Replacing your mattress is usually an exhausting proposition. Not only are there hundreds of models to select from, but a big part of what makes a good one is very individual: One person’s luxury is another person’s backache waiting to happen.
Further, there’s the matter of cost; mattresses can go for actually thousands of dollars. To some extent, it’s a section in which you get what you pay for, says Michael Magnuson, CEO of goodbed.com, an autonomous mattress review website.
“For something that you’re going to sleep on every day for 10 years, you prefer materials that are durable and high quality,” he says. “And most likely, you won’t find good materials that can endure daily uses for under $1,000.” That said, you should never pay full price for a mattress — regularly shop the sales, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the salesperson either for a discount or for extras (a bed frame, pillows, sheets) to be thrown in.
Here’s the savvy way to navigate a showroom full of different kind of mattresses with confidence:
START WITH SUPPORT
The first decision you should make has to do with a mattress’s core, which provides the support. There are four common types: innerspring, foam, latex, and air-filled.
If you prefer a bed with bounce…
Innerspring mattresses have that known bouncy feel. Still, you can determine how springy you want it to be. The metal coils are usually gauged anywhere from 12 (the thickest and firmest) to 18 (the thinnest and most compressible). Bigger folks tend to prefer a thicker gauge’s support. Coils that are interconnected are extra-durable, but individual “pocketed” coils, each wrapped with fabric, reduce the ripple effect that happens when someone on one side of the bed moves.
Innerspring mattresses usually have either a fiberfill or foam outer layer, covered in quilted ticking. However, even if you want an uber-plush feel, don’t be swayed by a thick-looking pillowtop.
“A really puffy layer might feel fabulous in the store, but in a few months, you’ll see it compressing and not coming back,” says Magnuson. It’s often best to select a firmer, well-quilted mattress, and then cover it with a replaceable mattress pad or a feather bed.
If you prefer an extra-firm base…
Memory foam mattresses (which have a polyurethane core) possess much less spring. “You sit on it, and it doesn’t really sink or budge beyond the topmost layer,” Magnuson states. To define their quality, ask for the specs on a) how thick the layer of foam is, and b) the foam’s density. Thickness can vary from 2 to 6 inches, which will define how deep you’ll sink. In terms of density, 5 pounds per cubic foot is considered very high quality, while down to 3 pounds per cubic foot is less so.
If you like a little buoyancy…
Latex mattresses resemble memory foam models in terms of firmness but have a bit more spring-back. Natural latex (some mattresses are synthetic) is antimicrobial, resistant to mold and dust mites too. These mattresses should be pricey but claim to last up to 20 years or more.
There are two types of latex: Dunlop latex is more dense and heavier than the lighter Talalay latex, which has a lighter feel.
If you like customization…
Think about an air-filled vinyl or rubber chamber mattress, which has a remote that lets you control how much air is inside. Many have two side-by-side chambers, which allow the mattress firmness to be customized individually for you and your partner. The top surface is similar to an innerspring: quilted fiberfill or foam.
CONSIDER YOUR LIFESTYLE
Beyond the four types of mattresses, there are other factors in their construction that you’ll need to consider. From sleep style to body type, to negotiating with a bedfellow, your lifestyle can assist you to make the best choice:
If you prefer to sleep on your side…
You’ll want a surface with a lot of “pressure relief” or the ability to disband while supporting your body weight and conforming to your shape.
“Imagine you’re lying on a hard floor and there’s a heat map showing the points at which your body is making the most pressure,” Magnuson says.
Cushy memory foam or a mattress with a fluffy topper will have the best pressure relief, while a very firm mattress will offer the least. Innersprings may have better pressure relief than a foam or latex mattress. Test out mattresses lying down to get a real feel.
If you prefer to sleep on your stomach…
Following that heat-map analogy, the last thing a stomach-sleeper wants is an enveloping memory foam — it would feel smothering! Instead, a firm top surface will give the best support. Think about a dense innerspring, air-filled, or latex mattress.
If you prefer to sleep on your back…
Here, you’ll want something in the middle — a surface that assists but has some give so your spine is kept in a healthy alignment. You’ll find happiness with any of the mattress types, but you ought to do your best princess-and-the-pea impression to see what feels best to you.
If your partner tosses and turns for the whole night…
Think about an innerspring mattress with pocketed coils, or memory foam, latex, or a dual-chamber air-filled mattress. These will all have “motion isolation.” But remember, these models could really be less comfortable on the body of a restless sleeper, as there’s little forgiveness against one’s movements.
If you and your partner’s favorites don’t match…
The air-filled mattresses with dual chambers are created just for you. If you find that the top surface isn’t comfy enough, you can add a separate topper.
If you prefer to sleep hot…
Mattresses topped with foam or latex can hold in body heat, particularly if they’re very soft and a lot of your body sinks in. For this reason, you may want a fiberfill-topped innerspring mattress. Or — even better — use a detachable fiberfill or feather mattress topper that can be removed and washed.
If you have some allergies…
Foam and latex are both essentially antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites and mold. If you decide for innerspring or air topped with fiberfill, be sure to encase it in an allergen-resistant cover to keep irritants at bay.
If you cannot pinpoint what matters most …
Some savvy manufacturers make a hybrid style mattress that connects the buoyancy of an innerspring core with the motion isolation of memory foam. It’s a best-of-both-worlds option that can provide many partner disputes and sleeping styles, though it comes at a cost — these luxury models can be pricey.
A REFERENCE ON LIFESPAN AND WARRANTIES
You may consider that a longer warranty shows a confidence in the product or a promise of a certain lifespan. But that’s not the case.
“The warranty is a marketing thing,” Magnuson explains. “It usually covers manufacturer’s defect, which is most likely going to reveal itself in a year, when a spring pops, or the foam stops bouncing back.”
Plus, many warranties have lots of fine print: If the mattress is covered because you didn’t use a mattress protector, or if you don’t use a matching foundation (like a box spring) below the mattress, it could invalidate the warranty. Usually, the industry wants you to replace your mattress every five to seven years, though Magnuson states a good mattress should last you at least eight or 10.