Keeping fit means different things to different people. But whether you’re a daily workout junkie or just a weekend warrior, you still want to make sure your muscles get the rest they require at the end of the day. One of the best things you can do to support an active lifestyle is to take sleep seriously.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from the same approach to sleep that the pros take. Every athlete knows that the pathway to peak performance is as much about recovery as it is preparation. Sleep plays a leading role in recovery because it replenishes energy, revitalizes the nervous system, and releases critical hormones that aid in mood and muscle development.
“Simple drills and exercise become impossible without proper amounts of sleep,” Jamal Liggin, a professional trainer of many of the NFL’s top players, tells Saatva. (Check out his top sleep tips here.) College coaches have embraced that philosophy too, monitoring players’ sleep and even tucking them in at night.
Much has been made about professional athletes’ unique and regimented sleeping habits. Michael Phelps, to cite just one example, famously slept in an altitude chamber prior to the 2012 Olympics. Most of us are not going to these (dare we say) heights when it comes to our sleep. But there are simple ways non-Olympians can improve athletic performance, starting with the right sleep surface.
The best mattress for an active lifestyle
A body that’s in pain, or one that can’t get comfortable, is not going to get restorative rest. Here are the top qualities athletes look for in a mattress:
Comfort level: The key to pain-free and regenerative rest is a mattress that maintains your spine in proper alignment. That means taking your sleeping position into account when choosing a comfort level. If you’re a side sleeper, a slightly softer mattress will help take pressure off hips and shoulders and keep numbness or tingling at bay. If you sleep on your stomach, a firmer mattress will guard against waking up with back pain. Back sleepers have more flexibility in mattress choices (this is actually the healthiest position for your body), but generally, a slightly firmer mattress is ideal for keeping your spine in a neutral position overnight.
Lumbar support: Any sort of pain can seriously throw you off your fitness game, so protecting your back while you sleep is a must for professional and amateur athletes alike. The best way to do it is with added lumbar support, in the form of reinforced foams or other zoned support in the center of the mattress, where most of the body’s weight is typically concentrated. That keeps hips and shoulders from sinking too low and preserves the natural curvature of the spine. Sleeping on a mattress without adequate lumbar support night after night could cause lower back pain and can even lead to early onset arthritis.
Learn More About Saatva Mattresses and Adjustable Bases
Saatva Classic Innerspring
Our flagship luxury mattress is expertly engineered with coil-on-coil construction for durability, a layer of memory foam for enhanced back support, and a cushiony Euro pillow top for extra comfort.
Lineal Adjustable Base
With weightless, Zero Gravity support, the Lineal adjustable base allows you to set your ideal position for sleeping—and living—with one touch of the remote.
Anti-sagging: A mattress that sags makes for fitful sleep, which makes for sub-optimal performance, on and off the field. If an innerspring mattress is your bed of choice, look for one that features a solid base of support coils along with foam-encased edge support, as both of these will help prevent sagging. In a memory foam mattress, the denser the foam, the less likely the mattress is to sag. (Here’s why early morning workouts can help you sleep better.)
Cooling features: Working out gets you all hot and sweaty, so pick a mattress that you can be sure will sleep cool. Certain mattress materials (like foam) trap body heat, while others (like coils) are better at promoting air circulation. A hybrid mattress—one that combines innerspring coils with foam—might be a good option because they’re strategically layered to promote air flow. Latex mattresses sleep naturally cool, so they’re another safe bet if sleeping hot is an issue that concerns you. Many memory foam mattresses these days incorporate cooling features, such as gels and heat-dissipating graphite layers.
Adjustability: After a long session at the gym, we bet that all you want to do is stretch out your muscles and relax. Enter an adjustable base: Elevating your legs post-workout will help aid in muscle recovery while you sleep, so you don’t have to worry about waking up with aches and pains.
See why Saatva was named a best mattress for athletes by Men’s Journal.