The Definitive Guide to Buying a Mattress
Shopping for a mattress has never been easier if you’re armed with this info.
Replacing your mattress can be exhausting. Navigating the stores and websites, debating between foam and springs, and determining how much to spend can leave you feeling like you need a good nap.
Instead, skip the stress and follow these tips from Lexie Sachs, Senior Textiles Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, that will help you navigate the world of mattresses.
Where to Shop for a Mattress
Laying down in the store isn’t the only way to go anymore. New mattress-in-a-box companies have won over thousands of customers with convenient shipping and free trial periods. Online mattress buying has seen a serious boom, but it’s not right for everyone. Here’s what you need to know.
Shop in the store if.
Go the traditional route ifyouwant a greater variety and to feel them before buying.In a mattress store, you should never pay full price. Always shop the sales, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the salesperson. Most stores will also offer removal of your existing mattress. The downside is it can feel overwhelming and it’s harder to compare prices to know if you’re getting a good deal. A big mistake is rushing the decision by quickly lying down on many different mattresses to find the one that feels best. If you’re going to invest in a mattress,take the time to recline for a while (at least 10 minutes)and make sure you don’t feel any pressure or pain.
Shop online if.
This newer route offers agreat alternative if you have trouble making decisions, since there are fewer options. Plus, you can shop from home!These mattresses generally arrive in a box at your doorstep within a few days and include free shipping and a money-back guarantee (even if you simply don’t like the mattress!) so there’s minimal risk. Online, the price is usually final, but it doesn’t include markups for being sold at a physical store. The downsides are that you typically have to set it up yourself and deal with getting rid of your old mattress.
Either way, always ask about the return policy.Not happy with your pick? You may get a partial refund if you bought it in a store, but online companies often arrange to pick it up for a local charity and will give back 100% of your money. Make sure you can test out a new mattress for a month risk-free; that way, you can get used to it before making a decision.
The Best Mattresses You Can Buy Online
The name Casper is synonymous with "mattress-in-a-box." Itsfour foam layers range from soft to firmto offer comfort and support, which our testers loved (especially the under-40 crowd). There’s both a less expensive version (with less layers) and a pricier one (with more).
Tuft & Needle was priced lowest among its competitors, but still stands out as atop mattress on Amazon. This simple model has two layers of foam: a firm, support layer on the bottom and a cushy, cooling layer on top. Our panel particularly liked the friendly customer service.
Unsure if you need a soft or firm option? This foam style gives you both: Justflip the mattress to change the support level. It has copper built-in to help keep you cool and avoid the overheating that is typically associated with memory foam.
Fill out a survey about your sleep habits, andHelix builds a "custom" mattress for youwith layers of foam, latex, and microcoils. They can even personalize each side, so you and your sleeping partner don’t have to fight about which mattress to get.
How to Choose Your Perfect Mattress
There are three common types of mattresses:innerspring, foam, and adjustable. There’s no one "right" material to choose, but in general, side sleepers need a softer mattress, stomach sleepers need a firm one, and back sleepers fall somewhere in between. Beyond the types of mattresses and firmness, you’ll need to think about a few other factors. From sleep style to negotiating with a bedfellow, here’s what to look for based on your needs:
If you like a bed with bounce
Traditional innerspring styleshave that familiar bouncy feel and may be firmer. Interconnected coils are extra-durable, but individual "pocketed" coils, each covered with fabric, reduce the ripple effect that happens when someone on one side of the bed moves.
If you prefer a firmer base
Memory foam optionshave less spring and offer more pressure relief. To determine quality, look at the density and thickness of the foam, which will determine how deep you’ll sink. The newer, online mattresses generally use several different layers of foam, with heavier ones on the bottom for support and lighter, cooler kinds on the top for comfort.
If you want a plush top
Innerspring mattressestypically have either a fiberfill or foam outer layer, covered in quilted ticking. But even if you want an uber-plush feel, don’t be swayed by a thick-looking pillowtop as it can compress over time. It’s often best to choose a firmer, well-quilted mattress, and then cover it with a replaceable mattress topper.
If you like to change it up
Consider anair-filled mattress, like Sleep Number, which has a remote that controls how much air is inside. Two side-by-side chambers allow you and your partner to customize the mattress firmness separately. There are also foam mattresses (like the ones from Layla) with soft and firm sides, so you can just flip it over as needed, and modular designs that let you move around the springs on the inside.
