball players with unhealthy sleep habits and routines were less than 40% likely to still be playing three seasons later; in contrast, those who received sufficient sleep were 72% likely to still be playing.
- As part of a 2007 study, a group of swimmers received 10 hours of sleep over a period of six to seven weeks. Most participants reported faster swim times, higher stroke rates, and quicker reaction times.
- In a 2010 study, a group of football players who increased their daily sleep times over a period of seven to eight weeks noted faster times in 20- and 40-yard sprints, as well as mood improvements.
- A 2011 survey of basketball players found that increasing sleep times by two hours per day resulted in faster sprint times and better shooting accuracy for both free throws and three-point shots.
- A 2009 study asked female tennis players to get at least 10 hours of sleep over a period of five to six weeks. Participants recorded sprint time improvements, as well as an increase in serving accuracy of nearly 24%.
Next, let’s look at important performance factors that athletes should consider when window shopping for a new mattress at various Bed shops.
Mattress Considerations for Athletes
When browsing and comparing different mattress brands and models, here are a few factors to keep in mind.
Firmness: Firmness is directly tied to the topmost layers of a mattress, which are collectively known as the comfort layer or comfort system. Firmness is often measured on a numerical scale, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the firmest; most mattresses sold today rate between a 3 (Soft) and an 8 (Firm).
Firmness preferences vary strongly from person to person, and often come down to two individual factors: bodyweight and sleep position. People with below-average weights (130 pounds or less) tend to feel most comfortable on mattresses that rate between a 3 and a 5 (Medium). If the mattress is firmer, then lightweight sleepers may weigh enough to sink deeply and experience close conforming. Heavier sleepers (more than 230 pounds), on the other hand, typically prefer mattresses that rate between a 6 (Medium Firm) and an 8. If the mattress is less firm, then heavyweight sleepers may sink too deeply and experience discomfort and/or added pressure.
In terms of sleep position, those who sleep on their back utilize a position that naturally aligns the spine. As a result, they may feel comfortable on different firmness levels, often depending on their bodyweight. Side-sleepers do not utilize a position that aligns the spine, and often require a mattress that conforms to their body and targets pressure buildup. Stomach-sleepers face a similar issue regarding spinal misalignment, but they usually prefer firmer mattresses. If the mattress is too soft, then stomach-sleepers may sink too deeply, requiring them to turn their heads; this can cause pressure buildup, especially in the neck and shoulders.
Conforming: Some mattresses are designed to conform closely to sleeper’s bodies, forming a deep, contoured impression that helps align the spine and target pressure points along the shoulders, neck, back, and hips. Other mattresses do not conform as closely, and may not alleviate as much pressure. On the other hand, mattresses that sink too deeply can cause sleepers to feel more pressure in these sensitive areas.
Support: Support in a mattress is regulated in the support core, or the layer(s) located below the comfort system. The support core is intended to withstand the sleeper’s weight by pushing back, creating a level surface that keeps the spine straight. Mattresses that do not offer inadequate support will eventually sag, which makes the surface uneven. This can cause pain and pressure along the body over time. Side- and stomach-sleepers in particular require mattresses that offer sufficient support.
Temperature Neutrality: A significant number of adults naturally sleep hot or warm. Some mattresses amplify this feeling by absorbing high levels of body heat, which causes the bed to feel uncomfortably hot or warm. These increases in temperature can negatively impact sleep and leave individuals feeling tired and unfocused. Other mattresses retain less body heat and sleep fairly cool by comparison. These models are usually the best bet for naturally hot sleepers. Likewise, those who naturally sleep cold should seek out mattresses that will keep them sufficiently warm throughout the night.
Other Factors: In addition to the factors listed above, here are a few more considerations for athletes to make when comparing different mattress types, brands, and models:
- Motion Isolation: Some mattresses are engineered to absorb motion when someone gets up or shifts positions and isolate it to certain parts of the mattress. This is particularly beneficial for couples who share a bed. Other mattresses offer minimal motion isolation, and motion can be felt across the mattress surface. This can lead to sleep disruption, especially for sleepers that awaken easily.
- Noise: Mattresses with solid comfort layers and support cores typically produce little to noise when bearing weight, and this can cut down on sleep disruptions. By comparison, mattresses with metal components may squeak or rustle when compressed.
