May 11, 2020

Mattress Buying Guide

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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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How well did you sleep last night?

If the answer is "not great," you're not alone: 35% of adults in the U.S. report poor sleep quality.

Back pain, allergies, and sleeping hot can all get in the way of your rest. But the right mattress will support you, keep you cool, and stay comfortable all night.

No, you're not dreaming. Good sleep really is within your reach. Find out how to get your perfect mattress and get the rest you deserve.

In this article:

Is It Time for a New Mattress?

Do you really have to replace your mattress every 8 years, or is it just a marketing ploy? Most mattresses really do last about 8 to 10 years. Yours could have a different lifespan depending on your weight and how you use it.

But if you've been struggling with sleep, you don't have to wait for the 8-year mark.

Here are some signs that you should replace your mattress, no matter how old it is:

  • Your mattress has dents or lumps.
  • Your mattress sags under your weight.
  • Your body has changed.
  • You wake up feeling tired and sore.
  • You toss and turn at night.
  • You've started sleeping with a partner.

A lot can happen in a decade. It's important that your mattress supports you through all the changes.

What to Look for in a Mattress

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Don't get lost in unnecessary features. Here are the essential mattress qualities you need to know before you shop.

How to Choose the Right Comfort and Support

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Comfort and support are the two most important factors in a good mattress. A good balance of the two will let your spine rest in a neutral position. This is important so you don't wake up with aches and pains.

Comfort
Comfort (also known as pressure relief) cushions your pressure points so you don't feel sore.

Here's how you can test if a mattress has the right comfort for you:

  1. Lie down in your usual sleeping position. Make sure you can comfortably stay in that position for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Feel where your body sinks into the mattress.
  3. Take note of any discomfort, pain, or limbs falling asleep.

If you feel any of those problems, the mattress is too hard for you. You don't want to sleep on a bed that's cutting off your circulation. A softer bed will reduce pressure and let you sleep more soundly.

But make sure your mattress doesn't feel like a structureless marshmallow. Comfort needs to be balanced with good support.

Support
Support layers hold you up and keep your body aligned. Proper alignment prevents unnecessary strain on your spine.

To test if your mattress gives you proper support, follow these steps:

  1. Lie down in your usual sleeping position.
  2. Notice where your body sinks into the mattress.
  3. Feel if your spine curves out of place.

A mattress that's too firm will cause your spine to arch away from the bed. A mattress that's too soft will make your spine sag into the bed. Both extremes are unnatural and bad for your back.

And that's the basic gist of mattress shopping. Once you nail down support and comfort, you'll have a good bed to sleep on.

But if you want a bed that's fine-tuned to your liking, consider these next factors too.

Other Important Mattress Features

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Mattress Temperature
Mattress temperature can ruin your sleep. If your mattress makes you sweaty, find a mattress with cooling, breathable materials.

Innerspring mattresses are usually the coolest option because the coils let a lot of air through.

If you're a fan of foam, go for one infused with gel, graphite, or copper for a cooler sleeping surface.

Motion Transfer
When you move around in bed, some mattresses absorb the motion and keep it from spreading. Other mattresses carry the motion throughout the bed.

This isn't such an important factor if you sleep alone. But couples should find a mattress that doesn't transfer motion.

Your partner should be able to shift in bed without disturbing your sleep. If you wake up at different times, you don't want to get jolted awake when they get up.

Edge Support
Have you ever sat on the side of a mattress and almost fallen off? A mattress with good edge support doesn't sink as much when you put weight on it.

This lets you sit or sleep near the mattress edge without slipping. If you sleep with a partner, it lets you both safely use the full surface of bed.

Smell/Off-Gassing
Most mattresses off-gas to some degree. This means they release tiny amounts of chemicals that sometimes make your new mattress smell. But don't let that scare you off. The amount that's released isn't harmful, and the smell quickly goes away.

If you want to avoid off-gassing, look for natural, organic mattresses.

Rule of Thumb: Mattress Type
  • Innerspring: Good for cooling and bounce
  • Foam: Good for back pain and side sleepers
  • Latex: Good for allergies and stomach sleepers
  • Hybrid: Good for back sleepers
Find out what you need to know to about each type to make a good decision.

What's the Best Mattress Type?

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The truth is, there isn't a single best mattress type—you'd probably sleep well on a lot of different beds.

But you're in the market for just one mattress. Find out the pros and cons of each type below.

Foam Mattresses

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Pros

  • Great pressure relief
  • Many affordable options
  • Doesn't transfer motion

Cons

  • Sleeps hot
  • Not enough support for heavy people
  • Hard to move around on

The two main types of foam are memory foam and polyfoam.

