The Best Mattress For College, According To A 25 Year Mattress Industry Pro

If you’re looking for the best mattresses for college dorm or apartment, I’ve tested and rated 8 options you might want to consider. I spent 25 years as a mattress designer and manufacturer.

In all likelihood, you’re not likely to get a brand new, university provided dorm room mattress, so I advise: new student, new mattress.

According to Vice.Com, a typical used dorm room mattress is a breeding ground of dust mites, stains, fungal spores, bacteria, spilled fluids, mold, dust, and grime.

I’ve personally tested and rated everything on my list. I’ll give you options for both topper pads and mattresses. Keep in mind that when you purchase a new mattress for college, it can be easily transported and use for all four years, and well beyond.

First off, parents are often buying a new mattress for their college bound kids, and often under-estimate softness and firmness preferences, so we will discuss that in detail.

The Basics: Understanding Mattress Sizes And Firmness vs. Softness

Most dorm room and loft mattresses are twin size, also called single, and are 39″ x 75″ in size.

In almost all cases, you’ll be placing a mattress on top of a mattress foundation, loft system, platform bed, or deck, that is twin size (39″ wide by 75″) long but I advise double checking and measuring the base if you can.

In rare instances, some schools and dorms have a twin long setup, which is a completely different size, being 38″ wide and 80″ long. I’ve seen this in about 20% of dorm room scenarios.

That also means that you will need twin long sheets v. regular twin, so be mindful of this situation.

Depth, or height, is basically user preference and can vary according to the design and components inside of a particular mattress.

With topper pads only, the thickness is usually 2-4″ thick, and provide more comfort as they get thicker, in general. But- a topper pad won’t remove the history left behind by previous students.

Want To Cut To The Chase? My Top Selections For Best College Mattress, Backed By 25 Years Of Mattress Design And Manufacturing Experience

If you’d like to check prices or jump below to my mini-reviews on the top mattresses I’ve tested as the best mattresses for college options, here’s my quick guide.

There’s lots of information below the table, though, that can help you easily understand what to look for by mattress type, sizes, components, comfort, pressure relief, and back support.

Teen lying sideways on the Nectar Mattress, showing how her body immerses on the mattress. The photo shows her hips and shoulders immersing deeper than other parts of her body.Nectar Original-best value for memory foamRead My Review BelowTwin $399+free gifts
Vaya Mattress-best cushy comfort/spine alignmentRead My Review BelowTwin $449
Sweetnight Prime Mattress-best memory foamRead My ReviewTwin $551
Puffy Cloud Mattress-best pressure reliefRead My ReviewTwin $699+free sleep bundle
Nolah Original Mattress-best for side sleeperRead My Review BelowTwin $699+two free pillows
photo of the silk & snow mattress from above showing the quilted organic cotton coverSilk & Snow Organic Mattress-best organic mattressRead My Review BelowTwin $750
Saatva Memory Foam Hybrid-luxury memory foam/coilRead My Review BelowTwin $995
Bed In A Box Original-thickest gel/memory foam layerRead My Review Below
Twin $599

Softer Is Better, Often Dramatically Improving REM Sleep, Energy, And Mental Acuity

If you are parents of a college bound student, I can give you some pointers about preferences that I’ve observed after designing mattresses for 25 years. Typically, in the 18-22 year old range, softer seems to be better.

Many mattress options are often way too firm, made of stiff layers of polyurethane foam or memory foam that is too dense and gets harder when exposed to colder temperatures. In my professional experience, people in the 18-28 age range seem to thrive on a “soft up top, firm underneath” formula.

At left is a hybrid mattress, with both coils and foam, at right is an all foam mattress.

Generally, a hybrid mattress, which contains two or more differing components combined in layer cake fashion, seem to be a perennial favorites among college students, because they can be plush and lofty up top- yet supportive underneath. They also provide more effective edge support, but can be slightly more costly. They also will have a longer lifespans (8-20 years) vs. an all foam mattress (5-12 years).

Typical configurations are memory foam and high density polyurethane foam, gel foam and pocketed coils below, and for a hypo-allergenic option, natural latex mattress which can contain certified foams that are free of VOC’s or other odor emitting materials. All of the mattresses shown on this page use certified safe and non-toxic foams.

An ideal dorm room mattress should provide great edge support along with a buoyant, plusher feel right up top.

In my experience, the best mattresses for college students have a thicker, plusher top layer or pillow top that is body contouring, lofty in feel, and provides a nest like, slightly immersive feel. It’s what’s underneath that makes the difference though.

Generally, a twin size mattress should allow for the full area of the mattress, including the edge, to have a higher density foam or coils system towards the bottom of the mattress, providing good spine alignment and edge support that allows for sitting.

