Buying a new mattress can be a big decision but it’s well worth the time it takes to choose the right one. That’s because according to research, a new mattress can improve your sleep quality and reduce back pain.1 When you’ve decided it’s time to replace your mattress (experts recommend getting a new mattress about every six to eight years)2 you might be overwhelmed with all of the new choices out there. From online bed-in-a-box retailers to “old-fashioned” stores, it’s hard to know which one is the best mattress for you.
When considering buying a new mattress, you first need to think about your (and your partner’s) sleep position, which will help you decide what firmness and material to look for. Hot sleepers may want to avoid latex or memory foam and those with back pain might need to look for extra support. Most importantly, you’ll need to read the return policy carefully. You want to be sure you can return a mattress if you aren’t satisfied after 30 or more days.
Here, the best mattresses for all of your sleep needs.
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What to Look for in a Mattress
You have a few choices when it comes to what material makes up your mattress. Memory foam is popular because it contours to your body, reduces motion transfer, and relieves pressure points while you sleep—but if you’re a hot sleeper, be sure to choose a memory foam mattress with cooling features. Latex mattresses offer similar benefits to memory foam, and they’re usually eco-friendly. For a more traditional mattress, you can opt for innerspring or pocket coil styles or go for the best of both worlds with a hybrid mattress.
In addition to bed size (standard options range from twin to California king), you’ll also want to consider the thickness of your mattress. Thickness is sometimes associated with comfort, but a high-quality 10-inch mattress will probably be more comfortable than a thicker, lower-quality option. Mattress thickness also affects how well your sheets fit on the bed—thick mattresses usually require fitted sheets with deep pockets.
Mattresses range from soft/plush to firm, with medium-soft and medium-firm options in between. When choosing a mattress, you’ll want to consider your sleep position so you can find the most supportive and comfortable mattress firmness.
Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Mattress
By Camryn Rabideau
Mattresses: We all need them, yet most of us don’t particularly look forward to shopping for one. The vast majority of people sleep on the mattress every night, but figuring out which options are right for you can be overwhelming when it’s time for a new one. A high-quality mattress will not only help you get a good night’s rest, but it can play a big part in how you feel each day, so figuring out your preferences is essential to waking up well-rested.
At their simplest, mattresses are large rectangular pads made up of several layers of material, designed to support the body in a reclining position. The majority of mattresses have a supportive base layer, such as steel coils or dense foam, topped with more plush layers that make them comfortable to sleep on. Today, mattresses are commonly made from a few materials, including innersprings, memory foam, latex, and combinations of these.
Because there are so many mattress options out there, it can be quite challenging to find the perfect one. In addition to choosing the size of your mattress, you’ll also need to choose what material it’s made out of, how firm it is, and how well it regulates temperature. To add another layer of complexity to the equation, online mattress companies have grown in popularity, and today, you can get a wide variety of mattresses delivered to your doorstep in a box—while convenient, this prevents you from being able to test out the mattress in person.
If you’re in the market for a new mattress but aren’t sure where to start, the following considerations and information will help you make a more informed decision about the best mattress for your needs.
What to Look for in a Mattress?
As you shop for a mattress, you’ll want to take the following features into account. While some may seem a bit trivial, each of these considerations plays an important role in the comfort and longevity of the product.
As mentioned above, one of the key considerations when buying a mattress is what it’s made out of—one of the first things salespeople will tell you about any given mattress is what makes up its composition. Today, there are few common materials that make up the vast majority of mattresses on the market—steel coils or innersprings, foam, latex, and air chambers—and there are pros and cons to each.
For instance, innerspring mattresses are typically inexpensive, but they don’t provide great support and can be noisy as you shift around. On the other hand, foam mattresses contour to your body to provide pressure relief, yet they can be rather heavy and hot to sleep on. Latex mattresses provide superior support and breathability, but their price point is often above many people’s budgets. You can learn more about each material in the sections below.
Because there are pros and cons to each common mattress material, hybrid mattresses have spiked in popularity in recent years, as they provide the best of both worlds. Many hybrid mattresses have a steel coil base, topped with layers of foam or latex to deliver the benefits of each material at a reasonable price.