If you sleep on your side
You’ll want a surface that will support your body weight, and conform to your shape.Innerspringsmay have more pressure relief than some foam or latex mattresses, but asoft foam mattressor one with built-in pressure relief points around the shoulders and hips can work for side sleepers, too
If you sleep on your stomach
The last thing a stomach-sleeper probably wants is an enveloping memory foam — it would feel smothering! Instead, a firmer bed will provide the best support. Consider afirm foam, dense innerspring, or air-filled mattress.
If you sleep on your back
You’ll wantsomething in the middle— a surface that supports, 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 should do your best princess-and-the-pea impression to see what feels best to you.
If your partner tosses and turns all night
Consider aninnerspring mattress with pocketed coils, or memory foam, latex, or a dual-chamber air-filled mattress. Medium-firm picks will all have good "motion isolation." But remember, these models could actually 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 preferences don’t match
Theair-filled mattresses with dual chamberscan help, or check out the online mattress company Helix. Each person can fill out a questionnaire and have a side customized based on the responses.
If you sleep hot
Manufacturers can get carried away with claims about cooling properties, especially when you consider all the layers (protectors, toppers, sheets, and so on) that go on top of the mattress. That said,foam or latexcan hold in body heat, especially if they’re very soft and a lot of your body sinks in. Newer technology helps alleviate this issue and you can always accessorize your bed with toppers and sheets that offer cooling benefits.
If you have allergies
Foam and latexare both inherently antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites and mold. If you opt for innerspring or air topped with fiberfill, be sure to encase it in an allergen-resistant cover to keep irritants at bay.
If you have back pain
Memory foam and/or latexis best for those with back pain since it molds to your body for support.
If you’re concerned about chemicals
Look forfoams certified by CertiPUR-USas well as certifications for other materials like GOLS for latex or Oeko-Tex for other fabrics to feel more confident about your purchase.
If you can’t decide what matters most
Some savvy manufacturers make ahybrid-style mattressthat combines the buoyancy of an innerspring core with the motion isolation of memory foam. It’s a best-of-both-worlds option that can satisfy many partner disputes and sleeping styles.
How to Choose the Right Thickness of a Mattress Topper
A mattress topper is a great way to rejuvenate an old bed and add up some comfort.
However, many people postpone buying one, and the reason for that may be that there are just too many options available today.
Luckily, I can help you here!
In this guide, I will tell youhow thick a mattress topper should befor different situationsand explain how thickness may affect your comfort.
A Quick Links
What to Expect from Mattress Toppers of Different Thickness?
The average thickness of a mattress toppervaries between 2 and 4 inches. Some brands can offer you 5-inch models; however, these look and feel more like a mattress, so we won’t discuss them in this article.
So, let’s outline the main features of different thickness options.
A 2-inch topper is the thinnest option you can get. Despite that, it’s stillcapable of providing enough support if you’re a stomach or back sleeper. Thin toppers will be most suitable for people who own a new bed anddon’t want to significantly alter the overall feel and supportive properties.
The main downside to them is lower overall resiliency, which means that they may lose supportive features faster.
Three inches are the most common thickness when choosing the best mattress toppers for side sleepers . Although the difference with the previous option is one inch only, this extra inch does make a difference in terms of contouring and softness. Along with side sleepers, you can also benefit from a 3-inch pad if your mattress is starting to wear out and you want toadd some comfort.
It’s hard to point out any issue present in all 3-inch toppers because their variety on the market is very wide (meaning they could be made of different materials via different processes, and the drawbacks would be specific to each particular model). Still, some possible issues include increased weight and problems with heat removal.
Finally, the thickest option available today is 4 inches. It can really alter the feel of your bed. So, if your mattress is more than five years old, pairing it with such a thick pad may get you a couple of years more before you’ll have to replace your mattress.
The bad news is that the issues with weight and thermoregulation become more pronounced as the thickness increases.
How Thick Should A Mattress Topper BeIf…
Now, let me briefly walk you through themain scenarios in which you might benefit from using a mattress topper, and give you some tips on choosing the right model for each scenario.
You Have a Medical Condition
The most common reason people buy mattress toppers is torelieve pain. Whether you’re recovering from surgery or have chronic health conditions with painful episodes, chances are you need proper orthopedic support.
