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When my wife and I bought our first mattress, we headed to the mall, walked into RC Willey, laid on a couple of mattresses, and plunked down $1,000 for one that felt good.
We didn’t really know better at the time.
In the past couple of years, however, the mattress industry has been absolutely turned on its head. It is now possible to get a mattress that it much higher quality for a much better price, and have it delivered right to your door for free.
The massive influx of companies, however, has also made it hard to figure out what is crap and what isn’t. A mattress is a serious investment, not only financially, but in terms of your long-term health as well. Add in the fact that your mattress will probably be sticking around for 10 years or more and it’s even more important to make the right choice.
I’m much fatter now than when my wife and I bought our first mattress (my wife hasn’t changed much) but it probably wasn’t even a good idea then to buy a mattress meant for the average-joe. Big people have big needs (hence this blog) and so I made it my mission this time around to find a mattress that would better suit my needs as a plus size person. Here’s what I learned:
The best mattresses for fat people will have: a memory foam or latex top layer for cushioning, cooling gel-infused foam to control heat, and either a coil or high-density foam base to provide support and structure.
Luckily, there’s an amazing company that meets all of those criteria, and does so on a scale that is suitable for big and heavy people. It’s the GhostBed. Check out what RizKnows from TheSlumberYard had to say about it. (Yes, he’s not fat…but he’s nice so I’ll give him a pass…)
Now, if you’re interested in the methodology we used in our decision-making process, we’ve got that too! We knew that we needed to learn as much about mattresses as possible to make this decision. Our research included types of mattresses, firmness of mattresses, natural sleep positions, mattress durability, pricing, and more! So let’s just into the nitty-gritty of it all.
Types of Mattresses
Despite the rise of alternative foams and padding types, the good old innerspring mattress is probably the most common mattress still in use today. It’s built the exact way that it sounds: with springs inside.
The innerspring mattresses of the old days would often last only a couple years before the springs got mushy or slipped out of place. There was also the danger of a spring poking through (like happened in every cartoon I watched during childhood). Nowadays, however, each individual spring of an innerspring mattress is wrapped and placed in its own coil/channel. These makes the mattress much more supportive of heavyweights as well as increasing its longevity.
Innerspring mattresses are an excellent mattress for fat people on a budget. They’re not fancy but they can be supportive and will get the job done!
Memory foam seems to hold a magical mystique in many people’s minds. If you asked my parents what the most expensive mattresses were made out of, they would probably say memory foam. Ten years ago, they would have been right.
A traditional memory foam mattress has several awesome benefits and one huge drawback: they’re super hot. Because the extremely dense foam molds itself around your body, you’ll be left hot and probably sweaty during the night. Since I certainly don’t need to be sweating more than I already do, I’ve given these mattresses a wide birth for years. However, that is no longer necessary.
New types of memory foam and a much more complex layering system with other materials have resulted in mattresses that are cooling but still have all the benefits of a memory foam mattress for fat people. They are very supportive, minimize movement (so you won’t wake your partner up), and reduce any pressure points you might have.
So, with the advancements of materials technology, I would absolutely recommend a memory foam mattress for a big and heavy person or couple. Just be sure you get one with a good return policy because memory foam isn’t for everyone!
When it comes to mattresses for fat people, Latex is (in my opinion) the best material available. It has very similar qualities to memory foam in that it is extremely comfortable but has one huge advantage: latex generally results in a firmer and more supportive mattress.
If a memory foam mattress is considered “firm” it just means you won’t passively sink into it as far. Memory foam has not real bounce or rebound, you just sink until you stop. Latex, on the other hand, will actually push back against you as you lay on it.
Because of its supporting nature, latex mattresses are an excellent choice if you have back pain or other joint issues. The mattress that my wife and I first bought when we got married was an innerspring mattress. I typically sat on the edge of the bed every morning to put my socks on and I ended up with a big soggy soft right where my hips sat during the night. Within a couple of weeks I had developed significant sciatica and back pain which was 100% resolved when we threw that mattress in the dumpster and got a latex-based mattress instead.
