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Kirill Kulikov
Kirill Kulikov

Mattress Buying 101


Lexie Sachs (she/her) is the executive director of the Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she researches, tests and reports on fabric-based products ranging from sheets, mattresses and towels to bras, fitness apparel and other clothing. She also evaluates luggage, rain gear, disposable paper goods and baby products. Lexie has more than 15 years of experience in the textiles industry and a degree in fiber science from Cornell University. Prior to joining GH in 2013, she worked in merchandising and product development in the fashion and home industries.




mattress buying 101



Many people approach mattress shopping in the wrong way, by focusing solely on measures of firmness level or sleep position, considering only the price, or choosing materials and technology touted in an ad. But that approach might land you a not-so-comfy mattress that you could regret buying.


As the name suggests, an innerspring mattress uses a system of connected metal springs, or coils, to support the weight of your body. A top layer of soft, fabric-encased padding (aka the comfort layer) provides cushioning and contouring without the sinking sensation of memory foam. In general, a quality innerspring mattress offers good edge support, is more breathable (and thus cooler) than its all-foam counterparts, and comes in a range of firmness levels to accommodate a variety of preferences.


Most online mattresses come with a free trial period of about 100 days or so, if you buy it directly from the company. You might be required to try a mattress for 30 days before you can initiate a return, though. Third-party retailers, such as Amazon, department stores, and mattress stores, might have their own rules, whether you purchased the mattress online or in a brick-and-mortar store.


In this guide, I will go over the basics of selecting the correct mattress. Elsewhere on the site, I will go into more detail on each of these topics and more, but this will be enough to get you started. If you just want a recommendation, check out some of our top picks below.


The most important factor in finding the correct mattress is proper support. You need the mattress to push up on your body to counteract your body weight. So that means a hard, firm, stone-like mattress, right? Wrong.


Motion & SeparationIf you share your bed, you want to minimize motion transfer. If your partner gets in or out of bed, or changes positions, you run the risk of being woken up if the mattress transfers too much of that motion to your side of the bed. Try the mattress in the store with your partner, and have your partner switch positions while your back is turned to see how much motion you feel.


TemperatureAnother issue some people have is heat retention of the mattress. Most good mattresses these days have features to help mitigate this (advanced foams, phase change materials, ventilation, etc). The biggest risk here is with cheap memory foam mattresses.


$400-600: These range from some of the nicer guest room mattresses to maybe the bare minimum for every night use by an adult. You will either get nicer foams on the top than the cheaper ones, or stronger coils, but not usually both. The ones with a 10 year or more warranty will usually have no pressure-relieving foams up top at all, while the ones that have some nice layers of foam will probably still be using the 420 coil Bonnell unit. These tend to be good for college students on a budget.


$600-1000: These are about the average range for every night use mattresses. These are where a lot of your Sealy Posturepedic and Simmons Beautyrest lives. You will get the better coil systems and advanced foams for coil mattresses. This is also the price range that the lowest priced memory foams start appearing. The direct-to-consumer mattresses I mentioned elsewhere in this article generally fall somewhere around this price range. If you find a memory foam mattress for significantly less than $600, you should be very skeptical.


Another exception: If you try a mattress in person, you can buy the same or similar model online if you can do the comparison shopping. In fact, this is the strategy I recommend in my mattress negotiation guide.


Cons: Like online, you often cannot try all of the mattresses (they might have a couple out on display), and even if you can, you will get no expert help in selecting the right one. They also have a smaller selection. Lastly, you need to be a member at some of them.


The prices of mattresses are negotiable at most retailers and on most brands. In mattress shopping, the general strategy is to play one retailer off of another. Most places have a price guarantee. So if you get a quote from one place, you can take it to a competitor and have them beat the price. Take that price to another competitor and get an even lower price. You can also look up the mattress online (like at US Mattress) and get the retailer to match the online price. This is the easiest, least painful way to negotiate on mattresses.


