There’s a lot of advice online about choosing the best mattress if you’ve got arthritis. However, it takes a while to sift through the sales pitches and get to some solid advice. I should make it clear from the start that I have no medical training or expertise in arthritis. However, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to discover what the actual experts say.
The most useful and trustworthy advice I’ve found online is from UK charity Versus Arthritis.
Their sleeping guide says ‘For most people with arthritis, a mattress that conforms to and supports your body to avoid excessive pressure points on your joints is most comfortable’. They say that a mattress needs to ‘hold your spine correctly’ which means that ‘when you lie on your back it should retain its natural ‘S’ curve’ and that ‘when you’re on your side, it should be straight’.
If you’ve read any of the other waffle on this website (Ed: surely you mean ‘useful guides’) then you’ll know that much of this advice applies to everyone – regardless of whether or not you have arthritis.
So, it seems there isn’t an ‘ideal mattress’ for everyone with arthritis. You need to find one which offers plenty of support and the right level of firmness for your weight and build. Of course, ‘arthritis’ is a broad term so please only take our guide as general principles. Consult a medic for guidance for your individual condition.
Is an orthopedic mattress the best mattress for arthritis?
According to Versus Arthritis, a ‘common recommendation is to buy a firm or orthopaedic mattress. But whether this is right for you depends on factors such as your weight and build, your size and age, the way you sleep, and the sort of aches and pains you have’.
Another guide I read suggested that a combination of an ‘orthopedic’ (i.e. very firm) mattress with a memory foam topper works well for ‘many’ people with arthritis, but it admitted that this doesn’t work for everyone and that comfort is a more individual thing.
In fact, according to the Sleep Council: “Any reference to beds being orthopaedic…does not automatically mean that the bed has been professionally assessed or recommended – it is a term loosely used by manufacturers to refer to extra firm models in their range”
So, ‘orthopedic’ is really just a marketing term and not necessarily a good mattress for someone with arthritis.
What the science says about firmness levels
Further research into the merits (or otherwise) of firm mattresses for back pain were carried out by a group of academics in Spain. The 2003 study reached the conclusion that ‘A mattress of medium firmness improves pain and disability among patients with chronic non-specific low-back pain’.
However, it’s worth giving a bit more context before you leap and order a medium-firm mattress.
The study just compared two types of mattress – firm and medium-firm. It gave them out to 313 participants who slept on them for 90 days. They were all people who had ‘chronic non-specific low-back pain, but no referred pain, who complained of backache while lying in bed and on rising’.
After 90 days, the findings were that the medium-firm mattress users had ‘better outcomes for pain in bed…(less) pain on rising… and (less) disability’. They also suffered ‘less daytime low-back pain…(less) pain while lying in bed…and (less) pain on rising’.
Whilst it is certainly an interesting study, it didn’t explore different materials or softer alternatives. If you want to read more, it is called‘Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain‘ and is by Kovaks, Abraria et al.
So how do I find a comfortable mattress which gives me the right level of support and firmness?
1. Try memory foam
According to Versus Arthritis, ‘many people find memory foam mattresses or toppers helpful’ so I would definitely consider that as an option (scroll down for some suggestions of award winning memory foam mattresses such as The Nectar Sleep Mattress and the Ergoflex 5G).
Here’s a bit of background.
Memory foam is a manmade material which was first designed to help keep astronauts cosy before being developed for mattresses. Some find it makes them a bit warm in bed and don’t like the sinking feeling. However, lots of manufacturers have tackled the heat issue by putting other layers of cooler foam on top (e.g. Emma). Others have combined it with springs (a ‘hybrid’ mattress such as Simba Sleep or Brook + Wilde). The result is (hopefully) a mattress with consistent support but without the sinking feeling.
It’s worth being aware that there is a proven link between how deep we sleep and changes in body temperature during the night. Academics Bischof, Madsen et al published a paper with those findings in 1991 (‘Sleep and the temperature field of the bed’) which concluded that ‘larger fluctuations of temperature in the bed are connected to a shorter deep-sleep time.’
2. Get the right level of firmness for yourself
Another very general rule is that side sleepers need a slighter softer mattress than someone who sleeps on their back so that there isn’t too much pressure on your shoulders and hips, so you need to consider that alongside your weight and build.