So, unless you’re averse to latex mattresses, latex or a hybrid mattress with springs or foam might be your best choice. It probably won’t be your most affordable choice, but it could be the best one.
We’re not talking about air mattresses for your heavy guests to sleep on for a couple of days (although we reviewed those too: here). Rather, air mattresses can be one of the most advanced and customizable mattress options for fat people who have very specific needs.
Air mattresses have been used in the medical industry for years because they allow nearly infinitely adjustable firmness and can even have dynamic (changing) pressure to relieve aches and reduce bed sores.
If you need the firmest mattress around, an air mattress might be a good option. This is especially true if (like me) you’re a big fat guy with a normal size wife. High-end air mattresses have individual chambers which can handle different pressures, allowing either of us to air-up or down depending on our preference. This is how much adjustable mattresses on the market work.
In addition to provide firmness customization, have individual air channels or in-built coils also means that my wife won’t go flying into the ceiling when I flop onto the mattress at night.
(Coil air mattress example. Mattress available on Amazon)
Wife most people don’t find air mattresses to feel very luxurious, this problem can easily be solved with the addition of a heavy-duty mattress topper.
I have to include adjustable mattresses here because, every time I tell someone that expensive mattresses are well worth it and they should invest in one they respond, “Oh, you mean like one of those adjustable Tempurpedic ones?”
Well, maybe. Adjustable beds aren’t necessarily a type in and of themselves though as most of them employ air technology with a layer of foam (memory or latex) over the top.
Adjustable mattresses can be an excellent choice for fat people, just be sure that you get one that is meant specifically for handling heavy weight.
Despite being well past their hey-day, many people think that a water bed is a perfect option for big and heavy people. Why? Because water doesn’t compress. However, the very thing that makes these mattresses firm and “supportive” makes them bad for your back and joints.
Unlike foam mattresses, you don’t sink into a water bed and it doesn’t support your frame. Instead, your body simply has to take the shape of the mattress. As you might have guessed, this results in significant back or hip pain for most people.
While there are situations where a water bed can still be advantageous, there is a reason that they account for less than 5% of mattress sales these days and I would encourage most fat people looking for a mattress to give them a pass.
And that’s it! The full wrap up of materials! Now, there are some specialty materials (such as silicone grids or gel-infused foam) that are typically proprietary and available on a brand by brand basis but we won’t get to those yet. After all, they only really matter if they’re better than the main-stream materials!
Before we get to those, however, let’s high a topic that many people ask when shopping for a mattress, do I need a box spring?
Box Spring vs. Frame
Up until last year when I decided to get serious about solving my sleep issues I had never really thought about a box spring. Every bed I had ever slept on had one, the “mattress set” I had bought from the mall came with one, and I figured that no set-up would be complete without one.
Well, surprise, I was wrong.
The truth is that most people do not need a box spring and some people, big and heavy people, for instance, would be better off without one every time.
The purpose of a box spring is to provide a solid but shock-absorbing platform for your actual mattress. While this sounds good in theory, box springs are actually just a hold-over from olden days when mattresses were much thinner and bed frames had only a few wooded slates to keep your mattress off of the floor.
With mattresses of current days being much thicker and more supportive the need for a box spring has waned. Add into the mix the availability of extremely strong bed frames that can withstand thousands of pounds and come in several heights and you have left a box spring in the dust.
Ditching the box spring can be especially advantageous for fat people because it removes one more component of your bedding set-up that can sag or lose support. In fact, while you’ll still see box springs at big-box mattress stores, almost every high-end mattress supplier (such as GhostBed) ships their mattresses the way they’re supposed to be used: without a box spring.
Most salesmen who offer a mattress for fat people seem to think that the firmer a mattress is, the heavier the person it can support. While there is a grain of truth in that, the full truth is far more nuanced. So, what firmness level do heavy people actually need in a mattress?
