4Sleep Performance Mattress Review

4Sleep Mattress Is More Comfortable Than a Casper

Exercise recovery shouldn't amount to an after-thought you skim over with a few quick stretches and a protein bar. Recovery is a serious business that's been gaining equally serious attention from exercise scientists and sleep experts. In fact, the Canadian Sport for Life organization published an entire report titled "Sleep, Recovery, and Human Performance," detailing the importance of, and strategies for improving, post-exercise recovery and regeneration (PERR). 

In fact, the report starts in abundantly clear terms: 

The effect of sleep on athletic performance has become a topic of great interest due to the growing body of scientific evidence that has demonstrated a relationship between critical sleep factors (sleep length, sleep quality and circadian sleep phase) and human performance. 

Sleep factors have also been shown to have a direct effect on metabolic processes including energy balance, appetite and weight control. More importantly, sleep extension and circadian rhythm research in athlete populations has provided objective evidence that confirms the significance of these relationships and importance of considering sleep in long-term athlete development. 

In other words, if you work your tail off in the gym, but struggle to get a good night's sleep, you're probably selling yourself short. Your body legitimately needs sleep to function well and optimize your performance improvements. 

Of course, there are a lot of factors that affect sleep quality. For instance, not getting enough sleep, or experiencing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Depending on your stage of life and lifestyle, you may only have moderate control over these factors. That said, there's one area that's easily modifiable, yet commonly overlooked—one the Canadian Sport for Life report clearly pointed out by stating, "Environmental sleep disturbance is probably the most important and common modifiable factor affecting an athlete’s sleep quality."

Your sleep environment encompasses everything from the temperature of the room you're sleeping in, to the presence of ambient light. But perhaps one of the most important factors in your sleep environment is what you sleep on

Yes, your mattress. 

If your mattress is old or uncomfortable—if you wake up in the morning feeling worse than when you laid down, then it's time for an upgrade. One 2010 study published in Applied Ergonomics found that study participants who replaced their regular mattress with a new, medium-firm foam latex mattress, experienced a significant decrease in physical discomfort and an increase in sleep quality after 12 weeks.

Let that sink in. There were no other changes to these study participants' sleep habits, and yet, a new mattress was all it took to improve their sleep while reducing chronic pain

Buying a new mattress certainly isn't something you do on impulse, but if it can help improve sleep quality with the added bonus of improving exercise performance, then perhaps it's worth a shot.   

I certainly thought so.

As someone who regularly experiences low back pain and poor sleep, which is only pronounced by sleeping on a less-than-ideal mattress, when I was offered the chance to test-drive the 4Sleep Performance Mattress  (which happens to be a medium-firm, memory foam mattress) I figured, "Hey, what could I possibly have to lose?" And maybe, just maybe, I'll end up feeling better and performing better, too. 

Buying a Mattress Online

4Sleep Performance Mattresses
4Sleep

The 4Sleep mattress is part of a new wave of mattress companies peddling their wares through online portals without additional in-store representation. Joining the likes of Casper, Leesa, and Bear, 4Sleep cuts out the middle-man mattress company, providing high-end mattresses at a more affordable price. Even their king-sized beds clock in under $1,000, and they often offer coupons to drop the price further. 

I actually happen to own a Casper mattress, and I've test-driven a Bear mattress in the past, so I'm fairly well-versed on this brave new world of mattress buying, and I have to say it's pretty great. 

Online Mattress Company Basics

Each of these online mattress companies offers a 90- to 100-day trial run, where after your purchase, you can use the mattress for roughly three months before making a final decision regarding your purchase. You can return it at any time if it doesn't live up to your expectations, and they'll even pick it up from your house for free if you want to send it back. 

But just because the business model of each company is similar, don't assume the mattresses are the same. They're not. 

4Sleep Mattress Versus the Casper and Bear Mattresses

4Sleep versus Casper and Bear
Collage by Laura Williams

Even though almost all online mattress companies offer some version of a gel memory foam mattress, the similarities stop there. Each mattress feels different, sleeps different, and provides different features that set it apart from the competition. The challenge is that mattress buying isn't a one size fits all activity. Because people's bodies and needs are different, their experiences with individual mattresses will also be different. 

