I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that sleep is one of the most necessary and effective recovery tools for every body, but especially for athletes. Not only is sleep essential to let your muscles rest and heal, but what you sleep on will greatly impact the health of your spine and back muscles. Sleeping on a bed with a solid foundation and a comfortable, supportive mattress will be one of the best things you can do for your body throughout your athletic career and beyond.
When I trained at California Strength, I was brand new to weightlifting, not used to the volume of training, and had just moved from Illinois with no place of my own yet. My coach at the time, Glenn Pendlay, graciously offered to let me stay with him. For nearly six months I slept on a couch, and while I was younger then, I could still feel the toll it took on my body. The difference from the days I woke up from the couch, and from the days I woke up on a mattress when I traveled home, was enormous. When we made the move to South Carolina, the first thing I did was purchase a mattress. After hearing great things about memory foam, and “testing” out the fancy ones at the store (rhymes with Schmempurpedic), I knew I wanted to try one. The problem was, I didn’t have $1500+ for a mattress. Not even close. So I began researching, and found a 12″ memory foam mattress on Amazon for around $400 (for a Queen. Prices fluctuate, and at writing, they’re around $450). There were hundreds of reviews for the product, mostly 4 and 5 stars, so I pulled the trigger and bought it.
I am happy to say that this was the single best investment I have ever made for myself. After three years of daily use, the mattress still feels brand new. It is firm enough for you to sit on the edge without sinking down, like a spring coil mattress, however it is soft enough so you don’t feel like you’re sleeping on a rock. The beauty of these mattresses are that they’re designed to a) reduce motion transfer, so if you share a bed, tossing and turning won’t wake your bedmate up, and b) reduce the pressure on the joints that generally bear weight when you sink on the bed. I wake up in the mornings pain-free, a stark contrast to when I travel and sleep on spring coil mattresses.
In the end, I’m sharing the mattress that works for me in the hopes that it might make a difference for you. But I think the most important takeaway from this is that you find a quality mattress supported on a solid foundation (a boxspring or stable frame with supports). You cannot recover without sleep, and you cannot sleep without being comfortable. Whatever you need to do to sleep more comfortably, whether it’s better pillows, new bedding, or a memory foam mattress, I believe you should make an investment in these, as they’ll help you have a longer, healthier career as an athlete.