As we age and enter new stages of life, our sleep, and what we need to get that sleep, changes. Our bodies change, our lifestyle shifts, and ultimately, our needs in a mattress are altered to accommodate those changes. To find the best mattress for your age and lifestyle, see the following guides.


Some sleepers prefer a specific type of mattress based on its overall feel. Whether you like the contour of memory foam or the bounce of springs, there is a mattress out there to meet your comfort preferences.


You may already own a mattress you love. If you are looking for tips to clean your mattress or prolong its lifespan, see our mattress care and maintenance guides. You may also wonder when you should replace your mattress and how to go about disposing of it. You are in the right place. We cover that too.


The general rule is that you should change your mattress every 7-10 years. After frequent use from sleeping on it each night, a mattress loses its shape and no longer provides a surface for restorative sleep.


Most mattresses last between 7-10 years, but this varies by type. Innersprings have the shortest lifespan between 7-8 years, foam mattresses are in the middle lasting up to 10 years, and latex mattresses last the longest at up to 15 years.


The best mattress will differ from person to person based on their individual sleep styles and preferences. Different sleepers need different things from a mattress, so the right mattress for you may not always be the best mattress for someone else. Below are some of our recommendations based on our in-depth testing and review process.


Because of the hug that memory foam provides, this mattress type has been known to sleep hot. However, Helen Sullivan, spokesperson for CertiPUR-US, advises that this issue has largely been alleviated with new foam technology:


When you think of traditional mattresses, innerspring, or coil, is probably what comes to mind. This is one of the most widely used types of mattresses and is made with at least one layer of spring metal coils. Innerspring mattresses have great bounce, strong edge support, and are usually pretty good about keeping you cool.


If you and your significant other want different things in a mattress, then a hybrid might be the best option for you. However, getting the best of both worlds can sometimes mean a higher price point. Hybrid mattresses can also be extremely heavy, making transporting and handling challenging in some cases.


Support in a mattress is crucial for ensuring a healthy back, healthy joints, and a long-lasting bed. Spine alignment, pressure relief, edge support, and durability are some of the most important factors to consider for support.


Firmness is a critical factor to look at when purchasing a mattress, because it determines both comfort and support. Keep in mind your own preferences and needs when deciding on a firmness level that works for you. While everyone is different, the type of sleeper you are usually helps dictate the level of mattress firmness you should look for to make your ideal comfort level.


If you are an eco-conscious consumer or have an allergy to consider when choosing a mattress, look for Green Certifications, CertiPUR-US certifications, or for mattresses made using organic materials. While these types of mattresses can be more expensive, they offer consumers a high-quality sleep experience.


Most of our favorite mattresses ship free and fast, but you should also pay attention to how it ships. If you live in a small or walk-up apartment, then mattresses that ship condensed in a box might be more convenient than mattresses that ship full size.


Side sleepers should look for a medium to medium-firm mattress that strikes a balance between contouring comfort and base support. Memory foam or foam blend mattresses tend to be ideal for side sleepers. These beds do a good job of evenly distributing body weight across the mattress to avoid pain in the pressure points of the shoulders and hips.


Stomach sleepers require a firm mattress that supports the pressure placed on the lumbar spine due to this sleeping position. Keeping the hips in line with the shoulders is critical, so avoiding a mattress that is too soft and might cause sinkage is a must for overall comfort and sleep quality.


Back sleeping is the best sleeping position for you so long as your mattress also supports proper spine alignment. People who sleep on their back need a mattress that balances comfort and support to hug your body in all the right places but provide pushback where needed. Back sleepers will benefit from a medium firm mattress that supports possible tension areas and keeps the hips and shoulders in alignment.


The good news is mattress prices are negotiable at most retailers, but the main strategy is to try to play one seller off of another. For example, if you secure a quote from one store, you can take it to their competitor and see that they beat the price. You can continue this process on and on and on by taking that lower price to a different competitor, and negotiating that price down even further. Another option would be to find the mattress you want online, and then get the retailer to match the price you see online. 041b061a72


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