- Cover Fabric: The mattress cover can play a crucial role in sleep quality for athletes. Some mattress covers are made with Celliant, a fabric also used in athletic attire that absorbs energy from the sleeper’s body and infuses it back into the body using infrared light. This process improves circulation, speeds up muscle recovery, and regulates body temperature — all benefits for athletes. Other covers are made from phase-changing material (PCM), which retains body heat until the sleeper reaches a certain temperature and then maintains that temperature for the rest of the night. This can be highly beneficial for athletes that sleep hot.
- Size: Although standard mattress sizes are typically long and wide enough to accommodate most sleepers, some athletes — such as those who are particularly tall and/or large — may prefer to sleep on longer, wider King and California King sizes.
- Cost: Most mattresses represent a significant financial investment, but some are significantly more expensive than others.
Mattress Types: Pros and Cons for Athletes
Now let’s go over five of the most popular mattress types sold today, including pros and cons for athlete sleepers associated with each type.
Memory Foam: Memory foam, or viscoelastic polyfoam, is a polyurethane-based foam. When memory foam comes into contact with body temperatures, it sinks and conforms closely to the sleeper’s body. When cool, the foam retains its original, flattened surface. Memory foam mattresses typically have lower price-points.
- Comfort Layer: A memory foam mattress features at least one layer of memory foam in the comfort system. One or more layers of standard polyfoam may also be added for extra stability.
- Support Core: The majority of memory foam mattresses sold today are made with high-density polyfoam support cores. HD polyfoam is strong enough to withstand a sleeper’s weight and maintain an even surface; memory foam is not as supportive, and most sleepers would sink too deeply on a mattress made entirely of memory foam.
- Pros for Athletes:
- Memory foam conforms very closely to help keep the spine straight and alleviate pain and pressure in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips.
- Memory foam mattresses are available in a wide range of firmness ratings to accommodate sleepers with different weights and position preferences.
- Memory foam mattresses offer above-average motion isolation, and produce little to no noise when bearing weight.
- Cons for Athletes:
- Memory foam tends to sag with age, and this may affect its supportive properties.
- Memory foam retains high levels of body heat, and may not be suitable for athletes who sleep hot or warm.
Innerspring/Coil: Innerspring mattresses are the most widely sold mattresses today, accounting for roughly two-thirds of industry sales. These mattresses get their name from the steel coils that make up their support core; the coils are evenly spaced in order to properly distribute weight, and often reinforced with high-density polyfoam layers. Generally speaking, innersprings have medium to low price-points.
- Comfort Layer: In most innersprings, the comfort system primarily consists of polyfoam layers. Thin layers of memory foam and/or latex may also be used, but these components are more commonly found in hybrids (see below).
- Support Core: Four types of steel coils are used in innersprings. These coils differ in terms of gauge, or thickness, as well as shape and price-point. The table below includes a complete breakdown of the four main coil types. Please note that gauge measurements follow a reverse order; low-gauge coils are the thickest, while high-gauge coils are the thinnest.
|COIL TYPE||COIL SHAPE||AVERAGE WIRE GAUGE||AVERAGE PRICE|
|Bonnell||Hourglass with Rounded Ends||12 to 18||Low|
|Offset||Hourglass with Straightened Ends||12 to 15||Medium|
|Continuous Wire||Straight Line||15 to 18||Low|
|Pocketed||Spiral with Fabric Casing||17 to 18||High|
- Pros for Athletes:
- Innerspring mattresses are available in a wide range of firmness options.
- Innerspring mattresses retain minimal body heat and tend to sleep cooler than other mattress types. This is due largely due to the open support core structure, which provides better air circulation.
- Cons for Athletes:
- An innerspring’s supportive qualities depend largely on the coil type, but innersprings tend to sag significantly and lose their supportive qualities relatively quickly.
- Most innerspring mattresses conform very little due to the lack of contouring materials (such as memory foam and/or latex) in the comfort layer.
- Innerspring mattresses can be somewhat loud due to squeaking coils and other internal components, and these mattresses do not usually isolate motion to a significant extent.
Latex: Latex is a substance extracted from rubber trees that is processed into a foam-like material. All-latex mattresses are highly durable and have above-average lifespans; as a result, the price-points for these mattresses are typically high. Mattresses made with latex and foam components are more susceptible to sagging and deterioration, and the price-points tend to be lower.
- Comfort Layer: The comfort system of a latex bed primarily consists of latex layers. Memory foam or polyfoam layers may also be used, as well, but some models are all-latex.
- Support Core: Some latex mattresses have support cores that are also made entirely of latex, while others feature support layers constructed from high-density polyfoam.
