Ultimate Mattress Buyers Guide – How To Choose A Mattress
Quality of life is certainly something worth investing in. From medicines and winter coats to air fresheners and more, there are so many things we buy in order to make ourselves feel better. One of the most significant is the investment made in your mattress, and it’s important that you take the time to understand what mattress will work best for you. Here at The Sleep Judge, it’s our ultimate goal to help you pick the one that will offer you what you specifically need to achieve a good night’s rest over and over again.
In our complete Mattress Buying Guide, it’s our goal that you are able to identify things you need and incorporate this information into your final buying decision. So, grab a pen, sit back, and prepare to learn everything you need to know to arrive at the best choice for you.
Table of Contents
- Extensive Research
- Ease in Shopping With Your Sleep Partner
- Lower Overhead to Save You Money
- Trial, Exchange, and Return Policies
- Mattresses Under $200
- Mattresses Under $300
- Mattresses Under $500
- Mattresses Under $1,000
- Mattresses Over $1,000
Where to Buy a Mattress
Guide in Buying a Mattress
- Steps You Should Take Before Entering the Store
- Steps You Should Take While In the Store
- Mattress Negotiation Tips
- Online Shopping Experience
More Indepth Guides
Mattress technology has come a long way. Evidence exists to suggest that, as far back as 10,000 years ago, Neolithic people began sleeping on very primitive “beds.” By 3400 B.C., pharaohs in Egypt discovered benefits by creating a pallet off the ground on which to sleep. It wasn’t until the 18th century that more familiar types of beds were introduced. During this time, there were a number of innovations including:
- Cast iron beds
- Cotton mattresses
- Mattresses made using animal furs
Innerspring mattresses made their debut in 1865 when the first coil spring product was patented. By the 1930’s, innerspring popularity was very high, and they began to gain their clear dominance as a viable sleep solution in the United States and Canada.
During the 1990’s, bed size preference changed. While the twin size mattress was once dominant, this preference changed to queen for the first time ever. Today, innovative and entrepreneurial minds all over the world have contributed to the development of more material options than ever before.
What This Means for You
It’s good to have options. However, sometimes it can get a little overwhelming to choose. From innerspring bases and memory foam to latex, polyfoam, and so much more, you really do have to do your homework before you enter your credit card number. That’s why we’re here to walk you through the main components you need to be on the lookout for.
The mattress industry is booming. It’s currently estimated that there are over 600 mattresses manufacturers in the US alone, and many of them offer multiple models. Not to mention, in 2007, Greek American author, syndicated columnist, occasional actress, and businesswoman Arianna Huffington fainted from exhaustion. This caused her to fall and break her cheekbone when it landed on her desk. She required five stitches on her right eye as a result of the incident. After this occurred, a bigger awareness for the need for proper sleep arose, and this caused mattress sales to soar.
Needless to say, it’s a good time for the mattress industry as people are becoming more and more aware of the need for proper sleep. In response to this, companies are able to invest more into the development of new products designed to offer specific solutions.
First of all, shopping online is a much more convenient option. You don’t have to drive around your area looking for the best types of mattresses. Furthermore, you also don’t have to worry about paying extra for a delivery to your home. When you shop mattresses online, you have the ability to seek out products specific to your unique needs and aren’t geographically limited. Best of all, the mattress will arrive at your doorstep often with no shipping fees. All you have to do is bring the compressed product into your home and unbox! Not to mention there are no shortage of options.
If you’ve ever shopped for a new car, you know how aggressive salesmen can be. The same is often true when you shop for a mattress. Good salesmen understand their products inside and out, and they certainly know the downsides. They are able to use their techniques to leave out the information they don’t want you to know without “technically” lying to you. Furthermore, it’s in their best interest for you to make a purchase on the spot before you move on elsewhere. That’s why they’ll often put pressure on you to make a decision now. When you shop online, however, you’ll be able to quickly analyze and compare options with the help of articles and videos of real customers and professional reviewers so you have a good idea of what to expect.
Ease in Shopping With Your Sleep Partner
If you’re shopping for a mattress you’ll be sharing with your sleep partner, there are special considerations to be made. Time is often limited in our busy world, so it can be difficult to collaborate a time for both of you to hit the town in search of the best mattress. When you shop online, you can do so in the evening if need be when retailers are closed. You never even have to leave the house.
