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The Definitive Guide for Finding the Right Mattress Specifically for You

Updated October 21, 2019

Do you remember Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” about a princess that was kept up at night by a pea placed under her tower of mattresses? While your sleeping sensitivity level may not be on par with that of a literary princess, you’re likely in the market for a new mattress because something is wrong with your current one. Whether it’s too old, too hot, or too uncomfortable, we’re here to help you find a new mattress that fits all your wants and needs – no pea test necessary. 

What to Do Before You Start Shopping for a Mattress

The days of flipping mattresses and purchasing box springs are numbered. Modern mattress options are not one-size-fits-all. There are thousands of options out there, and because mattresses are such an infrequent purchase (every 5 to 10 years), it can be incredibly overwhelming trying to determine where to begin. Start by answering a few basic questions. 

What do you dislike about your current mattress?

Before you start shopping for a new mattress, try keeping a sleep diary for a few days. Every morning, write down if you slept like a baby, woke up in a sweat every hour, or if your bed is making you uncomfortable in any way. Be thorough – you should take note of every single aspect of your sleeping experience that could be made better with a new mattress. Here are a few things to consider: 

  • How old is the mattress? If you can feel the springs poking through or you can’t even remember the year the mattress was bought, it’s clearly time for an upgrade. 
  • Do you toss and turn all night from feeling too hot? If the answer is yes, then you need a more breathable, cooling mattress. 
  • Do you toss and turn from feeling too much pressure on your body? If the answer is yes, then your current mattress is too firm. 
  • Do you find yourself rolling to the middle of the mattress, almost like you’re in a hammock? If the answer is yes, then your current mattress is way too soft. 
  • If you’re sharing with a partner, how is the motion transfer when they are getting in and out of bed? If you’re being awoken every time your partner gets out of bed, you need a different mattress.

If you’re sharing the bed, what does your partner dislike about your mattress?

Mattresses are a major investment, so you want to make sure both you and your partner’s tastes and needs are being considered. After all, a survey by Sleep Number revealed that 9 out of 10 couples prefer different levels of firmness with their mattresses. Encourage your partner to keep a sleep diary for a week as well to record what may be keeping them up at night. After a few days, compare notes and come up with a list of preferences that suits both of you. 

What is your budget?

Mattresses can range from a couple-hundred to thousands of dollars. While you may find one for less than $200 on, say, Craigslist or eBay, do your best to avoid bottom-of-the-barrel beds. The mattress has more than likely been used to the point of no return, the warranty likely does not extend to second owners, and someone is likely trying to make a few dollars off of it even though it would be better off recycled. 

Have a set dollar range that you’re willing to spend. With myriad online mattress sellers popping up, your dollar can go further than when brick-and-mortar chains were the only option. Several stores offer financing options but may require a higher credit score to be approved since mattresses cannot be repossessed. Keep this in mind before you have your credit checked by a store at the risk of being left with a denial and a hard inquiry on your score report. 

How to Shop for a New Mattress: Types of Mattresses 

Now that you’re armed with a list of preferences and a spending range, let’s talk about how to find the right mattress for you. There are multiple types of mattresses to consider, so knowing a bit about the most popular options will help you narrow down what to shop for in-store or online. 

Innerspring 

The innerspring format has been around since the 1800s when a German inventor first placed steel coils inside a mattress. Much like their name, innerspring mattresses provide a springy yet firm feel when you sit or lie down. Because air can pass through the coils, they won’t leave you feeling hot at night. However, innerspring mattresses don’t offer much benefit in terms of motion transfer. 

Memory Foam

infographic on benefits of memory foam mattress

Memory foam technology has only been available since the ‘70s when it was discovered by NASA and first utilized for airplane seats. Memory foam gets its name from its ability to form around a body and remain in that shape before reverting to a flat surface. Memory foam mattresses are praised for their ability to reduce tossing and turning, distribute body weight, and relieve pressure on body injuries. However, some types of memory foam have been criticized for retaining heat and creating a “quicksand effect” where it feels like you’re stuck and sinking into the mattress.  

Latex

Latex mattresses are a popular option because they offer both comfort and durability. They form to your body shape without the “quicksand effect” of memory foam. Latex can last up to 20 years, but they often cost the most upfront. They are also one of the most naturally cooling mattress types. If you’re in the market for an environmentally friendly mattress, natural latex is the way to go. 

Adjustable

If you’re shopping for mattresses with a partner and you have completely different tastes in firmness and temperature, an adjustable base would be a viable option. While adjustable beds can get pricey, it may be worth it to be able to customize your firmness, temperature flow, and angle without disturbing your partner. 

Hybrid

Hybrid mattresses are becoming more and more common as manufacturers are aiming to bring the best parts of different mattress types together. For example, many innerspring mattresses now feature a few inches of memory foam on top to combine comfort with support. 

How to Shop for a New Mattress Based on Your Sleep Position 

Do you find yourself on your stomach when you wake up in the morning? How about on your side? Taking your typical sleeping position into consideration while shopping for a mattress will do wonders for your future nights’ sleep.