Annoyingly, there isn’t an industry wide agreement on what ‘soft’ ‘medium’ or ‘firm’ means when it comes to mattresses. You’ll find customer reviews of mattresses are full of contradictions about how firm a mattress is.
3. Try a mattress out
I certainly agree with Versus Arthritis’s common sense advice that you should try out a mattress before you buy it.
You can do this by visiting a showroom, which allows you to briefly try several mattresses out and quiz the salesperson. Alternatively, you can buy a mattress with a trial period, so you can send it back if it isn’t offering you the right level of support.
If you go for a mattress with a free trial you usually get at least a month to try it out (or a whole year with some). That is clearly a lot better than 30 seconds in a showroom. However, most mattresses with free trials are only sold online and so you will be making a bit of a guess regarding the right firmness for you. You also need to read the terms and conditions. Some offer a simple money back offer, whilst others offer a swap or have other hoops to jump through.
Which memory foam mattresses have won awards and get good reviews?
As the previous waffle covers, there isn’t one mattress which will be perfect for everyone with arthritis.
However, I can give some suggestions of highly-rated memory foam mattresses which offer a home trial period. These tick the boxes of trying out a mattress before you’re stuck with it and also use a mattress material which Versus Arthritis say is helpful for ‘many people’ with arthritis.
Two highly rated soft mattresses which use memory foam:
1. Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress (soft version) – £899
The Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress is a ‘bed in a box’ which means it comes squashed up and then expands when you open it. You can pick from soft, medium, firm or extra firm. Most of these types of mattress don’t give you a choice of firmness.
It uses two layers of pocket springs alongside a layer of ‘cooling memory foam’. The idea is that you get comfort and support from the combination of the two.
At the time of writing, Brook + Wilde as a brand was scoring 4.7/5 on TrustPilot. It also got a positive review from independent experts.
Rather appealingly, it which offers a ‘comfort trial’ so you can swap it for another one of their mattresses or ask for a refund if you find this one isn’t right for you within 100 nights (read the FAQ for details on how this works).
Pros: choice of firmness levels, outstanding TrustPilot reviews, trial period
Cons: single sided, some rivals offer longer warranties and trials, relatively new brand
2. Tempur Cloud Mattress – £2249
The price might make your eyes water a little, but Tempur have an enviable pedigree in the mattress market.
The company was the first to develop a memory-foam type material from NASA’s research and they remain a big name company. They’re another mattress company which offers a 100 night trial (check the terms and conditions first).
This ‘cloud’ mattress is the softest mattress they make. You can also pick from three different thicknesses, including 21cm, 25cm and 30cm (the thickest is the most expensive, unsurprisingly).
Tempur’s average score on TrustPilot was 3.7/5 when we checked in 2022.
Pros: long established and prestigious memory foam brand, choice of firmness levels
Cons: very expensive, Trustpilot score behind competition, single sided
Three highly rated medium firmness mattresses which use memory foam:
1. Nectar Sleep Mattress – £749
The Nectar Sleep is a medium/firm memory foam mattress which shares a lot in common with The Emma Mattress (below).
It uses a combination of different layers of foam, including memory foam to give you support and it arrives in a box to make it easier to get up the stairs.
It gets a similar score on TrustPilot (4.4/5) and has won awards from Good Housekeeping, Ideal Home and others.
They’re also similarly priced. Keep an eye out for deals and discounts particularly during Black Friday and Boxing Day sales.
The main difference is that The Nectar Mattress comes with a ‘forever’ warranty. You also get a whole year to decide if you want to keep it or return it for a refund.
One other (quite boring) technical difference is that the Nectar Sleep mattress uses memory foam as the top layer. The Emma Mattress buries the memory foam lower down and uses a different type of foam on top.
I did warn you it was boring.
Pros: whole year to try it out, industry leading warranty length, decent layer of memory foam, positive reviews
Cons: less famous brand than Tempur, single sided, some memory foam brands score slightly higher on TrustPilot, limited choice of sizes
2. The Emma Original Mattress – £699
There seems to be some disagreement online about the firmness of The Emma Mattress (also known as the Emma Original). However, most reviews seem to conclude that it is a medium firmness mattress. The official blurb says that ‘Emma Mattress has a medium firmness’ so let’s stick with that.
There’s no industry wide consistency on how to measure firmness so it’s useful that so many mattresses are now offering a trial period.