Knowing when it’s time to buy a new mattress isn’t always quite as evident as knowing when it’s time to buy something like a new car. Your mattress may appear fine, but there are so many things that happen beneath the cover that will make a difference in the way you experience the product.
If you’re not sure if it’s time to buy a new mattress, take a moment to consider a few tell-tale signs. We don’t want you to throw out your old product if you still have a few years left to enjoy it. However, if you notice any of the following, it’s probably time for something new:
- Development of impressions in the mattress
- Obvious sagging
- Mattress feels harder or softer than it used to
- Development of uncomfortable lumps
- Your mattress is more than 10 years old
- You wake up with aches and pains
- You have trouble falling and staying asleep
- You have trouble finding a comfortable sleeping position
- You notice an increase in allergy symptoms in bed
Even if you have only noticed a couple of these signs, failure to act and buy something new and improved will inevitably have a negative impact on your overall quality of life. You may be surprised at what a difference a new mattress will make.
Take Advantage of Our Reviews
If you’re new to The Sleep Judge, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of our mattress reviews. We have tested many sleep products, and we’re here to offer you a complete overview of just what you can expect. Now, we can’t tell you that one product is more comfortable than another. This information is subjective and statements like these don’t offer you anything of value. While I prefer a plusher product, for example, you may prefer firm.
However, what you can enjoy with our mattress reviews is that we provide you information you can translate into your own preferences. Just a few of the insights we can pass on to you include:
- Expected durability
- How well the product is made
- Quality of materials
- Edge support
- Motion isolation
- Heat transfer
We have set tests which are consistently performed on each and every product we review, and this allows you to compare products easily on our site. You may not be able to lay on the product for yourself, but we are able to give you a great idea not only how the product will feel when you get it but also how you can expect it to work for you over time.
|Twin||39 x 74 inches|
|Twin XL||39 x 80 inches|
|Full||54 x 74 inches|
|Queen||60 x 80 inches|
|King||76 x 80 inches|
|California King||72 by 84 inches|
Mattresses under $200 are going to typically be on the lower end of the quality spectrum. In this price range, you’re likely to come across products made of low density polyurethane foam. I wouldn’t recommend you purchase a product in this price range unless you’re on an extreme budget or don’t intend to use it long. If that’s the case for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each material.
- Low price
- Good motion isolation
- Low durability
- Low price
- Good heat transfer capability
- Low durability
I personally would avoid purchasing mattresses under $200. If you absolutely must make an inexpensive purchase, I’d at least spend $300. As you shop, there are numbers to be on the lookout for.
For starters, the density will help you get a better idea of durability. Generally speaking, if you’re considering a poly foam, a low density is one less than 1.5 pcf. A product in the medium density range falls in the level between 1.5 to 1.8 pcf, and these will offer a higher level of durability. However, if you find a product with a density of more than 1.8 pcf, you have found a highly durable product indeed! When shopping memory foam, however, you want to find a pcf of no less than 3.5. This could prove difficult in a price range this low.
You will also want to check out indentation load deflection. This gives you an idea of firmness. An ILD of 12 is very plush while 50 is very firm.
Working on a tight budget, it’s good if you can invest at least $500, and we walk you through some quality options here. In this price range, you’re more likely to find more high-quality materials like memory foam and latex. If you can find a latex product, you can take advantage of superior durability.
As you shop, keep in mind that, the smaller the size you choose, the less you’ll have to spend. Therefore, if you’re shopping for a mattress for two, you can keep costs down by going with a queen-sized option. Refer back to our sizing chart above to get a better idea of your options and what will work best for you.
I have used quite a few mattresses in my lifetime, and I’ve made both small and large investments. However, I must say that when I bought my memory foam mattress for around $3,000 ten years ago, I got a high quality product that provided consistent comfort and support for a little over a decade. The materials were highly durable, and I really felt like I got my money’s worth in the product. If you have it in your budget to purchase a product in the $1,000+ range, you can typically expect it to last. Just remember that variances in quality can range just as much as in the $1000 range. It’s even more important to do your due diligence.
Everyone’s situation is different, and sometimes you just need a mattress quickly. If you’re going to go with a cheaper option, just keep in mind that you’ll need to be prepared to invest again in the near future or else sacrifice your sleep quality.