How thick should a mattress topper be in this case?
The thicker, the better.
3-inch mattress toppers work well for individuals with pain and limited mobility, as they offer less sinkage. However, if you don’t have trouble moving around your bed due to pain, you can even choose the4-inch thicknessand get even more cradling and more pronounced pain relief.
You may also want to check out our detailed guide on mattress toppers for hip pain and reviews of mattress pads designed for back pain relief .
You Want to Change How Your Bed Feels
Sometimes you buy a new mattress only to find out that it is too firm or too soft for you after the trial has already expired.
Or, your mattress may have started to sag but you aren’t ready to replace it yet.
So, which mattress topper should you choose for each situation?
- for a new mattress: the thickness of the topper depends on your desire to alter the overall feel. Typically, a 3-inch mattress topper will work great in most cases.
- for an old mattress:older beds usually pair well with 3 or 4-inch thick mattress toppers. If you own a memory foam bed, you may want to choose a firmer mattress pad , as foams tend to soften over time.
“Note that the material your topper is made of is also important. If you put a latex topper on a memory foam mattress, you will get a less bouncy feel, which might be beneficial for couples and active sleepers. At the same time, if you use a memory foam pad with an innerspring mattress, this will result in more sinkage, which may or may not be convenient for you.”
You’re a Hot Sleeper
Most mattress toppers with a cooling effect are designed to be 2 or 3 inches thick. It’s an optimal thickness to avoid trapping heat and remain comfortable. Meanwhile, a thicker topper may sleep hot, especially if it’s made of memory foam.
Some mattress toppers come as two separate layers, allowing you to experiment and choose the preferable thickness based on your experience. Such models typically sleep cooler compared to one-piece ones, even if made of memory foam.
You Have Allergies
Surprisingly, the thickness of a mattress topper may be a concern if you’re suffering from allergies. The thicker the topper is,the more debris and dust it can accumulate, which may trigger asthma and breathing disorders.
The main recommendations for choosing a mattress topper for allergy sufferers are the following:
- opt for thinner models;
- choose materials with higher density;
- give your preference to natural options, as they typically are hypoallergenic;
- find models with a washable zipped cover.
“Note that you can clean your mattress topper by gently rinsing it with lukewarm water. Don’t forget to allow it to dry naturally.”
You Share a Bed With Active Sleeper
Finally, a mattress pad can serve as amotion absorbing layer. This will come in handy if:
- you own a very bouncy mattress;
- your partner is an active sleeper;
- you sleep with a pet.
Memory foam is the best material in terms of motion control. Typically, a 3 or 4-inch memory foam topper can absorb all the sharp movements and provide you with restful sleep.
How To Choose a Mattress in 5 Easy Steps – The Definitive Guide
I think you will agree with me when I say that choosing the right mattress is no easy task?
First, you have to dispose of your old one and then go through a tedious process of selecting a new bed that will serve you well for years to come.
And having couple dozen options, manufacturers and handful types and materials doesn’t help, does it?
Luckily for you, you canfind out exactly how to pick a new mattressand most important thing to consider.
Table of contents (use it to jump to a certain section)
If you are in a hurry jump to our conclusion and summary.
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Step 1: Do You Really Need A New Mattress?
Many people change their beds after just a few years, and that’s perfectly fine if you can afford it. The fact is, it’s not a small investment, so take a moment to determine do you really need a new.
Generally, after seven or eight years you will most likely need a new mattress. Of course, it depends on the quality and material (we will cover the types and materials later in this article). And if you feel back or neck pain it might, your bedding is a good place to start.
Here is the average mattress lifespan in years based on material and type:
Step 2: Determine your Budget
A bit of personal backstory here…
Several years back I went to a store and purchased amattress priced at $2500which was not even the most expensive one there. During the first year or so it was perfect, and I felt rejuvenated, and I slept like a baby during that time.
But, something happened.
My new and awesome mattress started sagging and losing support and needless to say my back and neck suffered.
Another two years had passed until I decided to buy a new oneonline at $850and this is the same one I’m using today after three years. Back to reality.
Not anyone will have the budget to walk into a store and buy something for several thousand dollars. Luckily, these days there are manyonline optionsyou can choose from rangingfrom $500 to $1200. There are also Black Friday bed deals (and Cyber Monday) that can result in additional savings as well.
