Choosing the right mattress is important because a the quality of your sleep will dictate the condition of your waking hours. A good night of sleep can improve your health, ability to lose weight, stress levels and immune system. It can also help keep your back and joints in good working order.
Choosing a mattress can be challenging since every body is different and we all have different sleeping habits. There are so many different kinds of mattresses--with springs, air, foam or fluffy tops--that it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you want. Remember that all but the cheapest models are sturdy and decently built; go around to different stores and try out their selections before buying online. In stores, always spend at least 15 minutes on a bed to tell if you like it or not. Lie down on it the way you normally would and just relax. If you fall asleep in those 15 minutes, you may have found your match!
Do you want to just buy a mattress (and perhaps a box spring) or an entire bed? Often stores will give you a free frame on which to place your box spring and mattress. It's metal, simple and often has wheels. In other words, if you have a bed frame you'll need a mattress, but not vice versa.
Don't forget, once you've purchased a mattress, protect your investment with a bedding encasement that protects against stains and prevents bed bugs.
Choosing a New Mattress
* '''Ask yourself, "Do I really need a new mattress?"'''
** My mattress sags and is uncomfortable.
*** Most manufacturers won't honor a warranty until it sags more than an inch and a half.
*** If the frame or box spring is uneven, it may cause the mattress to sag.
** My mattress looks lumpy.
*** This is a sure sign that it has reached the end of its life.
*** Flip your mattress often to keep from wearing too much on one side.
** I've had my mattress for more than seven years.
*** Generally mattresses have an 8 to 10-year life span.
** I sleep better in a hotel or when I'm in someone else's home.
*** This is a big clue that your mattress needs to go.
** I wake up groggy, tired, or achy for no particular reason.
*** Your mattress, even if newly purchased, may not be the best bed for you.
* '''Do I need a new box spring too?'''
** If your box spring has springy coils instead of stiff ones, then yes, you will need to buy a new one.
** If you opt for an ultra thick mattress, then aim for a thinner box spring, under six inches. Average box springs are about 10 inches.
** Using an old box spring may reduce the life span of your new mattress.
** Be aware that sets with both a mattress and a box spring can vary in price significantly but the box spring is usually of the same quality regardless.
* '''Choose a size.'''
** It has to fit in the bed frame that you have. Coordinate the two or you'll be sorry.
** '''Individuals''' can get by with a twin. Twins are also preferred in tight spaces. However, if you have the money, or want some extra room to spread out while sleeping, definitely opt for a full-size bed (often called a double).
** '''Couples''' will usually prefer a queen size. It gives them plenty of room to spread out. For cost's sake, it may be best to stick with a double. If you have the space, money, and you want something luxurious, go for a king size.
** If you are 6 feet tall or taller, a twin bed probably will have you sleeping with your feet hanging off the edge.
** King=76x80, Queen=60x80, Full=53x75, Twin=38x75.
* '''The firmness counts.'''
** This is why you need to test mattresses in person. Comfort is impossible to intuit.
** Firm is good while you're young. As you age, you will want something softer.
** The composition of the mattress is what alters the firmness. Learn about the inside of the mattress to understand what you need.
** How hard is too hard?
*** If you wake up feeling numbness or tingling, your mattress is probably too soft.
*** If you wake up with back pain, or soreness on another specific body part (usually your hips) then your mattress is probably too hard.
** Your Size and Weight
*** Whether you are big or small can affect how firm you need the bed to be. The heavier you are, the firmer you need. It helps extend the mattresses life and keep it from sagging.
** Always keep the tag on the bed, otherwise the warranty is void.
** Unless your bed sags more than 1.5" it won't be covered under most warranties.
** Warranties don't cover normal wear and tear. They just cover manufacturing defects.
** Find out if the warranty is voided if you don't use a box spring. Factor that into the pricing.
** When buying, check that the mattress comes with a buyer's guarantee that allows you to return the mattress within 30 days if you don't like it. You will have to pay for shipping, but it could save you money and sleep in the long run.
* '''Price''' will depend on every factor, but don't forget about shipping charges.
Innerspring Mattress Components
Often stores will have cross-sections of mattresses, so you can tell exactly what makes up your bedding. This information will ensure you get a good night's sleep.
** Gauge: Coils are measured by their thickness, or gauge. The thicker the wire, the lower the gauge, the firmer the mattress.
*** Quality mattresses usually run between a 12.75 (firm) and a 15 (softer) gauge.
*** Firm, orthopedic mattresses often have a gauge of 12 or below.
** While counting spring coils can sometimes help judge how supportive a mattress will be, it can be misleading. Remember the design and gauge of your coils before you place importance in their quantity.
** Open Coil/Bonnel Springs: Least expensive spring choice is a single layer of hourglass-shaped springs throughout the mattress. Provides adequate support.