- Typically sleep cooler because they are more breathable
- Easy to transport
- Good edge support
- Typically one-sided and cannot be flipped
- Limited durability in less expensive versions
- Features one long wire throughout the mattress, so motion transfer can become an issue
- Higher degree of quality
- Produces less noise
Constructed with a hinge-like squared top and bottom that is joined with the coil next to it. This produces a hinging effect that’ll flex under pressure.
- Higher degree of quality
- Produces less noise
- Organic cotton, which can last up to 15 years
- Organic wool, an elastic material that is great at regulating temperature
- Hemp, a great option for anyone living a vegan lifestyle
- Coconut coir, which provides a buoyant quality
- Latex, harvested from rubber trees and featuring fire-resistant qualities
- Bamboo, a resource that is easily renewed
Memory foam is a material that has increased in popularity over the past couple of decades, and it offers you that hug and contour that lasts even when you remove pressure. It’s likely you’ve sampled some type of memory foam product. It’s viscoelastic and reacts to heat and pressure, effectively conforming to your body and providing great pressure relief. Just a few other advantages include:
- Encourages proper spine alignment
- Can help not only in pain relief but also prevention
- Low motion transfer
- Reduced dust mites and other allergens
- Can fit adjustable beds with ease
When it comes to durability, latex is your best option. Generally speaking, latex features superior durability. There are two processes used to create latex, and these are Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop has been used longer, and it starts with a thick sap that’s whipped up after being extracted from rubber trees. Once they are appropriately formed, the sap is baked into its final configuration.
Talalay takes the process a little bit further. It entails two extra steps which ultimately lead to the development of columns through which air can more easily flow. To sum it up, this process can allow for increased breathability and allow you to more easily sleep cool. These are natural materials that feature chemical-free processing, little off gassing, and many years of expected use.
A hybrid mattress is one that features different types of materials combined into a single unit. For example, you’ll often see mattresses featuring both innerspring and latex or polyfoam and latex. These products can allow you to take advantage of the best features of each. It can also allow for those on a budget to take advantage of high-quality material like memory foam as a smaller layer. Keep in mind that it does take a little more work to research more than one material. However, it can pay off substantially when you find that perfect product for you.
When you sleep on your side, you put more pressure on the hips and and shoulders. Therefore, if you typically find yourself in this sleeping position, a softer mattress may be right for you. If you have noticed pain in your hips, back and neck, this can often be a sign that your mattress isn’t offering the right kind of support for your sleeping preference. The best mattress for side sleepers would be one that:
- Offers great support
- Offers sufficient support to prevent pelvic rotation
- Provides good contour
- Breathes well
Medium to medium firm can be a good fit for back sleepers. However, everyone has their own personal preferences. You may prefer something plusher or firmer. However, medium firm is a good option that will typically allow proper contour in your lumbar area which is raised from the surface of the mattress.
You should also pay close attention to the base of products you consider as a back sleeper. A degree of resistance needs to be maintained in order to prevent soreness and back pain. Both memory foam and latex products are often able to offer back sleepers the combination of support and pressure relief.
If you have a sleep partner, motion transfer reduction is going to be a one of the most important mattress evaluations you’ll make as you shop. This represents the product’s ability to isolate movement as closely to its source as possible. If you’ve ever been awakened by a restless partner who keeps moving or getting in and out of bed, you know what I’m talking about.
Here at The Sleep Judge, we test all of the mattresses we get our hands on by using two 20 pound medicine balls. We drop them individually to see the impact one has on the other. A few features to look for include that are proven to help reduce motion transfer include:
- Memory foam
- Pocketed coil innersprings
- Pillowtop and Eurotop covers
Do You Sleep Hot?
If you sleep hot, there are a few things you need to pay special attention to. It’s important that you’re able to maintain just a slightly lower than normal body temperature when you sleep in order to enter into the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Waking up in a hot sweat severely disrupts this achievement. Because of all the innovations in the mattress industry, there have been many developments to aid in cooler sleeping.