Learn more about foam density here, if you are interested. Foam density is a bit too technical for this page, but there are wide ranges of different foams used in the best mattress for college category.

If you want to learn more about mattress sizes, check out my page here. The best mattress for college dorm rooms can be made from many different kinds of materials, including polyurethane foams, natural materials like latex, innersprings or pocket coils, and other components.

Virtually all of the manufacturers I’ve included in my recommended list below ship their product in what’s called “bed in a box format”.

A bed in a box refers to a type of mattress that is compressed, rolled, and vacuum-sealed into a compact package, easily sleeving into a thick outer cardboard box.

This innovative packaging method allows for efficient shipping and storage. When the package is opened, the mattress expands to its full size and regains its original shape, ready for use.

These mattresses are designed specifically to be carefully compressed, and no harm or damage results from shipping them this way. Important note: Once a bed in a box mattress is opened, it cannot be recompressed and repackaged in the original box.

You can easily transport a new mattress in a vehicle directly to dorm room or apartment for easy setup.

Foundation And Base Requirements For Typical Dorm Room Installations

Most dorm rooms will provide the base, platform, loft bed system, or headboard and footboard that require installation of a mattress only.

There is not box spring or foundation, and the mattress can be simply placed on top of the slats, solid wood, or deck surface. All of the mattresses I recommend below have either a substantial foam layer or coil section built in which essentially acts as a foundation.

Many people ask me what to do in the event there is a mattress already inside the room and how to get rid of it. University maintenance personnel will typically remove an existing mattress upon request, and will either dispose of it or store it.

Tip: Make sure you purchase a mattress protector or encasement to protect a new mattress from fluid, accidental spills, and dust mites. Here’s a great mattress protector I recommend.

In a dorm room, you can use various types of bases to properly support a loft bed or any other type of mattress. The choice of base will depend on the specific design and structure of the loft bed, as well as the dorm room’s rules and limitations. Here are some common options:

  1. Metal Frame or Bed Rails: Many loft beds come with built-in metal frames or bed rails that provide a sturdy foundation for the mattress. These frames are typically designed to support the loft bed structure and provide ample support for the mattress.
  2. Bunkie Board: A bunkie board is a thin, solid foundation made of plywood or particleboard. It is placed directly on the bed frame or slats to provide additional support for the mattress. Bunkie boards are a good option if your loft bed has wide gaps between slats or if you want to add extra support to the mattress.
  3. Slats: Some loft beds come with slatted bases. These are wooden or metal slats that run horizontally across the bed frame. Slats provide support and ventilation for the mattress. If the slats are too far apart, consider using a bunkie board or plywood to bridge the gaps.
  4. Adjustable Bed Base: If your dorm room allows for it and you have an adjustable loft bed, you could use an adjustable bed base. These bases can be positioned at various angles to provide customized support and comfort for the mattress.
  5. Floor: If your loft bed is designed to rest on the floor, you can place the mattress directly on the floor. However, keep in mind that this may not provide optimal ventilation for the mattress and could make it more challenging to get in and out of bed.

Before selecting a base, it’s essential to check the specific requirements and guidelines provided by your dorm or university housing department. Some dorms may have restrictions on the type of bed bases you can use, especially if they are provided by the dorm itself. Safety and compliance with dorm rules should be a priority when setting up your bed in a dorm room.


The Best Mattresses For College I’ve Personally Reviewed And Tested


At $399 in twin size, it’s a great option for college dorm room, apartment, or bunk. Inviting and with melt in sensation, I like the snuggled in feel.

For studying and lounging, the 12″ tall, it is designed fo any body size, and provides spine alignment, pressure point reduction and healing, and promotes calming sleep.

Free shipping, 365 night trial, and reliable forever warranty. It’s been a perennial favorite of mine, and it’s inexpensive. Definitely worth it. I scored the Nectar Memory Foam Mattress at 4.5 out of 5.


One of the best mattresses for college, this 12″ all foam option packs a lot of comfort and support, priced at $449 in twin size. I found it to be a bit bouncier and livelier than most mattresses, with no “dead” feel.

More like a traditional innerspring feel, but a tad softer. Very sumptuous and body contouring for the money. Outfitted with a breathable cooling cover. I rate it a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars.


At $551 for a twin size, this 10″ thick flippable gel/memory foam mattress has soft or firm options, depending upon which size you choose.

Beaded gel foam, memory foam, a highly responsive support layer, and a firmer high density foam layer all deliver great support.

I could sleep on my side and felt no pressure after several hours. My daughter sleeps on one and loves it.

One of my personal favorites for best mattresses for college. It’s lightweight, easy to handle, and has a soft and soothing outer covering that is machine washable, with a zipper.

