Updated April 30, 2020

How to Choose a Mattress

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How do you choose a good mattress? And how much should you spend? Don't get ripped off. We'll show you how to find a quality mattress for the best price.

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Many mattresses claim to last 8 to 10 years. However, it may be time to shop for a new one if:

  • Your mattress has a dent or sagging area.
  • You don't feel fully rested when waking up.
  • You wake up with aches and pains.

With so many options out there, choosing a new mattress gets overwhelming. Knowing what factors to consider will help you get the best night's sleep.

If you don't know where to start, don't worry. Our short quiz will help you find your perfect mattress type.

How to pick the best mattress for you:

  • Choose innerspring if you like bounce or sleep hot.
  • Choose memory foam if you're a side sleeper or have back pain.
  • Choose latex if you suffer from allergies.
  • Choose hybrid if you need to target multiple issues.

Picking the right mattress material is only the beginning. Read on to learn what determines your perfect mattress and how to outsmart the mattress stores.

In this article:

Here are a few factors to consider before you start shopping:

Sleeping Position
Do you sleep on your side, back, stomach, or a combination of all three? Each sleeping position requires a different type of mattress.

  • Side sleepers need a softer mattress that provides cushioning and support to pressure points.
  • Back sleepers feel comfortable on a medium-firm mattress that contours to the lower back.
  • Stomach sleepers benefit from a firm mattress for proper spine alignment.

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The mattress industry uses a firmness scale of 1–10.

  • 1–2 are very soft
  • 3–4 are a bit more firm (ideal for side sleepers)
  • 5–7 are medium-level firm and good for combination sleepers
  • 8–10 are very firm and best for stomach and back sleepers

Body Weight
Your weight affects how firm your bed will feel.

  • Sleepers less than 150 lbs need a softer mattress. Since they don't sink as deeply, most mattresses feel firmer than they would to a heavier person.
  • Sleepers between 150–200 lbs are considered the "average" by mattress companies, so a standard firmness level should be adequate.
  • Sleepers over 200 lbs need a mattress that's thicker and a bit firmer to get proper support and pressure relief.

If you often freeze or sweat during sleep, you'll get better sleep on a mattress that caters to your need for a cooler or warmer surface.

Memory foam mattresses trap heat and are better for people who sleep cool. Innerspring mattresses have good airflow and are better for people who sleep hot.

Health Concerns
If you have allergies or asthma, you need a mattress that's resistant to dust mites. For chronic pain, try to look for a mattress that offers support on specific pressure points.

People who feel like their mattresses are uncomfortable tend to sleep worse and feel worse during the day. Sometimes this means taking longer to fall asleep, but more typically it has to do with awakenings during the night and feeling rested and that sleep was of good quality. Also, the issue of support is a complex one - it is possible for mattresses to be too firm or too soft, and this may also change over the course of a night and/or the life of a mattress. There is no evidence that one kind of mattress is better for everyone. The best advice I can give is to make sure whatever you buy has a good return policy so you can try it out for a few weeks.

Michael A. Grandner, PhD, MTR, Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine

Which Type of Mattress is Best?

Before you shop for your new bed, familiarize yourself with the different types of mattresses available. You can choose the best fit based on your preferred sleeping position and preferences.

Need some direction? Try our short quiz to find your perfect mattress.

What is the best type of mattress?

  • Innerspring: Good for cooling & bounce
  • Memory foam: Good for back pain & side-sleepers
  • Latex: Good for allergies & stomach sleepers
  • Hybrid: Good for back-sleepers

Great for cooling, bounce, and combination sleepers
You can choose from a variety of innerspring mattresses, each with a different feel. Typically, the more coils, the firmer the mattress.

  • Continuous coil mattresses have one piece of wire that's twisted into rows of coils. They tend to have a longer life span and provide good support.

  • Bonnell coils are the oldest and most common type of coil. They're the least expensive but also least durable type of coil.

  • Offset coils have an hourglass shape which flexes to conform to the body. They provide extra support with no squeaking.

  • Pocket coils are individually wrapped in fabric. This makes the bed firmer and helps reduce motion when two people share a bed.

An innerspring mattress provides good support and decent pressure relief for all sleeping positions, making it a great choice for combination sleepers.

Those looking for bounce will like the responsiveness of the springs. The springs also promote airflow, making the innerspring mattress the coolest sleeping option.