Mattresses come in several standard sizes, including twin, full, queen, king, and California king. However, you can also find twin XL and full XL sizes, which are helpful for tall adults thanks to their extra leg room.
You probably already know what mattress size you need, but don’t forget to consider mattress thickness, as well. Mattresses can range from 5 inches thick to over 20 inches, and this thickness will affect how comfortable it is, how it looks on your bed, and how sheets fit.
Many people think thick mattresses are automatically better, but it really depends on the quality of the mattress. You’ll sleep better on a high-end 10-inch mattress that’s made from quality materials than you will on a cheap, poorly-made 20-inch mattress. As such, thickness shouldn’t be the deciding factor when purchasing a new mattress.
Ask any expert and they’ll tell you one of the most important factors to consider when buying a mattress is how firm it is. Mattresses are generally rated on a scale from soft/plush to firm, but there are many increments in between, such as medium-plush and medium-firm.
Why does firmness matter? If your mattress is too soft, pressure points such as your shoulders and hips will sink below the rest of the body, potentially causing joint pain. It may also make it challenging to get in and out of bed. On the other hand, if your mattress is too firm, it will not provide enough pressure point relief and you may feel as though you’re sleeping on a rock.
When deciding the proper firmness for your needs, you’ll want to consider the position you sleep in (we’ll get to that in a bit), as well as your weight. Heavier people will sink deeper into a mattress, so the general rule of thumb is that the higher you are on the BMI scale, the firmer your mattress should be. Additionally, people with mobility issues will likely need a firm mattress, as it will be easier to get in and out of.
The position you sleep in often dictates what type of mattress is best for you, as different positions exert pressure on different parts of the body.
For instance, people who sleep on their sides generally need a softer mattress, as their shoulders and hips are pressing down into the surface. If a mattress is too firm, these pressure points will not be able to find relief, which can cause numbness and tingling in these areas. Some modern mattresses are specifically tailored to side sleepers, with softer zones around the hips and shoulders.
Stomach sleepers exert a lot of pressure on their hips and pelvis, and as such, they need a firm mattress, which will prevent these areas from sinking lower than the rest of the body, creating an unnatural curve in the spine.
People who sleep on their backs have the most choice when it comes to mattress firmness, as this sleep position spreads pressure across the body more evenly and keeps the spine in an ergonomic position. As such, back sleepers can comfortably sleep on soft, medium, or firm mattresses.
People often run into problems when they sleep in one position and their partner sleeps in another. Several companies address this issue by either offering dual zoned mattresses or blending various levels of firmness to accommodate both your needs.
Do you tend to get warm during the night? Or do you always find yourself reaching for another blanket? The mattress you choose can play a big part in your ability to regulate temperature as you sleep.
For instance, foam mattresses tend to retain a lot of heat during the night, which can be beneficial if you’re generally cold when sleeping. Innerspring mattresses are much more breathable and, as such, are often more comfortable for those who get hot while sleeping. If you’re looking for a mattress that doesn’t get too hot or leave you cold, a latex option might be best—they are great at temperature regulation.
If your partner gets up before you or tosses and turns in the night, you know how important it is to have a mattress that limits motion transfer. Innerspring mattresses are the worst in these situations, as you’ll feel every movement your partner makes. For a product that reduces motion transfer, look into a memory foam or latex mattress instead.
Having extra reinforcement around the edges of your mattress is important for two reasons. First, if you sleep with a partner, neither of you wants to feel like you’re going to roll off the edge during the night. Second, edge support will make your mattress more stable when you sit on the side of it.
If you’re buying an innerspring or foam mattress, you’ll want to check whether the edges are reinforced in some way, as these materials are more prone to sagging on the sides.
While many people choose to buy mattresses online today, there are still instances where you should probably test out a product in person. For instance, if you don’t know what type of mattress firmness will be comfortable for you, it’s best to try a few out. Similarly, if you’re going to spend a lot of money on a new mattress, you’ll want to ensure it’s well-made and comfortable.
On the other hand, if you already know what type of mattress material and firmness you like, you may not feel the need to test it out and can probably find an online option that will save you money. Some online-based mattress companies also allow for in-home trials, so if you think you know what you want, but you turn out to be wrong, you’ll be able to return the mattress for a refund or credit.