Don’t get confused here. More money does not mean better quality. If you think that some of these online options are somehow worse than in-store ones, you are badly mistaken.Stores tend to inflate the prices as much as 1000%.
Here are some guidelines for you:
- Don’t always go with the cheapest option you find– This is a rule of thumb for most products you buy online. Spending less than $500 for a queen mattress simply because it means lower durability, more toxins and lower sleep quality in general.
- Higher Price does not mean Higher Quality– I bet you know this one, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Go with $1000 range for Queen size– This is usually where you will find the best bang for your buck.
- King / Cal King will cost slightly more– I would increase the budget for King and California King to $1400-1500 as you will have many more choices in that range.
- Now that you have your new budget set, I’m guessing you are asking yourself“what type of mattress is best for me?”Let’s dig in.
Step 3: Choose Your Ideal Type and Material
Ok, so this is where most people will go with their personal preference rather than anything else. If someone says “latex is the best,” I would not take this as final until I read other opinions and test it myself. Here are the most common options you will find these days.
This is the most traditional form of the mattress, and as of late, it’s received a bad rap. However, it is important to understand the potential benefits you could receive from going the traditional route, as well as the reasons why this option has lost its luster.
An obvious pro to purchasing a bed with springs is that it is one of themost affordable optionson the market, due in part to a decrease in demand and also in part to so many other options that have the potential to be more comfortable andbetter for overall health.
Another consideration is that these mattresses are known to last for decades. Spring beds are exceedingly durable. Being that the springs are typically made from different types of metals, they tend to keep their shape for many years.
Additionally, being that they are the most traditional style, they are also the most familiar. People recognize and understand what they are getting when they purchase a bed with springs. There is no guess work with this option like there may be with memory foam or other newer options.
The last notable advantage to this style of bed is that, because of the amount of space located between the springs, this option allows for the most circulation of air. This flow helps to keep the temperature down, allowing for acooler night’s sleep.
Example of the coil mattresses structure
Ideal for: People who want strong support, durability, cooling and great bounce. It also has an excellent edge support.
These mattresses are known for their fantastic cooling and comfort. Latex has a good bounce, responsiveness too.
Authentic latex foam is made from a tree called Hevea-Brasilenis tree, specifically from the white liquid extracted from it. Latex is harvested, and when the excess water is removed, you end up with raw material fantastic for various products, bedding systems being one of them.
It’s also great because you don’t get off-gassing and odors like with memory foam products.
Example of the latex bed structure
There are two types to choose from:
- Natural – More healthy option and environment-friendly. But it’s also more expensive so expect to pay around $2000 for a good natural latex mattress
- Synthetic – Made by mixing synthetic polymers with natural tree sap. Less expensive of course but less healthy in turn.
Latex is best forpeople who want good cooling, responsiveness, and bounce.
Memory foam was first developed in the 1970’s by NASA as a safety material for seat cushions to protect pilots and passengers during plane crashes. Since then, the material has blossomed into the burgeoning product employed by virtually every mattress maker.
Example of the memory foam bed structure
Why has it become so popular? The answer is that it is said to provide superior comfort and support for the entire body. Anyone who’s pressed their hand into this material immediately understands its appeal.
Memory foam uniquelyconforms to every inch of the bodythat is pressed into it. When you lift your body from the material, it slowly regains its original form, essentially making it perfect for every body type and every sleeper.
Another unique property of memory foam is itsmotion isolationcapabilities. You may have seen those commercials with a lady jumping on a mattress with a glass of wine at the other end. Miraculously, the wine doesn’t spill.
The wine doesn’t spill because the energy from jumping is not transferred to other parts of the mattress. This translates to better sleeping for partners, because the tossing and turning of one does not affect the other, a feature that is not found among any of the other options on the market.
One of the most common issues that people experience is that thematerial retains heat. If you are someone who requires a cool night sleep, the memory foam option may not be the best choice for you. While the manufacturers are coming up with new and better ways to keep the heat down, the jury is still out as to whether or not they’ve succeeded.
Ideal For: People who want body shaping, contour, pressure relief and good support.
The hybrid mattress is an unusual combination of both traditional spring and memory foam. Providing the best of both worlds, this option offers the contouring and lack of motion transfer of foam coupled with the support of springs.