Both materials will give you the pros above, but memory foam is better at hugging the body. When you lie on a memory foam mattress, it feels like you're sinking into the bed a bit. Once you get up, the foam returns to its original position.

This makes it great at absorbing motion. It's good for couples who shift around a lot a night. You won't be disturbed by your partner's movements. But this also means it can suck you in and make you feel stuck.

Since foam hugs your body and doesn't have a lot of airflow, it sleeps hot. Many modern foam beds use materials that feel cooler than traditional memory foam. (More on cooling foams below.)

You Should Know…

  • Foam Density
    The denser the foam, the firmer and more durable it is. Firm foams are better at supporting your body. But softer, low-density foams can feel more comfortable. Low-density foams are also cheaper, but they break down more quickly.

    Foam density is measured in lbs/ft. Look for high- and medium-density memory foams above 4 lbs/ft for a good, long-lasting bed. High-density polyfoams are 1.8 lbs/ft and above.

  • Cooling Foams
    Foam is notorious for sleeping hot. Mattress companies have caught on and come up with newer materials that wick away heat. Look for gel foam, copper-infused foam, graphite-infused foam, and open-cell foam for a cooler sleep.

    These materials disperse heat from your body and the mattress surface. Open-cell foam has tiny holes in it to improve airflow.

Try Nectar mattress for an affordable bed with cooling gel foam.

Innerspring Mattresses

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Pros

  • Sleeps cool
  • Strong support
  • Bouncy and easy to move on

Cons

  • Transfers motion
  • Can be noisy
  • Doesn't contour to your body

These traditional beds have come a long way from your grandma's creaky, old mattress. Innerspring mattresses sleep cool thanks to the open coil structure. Steel springs have great support throughout the bed, including the edges.

The downside is innersprings don't contour the body or relieve pressure that well. You can improve this with a pillow top or Euro top mattress. These mattresses have an extra layer of cushion on top.

Innerspring beds are exceptionally bouncy. You've probably experienced this firsthand if you've ever jumped on one. This bounciness means that it transfers motion. If you sleep with a partner, you'll definitely feel them moving around in bed.

Modern innersprings are better at preventing motion transfer and squeaky springs. They have different coils than traditional innerspring beds.

You Should Know…

Coil Types
There are four types of coils:

  • Bonnell coils are the oldest type. They can be noisy, especially on cheaper models. This is the least durable coil type.
  • Continuous coils are made of a single piece of wire twisted into rows of coils. These offer stability and better durability.
  • Offset coils are joined together by wires. These act like a hinge and let the coils conform to your body better.
  • Pocket coils are individually wrapped in fabric. This cuts down on noise and motion, and it also conforms to the body better.

Coil Count and Gauge
A queen mattress should have at least 450 coils. A bed that has a lot less might not distribute your weight as well. But coil gauge is equally important. This refers to the thickness of the coil wire.

Most coils will range between 12 and 15 gauge. The thicker the wire, the more durable it is. Heavy people should look for a mattress with high-gauge wires for proper support.

Don't be fooled by a mattress with a high coil count. Make sure that the coil gauge is thick enough too. A mattress with lots of thin coils won't last long or support you well.

Try Saatva Classic for a comfortable Euro top mattress available in three firmness options.

Hybrid Mattresses

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Pros

  • Good pressure relief
  • Breathable
  • Easy to move on

Cons

  • Confusing to shop for
  • Tend to be expensive
  • Unique feel isn't for everyone

A hybrid is any mattress that uses two or more support materials. Most hybrid mattresses are a combination of memory foam and innerspring. The idea is that you'll get a bed with the best of both worlds.

For the most part, hybrids deliver on this promise. You'll get good pressure relief from thick memory foam layers. But you won't feel sunken in because of the stronger innerspring base. You'll also get a bed that sleeps cooler than regular foam.

That being said, you won't get the full benefits of each mattress type. Hybrids don't contour the body as well as memory foam beds. They also aren't as bouncy as innersprings.

When shopping for a hybrid, the term can get confusing. Most innersprings are technically hybrid beds if they use foam on top. But true hybrids have thicker layers of foam.

You Should Know…

  • True Hybrid Mattresses
    The term "hybrid" gets thrown around a lot by mattress companies. Not everything that's marketed as a hybrid will have a true hybrid feel. The only way to be sure is to feel the bed yourself. If you're shopping online, read the product details to see if it uses thick layers of foam.

