I Tried Pro-Athlete-Approved Pillows and This Is How I Slept

What was it like to sleep on Molecule's recovery-focused bedding, like Alex Morgan, Michael Phelps, and Russell Wilson?


Because for elite athletes, restoration — particularly during sleep — matters as much as workouts when they’re awake. Sleep is key for fitness recovery and muscle repair. This happens primarily during slow wave sleep, when your brain and muscles relax and growth hormones are secreted to help with body repair.

Sleep debt and deprivation can really knock down the amount of growth hormones your body gets during the important stage of slow wave sleep. Thankfully, those hormones levels can rebound once you enter your sleep stages. But if you are delaying your sleep time, or constantly waking up at night, this process does get interrupted. This doesn't just impact your sleep quality, it may also affect muscle recovery.

So, when I noticed that a few top-tier athletes were ambassadors for one mattress company, I sensed there might be something particularly special about its design.

Can mattresses and bedding really give super-support for sleep?

Experiencing too many sleep disruptions, which can be internal or external, can really set you back from feeling restored. Optimizing your bedding, however, can go a long way to keeping your body asleep through the sleep stages, including slow wave sleep. And that’s where Molecule’s offerings come in.

Designed to help with recovery-targeted sleep, Molecule mattresses, mattress toppers, pillows, and bedding have garnered devoted fans, including some of the sports world’s most famous names.

National Football League’s Russell Wilson, soccer star Alex Morgan, and swimmer Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympian of all time (28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold, spanning over four Olympic Games)! — are also official ambassadors for Molecule. While each Molecule athlete ambassador excels in a different sport at an elite level, they’ve all noted and described improvement in sleep and recovery after nights on Molecule products.

Michael and Nicole Phelps with their MOLECULE mattress

"Sleep plays an important role in both physical and mental health I spent years perfecting my training regimen and getting good sleep is a huge component,” Phelps says. “I’ve felt a huge difference in my body's ability to fully rest and recover since sleeping on Molecule."

Morgan, who plays forward for the National Women's Soccer League's Orlando Pride, goes even further.

“Sleep is critical — it’s the most important,” she emphasizes. “My body is constantly being beaten up in practice and games, and I prioritize sleep to be able to perform at my best.”

Morgan was recently named NWSL Player of the Month. Achieving peak performance while balancing her role as mother to a year-old daughter has caused Morgan to value sleep more than ever.

“I sleep deeper and wake up feeling more refreshed,” Morgan says of sleeping on her MOLECULE mattress. “As a new mom, I also get way less sleep than I used to, so I need to make every hour count, and I feel like I get deeper sleep with Molecule products.”

Intriguing, yes. But it begs us to ask the question...

What makes Molecule products so effective for recovery?

What we learned is that Molecule prioritizes airflow, using a trademarked process that they call “Air Engineered.” Your body sleeps better when its cooler and not too hot, so by sleeping in gear that wicks away heat and optimizing breathability, you’ll be optimizing your bed to reduce tossing and turning, or waking up. After all, disruptions in your sleep stages can cause a cycle reset, meaning with each wake up you experience, you get less recovery time. More wake ups before or during slow wave sleep could also mean an interruption with recovery and growth hormones secretion.

For Morgan, based in Orlando, Florida, that coolness is key to initiating quality sleep.

“It’s just the most comfortable mattress I’ve slept on. The bed really supports my body for great recovery, especially after a long day on the field,” she says. “I also really appreciate the cooling features, especially since I now live in Florida and it’s summer so very hot!”

Portrait of Alex Morgan with a Molecule mattress

Additionally, Moelcule’s CopperWELL line (as you might’ve guessed from the name) weaves copper into the fabric. Copper has a long history of being used in health-care settings to help with preventing bacteria growth, thanks to its antimicrobial technology. For athletes or hot sleepers, this addition material can go a long way with making sleep feel like a hygienic sanctuary. “I love that it’s antimicrobial and clean,” Morgan adds.

When on the road for games and events, Morgan brings her Molecule pillow along with her. “My new favorite is the CopperWELL foam pillow,” she says. “I always have the cool side of the pillow and never have to flip it.”

Oh, and a big bonus? From wrinkles to acne to wound healing, research notes that copper-infused fabrics are great for beauty sleep.

And, like the US Olympians who love it, Molecule products are all-American, designed and assembled in the U.S.A.

How sleeping with Molecule worked for my bedtime routine

If these elite humans choose to entrust their nights to MOLECULE, there must be something to the formula, right?

To investigate further, I (a mere mortal and Sleep.com Managing Editor) decided to try out a Molecule pillow to test it on myself.

To be clear, I am not an athlete. I’m not even a weekend warrior.

I once dabbled in triathlons — even Olympic-length ones — but I’ve lately devolved physically to the point that merely sitting the wrong way at my desk can bring on muscle aches. My fitness tracker now praises me if I get away from the screen to walk around the block with my toddler!

After noticing some lumpiness and heat retention in my previous pillow, I popped the Molecule pillow onto my bed during the first summer heatwave in June.

Unboxing it, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was no chemical smell or off-gassing and re-fluffing/expansion period needed.

It fit snugly into my pillowcase and sprang right back as I poked and prodded to get a sense of its makeup.

Nuzzling in, I felt cradled, but not enveloped. Supported, but not stifled.

And the next thing I knew, it was 7:45 a.m.

When I checked my sleep tracker, it showed that I’d fallen asleep in three minutes and slept all the way through!

I decided to give it a few weeks, to figure out if that fabulous first night was an athlete-adulation-inspired anomaly.

But no! My tracker’s results went from looking like sausage links of sporadic wakeups as I shifted and repositioned to a through-line of quality, comfortable sleep.

Sleeping on the Molecule pillow, I now wake up without stiffness feeling ready to roll, if not to a match, game, or long-haul swim, at least to a day of increased focus and productivity, making it the new MVP of my sleep setup.