What Type of Mattress is Best for Me?
Foam mattresses are very popular today—people especially love memory foam, which contours to your body, effectively reducing pressure on your spine. As such, this is a popular product for those with back or joint pain.
Foam mattresses are quiet to sleep on, and there is little motion transfer. Plus, one of the key benefits is they keep your spine in proper alignment throughout the night, helping to reduce pain.
However, foam mattresses tend to be hot to sleep on, as the material does not breathe well, and they can be quite heavy, too. If you’re concerned about a foam mattress is too hot, you may want to consider a foam that’s infused with gel, as this material is better at dissipating heat.
In general, foam mattresses cost around $800 to $1,000, but you can find options that are less or more expensive. When comparing differently priced models, keep in mind that more expensive products are typically made from better quality foam that will last longer, and thus may be cheaper in the long run if you can afford the price difference.
Innersprings are the original mattress material—you probably grew up sleeping on this type of mattress, which has an interconnected system of steel coils within the mattress.
Today, innerspring mattresses use different spring shapes, designs, coil gauge, and coil density to provide various levels of support. This style of mattress is typically quite affordable and provides a cool sleeping surface, as air can circulate between the coils.
However, innerspring mattresses can be noisy to sleep on, provide only mediocre pressure point relief, and do not absorb motion well. Plus, because they’re often inexpensive, many people complain innerspring mattresses do not last as long as foam mattresses. When you’re shopping for an innerspring mattress, you’ll likely find options ranging from $600 to $1,200.
Pocket coil mattresses are a rising star in the mattress world, and you can think of them as a new, improved version of the innerspring. In these products, the steel coils are individually encased, providing better support, and making less noise.
Because the coils are not connected like they are in an innerspring mattress, pocket coils contour to your body better and result in less motion transfer. People that like the support of memory foam but don’t like feeling stuck often enjoy pocket coil mattresses. This style of mattress can range significantly in price, starting as low as $300 and reaching as high as $2,000, depending on the manufacturer.
Latex mattresses boast a variety of benefits and few downsides, but they’re often overlooked due to their high price tags. Natural latex comes from rubber trees, and it’s an environmentally friendly material you can feel good about sleeping on, as there are no chemicals in the mattress. However, be on the lookout for synthetic latex, which does not provide the same benefits as natural latex.
What makes it so great? This eco-friendly material provides superior pressure point relief, is great for temperature regulation, is naturally hypoallergenic, and has great motion isolation. Additionally, these mattresses are incredibly durable, sometimes lasting up to 20 years.
However, as you probably can imagine, these mattresses are very expensive, starting at around $1,500. While widely considered a worthwhile investment, latex mattresses are not in the budget for many people.
Adjustable air mattresses (not to be confused with regular air mattresses) are not as readily available as other types, but they’re worth mentioning due to their unique benefits.
What’s different about these mattresses is they have internal air chambers that can be adjusted by either adding or removing air via an electric pump. This allows you to customize the firmness and support—some even allow you to adjust separate zones on each side of the bed.?
Many people enjoy adjustable air mattresses because they are ideal for couples and you can customize the support throughout the life of the mattress, depending on your needs. However, the downsides include the high cost of this type of mattress and the required maintenance to keep your adjustable air mattress in good shape. In general, adjustable air mattresses start at around $1,500 and go up from there.
To reap the benefits of multiple mattress materials, you may want to look into a hybrid mattress. There are a wide variety of hybrids available today, all of which use various combinations of coils, foam, and latex to create unique sleep experiences.
Because hybrid mattresses use several layers of materials, they are generally quite efficient at contouring to the body and reducing motion transfer. The downside is there are so many hybrids available that it can be hard to decide just which one is right for you, especially without trying them out.
Hybrid mattresses come at a wide range of price points, starting at just a few hundred dollars and reaching up into the thousands, depending on the materials and manufacturer.
Most box mattresses are made of foam, as this material is easy to roll up, but there are some that include latex or steel coils, as well. The convenience of not having to go to a mattress store or facilitate a furniture delivery is the main appeal of this type of mattress, and most sellers offer a trial period that allows you to test the product in your home to determine if you like it.