The Emma Original’s trial period is 200 nights. Again, it’s worth reading the terms of this. At the time of writing, they will start by sending you a ‘foam comfort layer’ if it’s ‘not quite right’ for you. You can then get a refund if you’re still not happy.
Hopefully, it will be just what you’re after, as The Emma Mattress got a rave review from expert testers and a score of 4.5/5 on Amazon. The brand as a whole was scoring 4.4/5 on TrustPilot when we checked.
It comes with a 10 year guarantee.
Pros: 10 year warranty, longer trial period than most rivals, very big seller
Cons: only one firmness level, single sided, thinner layer of memory foam than Ergoflex or Nectar Sleep
3. DreamCloud Hybrid Mattress – £1249
The DreamCloud Hybrid mattress is a bit pricier than most on this list. However, it is substantial at 29cm deep and it comes with a ridiculously long warranty (‘forever’) and a massive home trial period (365 nights). It’s described as medium/firm by the manufacturer.
It’s a hybrid mattress which means that it has a layer of pocket springs on the bottom with two layers of foam on top. The aim to achieve comfort and consistent support.
The idea of a hybrid mattress is that you get the hugging support of memory foam along with the familiar bouncy feel of a pocket sprung mattress. Pocket springs are the type of spring that most of us have been sleeping on for decades.
The top layer is described as being ‘Dream plush breathable memory foam’ which is an effort to get around the issue where some people get too warm with memory foam. Customer reviews for the DreamCloud brand were averaging 4.4/5 on TrustPilot when we checked. It is made in the UK.
Pros: outstanding warranty length and trial period, combination of springs and foam will suit some
Cons: quite a new brand, more expensive than most ‘bed in a box’ brands, reviews are slightly behind some rivals, single sided
Three highly rated firm mattresses which use memory foam
1. Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress (firm or extra firm version) – £899
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattresses appears twice in this list of memory foam mattresses. The reason is that it’s one of the few brands which offers a choice of firmness with a memory foam mattress. Most just offer one firmness which is usually somewhere around medium.
It uses a combination of memory foam and two layers of pocket springs and arrives squeezed into a box to make it easier to get it up the stairs.
As mentioned earlier, you get a 100 night trial with the option to swap it for another comfort level or ask for a refund (read the FAQ which explains how this works).
It was scoring 4.7/5 on TrustPilot when we checked, making it one of the highest rated mattress brands.
It comes with a 10 year guarantee and is made in the UK.
Pros: choice of two different firm mattresses (firm and extra firm), home trial period, pocket springs combined with foam will suit some
Cons: not available to buy in shops, bit of a gamble to buy a less well known brand, slightly more expensive than some bed in a box brands
2. Tempur Helsinki Mattress – £1699
There aren’t many memory foam mattresses on the market which are described as very firm, but the Tempur Helsinki is one of them.
As mentioned earlier, Tempur are probably the most famous name in the memory foam market although the official blurb makes clear that a Tempur mattress isn’t the same as other memory foam thanks to their ‘secret formula’.
As far as I can tell, this mattress is only sold through Bensons for Beds so there aren’t many reviews available. However, those which I found were positive. Overall, Tempur was scoring 3.7/5 on TrustPilot at the time of writing.
Pros: big name brand which has been around longer than its warranty length, good choice of sizes, decent warranty length.
Cons: much more expensive than rival brands, lower TrustPilot review than Nectar Sleep, Ergoflex or Emma.
3. Ergoflex 5G Memory Foam Mattress – £809
Ergoflex only make one mattress (at the time of writing) and according to the official website it is ‘medium/firm’.
There aren’t any springs in this one, but it has a 9cm layer of memory foam on top. That is a lot compared to some similar mattresses. Cheap memory foam mattresses tend to use a thin layer of memory foam on top and then cheaper materials underneath.
It is worth a place on our list as it was scoring an outstanding 4.7/5 on TrustPilot from more than 800 reviews when we checked in 2022. It also got a ‘best buy’ award from expert testers in 2019.
The Ergoflex 5G comes with a 30 night trial period. That’s not quite as long as some ‘bed in a box’ mattresses, but should be plenty of time for you to get an idea of whether it is working for you or not. It also has a 10 year warranty.
Pros: longer established than most memory foam brands, 10 year warranty, very very good customer reviews, industry awards, deep layer of memory foam
Cons: shorter home trial period than rival memory foam brands, single sided