Side Sleepers 

A survey conducted by the U.K. Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service revealed that 41% of sleepers lie on their sides with their feet curled up to their chests. This position creates a lot of curves, so a mattress that distributes weight evenly is crucial. Look for a mattress with a thick, soft layer on top. 

Back Sleepers

Because back sleepers only have a curve along their lower back when sleeping on a mattress, a thick, fluffy top layer is not necessary. A thinner top layer works best for this position. 

Stomach Sleepers

Sleeping on your stomach can put major stress on your neck and back since you have to crane them to the side to properly lie down on a pillow, not to mention breathe. A thin, firm top layer will provide the extra support needed for this position. 

Combination Sleepers

There’s a good chance your sleeping patterns may not fall into just one category, which makes you a combination sleeper. Look for latex or innerspring hybrid options that are softer on top, but still provide firm support underneath: You may need it for certain positions throughout the night. 

Important Tips to Keep in Mind When Finding the Right Mattress for You 

A lot more goes into finding the right mattress for you than which position you adopt while you sleep. Have you thought about warranties, return policies, brand names, or purchase protections? Read through this list of important tips to avoid driving off with a mattress you may be stuck with. 

infographic on mattress shopping tips

Check for trial periods. 

It’s virtually impossible to decide if you like a mattress just by lying down on a bunch of beds without sheets in a stuffy showroom. None of the mattresses is broken in and you won’t get a long in-store opportunity to test if a mattress is right for you. Most online shops will offer a trial period, so you can really get a feel for comfort, support, and cooling levels. Do your best to go with a retailer that gives you ample time to test out your new mattress’s features.

Always check the fine print. 

Never worry about asking salespeople too many questions when it comes to return policies and warranties. Return policies will always have conditions, so you need to make sure you know what they are before you whip out your credit card. Also, be wary of prorated warranties. A salesperson may tout a mattress as having a “10-year warranty,” only for it to mean you get a full warranty the first year after purchase but only receive a portion of your money back if the mattress sags in the remaining nine years. Keep in mind that warranties typically only cover manufacturing issues; issues like your dog staining the mattress or your partner changing their mind are not covered. 

Be wary of in-store add-ons. 

Speaking of stains, make sure you protect your new investment. Stains will automatically void your warranty, so purchase a waterproof mattress protector soon after bringing your mattress home. Just don’t purchase it at the same time. Salespeople will try to tack on additional products like mattress protectors and covers to your final order, but the prices will be astronomical. Shop around outside of mattress retailers for accessories. 

Price match. 

If you’ve done your research and know what kind of mattress you want down to the model, always ask for a price match. Retailers are usually willing to scrape a few dollars off the price to avoid you going down the street to a competing store. 

Frequent traveler? Make note of beds that have you sleeping like a baby. 

One of the best ways to find out which brands and models of mattresses you’ll love is to take note of your favorite hotel beds. Did you snooze through the night on a Marriott mattress? Look at the tag on the bed or ask the front desk for the specific brand they use. 

Check out consumer reviews. 

Always read up on reviews before walking into a store. Arming yourself with information will keep you from being sidetracked by promotions on overstocked models or scheming salespeople. Look at websites like Consumer Reports that offer unbiased, comprehensive lists and ratings on the best mattresses, brands, and stores. 

Where to Shop for a New Mattress

For decades, you could only walk into a local furniture store or a brick-and-mortar chain like Mattress Firm to shop for a mattress. In the last five years, online retailers and manufacturers have split the industry, giving consumers a new, more convenient way to shop for mattresses. When it comes to online or in-store shopping, how do you know what’s right for you? 

In-Store Shopping 

One of the most immediate benefits of shopping at a physical store is the chance to test mattresses right then and there. This is also the quickest way to obtain a mattress if you can take a floor model home with you the same day. Brick-and-mortar stores are a decent choice for people who need a salesperson who is knowledgeable about the different types and brands available. This can also be a downside if you’re not used to negotiating a fair price – you could end up paying a pretty penny compared to online rates. A common practice for in-store shopping is called “showrooming,” where a person will try out the beds in a store and then look for a better price online. 

Online Shopping

There are two options for online shoppers: internet retailers that sell multiple brands like US-Mattress, or manufacturers that sell their own brand like Tuft & Needle, Purple, and Leesa. The issue with sites like US-Mattress is that you cannot try before you buy, or you would have to go to a competing physical store for a test run. Direct-to-consumer brands are a stronger choice because virtually all of them offer free trials and free pickups or returns, tons of online resources, quick shipping times, and great customer service. 

Conclusion

Did you know that you’ll spend 23 years of your life sleeping and another seven years just trying to fall asleep? That means you can expect a third of your life to be spent in bed! So it better be a comfortable one (and supportive, and cost-effective, and cooling, and whatever else you desire). Finding the right mattress specifically for you can be a daunting task, but if you take just a little extra time to determine your preferences, budget, and ideal type, the process will be smooth sailing. You’ll be dreaming the night away on a new mattress in no time.