The answer, of course, is that it depends. However, your sleep position is probably more important than your weight when deciding on a firmness level. However, heavy people, in general, could benefit from medium to firm mattress as it is more likely to keep your spine aligned.
Stomach Sleeper: Stomach sleepers actually need the firmest level of mattress. If you get a mattress that is too soft, it will allow your hips to sink too far into the mattress and you will wake up hating life with a sore back. However, stomach-sleeping is the least popular position among fat people, especially those of use with a big belly.
Back Sleeper: Back sleepers have the most versatility when it comes to firmness level and a lot of it comes down to preference. Most people prefer a mattress that is between medium and firm.
Side/Fetal Sleeper: Side sleepers typically need the softest level of mattress (although that doesn’t mean you need a soft mattress. If you get too firm of a mattress you’ll likely wake up with an aching shoulder (like I do every time I sleep on my side)
What is the most natural sleep situation for humans?
When I first started trying to figure out what the best mattress for fat people was and solve my own sleep problems, I wished that someone would just tell me how to sleep.
Sleep position is a strange thing for humans. Our sleep habits have evolved over thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of years but in only in past couple hundred have we decided to sleep on mattresses. In that brief time period, it’s fair to say that our bodies have not quite figured out how to do it right.
I’m guessing you, like I, were not trained on how to sleep. While there may not be one position that trumps all others, there are options that your body might be more used to. In fact, switching positions may be the next best thing to buying a heavy-duty mattress.
So here’s is what seems to be true about our natural sleep:
- Side sleeping is favored
- Pillows are unnecessary
- We sleep better alone (great apes all build their own nests)
- We sleep best when our circadian rhythm, natural light, and our sleep/wake-up time are all in sync
Given how those apply to our hunt for the best mattresses for fat people, we’re probably looking for a softer-than-you-think bed on which you can comfortably sleep on your side with no pillow. In addition, since most of us prefer not to sleep alone, it needs to transfer minimal movements so our sleeping mate doesn’t wake us up. All in all, we need a hybrid bed with memory foam, cooling gel to control heat, latex top layer, and a high-density foam base for the structure. Does such a thing exist? You bet!
With the “bed-in-a-box” craze in full swing, it was only a matter of time before someone offered one specifically for heavy people. Luckily for you and me, it didn’t take long to happen and when did, it was amazing.
Almost 20 years ago Marc Werner founded Nature’s Sleep. After 3 neck surgeries, he was unable to get pain relief from any mattress and pillow combination on the market so he decided to invent his own. It took a while to create the processes and materials needed (scientists are slow) but the GhostBed is the culmination of all this effort!
Now, GhostBed offers 4 levels of mattresses: the Original, Luxe, Flex, and 3D Matrix. While the Original and the Luxe are excellent mattresses, I find them to be a bit too soft and unsupportive for most big and heavy sleepers. When we add the overall cost into the equation, I feel that the Luxe is the best choice.
What’s to like about it:
- In total, this mattress is 13″ thick. Most mattresses you buy online and have delivered are in the 10″ range. This extra thickness (and extra-long coils) mean that they have room for 6 different materials, giving you the best of every world.
- Cooling materials mean that, unlike a traditional memory foam mattress, you’ll be temperature-regulated through the night.
- Option to use a box-spring, slatted frame, or an adjustable frame
- The price. It’s a better deal than every other mattress you can order online
- There is a 101-night sleep trial during which time you can decide whether it’s for you or not
- The company itself is genuine and the owner/founder is in all their videos and actually seems to be a real person…
- They ship for free. Mattresses are big and heavy after all, you don’t want to have to pay for that.
- Their 20-year warranty is twice as long as most other mattress companies
All in all, GhostBed makes the best mattresses for fat people, and the Flex is my mattress of choice from them. Its hybrid construction makes it one of the few options for plus size people and it’s comfort makes it the only option in my book.
So, if you’re a big guy or plus size gal in the market for a mattress, stop shopping and get this one. you’ll thank me later.