Try the Layla Hybrid for a flippable foam and coil bed designed to keep you cool.

Latex Mattresses

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Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Good bounce and support
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Can be too firm
  • Most expensive mattress type
  • Heavy material is hard to move

Latex mattresses are a unique type of foam mattress. Latex foam is naturally hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant. It offers more bounce and support than other foams. It also sleeps cooler, but not as cool as beds with coils.

When you lie on a latex bed, you won't feel like you're sinking in. It has enough support to keep you feeling buoyant. Since many latex beds are on the firmer side, they're usually not the best choice for petite side sleepers. (You'll learn more about sleeping positions later on.)

Latex beds are also extremely durable. It's not unheard of for a latex bed to last up to 20 years. But, you'll have to pay for the quality. Latex is the most expensive mattress type.

If you're planning on moving to a new place, keep in mind that latex mattresses are usually very heavy. It won't be quick and easy to carry it around.

Fun Fact: Latex products are made from the sap of the rubber tree.

You Should Know…

  • Production Methods
    There are two types of latex, which are made using different processes. Dunlop latex is made with an older process that involves pouring liquid latex to completely fill a mold. Talalay latex is made by partially filling a mold with liquid latex. The mold is vacuumed of air, which spreads the latex evenly.

    Dunlop latex is denser and more durable. Because of the way it's made, it can have slightly uneven firmness in some areas. Talalay latex is softer, bouncier, and more uniform. It also costs more, so go for Dunlop if you're trying to save.

  • Natural vs Synthetic
    Both Dunlop and Talalay latex can be either natural or synthetic. Natural latex has better bounce, durability, and cooling properties. Synthetic latex costs less. There are also blended latex mattress that use a mix of both.

Try the WinkBeds EcoCloud with 4" of natural Talalay latex on top of supportive pocketed springs.

Mattress Size

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A lot has probably changed since you first got your current mattress. Maybe your body has changed, or you now sleep with a partner or pet. Your mattress should fit everyone comfortably.

These are the most common mattress sizes:

  • Twin: Twin beds are best for growing children. They're also a good option for single adults who have very small bedrooms.
  • Twin XL: Most college dorms use twin XL beds. The size is 5 inches longer than a regular twin and it's best for tall, single sleepers.
  • Full: Jumping from a twin to a full gives you a big upgrade in mattress width. This size is best for comfortably sleeping a single adult.
  • Queen: Couples who don't want to cuddle close all night should get a queen bed. It's also great for single adults who really like to sprawl out.
  • King: This size is the widest of them all. It's great for couples and people who sleep with their children or pets.
  • California King: This size is the longest and it's great for tall couples and tall people who sleep with their children or pets.

Remember to take your room size into consideration. You should still have enough space to walk around your bed.

If you think your lifestyle will change in the next 8 to 10 years, try to get a mattress that reflects that. For example, you could get a queen as a single sleeper if you think you might share your bed later on.

On the flip side, get a smaller bed if you might move into a smaller room down the line.

Mattress Thickness
Most mattresses are between 8 to 12 inches tall. For many people, mattress height isn't a deal breaker. But if you're especially tall, short, or large, mattress height can affect how easy it is to get in and out of bed.

Many higher-end mattresses will be thicker because they have more comfort and support layers. Simpler and cheaper mattresses are often on the thinner side.

Whichever mattress height you choose, make sure your sheets fit. You might need deep-fitted sheets if you have an extra-tall mattress or mattress topper.

Mattress Firmness

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The right mattress firmness depends on your sleeping position and your weight. You can use this firmness guide to help steer you in the right direction.

Mattress firmness is rated on a scale from 1 to 10:

  • 1-2: Very soft, a lot of sinkage, too little support for most sleepers
  • 3-4: Soft with some support, good for petite side sleepers
  • 5-7: Medium to medium-firm, balanced sinkage and support, works for most sleepers
  • 8-10: Firm to very firm, not much sinkage, good for larger sleepers

Side sleepers usually prefer medium-soft to medium beds. Back sleepers do well on medium-firm mattresses. Stomach sleepers need a medium-firm to firm mattress. When in doubt, a medium-firm bed will work for most sleepers.

In general, heavy people need firmer mattresses. Consider going up a firmness level to get your preferred feel. Petite people need softer mattress, so try going down a firmness level.

How do you know if you're a petite or heavy sleeper? Find out what your body type is below.

What Kind of Sleeper Are You?

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You want to be sure that your mattress suits your personal needs. After all, this is an investment that you're going to use for the next decade.