Do more coils mean a better mattress?
Heavily-coiled mattresses should have more support, but the coil material also matters. If they are made from thin material, the support will not be adequate.

Memory Foam
Great for back pain and side sleeping
Memory foam provides an extra layer of cushion designed to make you feel like you are sinking into the bed. Once you get up, the foam expands back to its original position.

The material contours to your body and takes pressure off the shoulders and hips. This makes it perfect for side sleepers and people with back pain.

It also has great motion isolation, so you won't feel your sleeping partner tossing and turning at night.

Memory foam doesn't allow for much airflow, so it tends to sleep hotter than other mattress types.

Gel Memory Foam
Great for couples
Gel memory foam has better airflow and retains less heat than regular foam. It has all the same comfort and cushion, with the added bonus of sleeping a little cooler.

Like memory foam, the gel-infused version doesn't transfer a lot of motion. Couples can get a good night's sleep without feeling the other person tossing and turning.

Latex Foam
Great for allergies and stomach sleepers
Latex mattresses have cooling properties that make them great for hot sleepers. The material resists dust mites and mold, so people with allergies can sleep in comfort.

It has a similar amount of pressure relief as a memory foam mattress, but with less cushion. Latex mattresses have great bounce, and you won't sink into them as much as memory foam.

Stomach sleepers will appreciate the firm support that a latex mattress gives. This helps keeps your spine aligned to prevent back pain.

Latex comes in natural, synthetic, and blended varieties. Natural latex tends to last the longest and has better bounce than other types. But synthetic and blended mattresses are less expensive options.

Great for those want the best of both worlds and back sleepers
Hybrid mattresses use two or more materials for a more well-rounded feel.

Many hybrids combine springs with memory foam. If you have a hard time choosing between the firmness of an innerspring and the cushiony feeling of memory foam mattresses, a hybrid may be a good option.

Back sleepers need mattresses with firm support and enough cushion to take pressure off the lower back. With a hybrid, you can find the mix of materials that gives you both.

Some hybrids combine latex and memory foam. If you like the bounce of latex but want additional pressure point relief, this combo delivers the comfort and support you need.

Edge Support Matters
If your new mattress doesn't have proper edge support, you may have a hard time getting out of bed. A supportive edge also helps keep you on the bed when you sleep. When testing a mattress, sit on the side of the bed to ensure that it has proper support.

Pillow Top
Great for those who love plush comfort
Pillow top mattresses can be made of any material (memory foam, latex, etc.). The pillow top refers to a layer of soft padding that's sewn onto the surface. You can choose from a variety of materials to suit your needs, such as a cooling, latex pillow top.

Adjustable Bed
Great for the elderly and those with physical ailments
An adjustable base lets you change the position of your bed. You can adjust the incline and elevation for personalized comfort. A change in incline can reduce issues like chronic back pain and snoring.

Many latex and memory foam mattresses pair well with adjustable bases. Innerspring and hybrids can also work, depending on the mattress.

Great for personalized firmness
If you just can't commit to one mattress firmness, an adjustable air mattress lets you change it with the push of a button.

Instead of springs or foam, they use inflatable air chambers as their main support system. Some even have dual settings so couples can individually adjust how firm they want their side of the bed.

Great for those who want a unique feel
Waterbeds aren't as popular today as they were in the '80s. But you can still find companies that make them.

Today's waterbeds have features like temperature control and extra support layers.

What Size Mattress Do You Need?

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Mattresses should fit comfortably in the room and be a good length for your body and the type of sleeper you are. If you have a sleeping partner, consider the room you'll both need to feel comfortable.

The following sizes are standard for each mattress type:

Crib27" x 52"
Twin38" x 75"
Twin XL38" x 80"
Full53" x 75"
Full XL54" x 80"
Queen60" x 80"
King76" x 80"
California King72" x 84"

As a general guide, here's what each main mattress size is best suited for:

Twin: Good for children, young adults, and small bedrooms; not good for multiple people or taller adults

Twin XL: Good for college-aged students, smaller bedrooms; not good for multiple people

Full/Double: Good for young or single adults; not good for partners who like to spread out

Queen: Good for couples and adults who want more space; not good for multiple people who want maximum personal space

King: Good for partners who want more personal space; not good for small bedrooms

California King: Good for taller partners; not good for small bedrooms

How Much Should You Pay for a New Mattress?

