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Loving someone doesn’t mean you’ll love the same mattress. One person might prefer to sink into a pillow-top that wraps them in a full-body hug. The other might need a firm-as-a-board bed to keep their back pain at bay. Luckily, there are solutions—beyond a sleep divorce—if you and your partner have diametrically opposing views on what makes the most comfortable mattress.
When two people have differing firmness preferences, experts often advise leaning toward what’s most comfortable for the partner who has musculoskeletal issues (such as lower back pain). But the compromising partner might also wake up achy and tired come morning. “Sleep is vitally important not only to our own individual health and well-being but also the health of our relationships,” said Wendy Troxel, author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep and a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation. “Sleeping well is critical to being the best partner you can be.”
If you’re dealing with mattress incompatibility—and compromise is not an option—we’ve pulled together three solutions, at different price and difficulty levels, to try at home.
A fully customizable bed—with two halves suited to each partner’s specific sleep preferences—offers the most streamlined solution. Some mattress companies and mattress retail stores, like Naturepedic, Reverie, Brooklyn Bedding, and Long’s Bedding & Interiors, work with people to create custom split mattresses. Essentially, split queen and king beds consist of two mattresses—of different spring tensions or firmness levels—zipped into one bedding encasement, which often sits on a single platform. (This Naturepedic video illustrates how its custom beds come together.) Naturepedic custom beds are a hybrid of latex foam and innerspring coils, both of which can be fine-tuned to your specific preferences. New York City–based Long’s Bedding also offers single mattresses constructed with divided innerspring units that are set to different tensions (tight coils for a firmer mattress, springier coils for a softer one), depending on preference.
But a bed specifically tailored to your needs can be a very pricey investment. Brooklyn Bedding has one of the most affordable “split comfort” options, the Brooklyn Custom (normally about $2,200 for a split king). Naturepedic’s most basic split-bed option, the EOS Classic, starts at $3,000 for a split queen, and the most affordable split option from Long’s Bedding starts at $3,550 for a split king (we confirmed prices with Long's Bedding via email) . Split queen mattresses from Reverie also start at $3,500. Working with a company to customize a single mattress with split tension is even pricier—at Long’s Bedding, it starts at $7,300 for a split queen. But if you have the money to spend, it’s worth inquiring with mattress sellers local to you. Always ask about a company’s return policy before purchasing, too. In the event that you don’t like the mattress after about a month, you’ll want to be able to swap it for something that works better for you and your partner.
Another option is an adjustable air bed (not to be confused with air mattresses!). This style of mattress uses air chambers for its customizability—each chamber can be filled with more or less air, depending on your desired firmness level. The entry-level offering from Sleep Number, the most common air-bed manufacturer, starts at around $1,100 for a queen (and climbs in price for more frills). We don’t typically recommend Sleep Number mattresses—senior staff writer Joanne Chen thought the basic c2 felt like a firm and uncomfortable dormitory mattress. In general, we also don’t think paying so much for a mattress made mostly of air is worth it. But if you and your partner prefer a bed that can be adjusted at a moment’s notice, the Performance Series (queens start at around $3,100) and Innovation Series (queens start at around $3,800) mattresses may be worth considering. (Our Deals team notes that Sleep Number’s pricing tends to fluctuate, so it’s hard to pin down an exact price.) Before ordering, look for a Sleep Number store to try out the mattress yourself. The company has showrooms across the country, and the folks in the store can help you fine-tune your sleep settings and show you how to use the beds.
Though not the most glamorous option, this do-it-yourself hack can be a lot cheaper than custom-ordering a split bed. If you want to keep your spending under $600, Wirecutter recommends a few cheap mattresses priced under $300 for a single twin XL. (At just 75 inches long, standard twin mattresses are likely too small for many adults, compared with 80 inches for a king, queen, or twin XL.) You could also buy pricier mattresses, if your budget allows. Just be sure both mattresses on either side are as close to the same height as possible, to ensure maximum comfort; Terri Long, owner of Long’s Bedding, said this is important so that you don’t end up with an uncomfortable ledge between mattresses.
For this setup, you’ll want a few accessories to make the two mattresses feel more like one bed. A gap filler (also called a bed bridge) is a T-shaped foam insert that wedges between the mattresses, essentially eliminating the dip between the two beds. Mattress connectors, which are thick straps that go around both mattresses, secure the beds together so they don’t separate over time. Mattress connector kits, many of which start at $35, include both the gap filler and connecting straps. Many Amazon reviewers who employ the two-twin method have had luck using the Insieme Bed Bridge kit, and others really seem to like the IRESTFUL Bed Bridge kit.
The two-twin method comes with caveats. You’ll need a relatively spacious room, since two twin XL mattresses come together to form one king-size bed. If you don’t already sleep on a king bed, you’ll also need an appropriately sized bed frame and new bedding, like sheets, mattress encasements, and a new comforter and duvet cover. If you and your partner also like different bedding—say, one of you sleeps hot and one sleeps cold—you could invest in twin-size fitted sheets and comforters with different warmth levels. All of this adds to the final cost, so be sure to price everything from the outset so there are no surprises down the line.
We haven’t personally tested this method at Wirecutter, so we don’t know how the setup holds up over time. But as long as your mattresses are the same height, both Troxel and Long said they think this could be a good compromise if you don’t have the room in your budget for an adjustable or custom-made bed.
If you’re already sleeping on a king-size mattress, and you and your partner need an immediate change while figuring out your next move, a quick solution is to use a mattress topper to make one side of a firm mattress more plush. To make a noticeable difference, the topper needs to be at least 3 inches thick, Long said. So the partner sleeping on the pad will sit higher up on the mattress, and this can make intimate moments a bit awkward or uncomfortable. Folks may also have trouble getting a fitted sheet on the bed, depending on the thickness of the mattress and topper.
Still, for couples currently sharing a king bed, this is an affordable stop-gap measure. Wirecutter recommends a few different mattress toppers that vary in price, but the Malouf twin XL ($155) and the Parachute twin XL ($180) toppers are the most affordable of our picks. We haven’t tested split queen mattress toppers, and they’re harder to come by, as well as more expensive. For example, Tempur-Pedic’s split queen travel topper is normally around $380, and Essentia’s split queen pad starts at $400. A twin XL mattress topper will take up more than half a queen bed, as this one Redditor realized. But if you’re not willing to shell out for the split queen because it’s a temporary fix, you can trim down a foam XL topper to fit only half a queen bed.
This article was edited by Christine Cyr Clisset and Daniela Gorny.
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1. Wendy Troxel, author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep and a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, phone interview, January 12, 2022
2. Terri Long, owner of Long’s Bedding, phone interview, January 14, 2022
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