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How to Find the Best Mattresses for Your Kids’ Bunk Beds

by Ann Ferguson

Bunk beds are a lot of fun for kids and have the added bonus of saving precious space in the kids’ room — but what about those mattresses? You might not think about it much, but finding the right mattresses for bunk beds takes a little more work than your standard mattress shopping. You have to consider the size, mattress type, thickness, your kids sleeping position, and safety regulations.

That’s a lot of things to consider! But don’t worry; we’ve done the work for you with our helpful guide!

What the Bunk

Bunk bed configuration with stairs instead of a ladder

Before we go into the mattresses, let’s review the different bunk bed configurations. You might think there’s only the basic twin over twin or twin over full — but there’s plenty more!

  • Standard Bunk Beds have two stacked bunks, typically of the same size. Usually, the top bunk is detachable.
  • Triple Bunk Beds feature three separate bunks of matching size stacked three high or configured in an L-shape.
  • Standard Loft Beds are different from bunk beds and feature the bed raised over an open space 3 to 4 feet high and often includes a workstation underneath.
  • Trip Loft Beds features two top bunks connected at a 90-degree angle with an open space beneath one of the bunks and a third bunk situation over the top of the other.
  • L-Shaped Bunk Beds feature two bunks that are stacked perpendicular to each other.
  • Trundle Bunk Beds fit three sleepers, with two bunk beds and a trundle drawer attached to the bottom bunk that can be pushed under when not in use.
  • Futon Bunk Beds have a top bunk similar to a standard, but the bottom contains a futon-style sofa that you can fold down to create a bed.

Any of these configurations will help save space in your children’s room, so choose whichever suits your home best.

Small Mattress, Big Dreams

Two kids sharing the bottom bunk with books in their hands

The first thing to consider with bunk bed mattresses is the size, which is determined by the bed frame size. Most bunk beds fit twin beds, twin XL, or full-size mattresses, but some frames feature a queen on the bottom bunk.

  • Twin mattresses are ideal for younger children who don’t need a bigger bed yet.
  • Trundle-size mattresses are slightly shorter than regular length and not as plush, so they fit under the bottom bunk best. These make a great extra bed for sleepovers and sharing the room.
  • Twin XL mattresses work best for taller kids, teens, or even young adults who would benefit from the extra five inches of height.
  • Full-size mattresses are standard for bottom bunks and have enough space for two teens or kids to share.
  • Queen mattresses are reserved for the bottom bunk and are big enough for two adults to share the bed. But it also works for growing kids to transition to a large mattress.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the weight capacity of the bed frame and the mattress to avoid safety issues with the top bunk! And keep in mind that mattresses with a weight capacity of 200 lbs. or more will last longer!

Thinner = Safety!

Another critical element in shopping for the right bunk bed mattress is the thickness! A thick mattress is usually too heavy for top bunk beds and will limit the guardrail’s function of keeping kids on the bed. So, look for mattresses that are between 5 and 8 inches thick.

You’ll find that standard twin sizes are between 7.5 and 12 inches thick, but you’ll want to stick to the lower end of the scale for bunk beds. The key is leaving at least 5 inches of guardrail height from the top of the mattress surface (per CPSC guidelines). You should also keep the lower bunk mattresses thin so you don’t restrict the headroom and can keep those head bumps to a minimum!

Match to the Right Type

Kids also need good sleep, so finding the best mattress type for them is essential. While everyone sleeps differently, some mattress types that are ideal for bunk beds include:

  • Memory foam mattresses alleviate pressure points, contour to the body, are less noisy, and the lack of bounce keeps children from trying to jump on the bed (which means they’ll last longer!).
  • Latex mattresses are bouncy, contour to the body, are durable, breathable, hypoallergenic, and dust-mite resistant — great for kids with allergies!
  • Hybrid mattresses feature sturdy support, good bounce, excellent pressure-relieving qualities, steady edge support, and better temperature control, but the springs might make them noisier.

While innerspring mattresses also have good bounce and pressure-relieving qualities, they aren’t ideal for bunk beds because of the noisy springs and the temptation for children to jump on the bed.

Pro Tip: Don’t use foundations for the bunk beds — look for bunkie boards or bunk bed support slats to support each mattress (the slats should never be more than three inches apart!).

Sleeping Position Tells All

Child sleeping on their side in the bottom bunk

How your kids sleep is vital to choosing the best bunk bed mattresses! The wrong choice can lead to back pain, sore hips and shoulders, and cranky kids!

  • Side sleepers need a mattress with good pressure relief, like with the contouring properties of memory foam or hybrid mattresses. Anything from medium to soft mattresses is ideal.
  • Back sleepers require healthy posture, so they need mattresses with better spinal alignment, usually found in medium to firmer mattresses.
  • Stomach sleepers need a firm mattress with enough support to keep the hips from sinking and causing pain, so look for beds with a supportive coil core, like a hybrid mattress.
  • Combination sleepers are tricky, but they sleep best on mattresses with plenty of bounce, like latex or hybrid with good responsiveness.

How Firm?

Like mattress type, mattress firmness is essential for kids to get a good night’s rest. Children typically need a mattress with enough support to align their spine correctly and soft enough to relieve pressure points.

A medium-firm mattress is the average firmness for most sleepers, but it’s important to get your kids’ input before you buy. So, take them to try out a few mattresses and see how they feel!

Safety, Safety, Safety

Little girl climbing up to the top bunk using the safety ladder

Since bunk beds are usually for children, several regulations and standards must be met to keep everyone safe. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), these guidelines include:

  • Each top bunk requires a sturdy guardrail—bottom bunks only need one if they are 30 inches or so off the ground.
  • The back guardrails must run the entire side next to the wall (fully enclosing that side).
  • The front guardrails cannot have a gap exceeding 15 inches.
  • The top guardrail must top the mattress surface by at least 5 inches on all sides.

Pro Tip: For more safety information, check out the CPSC guidelines to keep your kiddos safe!

Time to Say Goodnight

Finding mattresses for bunk beds can get a little complicated, but this guide has all the deets you need to get started! And if you’re ready to start looking, check out our mattress selection at Crane's Mattress! We have several in-stock mattress brands we can get to your home quickly!

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call or stop by!