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Setting a budget for a mattress can be difficult, especially with all the options at your disposal.

$1,000 is a Benchmark
If $1,000 for a queen-size bed is way outside your budget, stick to a foam or innerspring mattress. If you can comfortably afford $1,000 or more, consider options like latex, hybrids, and airbeds.

Expensive Doesn't Equal Quality
Price alone is not a measure of the quality, durability, or longevity of any type of mattress. Research your options and read brand reviews online.

Budget for Any Fees
Most stores will charge fees for delivery, set up, and removal of the old mattress. Some stores include the fees in the price of the mattress, while others charge separately.

Take Advantage of Sales
Retailers will always mark up their prices. But keep an eye out for holiday sales and seasonal deals. Knowing when to buy a mattress can save you money.

What mattress is used in 5-star hotels?
Pillowtop mattresses with innersprings are popular choices in luxury hotels though some now favor memory foam.

Shopping for a Mattress Online vs. In-Store

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You can shop for mattresses in-store or online. Each has its own benefits.

Shopping in-store allows you to:

Test Out Many Mattresses
Go in store to see how each mattress responds to your body and movement. Make sure you lie down the way that you sleep and spend a few minutes lying still in that position.

Most importantly, don't feel pressured to get up before you're ready.

Negotiate the Price
The price you see on a mattress isn't necessarily the price you have to pay. Mattress retailers often have as much as 50% wiggle room in the price. If you're sold on a specific mattress, chances are they'll accommodate your financial needs to make the sale.

Get In-Person Assistance
If you find all the different options overwhelming, a salesperson can help you narrow down your choices. Take the time to ask any questions you have.

Make sure there's a warranty in place for manufacturing defects, such as coil defects, so that you can get a new mattress if you end up with a lemon.

Most warranties are much longer than the actual life of the bed, so there is no need to pay extra for a 25-year warranty.

Benefits of online shopping include:

Cheaper Options
Online companies have less overhead than brick-and-mortar stores. That money gets passed onto the customer in the form of cheaper prices.

Shopping online lets you do your research at your own pace. You can look at mattresses whenever you want without having to consider regular business hours.

It's also easier to comparison shop online so you can make an informed decision.

No Sales Pressure
Salespeople will often try to upsell and pressure you into a purchase. If you're not a strong negotiator, looking online will be a better option for you.

Ask about trial periods or return policies. Is it a full refund, an even exchange, or something else? Stores often give you up to 120 days to change your mind.

What Experts Say

CreditDonkey assembled a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions:

  • What factors should people be aware of as they begin to search for a product online?
  • Do people behave differently when looking at products in store vs online?
  • Do online-only businesses target different customers than brick-and-mortar businesses?

Here's what they said:

How to Make Your New Mattress Last Longer

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Buying a bed is an investment. Read on for some tips to protect yours.

Rotate Your Mattress
Rotating your mattress at least every three months puts less stress on one side of the mattress. If you rotate it four times a year, each area will have time to restore itself.

Change Your Bedding Weekly
Cleaning your bedding weekly can prevent sweat and oil released from the body to leak into the mattress, causing the fibers to wear down faster.

Add a Mattress Pad
To protect your bed even further from body sweat, oils and even spills, consider adding a mattress pad. Mattress pads add an extra layer of cushion and comfort.

Don't Jump On Your Bed
If you have kids or pets, allowing them to jump on the bed can damage the mattress.

Bottom Line

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Choosing a new mattress is a big decision. Narrow down your decision by focusing on one type of material:

  • If you like bounce or sleep hot, choose innerspring.
  • If you have back pain or are a side sleeper, choose memory foam.
  • If you suffer from allergies, choose latex.
  • If you need targeted back support, choose hybrid.

Then try different types in person and research online before making a purchase.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

More from CreditDonkey:

How Long Does a Mattress Last

How to Get Stains Out of Mattress

How to Buy a Mattress


Best Air Mattress

Air mattresses let you sleep anywhere. But not all air mattresses provide a supportive or even durable surface, though. Not sure which one is right for you? Read below for our reviews of the top airbeds available today.

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Mattress Buying Guide

Better sleep is a new mattress away. But which type is best? And how much should it cost? Find out with this mattress buying guide.

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