The main idea is that that the mattress is able to breathe, allowing air easily in and out of the materials. For example, an innerspring product typically performs better compared to a memory foam product since it’s easier for air to move through the innerspring unit than memory foam material. I’d encourage you to read our mattress guide for hot sleepers for more detailed information, but let’s go ahead and take a look at a few material types listed in order of hottest to coolest:
- Traditional memory foam
- Basic polyfoam
- Advanced memory foam
- Advanced polyfoam
It’s important to note that companies that make a point of mentioning their efforts to increase heat transfer often have incorporated specific processes in manufacturing to help consumers sleep cooler. In my experience, the Dreamfoam Ultimate Dreams EuroTop Latex Mattress and My Green Mattress offered excellent heat transfer capabilities. I’d encourage you to check out my full reviews on these products if heat transfer is a significant determining factor for you.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and millions around the world suffer every day not realizing that the right mattress could alleviate their symptoms. If you’re one of them, some things to be on the lookout for include:
- Medium firmness to assist vertebrae alignment
- Inclusion of memory foam to aid in soothing or prevention of pain
- Mattress topper if firmer products bother you
Approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis, and its symptoms can be severe, certainly enough to make it difficult to achieve proper sleep. While Dr. Grant Louie was with the National Institutes of Health, he conducted a study which revealed that the achievement of restful sleep is nearly impossible for those suffering with arthritis. The wrong mattress only exacerbates the issue. If this describes you, there are a few things to consider including:
- Provision of proper contour under the hips and shoulders while providing extra support at the waist, knees and legs. This would be a situation where the zoning provided by products like Avocado would help.
- Avoid a mattress that’s too soft as it can make it difficult to move around. I would aim for an overall ILD of at least 25.
- Don’t go too firm. This causes your pressure points to become unsupported, causing those regions affected by arthritis to become even more tender and sore.
The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle located at the entrance of the stomach. When it fails to close completely, this can allow acid to make its way up the esophagus. This can lead to painful heartburn and chest pain that makes it difficult to sleep.
If you’re shopping for the best mattress to accommodate acid reflux, you may find the relief you’re looking for in an adjustable bed. These beds are able to adjust to the elevation you need. By simply touching a button, you can easily raise your upper body to a comfortable height to put to rest that sudden rush of pain you get when acid reflux or heartburn attacks at night.
The shoulders and hips can put a lot of pressure on your mattress, and this is especially true if you tend to sleep on your side. In order to alleviate this pressure, it’s important to find a mattress that conforms well with all the contours of your body as well as relieves pressure from your hips and shoulders while aligning your spine so your muscles can more easily relax. This typically means you’ll need something on the plusher side.
As you explore your options, I’d recommend taking a look at memory foam products. They offer the features you’re looking for and can prove to provide the combination of comfort and support you need to sleep restfully.
Do I Need a Box Spring?
Most new mattresses do not require a boxspring, and this helps you enjoy better comfort. However, I’d encourage you to take a look at the warranty before you’ll know for sure because some will require the use of a boxspring. However, in most cases, all you need is a hard, flat surface which could include:
- Adjustable base
- Platform bed
- Hardwood floor
Will the Warranty Cover Everything?
Finding the Perfect Mattress is Impossible
Okay, perhaps there is that absolutely perfect product out there that you’ll just never get to in your life. However, it is possible to find a product that will meet your needs well when you know what to look for. This guide can help you do just that, but, to recap, some of the main things you need to do as you shop include:
- Determine ILD and density to understand firmness and durability
- Understand edge support
- Be aware of heat transfer capabilities
- Read reviews
- Check out the return policy and sleep trial
The Sleep Judge makes it our goal to help you find just the right mattress to fit your needs. When you shop online, you can quickly browse your options, educate yourself, and make an informed decision.
You Must Replace Your Mattress Every Eight Years
While the Better Sleep Council recommends that you change your mattress every seven to ten years, this is very general. The truth is that the life of a mattress varies widely. There are also steps you can take to increase longevity including:
- Rotating the mattress
- Using a quality mattress protector
- Applying low body weight
- Investing in quality materials such as latex
Based on how you feel when you wake up, you can usually tell when the time has come to invest in something new, but that’s not necessarily going to be in the next seven to 10 years.
- Great deals and prices
- Delivered at your doorstep
- Many options from which to choose
- Can’t lay on the mattress
- Good deals often available on big-ticket items
- Often features lots of options
- No pushy salesmen
- You are more likely to buy things you don’t need as there are often other products featured in these types of stores.
- Space in the store is sometimes kind of tight.
- Some big box stores require you to have a membership card to make purchases, and this can prove not to be worth it in the long run if you don’t frequent the store.
