The Perfect Mattress For Big And Tall, Performance Athletes, And Obese Folks...Industry Secrets And An  Industry Veteran's Advice And Recommendations

Let’s face it, not everyone fits the boilerplate recipe that the mattress industry uses to design virtually all of their mattresses, whether an innerspring, memory foam, air bed, or hybrid bed. Designed to target a person of typical height and weight, the industry largely focuses on building beds that use the least costly materials available, spending the maximum amount of dollars possible on the outer covering, to create showroom curb appeal, with as little investment as possible made on the invisible internal ingredients. The reason? Like cars, mattresses are intentionally designed to offer a “reasonable lifespan” and then to fail, or so says a 24 year mattress industry designer and manufacturer, in my exclusive interview. Even worse, couples that have weight disparities often sacrifice the more petite partner to an eternity on a concrete slab, while they enjoy a comfortable nights sleep.

When I began writing articles for this site many years ago, my sole intention was to impartially evaluate many different kinds of mattresses so that I could educate consumers and give them a sense of confidence when shopping for a mattress, so they didn’t get taken like I did. I was misled by a big box retailer and left holding the bag on a $2,000 mattress which quickly developed ruts and depressions, and when I went to the retailer to complain, I was dismissed, told I was stuck with it, with no option for a refund or even an exchange. And I’m 5’9” and weigh 160 lbs., so it wasn’t like I was a larger person that put an extreme amount of stress on my mattress, either.

My industry veteran later told me that the trap I had fallen prey to was pretty typical, that many retailers offer no recourse for a purchase, even if the mattress is clearly defective. He explained, though, that over the last few years, this has changed, and competition is so fierce these days, that retailers are forced to offer trial periods, extensive warranties, refund and exchange policies that are clearly spelled out, but warns that these policies are often still designed to carry you just beyond the point of no return, with mattress failures usually occurring “4-5 years after purchase”, long after you can return the bed during a trial period, or during the warranty phase where you get 100% replacement coverage for defects and manufacturers design flaws.

“The system is designed to favor the mattress manufacturer, just like a casino”, the veteran said. And, the industry has begun to condition the marketplace by intentionally “grooming them” into thinking that a mattress should be replaced every “eight years or so” because of things like dust mites, bacteria, and other external issues. He states that the age of “disposable mattresses” is here to stay.

For Obese Consumers, Mattress Shopping Even More Of A Disaster, Expert Says

It’s even worse for consumers that are obese, or simply bigger in stature than the average mattress owner. Because highly specialized materials must be used to provide comfort and support, and lifespan, it’s hard to find a mattress manufacturer that has the skill set to create the perfect recipe for a person say, over 250 lbs. And building a better bed for an obese couple, says my industry guru, “is even harder, if not impossible”.

Better Sleep with Linebacker Mattress

The reason is that most materials, including conventional foams, innerspring units, and filler layers are “mostly junk”, and are usually rock hard, and while they may last a bit longer, are like sleeping on a slab of marble. Fortunately, there are advances in technology that have yielded highly supportive materials that don’t have to “destroy your back and force you to crawl back to your lounger” in the living room.

Case in point, when asked specifically about what materials are often shoved into a mattress targeted at big and tall folks, athletes, or obese bed buyers: two inch thick pads made from plastic pellets and shredded garment fiber. “I visited a factory outside of Boston, and walked alongside a one hundred foot machine that melts plastic pellets and combines them with shredded clothing fabric, converting them into long, rectangular mats that are placed inside a mattress merely to add filler, make the mattress firm, and give it weight”, says the industry vet, calling it “jawdropping” to watch. He said also that metal coils should never be used in a mattress designed for people of stature. “Even technically advanced coil systems, including pocketed coils, are not really designed to support obese persons, and do not maintain the “spring back” they were built with, forever”. In other, words, they slowly mash down over time.

Also, conventional foam layers must be carefully calibrated, need to be higher density foams, and should have a demonstrated history of field use, meaning years of use, to prove themselves. To build a mattress for folks weighing more than 250 lbs or so, a mattress engineer needs to consider buoyancy, elasticity, how the edge of the mattress interacts with the center of the bed (transferring in and out of the mattress is a large consideration) and the use of fibers that do not easily collapse over time.

“The best advice I can offer, after doing this for 24 years, is to advise a person of stature to buy a bed with a decent no questions asked trial period, a solid warranty from the manufacturer, not just the retailer, and preferably get it from a company that’s been around awhile”, states my mattress veteran.

