How To Choose A Mattress

One of the easiest ways to improve your sleep is by using a high-quality mattress. Your mattress can make or break a great night’s sleep. A good mattress provides pressure relief, aligns your spine, and supports your back.

However, mattresses are a big investment, so you need to find the right bed for yourself before spending any money. Choosing a good mattress can be challenging. We make matters easier with our step-by-step guide on how to choose a mattress that’s right for your needs.

Decide If You Need a New Mattress

Before buying a new mattress, decide if it’s time to replace your bed.

Age is typically the easiest factor when determining whether or not you need to replace your mattress. Most mattresses last between 7 to 10 years, but if you’re not exactly sure how old your bed is, here are some signs of a worn-out mattress:

  • Yellowing or discoloration
  • Visible lumps, sags, or indentations
  • You struggle to get comfortable in bed
  • You wake up in pain or still tired
  • You experience allergy symptoms when in bed

Some other reasons to get a new mattress include needing a different mattress firmness or size.

Determine Your Budget

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to replace your old mattress, figure out how much you can afford to spend on your next bed. Figure out your budget before you start looking for beds so you can narrow down your options.

When looking at different mattress prices and considering how much a mattress costs, remember that more expensive doesn’t always mean it’ll be the best and most comfortable bed for you. At the same time, don’t go for the cheapest bed out there.

Our general rule of thumb is to avoid paying less than $500 for a queen mattress because, at that point, you cannot guarantee quality. Cheaper mattresses are made from cheaper materials, so they’re less likely to be comfortable and will break down quickly. Although you initially save money when buying a cheap mattress, you’ll have to replace it sooner, costing you more money.

If you’re looking to save money, we recommend shopping online. Lots of mattress brands are sold exclusively online and you can find countless high-quality mattresses within a reasonable price range.

Online retailers don’t have to face overhead costs, so they won’t mark up their mattress prices the way brick-and-mortar mattress stores do. When shopping for a mattress online, you can find a high-quality queen mattress within the $500 to $1500 price range.

Another tip when budgeting is to wait for sales to buy a mattress, like ones that often occur during long weekends, the end of the year, seasonally, or around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. During these times, brands offer excellent deals and discounts on their beds and other accessories.

Compare Different Mattress Types

After you’ve decided how much you’re willing to spend on a mattress, it’s time to dive in and start figuring out what type of bed you want. Different types of mattresses have varying feels, durability, and price ranges.

The type of bed you have affects your comfort but also impacts how much you’ll pay.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are popular for their superb comfort and pressure-relieving capabilities. Practically anyone who suffers from pain will enjoy the conforming feel of memory foam. If you want a bed with a hug-like feel, memory foam beds are the way to go.

Something to know about memory foam mattresses is that they’re not made entirely out of memory foam. The comfort layer of memory foam mattresses is memory foam. The support layers are normally made out of durable polyurethane foam—commonly called poly-foam—which makes for great foundations.

One problem with memory foam beds is they tend to trap heat. However, most mattress manufacturers have found workarounds for this issue, including using phase-changing materials or infusing the memory foam cooling materials, like copper or gel.

Latex Mattresses

Latex beds are known for their excellent bounce, durability, and breathability. Latex mattresses feel similar to memory foam. However, latex mattresses ensure you stay on top of it instead of stuck inside it, and with latex, combo sleepers can switch positions easily.

Latex is a natural material made from the sap of rubber trees, so it’s a good option for sustainable shoppers. Also, latex mattresses are great because they are naturally hypoallergenic and don’t off-gas the same way other foams do.

When shopping for latex mattresses, we recommend steering clear of latex labeled as synthetic or blended. These beds contain factory-made variations of latex, which isn’t as durable or breathable as natural latex.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring beds are a very common type of mattress, though they aren’t necessarily the best mattress. Innerspring beds contain continuous metal coils and pillow tops commonly made from cotton, wool, polyester, or foam.

One of the reasons innerspring mattresses are so popular is because they’ve been around longer than other beds—it’s easy to buy what you know and trust versus going out of your way to research another type of bed. Another reason people buy innerspring beds is that they’re quite affordable and available through most retailers.

Although innerspring beds are breathable and supportive, they’re also notoriously uncomfortable and have a short lifespan. Innerspring beds sag, squeak, and go lumpy quickly, so they may not be worth your money.

Hybrid Mattresses

In a way, hybrid mattresses are the upgraded version of innerspring mattresses. They’re called “hybrid beds” because they contain both coils and foam for maximum comfort and support.

A hybrid mattress contains a support layer made from pocketed coils and a thin layer of foam at the very bottom of the bed. The coil count of hybrid beds is generally higher than that of innerspring beds.