See how your preferences will affect your mattress shopping experience.

Sleep Position

Pick a bed that works with your sleeping position. You spend about 8 hours in this position every night, so you want it to be comfortable.

  • Side Sleeping
    If you sleep on your side, you put a lot of pressure on your hips and shoulders. Your body digs into the mattress. To take pressure off those areas, you need a mattress that's soft enough to cradle your body.

  • Back Sleeping
    Back sleepers need a bed that curves to the lower back. This takes pressure off the upper back and hips. In general, a medium-firm mattress will keep you comfortably supported and cushioned.

  • Stomach Sleeping
    Support is key for stomach sleepers. Since the front of your body lies flat on the mattress, you need strong support to prevent sagging. Firmer mattresses will keep your hips up to avoid back strain.

  • Combination Sleeping
    If you change positions, you'll need a balanced mattress that supports you in each position. You also want to be able to move around easily in bed.

    For example, traditional memory foam beds can leave you feeling stuck in the mattress. When it's time to change positions, it's hard to shift out of your original position.

What's my sleeping position?What mattress should I try?
SideLayla
BackSaatva Classic
StomachPurple Hybrid
CombinationLeesa Hybrid

Body Type

The same mattress can feel different to different people. Your weight affects how much support you need and how firm a mattress feels.

  • Petite Sleepers (<135 lbs)
    If you're a lightweight sleeper, a slightly softer mattress will give you the right support. Mattresses are supposed to compress a little under your body. If you go for a bed that's too firm, your body won't press deep enough into the mattress to get good support.

  • Average Sleepers (135–200 lbs)
    Mattress companies use an "average" weight to calculate firmness. Luckily for you, this means a bed advertised as medium-firm will feel like a true medium-firm.

  • Heavy Sleepers (>200 lbs)
    More support is better for heavy sleepers. Most mattresses probably feel softer to you on average. This is because your body sinks in and pushes down on the mattress layers. A sturdy, firmer mattress will keep your body aligned.

What's my body type?What mattress should I try?
Petite (<135 lbs)Casper
Average (135–200 lbs)WinkBed
Heavy (>200 lbs)Saatva HD

Sleeping Concerns

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Back Pain
Despite what you might have heard, a firmer mattress isn't always better for back pain. Instead of getting the firmest mattress, start with a medium-firm. Focus on finding a mattress with a good mix of support and comfort.

Your spine should rest in a neutral position, without any uncomfortable bending or twisting. Memory foam can also help with pain, especially if feel a lot of pressure when you lie down.

Sleeping Hot
No one likes waking up sweaty. Sleeping hot is a common issue, especially for heavier people. If you have issues with feeling too hot on your mattress, look for one with cooling materials.

Innerspring beds keep you cool because the coils let a lot of air in. If you prefer foam, try gel foam, copper- or graphite-infused foam, or latex.

Couples
Sharing a bed should be a restful, pleasant experience for both parties. If you accidentally kick and shove each other at night, it's time for a size upgrade.

Mattress type matters too. If you toss and turn, or wake up at different times, you don't want to feel the other person move. Memory foam doesn't transfer motion, so you won't have to worry about disturbing your partner.

Good edge support lets you and your partner use the whole surface of the bed without slipping off. Innerspring and hybrid beds will have the strongest edge support.

Sex
Sleeping isn't the only thing you do in bed. The best mattresses for sex don't make noise and are easy to move around on. Bouncier beds make it easier for couples to move freely. The lack of noise lets you be discrete during intimate moments.

Hybrids with memory foam and innerspring support are a great choice for sex.

Allergies
Your mattress could have a lot to do with your constant sneezing. If you suffer from allergies, avoid mattresses with coils and pillow tops. Coils and pillow tops are both a breeding ground for dust mites.

Try latex or foam mattresses instead. These materials are naturally dust mite resistant and hypoallergenic. You can also look for anti-microbial mattresses to prevent mold and mildew.

What's my sleep concern?What mattress should I try?
Back painCasper Wave
Sleeping hotLayla
CouplesLoom & Leaf
SexDreamCloud Hybrid
AllergiesZenhaven

Knowing what you want in a mattress is more than half the battle. The last step is to know all the secrets to getting the best deal.

How to Buy a Mattress

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A lot of obstacles can come between you and a good mattress. Use these smart shopping tips to avoid mattress pricing tricks.

How Much to Spend on a Mattress

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A mattress is an investment, but you don't want to overpay either. More expensive doesn't always mean better quality.