- Long lines, waiting on parking, and other inevitable inconveniences
- Typically feature high-quality products
- You can often try out the product on display.
- Off brands often available to provide similar quality as high-end products at a lower cost.
- Knowledge of associates is often limited to what they learned in training.
- Sales prices often represent poor value.
- Can be convenient to have a mattress and bedroom set delivered at the same time.
- Discounts sometimes available when you purchase an entire bedroom set.
- Salespeople often don’t specialize in mattresses.
- Usually smaller than mattress specialty stores.
- Salespeople are typically well-versed in mattresses and will have the knowledge necessary to help you shop.
- Aggressive price-match guarantees
- Large selections
- Sometimes there is wiggle room to allow you to negotiate the right price.
- Overall experience can be negatively impacted when you don’t get the right salesman.
- Prices can often be higher than what you could find elsewhere.
Before you enter the store, I would strongly recommend you take the time to determine what material types you are the most interested in. This will allow you the opportunity to do a little bit of preliminary research so you can ask more intelligent questions that will help you better understand your options. You should also:
- Determine whether you prefer to shop online or in a store. While there are many great advantages of shopping online, if you do prefer the traditional shopping method, understand the pros and cons of each type of store before you visit.
- Be clear on your budget.
- Do some research on shops in your area.
- Call ahead of time to ask some of your initial questions. This will give you an idea of their level of expertise as well as a chance to get the feel of whether or not they’ll have the products to meet your needs.
- Narrow down your options to a few stores.
Before you shop at the stores you have selected, I would recommend taking a look at your online options first. You may find a product that offers just what you need at a bargain.
When you do visit a mattress store, this is a great opportunity for you to see for yourself how the different materials on the market feel. Again, feel can and does change over time, so this shouldn’t be your only judgement. Aside from laying on the bed, take a moment to check a few other things such as:
- Edge support- just sit or lay on the edge to see how it supports you.
- Motion transfer isolation- Have someone shop with you. While they lay on one end, move around on the other to see how much they can feel it.
- Ask about each layer of any product you consider. Ask for information such as ILD and density to help you make the best choice.
- Ask to see the layers if the mattress cover unzips.
- As you lay on the bed, move into the stomach, back, and side positions. As you lay, pay special attention to areas such as your shoulders, lumbar region and pelvis for any discomfort.
- When you’re lying on the mattress, check to make sure you have proper spinal alignment
It’s no secret that there is often wiggle room in regard to the price when it comes to buying a mattress at large mattress chains. However, many people don’t like to haggle on prices. Let’s review a few tips to keep in mind that will help you get a better deal without all the hassle we normally associate with negotiations.
- Familiarize yourself with the mattress shopping experience and research the materials you are interested in. When a salesman can tell you’re knowledgeable, they are more likely to be upfront when you bring up a potential flaw that could lead to a lower cost.
- Don’t make a purchase the same day. Let the salesman know you are still shopping around. There are a few different ways in which they may respond:
- Drop the price immediately or call in a manager capable of doing so (this may not always be the best cost so, unless the price drop is dramatic, don’t buy yet!)
- Lookup comparison models on competitors’ websites. Unless you trust them, you should always back their information up with your own research. I’d strongly recommend you bring a mobile device with you into the store so you can make your own on-the-spot comparisons.
- Once you have a few mattress options, go home and research them further. You may be surprised at the prices you can find online. If you still want to purchase at the store, however, print off the information you find.
- Go back to the showroom armed with your research.
The online shopping experience is gaining in popularity. In fact, many start off looking in furniture stores and end up buying online when they go to research products. You can buy products straight from the manufacturer, and this helps reduce overhead costs. These savings are passed on to you.
Once you have found a product you feel meets your specific needs based on what we’ve discussed in these mattress buying tips, there are a few more things to look for before you make your final selection. These include:
How to Choose a Mattress Like a Pro
There’s no doubt that the right mattress can make a significant difference in your overall quality of life. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a quality product that will stand the test of time, you can generally expect to spend several hundred or even over a thousand dollars. Therefore, it’s crucial that you know what you’re looking for.
Here at The Sleep Judge, it’s our goal to educate our visitors so they are best able to make these kinds of decisions. Understanding how to choose a mattress isn’t something that comes naturally. I hope this advice has proven helpful. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear them. Please leave them below, and we’ll get back with you promptly to heighten the quality of your mattress shopping experience.