The mattress’s comfort layer is made from either memory foam, latex, or poly-foam. For a mattress to be considered a hybrid rather than an innerspring, the comfort layer must be at least 2 to 3 inches.

A hybrid is breathable and springy while offering pressure relief and comfort.

How to Choose the Right Firmness

Even the nicest mattresses won’t be comfortable if it’s the wrong firmness for your needs. A mattress’s firmness affects pressure points and your spinal alignment.

Mattress firmness runs on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Finding the right mattress firmness comes down to your primary sleeping position and how much you weigh as they impact the level of cushioning you’ll need.

Consider Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position plays the biggest role in the firmness level you’ll need at night. It impacts what parts of your body need more cushioning and what parts need less cushioning.

Based on your sleeping position, consider sleeping on a mattress with one of the following firmness levels:

Consider Your Weight

Another crucial factor when choosing a mattress firmness is your weight. Standard mattress recommendations are based on the average person who weighs between 130 to 230 pounds.

For people who weigh more or less than this, you’ll need to adjust your firmness needs accordingly:

  • If you weigh less than 130 pounds, opt for a softer mattress than what is recommended for your sleeping position so you don’t experience pressure build-up
  • If you weigh more than 230 pounds, choose a firmer mattress than what is recommended for your sleeping position. The best mattresses for heavier individuals prevent excess sinking and spinal misalignment.

Take Advantage of Mattress Reviews

70 percent of people trust online reviews and consider them when buying an item, which is second only to word of mouth.

While reading product descriptions can be useful, customer reviews give you a realistic idea of how a bed will perform long-term. Product reviews are also useful because they offer unbiased information, whereas sponsored reviews or product descriptions are there to promote a specific bed.

Reading reviews lets you know what users liked or disliked about the bed, how it compared to the user’s expectations, and whether or not they kept it. While one bed may work for one person, it may not work for another, which is why it’s a good idea to read multiple reviews—both good and bad—before making a decision.

Generally, a mattress worth sleeping on should have a majority of reviews that are 4 or 5 stars. A mattress with hundreds of 1 to 3 star reviews is questionable in terms of a bed’s performance.

How should a couple choose a mattress?

Buying a mattress as a couple can be tricky because you have to consider both of your preferences. In most cases, the best mattresses for couples are medium because they provide a balance of comfort and support that works for most body types and sleep styles.

Another solution for couples with different sleep needs is to get a split king mattress. Split king mattresses are not only large enough for couples but also give them the option to choose the type of mattress and its firmness level for each side of the bed.

Mattresses with a medium feel are another good option for couples as the firmness offers a balance of comfort and support.

Some bed sizes suitable for couples are queen, king, and California king.

Is it better to sleep on a hard or soft mattress?

A common misconception in the mattress industry is that firmer mattresses are durable and better for you than softer mattresses. However, this is untrue. Soft mattresses can be great, so long as they contain high-quality materials and thick support systems. Deciding whether a hard or soft mattress is better for you comes down to your sleeping position and body type.

Harder mattresses work well for plus-sized sleepers, people with back pain, and stomach sleepers. Conversely, softer mattresses are a good option for side sleepers and petite sleepers, who need extra cushioning.

How big should a mattress be?

There’s no specific mattress size that works for everyone as it’s a matter of determining how much space you have in your home and how big or small you need your bed to be.

Still, the most common mattress sizes include:

Twin:  38 by 75 inches
Twin XL: 38 by 80 inches
Full (Double): 54 by 75 inches
Queen: 60 by 80 inches
King: 76 by 80 inches
California King: 72 by 84 inches

How thick should a mattress be?

There’s not one mattress thickness that works for everyone, just like there’s no mattress firmness that works for everyone.

Generally, a good mattress thickness for adults is between 8 to 14 inches.

8 inches is definitely on the thinner side but is still acceptable for petite adults who won’t place much pressure on the bed. Mattresses around 14 inches usually work well for larger adults or sleepers looking for a soft bed.

Crib mattresses for toddlers and infants should be around 4 to 6 inches thick so they don’t sink too far.

Can you sleep on a new mattress straight away?

This depends on the condition of the mattress when you receive it.

If you purchase a bed in a box mattress—most of which are vacuum-packed and rolled up to fit in compact boxes—then it’s best to let your new mattress expand before using it. The expansion process typically takes between 24 to 48 hours.

If your mattress isn’t vacuum-packed upon arrival, then it’s fine to sleep on it immediately since it won’t need to expand.

Conclusion

A lot goes into purchasing a new mattress, so that’s why you should do your research before investing. We hope our guide made mattress shopping a lot easier!

First, decide if it’s time to replace your mattress, then determine how much you’re willing to pay. Next, decide what type of bed you want and how cushiony you’d like it to be. These factors make it easier to hone in on the right bed for your budget and preferences to get you sleeping peacefully.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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