Ten year warranty, 100 night no questions asked trial, and free shipping. I scored it at a solid 4.9 out of 5- just because it’s like getting two mattresses for the price of one.

saatva memory foam hybrid mattress, cutaway view showing memory foam layers, quilted pillowtop, and pocketed coils


For couples who spoon or snuggle, I recommend this as an option. Pocketed coil and foam hybrid mattress with sumptuous “euro” top, virtually no sinking in yet pressure relief at hips and shoulders. At $995 in twin, it is a luxury category mattress, for sure.

Medium level of support, you will not feel trapped. Turning is effortless. I also like the firmer edge support for sitting, putting on shoes, and transfer in and out. It’s 14.5” tall finished height, you get a 120 night trial period, 15 year warranty, free shipping.

Marc’s comments: No “dead memory foam” feel, responsive and lively due to good balance of pocket coils and quilted pillow top thickness.

If you like to nestle and squirm a tad before finding your sweet spot, this might be a good option for you. I got pretty comfortable very quickly, and turning was pretty effortless. Clearly, it deserved my 5 out of 5 rating.

The Puffy Cloud Mattress

At $699 in twin, it’s a bit pricier, but nothing comes close to the cloud like feel it delivers. For loungers, cramming, and readers, it’s the perfect nest, your own sanctuary.

Removable and washable cover, 5 layers with a medium firm feel. You’ll get a lifetime warranty, a 101 night trial. I tested this model and kept the mattress in my guest room.

Puffy also carries a full line of luxury bedding, from pillows to sheets, even rugs.

The outermost fabric is an elastic stretch knit material that flexes with your body as you change position- not stiff, and not trampoline like.

photo of the silk & snow mattress from above showing the quilted organic cotton cover


Made with layers of purely botanical organic latex, organic wool, and certified organic cotton, this option contains no VOC’s, petroleum base foams, heavy metals, formaldehyde, or PBDE’s.

It’s priced at $750 and it’s sumptuous, elastic and responsiveness, but has a forgiving, pressure relieving feel. Excellent support across 100% of the surface, it makes an ideal college mattress.

Natural latex is heavier than synthetic foams, though, just FYI. Repels dust mites, is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and lasts forever. Solid 5 out of 5 rating.


Priced at $699 in twin size, this all foam memory foam option is my side sleepers favorite and is a contender in my best mattresses for college category.

Equipped with 4 layers of both cooling and pressure relieving foam, it has a slightly softer than medium feel. You get a 120 night trial and lifetime warranty.


$599 in twin size, 11″ tall, and made with a 3″ thick of cooling gel foam. No other mattress in this category gives you more of the pressure relieving, body contouring premium component right up top.

Why Choosing the Right Mattress For College Is Essential For Academic Success

Hunting down and choosing the best mattresses for college may vary depending on individual preferences, but there are some general considerations for college students, especially those who study in bed. When choosing a mattress for a dorm room, it’s essential to focus on comfort, support, and overall sleep quality. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Medium Firmness: A medium-firm mattress is often considered a good balance of comfort and support. It provides enough softness to be comfortable for studying and sleeping while offering adequate support for the spine.
  2. Pressure Relief: Look for a mattress that offers good pressure relief, especially if you’ll be spending a significant amount of time studying or reading in bed. Pressure relief can reduce discomfort and prevent aches and pains, allowing you to focus better on your studies.
  3. Motion Isolation: If you have a roommate or share the dorm with others, a mattress with good motion isolation can be beneficial. It minimizes disturbances when your roommate moves, ensuring better sleep quality for both of you.
  4. Temperature Regulation: Dorm rooms can get warm, especially in crowded spaces. Look for a mattress with cooling features or materials that promote airflow to keep you comfortable during the night.
  5. Noise Level: A mattress that doesn’t produce noise when you move can be helpful in a shared dorm setting. Mattresses with foam or memory foam tend to be quieter than traditional spring mattresses.
  6. Size: Consider the size of the mattress that will fit in your dorm room. Twin or Twin XL mattresses are commonly used in dorms due to their space-saving properties.

Regarding whether the mattress you choose can increase academic proficiency, it’s important to understand that while a good mattress can contribute to better sleep and overall well-being, it’s just one factor among many that can impact academic performance. Adequate and restful sleep is essential for cognitive function, memory consolidation, and learning ability. A comfortable mattress that promotes better sleep can indirectly contribute to improved focus, concentration, and academic success. However, academic proficiency is also influenced by other factors like study habits, time management, stress levels, and overall lifestyle.

To enhance academic proficiency, it’s essential to maintain a balanced lifestyle that includes proper sleep, regular study routines, a healthy diet, and stress management techniques. Investing in a comfortable mattress that supports your sleep needs can be a valuable step towards creating a conducive environment for academic success.