*** Used by Sealy BackSaver and Sealy Posture Premier lines.
** Continuous Springs: One giant wire coiled around and around itself within the mattress, often yielding a higher spring count and thereby a more supportive mattress.
*** Used by Serta Perfect Sleeper line.
** Pocket Springs: Similar to open springs except each spring is in its own little fabric pocket, leading to a much more stable, comfortable, supportive, and expensive mattress.
*** Because each coil works independently, this style is ideal for couples.
*** Used by Simmons Beautyrest Classic and Serta Perfect Night lines.
** Offset Springs: Several layers of springs on top of each other for additional support and comfort.
* '''Filling''' is another important factor when discussing the inside of your mattress.
** Dry, crunchy-feeling foam won't be very supportive.
** Cotton fibers are a cheap, unappealing alternative.
** Egg Carton foam helps spread your weight evenly.
** Goose down, latex, wool, and cashmere are layers of padding included in many fancier mattresses. While luxurious sounding, they can up the price significantly more than they increase the quality. But, if you have a lot of money to spend, have a blast. Just don't forget the high thread count sheets.
* '''Insulation Padding''' keeps the springs from poking through the top of the mattress (or poking you).
** Coco pad (made from coconut husks) and shoddy pad (compressed fabric padding) are both necessary to make everything more comfortable. One without the other will not give you a good night's rest.
** Make sure you also get a metal or plastic screen between the coils and the insulation, or else your insulation will shred.
* '''Box Springs''' give you even more support.
** Most manufacturers insist that you use a matching box spring for your mattress, but unless your new mattress is much heavier than the old one (mattresses have been getting heavier) you may not need a new one.
** Find out if you need a box spring in order to keep your mattress warranty valid.
** Many salespeople will give you a discount on the box spring if you negotiate with them.
Top of the Mattress
* '''Ticking''' is the fabric of the mattress cover.
** Cheaper mattresses are covered in foam-backed vinyl.
** Polyester and silk mattress covers are both high quality.
* '''Stitching''' affects how soft the mattress will be.
** Diamond Stitching/Deep Quilting: Gives the mattress a softer feel and a smoother top.
* '''Pillow Top''': More luxurious than the Deep Quilting, the Pillow Top is a couple of inches of softness added on top of the mattress.
** Feels like a feather bed.
** May sag long before the mattress does. There's not much to do about this.
** You can also buy a separate pillow top mattress pad.
* '''Health Concerns'''
** Self-Cleaning: The antimicrobial fabric keeps the mattress from growing any allergens.
Foam Mattress Options
Foam is an alternative to springs. Often comes in many layers of different kinds of foam, but quality, longevity, and price vary widely.
* Latex: A good foam option. Stronger, more comfortable, more durable, more fireproof, and hypoallergenic.
** Sealy Reflection Latex Foam could run you $1,300 to $3,500 and Simmons Sang mattresses are about $2,100.
* Reflex Foam: Another high quality foam that is extremely elastic and supportive.
* Viscoelastic/Memory Foam: Yet another high-quality foam that gives a feeling of weightless sleep, conforming to you and returning to a flat position once you get out of bed.
** Great for couples, because one person's motions won't disturb the other.
** The Tempur-Pedic is the most popular brand of this high-quality mattress and cost between $1,300 to $6,000.
** If your current mattress is basically ok, but just overly firm, you can try instead to just add a memory foam mattress topper pad. These range dramatically in price - higher density pads cost more and really are more comfortable. Pads below 4 lb density just don't have the same feel or pressure relieving nature as the 4 lb and higher pads.
** Bergad Isoform mattresses are similar quality, but also only $500 to $800 for a pad. Rumor is they have bad customer service and are only available online, keeping you from trying them out beforehand. Read the fine print carefully.
** Take advantage of the free trial. Memory foam has a breaking-in period which usually lasts 2-3 weeks. Keep that in mind as the mattress will be firmer when you first purchase it and then soften up after a few weeks. Most manufacturers, including Tempur-Pedic, will allow you to try their mattress for 90 days before committing to the total price.
Not enough options yet? How about Select Comfort Sleep Number mattresses? In lieu of springs or foam, there a little pockets of air inside your mattress, keeping you afloat. The best part is that you can adjust the amount of air in these little pockets to alter the firmness of your bed! You can even have two separate sets of pockets so that your side can be one firmness and your sleeping partner's side can be totally different. (What a relationship saver!) These will cost $1,300 to $2,600, depending on the size. Try one in a store before deciding to drop that kind of cash.
Not willing to pay that type of cash for the "brand" name? There are also established companies online that sell mattresses comparable to Select Comfort at a fraction of the cost. Before purchasing online, however, it is important to research as many of these companies as possible to get the best deal.
Aerobeds are an entirely different kind of air mattress. If you care about your back at all, you'll use these inflatable mattresses as a wonderful treat for guests and nothing more. They're not a good long-term mattress, but their motorized inflation makes them perfect as a stow-away for company.