The downsides are that box mattresses typically take a little while to set up, as they are vacuum-sealed for shipping and need to re-inflate back to a normal size. Additionally, some customers complain that box mattresses can have an odor when they’re first set up. However, this will largely depend on the brand you choose. Box mattresses are available at many different price points, starting at $100 and ranging upward of $1,000.
If a mattress is described as a pillow top, this simply refers to an additional layer of cushioning that’s placed on top of the main mattress. Pillow tops add additional comfort and plushness to a mattress, but they also make the mattress thicker.
Waterbeds were all the rage in the 1970s and ‘80s, but they’re significantly less common today. This type of specialty mattress is filled with water, so it conforms to your body, placing little to no pressure on your joints. Many people enjoy that waterbeds give you the sensation that you’re floating, which can be quite relaxing.
However, the downside of waterbeds is that they offer virtually no support to your spine or joints, which can lead to discomfort in the long-run. They’re also susceptible to leaks, which can not only harm your furniture, but the structural integrity of your house—this is why they’re banned in many apartment buildings.
There are still some waterbeds available today, but you may have to visit a specialty retailer to find one.
As you shop for mattresses, keep an eye out for these common brand names.
Serta Serta is the largest brand of mattresses in the US, and you’ll likely find them sold at any store that sells mattresses. This company does it all, from inexpensive innersprings to boxed mattresses and pricey custom foam options.
Simmons Another common mattress company, Simmons also produces brands such as BeautyRest, ComforPedic, and TruEnergy. Their prices start at around $500 for basic models and can range up into the thousands for specialty items.
Sealy Sealy is another large mattress manufacturer, and it produces the Basset and Stearns & Foster lines, as well. Sealy is well known for its orthopedic mattresses, which are branded as Posturepedic.
Sleep Number If you’re looking for an adjustable air mattress, you’ll likely end up looking at Sleep Number products. While not cheap, these specialty mattresses are highly regarded among consumers thanks to their adjustability and durability.
Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Pedic is another specialty mattress brand, but this one specializes in memory foam products. Tempur-Pedic mattresses are generally more than $1,200, but they are well-received by consumers and, as such, have gained a loyal following.
Casper Casper is arguably the most well-known online mattress company, and one of the most favorably reviewed, to boot. They offered just three models, starting at around $600 for the basic option, and they actually have a few physical stores where you can test the products before you buy.
Linenspa Linenspa has gained popularity thanks to its super affordable mattresses, which are sold online and through several major retailers. Many of Linenspa’s products are hybrids, and while the prices are unbeatable, many reviewers say these mattresses do not hold up well over time.
You might be pleasantly surprised to find that most mattresses have a 10-year warranty or more, but like with any warranty, it’s important to understand what is and isn’t covered.
Typically, most mattress warranties cover defects that are the manufacturer’s fault. Sagging or sinking to an extreme degree is one of the most common issue covered by warranties, but keep in mind that this sagging has to meet certain criteria. Additionally, most warranties will cover coils that break or bend, as well as ripped seams.
However, normal wear and tear on your mattress will likely not be covered by the warranty, and there are also several things that can void a warranty. For instance, many mattress warranties stipulate that you must properly support the mattress with a box spring or bed frame, follow a strict rotation schedule, and avoid stains. If you fail to do any of these things, your warranty is no longer valid, even if the issue is seemingly unrelated.
If you’re purchasing a mattress online, you’ll likely see that you got a no-risk trial. This offering lets you test the mattress in the comfort of your own home, often for 90 days or more. You can evaluate the mattress over the course of this period, deciding whether you want to keep it, and if you decide it’s not the right fit, your money will be refunded.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re participating in a trial period. First, most companies require you sleep on the mattress for at least 30 days (or another set amount of time) before you decide to return it, as this will give your body time to adjust to the new mattress.
Further, if you do decide to return the mattress, the process isn’t like returning an article of clothing. Your mattress likely came vacuum sealed in a box, and it would be near impossible to roll the product back up for shipping. As such, most online mattress companies will either arrange to have their product picked up or will provide you with instructions on how to donate the mattress to a local charity.