If you are in the market for a new bed, chances are you don’t one that is just okay, you want the best mattress you can afford. But how would you define the best mattress? The primary requirement for most of us is that it be “comfortable”. Where many people get stuck is determining which beds will offer the best chances of comfort and good sleep from the hundreds of options. There are several types of mattresses out there, and even more body types and personal preferences to factor into your decision. Learning about the pros and cons of different mattress types and getting familiar with your options can make shopping a little easier, while helping you find the best mattress to meet your needs.
Guide to Choosing the Best Mattress
So, what’s the key to finding the best mattress? If you were to think of the most obvious answer, you might say “try it out”. Testing mattresses in a showroom is a popular recommendation for shoppers, as it can seem logical that trying a bed is the best way to see if it will feel comfortable. However, when you sleep a full night, your body and muscles go through changes that cannot be mimicked by a few uncomfortable minutes on a showroom mattress. It can also take several days to adjust to a new bed, especially when changing mattresses, due to differences in support and materials. For example, one study by a research group called RTI found that people had difficulty choosing a comfortable mattress in a showroom setting, and a 2013 survey from Consumer Reports showed that 40% of respondents reported buyer’s remorse with their mattress purchases.
Since the showroom test is not a foolproof way to find the best mattress, we recommend taking a strategic approach and thoroughly researching new beds. After all, you will be spending nearly 3000 hours per year in bed, so what’s a few hours of research? Here are a few tips and recommendations designed to help you shop better and sleep better.
1) Think About What Makes YOU Feel Good
Rather than stick with generic advice or buy firm just because a salesperson recommends it, consider what actually feels best for your body. Be honest with yourself and your partner when planning a new mattress purchase. Think about what type of mattress or surface you experience the most restful sleep on. Do you like mattresses as hard as the floor or as soft as a cloud? Think about how you’ve felt on different mattress types and what you liked and did not like. List anything you want to try or look into. This is also the time to make note of any other preferences, for example if you want only natural materials or if you are sensitive to dust allergies or odors. You could also make note of what you dislike most with your current or past beds so you know what to avoid.
- Do you get better rest on firmer or softer surfaces?
- Do you like beds where you sink in or where you stay on the surface?
- Did that mattress you tried one time at a hotel or a relative’s house really make an impression?
- Do you have a distinct preference for certain materials (ie. springs, memory foam, latex, wool etc)?
- Do you have any other “must-haves” for your new bed?
2) Consider How You Sleep
Sleep position plays an important role in identifying the best mattress. To determine this, consider what position you wake up in. Some people may switch between a few positions while falling asleep, but most of us awake in a preferred position.
Your Ideal Mattress:
|Highly-conforming materials, thicker comfort layers|
Supports straight spine
Memory foam and softer latex a good choice
|Supports lower back, no large gap between back and bed|
Supports natural alignment, doesn’t allow torso too far
Medium-firm to firm
Firmer memory foam or latex or quality innerspring recommended
|Doesn’t allow stomach/lower back to bow downwards|
Moderate comfort layers to prevent pain
Firm latex or innerspring recommended
|Offers moderate levels of support and contouring|
Memory foam can accommodate several positions
Aside from sleep position, think if there any other factors that affect how well you sleep. If you notice yourself waking up frequently at night with painful pressure points or tingly limbs, your current mattress may be too firm (or the comfort layers too worn). If you feel too hot or too cold at night, or your partner’s movements wake up, these should also be considered when shopping. When you get to the research phase, see if reviewers mention the issue(s) you are concerned about. For example, if you are worried about sleeping hot, see if large portion of people mention heat problems.
- What position do you wake up in?
- Do you toss and turn a lot at night?
- Do you sleep better alone or with your partner?
- Do you seem to feel too hot or too cold often?
- Do noises or motion affect your rest?
3) Compare Mattress Types
Next, contrast your mattress wishlist and preferences with the pros and cons of different mattress types. There is no single best mattress for everyone, and each type of bed has positive and negative attributes to consider. Here is a quick summary of pros and cons (but keep in mind that brands and models can vary from the “average”):
% Owners Satisfied
|Pocket and offset coils offer good support|
Can be inexpensive
Widely available and familiar
|Limited conformity (better with individual pocket coils)|
Bonnell and continuous coils lose support fairly quickly
Poor long-term durability
Can be noisy
Memory Foam Mattresses
|Conforms well Prevents pressure points|
Some types may sleep hot
Denser foams can be difficult to move on
Low density foams have shorter lifespans
|Can be all natural|
Good pain relief
|Harder to shop for Limited availability|
Can be expensive
Some types may sleep hot
Synthetic types may have odors
Unlikely to sleep hot
Good for limiting dust mites
|May not have sufficient support|
4) Compare Mattress Options
Once you’ve narrowed down your focus to couple potential mattress types and have a firm understanding of what your ideal mattress is, then it’s time to start looking at the options available from different brands. Don’t limit your research to one company or one store. Research, try, and compare several types to see which meets your needs best and which offers the best value for what you want. It is also a good idea to some research online, as there are likely many more brands and options than available locally and online retailers may have more competitive pricing. In this phase, focus primarily on learning about the products and getting details. Clarify to the retailer that you are just browsing, and avoid any that won’t disclose important information or are unwilling to help you. Here are some things you’ll want to ask about and make note of:
- What is inside the bed?
- For an innerspring mattress, you want to know the type of springs, the coil count, the density of foam layers, and materials used in padding.
- For a memory foam mattress, you want to know the density of the core and memory foam layers, how thick each layer is, and cover fabric composition.
- For a latex mattress, you want to know how the latex is made, what it is made of, if there are any other foams/layers, and what the cover material is.
- For a waterbed, you’d want to know the thickness of the bladder, whether there are any fiber layers, and about the cover if applicable.
- What is the return policy? How long do I have and how much would it cost?
- What exactly is covered under the warranty and for how long? What portion is full coverage versus pro-rated?
- What do owners say about this bed/brand in reviews?
5) Choosing The Best Mattress
After researching, the final step is to see which option best meets your needs. Take a look back at your list of preferences and must haves, and contrast this with your findings. Eliminate any brands or models that you didn’t like. If you have your list of potential beds narrowed down to a couple of options and aren’t sure which to pick, compare the data you collected during Step 4. Does one have considerably lower quality of materials, worse reviews or weak return/warranty policies? Does one stand out or offer significantly better quality/value than the others?
Because each person is different, the best mattress for you will depend on what you want in a bed, and how you will use the bed. Making a conscious list of what do and don’t want and considering your sleep preferences helps you narrow your focus and avoid duds. Once you know what you want, learning about the mattress types and thoroughly comparing brands on quality and value allows you to identify the best mattress options for your sleep needs.