Take, for instance, the Casper mattress I own. I know I'm probably committing some sort of internet "crime" by saying so, but I hate my Casper mattress. The only reason my husband and I kept it after the 90-day trial was because he liked it. Which should speak to the different needs different people require from their mattresses.

To me, the Casper mattress is fundamentally too firm. It has a "sink" to it which is initially nice, but it then feels like you hit the bottom of a swimming pool and your body meets rock-solid concrete. My result is exacerbated lower back pain that keeps me up half the (already short) night. Not good. 

The Bear mattress was much, much better. It has a thicker layer of memory foam on top that offers greater cushioning and less "bottoming out," but for someone like me who is ridiculously sensitive to pressure points, I still ached some mornings. This might've been due to the size of the mattress I tried (a twin), which felt cramped for my 6-foot frame. 

The 4Sleep mattress, after a full month of test-driving, is the best I've tried to date. That's not to say I'm completely pain-free—I think that might require an actual miracle—but I sleep better on the 4Sleep mattress than I've slept on any mattress in my adult life. 

4Sleep Mattress Differences

4Sleep
4Sleep

I can't be entirely sure which elements of the 4Sleep mattress contribute most to my positive experience, but I can point to a couple possible factors: 

  • Thicker mattress: Unlike its counterparts, the 4Sleep Mattress is 11 inches thick, a full inch thicker than the Bear and Casper mattresses. Perhaps this extra inch of memory foam plays a role in additional pressure point relief.
  • Firm, but cushiony support. Initially, I was worried the 4Sleep mattress would be too firm. In fact, when I first slept on it, I thought, "Uh-oh, this feels firmer than the Casper." But after a few minutes, I felt my body sink into the foam, without "bottoming out" like on the Casper. To me, even though it doesn't have that initial, "so soft and cozy" feel, the end result was a more body-hugging experience. 
  • Heat regulation. Sleeping in a cool environment that allows your body to undergo its natural core temperature dip at night is an important factor in a good night's sleep. The challenge is that many mattresses, pillows, and bedding actually trap heat, interfering with this temperature drop. I sleep in a loft that doesn't have great air conditioning circulation, so sleeping on a mattress that regulates heat (especially in Texas where I live), is incredibly important. The 4Sleep mattress does this in two ways. First, its proprietary gel memory foam is designed specifically to absorb or liberate heat based on your skin's temperature to optimize the sleep environment. Second, the 4Sleep mattress cover is made out of material similar to the athletic industry's high-tech performance fabric to offer "cooling on demand" by wicking away moisture. It's been exceptionally hot in Texas for the last few months, but I haven't woken up in the middle of the night doused in sweat—something I can't say about sleeping on the Casper mattress. 

These are the three factors I would guess made the biggest difference to my sleep improvement, although 4Sleep also offers motion isolation technology to prevent you from being disturbed by the movements of other humans or pets you might share your bed with.

The foam is also designed to support your own movements, so you won't be restricted or feel "stuck" as is sometimes the case with memory foam mattresses. 

Clinical Trials and Reviews

One of my first questions to the 4Sleep company was whether they'd had their mattresses studied or reviewed by any third party organizations. To date, they haven't had their mattress put to the test in any clinical trials, but they did highlight the importance of placing it in the hands of active individuals, having it reviewed by athletes, yogis, and their own active team to ensure the mattress is optimized for muscle recovery and better sleep.

Product sample was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.

Sources:

Jacobson B, Boolani A, Dunklee G, Shepardson A, Acharya A. Effect of prescribed sleep surfaces on back pain and sleep quality in patients diagnosed with low back and shoulder pain. Applied Ergonomics. Vol 42 Iss 1. Dec 2010. 

Samuels C. Sleep, Recovery, and Performance: The New Frontier in High-Performance Athletics. Neurologic Clinics. Vol 26. 2008.

Samuels C, Alexander B. Sleep, Recovery, and Human Performance: A Comprehensive Strategy for Long-Term Athlete Development. Canadian Sport for Life. 2013.

T uomilehto H, Vuorinen VP, Penttilä E, Kivimäki M, Vuorenmaa M, Venojärvi M, Airaksinen O, Pihlajamäki J. Sleep of professional athletes: Underexploited potential to improve health and performance. J Sports Sci. 2016 May 13:1-7.

The Body's Thermoregulation During Sleep. Sleepdex http://www.sleepdex.org/thermoregulation.htm . 

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