“Go with a mattress made using high density foam layers, and if possible, the kind of foam should be what is called “H.R.” foam, or high resiliency foam. And it’s important that the density of these foam layers is high enough to resist compaction. I always suggest 30-36 ILD high resiliency foam (ILD stands for Indentation Load Deflection. The ILD rating is going to tell you how hard or soft a material is. Indentation Load Deflection is a measurement in firmness level. The higher the number, the more firm it is and vice versa for lower numbers. When measuring ILD, there have been standards put in place that the industry uses to ensure you have a clear idea of just what the numbers represent. To test, a foam sample of material measuring 15 inches x 15 inches x 4 inches is used. A 50 square inch circular indenter, which applies the pressure, is used to compress the material a total of 25 percent of its thickness. Another excellent top layer, which will provide a melting sensation and distribute your weight sideways, rather than downward, helping to eliminate pressure, is gel foam, but it has to be the right density,” he suggests.

According to industry veterans all across the board, if you are a person of stature looking for a mattress that will last, here’s a punch list of what you should be looking for.

  • Mattress should be made using specialized foam, preferably with support, or bottom layers made with 30-36 ILD density.
  • An advanced gel foam top layer, to distribute pressure and weight sideways rather than downward.
  • No coils, no wool, no thick fiber layers that will compress.
  • Get at least a 90 day trial period-make sure you get a full refund.
  • The mattress should be equipped with a decent warranty, say 15- 20 years, from the manufacturer themselves.
  • Avoid over stuffed pillow top comforters or duvets, since they will mash down and then to sleep hot.


How To Find A Mattress Designed Specifically Designed  For Obese Persons Or Those Who Want A Really Firm Mattress

Shopping for a mattress can be a pretty intimate experience and in many cases, your worst nightmare might be spending a Saturday wandering aimlessly through a retail store test driving one uncomfortable  mattress after another, There are a few companies out there starting to offer mattresses aimed at the Big & Tall marketplace, finally. I don’t think there was a public outcry, it’s more likely because the internet mattress marketplace has taken the industry by storm, and it’s just so much easier to purchase a mattress that gets shipped directly to your door.

There are several companies online who offer foam or pocketed coil mattresses made using much higher density foam layers and stiffer coil systems to allow for higher weight capacity, providing effective support and comfort. But finding them may be difficult. If you are shopping at a brick and mortar retail store, you’re going to be better off sticking with a good pocketed coil mattress made with firmer support and comfort layers. Make sure you are offered a trial period of at least 100 nights, to give time to adapt to what is most likely going to be a firmer bed. We've been watching a company called Linebacker Mattress, an innovative bedding company that has spent years perfecting a lineup of mattresses which incorporated highly supportive foam layers to provide proper support for larger folks, without sacrificing comfort for your partner, who is often a bit tinier. This is a common problem with couple who have weight disparities, and Linebacker seems to have directly confronted this age old mattress design problem.

Even more important, you want to make sure you are getting a really solid warranty. I’d look for at least a 20 year factory warranty with a 10 year full replacement component, meaning if the mattress fails, and likely it would be indentations and depressions, you’d be entitled to a free replacement, including the shipping charges being fully paid for by the vendor. Keep in mind that these kinds of mattresses tend to weigh more than other conventional mattresses, therefore the shipping charges are much higher.

Also, when searching for a mattress for people of stature, use search terms that are direct, and don’t be shy. You’re going to find better search results using terms like “best bed for obese people” rather than “beds for overweight persons”, because the term obese applies to more specific connotations.

I really like the concept of an all foam mattress for this kind of mattress, using field tested ingredients that stand the test of time. For example, a specialized high resiliency foam made by Firestone (the same company that builds high quality racing tires) is a great support layer in the ideal bed for an obese person or couple as the supportive layer of the mattress. According to bedding manufacturer Bill Beuhrle,  who owns Capitol Bedding, Inc., the company has been using the Firestone high resiliency foam in their product line because he claims it is essentially “bulletproof”. “My father started using this material in mattresses a half century ago, and it just doesn’t collapse or fail”.


There are only a handful of web sites and retails stores that have taken the time and trouble to create mattresses designed for larger people. Most conventional mattresses, whether made using coils, foam, air, or other ingredients typically fail within a short period of time The reason for this is the kinds of materials used in the construction of these beds. They're simply not built to support people over 200 lbs. Also, even if you are typical height and weight, but just want a really firm mattress, you can try Linebacker Mattress, which makes several models ranging from "plush-firm" to "firm-firm", meaning that while firm and supportive underneath, the top layers are designed to offer softness, some relief for pressure points such as hips and shoulders, and a nicer, nestled in feel, or opt for a bed that is simply firm and resilient, with little or no give.

Another option to consider for Big and Tall, and a good option for folks over 250lbs., is a coil mattress. There are a variety of extremely firm coil systems available, usually finished off up top with several highly supportive but still yielding comfort layers, like memory foam, gel foam, or even very dense latex foam.

Better Sleep with Linebacker Mattress