- Pros for Athletes:
- Like memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses conform closely to sleeper’s bodies and target pressure points in sensitive areas.
- Latex mattresses are available in different firmness settings, and may be considered suitable for any sleeper weight or sleep position.
- Latex mattresses are fairly quiet, and they provide better-than-average motion isolation.
- Cons for Athletes:
- Latex mattresses with foam components tend to absorb high levels of body heat, and may not be suitable for athletes who sleep hot or warm. All-latex mattresses tend to sleep much cooler by comparison.
- Mattresses made with latex and foam offer average to below-average support, and sagging in the support core is often reported. All-latex mattresses tend to perform for longer, and are not as susceptible to sagging.
Hybrid: By definition, a hybrid mattress features at least two inches of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort layer and a pocketed coil support core. Some mattresses sold as hybrids do not meet this criteria, and should not be considered true hybrids. Most hybrid mattresses have above-average price-points.
- Comfort Layer: In addition to memory foam and/or latex components, the comfort system of a hybrid mattress may also contain layers of polyfoam and/or steel minicoils.
- Support Core: As the table above shows, pocketed coils are covered in fabric casings and tend to be high-gauge, or thin, compared to other coil types. Many hybrids feature additional layers of high-density polyfoam in the support core.
- Pros for Athletes:
- Hybrids conform somewhat closely due to their memory foam and latex layers, and typically provide better pressure relief than traditional innersprings.
- Hybrids are available in a wide range of firmness settings..
- Hybrids typically offer good motion isolation
- Cons for Athletes:
- Hybrid mattresses — particularly those with thicker memory foam layers — absorb more body heat and tend to sleep hot compared to innersprings with polyfoam comfort layers.
- Hybrids with higher firmness ratings tend to offer adequate support, but those with lower firmness ratings are more susceptible to sagging.
- Hybrids tend to be quieter than innersprings, but some creaking and squeaking is to be expected.
Airbed: An airbed offers adjustable firmness and support settings thanks to customizable air chambers that can be toggled remotely or manually, depending on the design. Airbeds are generally the most expensive mattresses on the market.
- Comfort Layer: Most airbeds feature thin comfort layers made of polyfoam and/or memory foam, although some high-end models also feature latex layers.
- Support Core: The support core of an airbed features at least two individual air chambers, and some have as many as six. Newer models allow owners to adjust firmness settings using app technology. Most designs feature electrical outlets for the customizable controls.
- Pros for Athletes:
- Due to their adjustable controls, airbeds are suitable for most sleepers regardless of their firmness preferences.
- Most airbeds conform closely and offer a contoured fit that helps align the spine and alleviate pressure points.
- Most airbeds — especially those with more than two air chambers — absorb and isolate motion to a significant extent.
- Cons for Athletes:
- Although their controls are customizable, many factors can affect the settings of an airbed, including room temperature, barometric pressure, and sleeper weight.
- Temperature neutrality is a common issue for airbed owners: models with thicker comfort layers tend to sleep hot, whereas those with thinner comfort layers may sleep excessively cold.
- Airbeds often produce a fair amount of noise due to squeaking sounds on the sleep surface, as well as running air pumps.
The table below breaks down these five mattress types in terms of factors that affect sleep for athletes, as well as price. We have assigned each mattress type an ‘Athlete Satisfaction Rating,’ based on individual reviews and athlete experiences with different brands and models.
|MATTRESS TYPE||MEMORY FOAM||INNERSPRING/COIL||LATEX||HYBRID||AIRBED|
|Firmness Options||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good to Excellent|
|Conforming||Very Good to Excellent||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Good to Very Good||Very Good to Excellent|
|Pain and Pressure Relief||Very Good to Excellent||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Good to Very Good||Very Good to Excellent|
|Support||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Temperature Neutrality||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
|Motion Isolation||Very Good to Excellent||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good|
|Noise||Very Good to Excellent||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
|Average Price Range||$500 to $900||$600 or Less||$1,300 to $1,800||$1,300 to $1,800||$2,000 or Higher|
|Athlete Satisfaction Rating||75%||67%||77%||76%||73%|
As you can see, a wide range of factors impact how a mattress feels to different athletes. For more information and expert advice – contact informed Bed shops, like The Bed King, that have knowledgeable staff, who can help you find the perfect mattress for back and body support.
Article source: https://www.tuck.com/best-mattresses-for-athletes/