Here are the average queen prices for each mattress type:

  • Innerspring: $950-$1,000
  • Memory foam: $900
  • Hybrid: $1,659
  • Latex: $2,000

Set your mattress budget around $1,000 for a good-quality queen mattress. If you're like most sleepers, a $5,000 mattress comes with features you don't even need.

You can still find good mattresses that cost less, but be wary of ones that are much cheaper than average. There's a good chance that a $200 mattress will have low-quality, less durable materials.

Remember that these prices are for a queen-size mattress. The bigger the mattress, the more expensive it will be.

It's important to know the average prices for each type. But how you shop has just as big an impact on mattress price.

Learn below how to get the best deals wherever you decide to shop.

Buying a Mattress in Store

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Pros

  • Try before you buy
  • Knowledgeable sales staff
  • High chance of getting the right mattress

Cons

  • Higher prices
  • Salesperson can be pushy
  • Hard to comparison shop

Being able to see a mattress before you buy is a huge advantage. But keep in mind that you'll have to haggle for the best price.

Here are some tips for in-store shopping:

  1. Take your time
    Get in your usual sleeping position and spend at least 10 minutes lying down. You won't know for sure how the bed will feel at home. But, you'll get a more accurate feel the longer you lie there.

  2. Negotiate the price
    Most mattress stores have some wiggle room in their prices. It's always worth a shot to haggle the price. The easiest way to do this is to get prices from different stores and see if you can get a price match.

    Even if they can't beat the price, some stores will throw in free extras like pillows or a mattress cover.

  3. Be ready to walk away
    Don't feel pressure to make a decision right away. If you don't think you're getting a good price, look somewhere else. Or, you can shop online to save more.

Watch out for mattress "sales" that are actually set at the regular price. Some in-store and online sellers will mark up the prices to make it seem like you're getting a deal.

To avoid falling for these tricks, check how much similar mattress features usually cost. You'll get a better idea whether you're actually getting your money's worth.

Buying a Mattress Online

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Pros

  • Lower prices
  • Easy comparison shopping
  • Avoid aggressive sales teams

Cons

  • Can't try mattress beforehand
  • No room to negotiate price
  • Longer delivery times

You can save a lot of money by buying your mattress online. Online sellers don't have to keep physical stores open. So, they're able to charge less for their products.

Here are some tips to make the best online purchase:

  1. Comparison shop
    Online shopping gives you access to lots of different mattresses. Though the mattresses won't be exactly the same, you can note the features you want and their prices.

  2. Read reviews
    Since you can't see the mattress in person, look for reviews that show you how a mattress feels. Remember to look at both negative and positive reviews.

    In addition to learning about the mattress itself, you'll find out if people have issues with delivery and customer service.

  3. Contact customer service
    Don't ignore your questions just because there's no salesperson to walk up to. If you have any questions about a product, you can contact customer support.

    Most sites let you chat live with a representative. You can also call or email them, but the chat box is usually the quickest way to get in touch.

Important Mattress Buying Factors

Trial Period and Returns
Even if you try a mattress in store, you won't really know how it'll feel at home. This is where the sleep trial comes in. Make sure you take full advantage of your trial period.

Most sellers give an average of 100 days for you to try the mattress in your home. The length of a sleep trial can range from a few weeks to 365 days. Take this time to test for comfort and support. See if you consistently wake up feeling refreshed.

If it doesn't work out, you can usually return the mattress for a full refund. Keep in mind that some companies make you try the mattress for at least 30 days before you return it.

Some mattress sellers charge shipping or restocking fees for returns. Make sure you ask about their policy before you buy.

Delivery
Most mattress stores charge a delivery fee. Many online mattress sellers offer free shipping within the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska. If you live in those states, you can still get your mattress shipped to you at an additional cost.

Mattresses are heavy and hard to handle. Luckily, many sellers offer white glove delivery. This means someone will carry the mattress into your room and set it up for you. You usually have to pay extra for this service.

Warranty
Always make sure you read the warranty. Not all lifetime warranties are actually useful. Some warranties come with limits that make it hard to get your claim approved.

In addition to checking the warranty length, pay attention to:

  • Mattress base requirements
  • What type of damage is covered
  • Additional shipping or repair fees

Some mattress companies will void your warranty if you use the wrong mattress base. Make sure you double-check with the seller to see what their terms are.

Bottom Line

A new mattress can be your ticket to restful sleep. Focus on finding the right balance of comfort and support. Once you find a mattress with the features you need, you'll be sleeping like a baby in no time.

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 to Buy a Mattress


Best Time to Buy a Mattress


Mattress Size


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