Structure of the hybrid bed- example
The term “hybrid” is very loosely used to describe the combination we just mentioned. However, the amount of foam for these beds varies widely depending on the level of firmness desired. Some options employ less than 1.5 inches of foam, lending to the fact that they more closely resemble that of a traditional spring bed rather than the more modern memory foam option.
To find the most optimal version of a hybrid, it’s best to choose the one that hasclose to 3 inches of foam. Anything above that, and you might as well forego the springs all together.
One negative aspect of these beds is the fact that they are one of the more expensive offerings you’ll find. Purchasing one of these could put you in the multiples of thousands of dollars, a significant investment, but a worthy one if you plan to enjoy it long term.
Good For: People who want best all around product with good support, bounce, cooling and pressure relief.
And now the three less common but still important types:
These beds offer a unique ability tochange the sleeping positionbased on your preference. You can elevate the head or feet giving you more options than traditional products. These beds provide extra comfort for people suffering from chronic lumbar pain or just want to be slightly elevated to prevent snoring. They do look ugly though most of the time.
Perfect for: People with certain medical conditions like snoring, older sleepers and people with lower back pain.
These are usually coil, latex or memory foam beds buthave a layer of soft material sewn into the cover to make it more comfortable. These are also considered more luxurious and usually cost a bit more than standard options.
Good for: People who prefer more padding and softer feel.
A rather weird option, but sometimes very fun especially if you love waterbed sex. Some of the most common reasons for opting in for this type is a backache and arthritis relief. These beds are also great for people with allergies.
Good for: People with back pain, arthritis and allergies and anyone looking for something less conventional.
Step 4. Determine your Ideal Sleeping Position and Firmness
Most of us have a unique way of sleeping every night. No matter if you sleep on your side, stomach or back, or even if you switch throughout the night you will have to consider and choose the ideal type of bed based on your preference. So, take a moment and think, what’s your favorite sleeping position because that determines theideal firmness of your new bed.
The most important factor for back sleepers is firmness and support. If your mattress is too soft, your body will sink and cause back pain. You will need one that’s soft enough to provide pressure relief but still provides enough support. On a scale of 1-10, the perfect range would be 5-7.
According to The Better Sleep Council, only roughly 15% of people are back sleepers. Being that you are unique, it’ll take a special mattress to offer you the night’s rest you are seeking.
It’s the consensus that memory foam mattresses provide the highest level of comfort for people who sleep on their backs. This is because it provides adequate contouring to the spine while maintaining a longevity of proper support and structure.
Many people who often sleep on their sides, endure discomfort and pain in their hip joints and shoulders.It’s usually due to unsuitable bedding.
It’s advised that you go with a bit softer option than for a back sleeper as these they provide for an equal distribution of pressure while you’re sleeping on your side.
Ideally, you want to choose a mattress with firmness level of 3-6 (out of 10) which falls undermedium soft.
This is considered the worst sleeping position. The most important thing for stomach sleepers is to provide equal distribution of weight across your entire body as your torso will apply most pressure. If the mattress is too soft (not enough support) your spine will curve causing back pain.
You will want to look for something in 5-7 range, which falls undermedium to medium-firm. The good thing is that most options are in this range.
Step 5. Consider your Weight as a Factor
On first glance, you might be asking yourself,what does weight have to do with choosing a mattress?
The truth is, support, hug, feel, sinkage and even cooling will depend on your body type and weight. Another harsh truth is that there is no “best” mattress for every one of us.
Let’s take a look at the following guidelines how to choose an ideal firmness level based on your weight:
- Light (Less than 150 pounds)– You will want a medium firm bed around5-6 firmnessthat doesn’t sink too much. If you are lighter than 150 lbs, you can even go with four since most beds are rated for average sleeper of 180lbs.
If you want a softer feel or if you are a side sleeper you can opt for 3-4 firmness range. These are soft orplush options.
- Average (150-200 pounds)– Like with the previous category you can choose industrystandard of 5-7, providing perfect support and comfort.
Some sleepers will want to opt for more softer beds, and that’s perfectly fine, just go with 3-5 range if you sleep on your side and you are all set.
- Heavier Person (200+ pounds)– Heavier people can cause more pressure points on their back, and ideally you want to choose a firmer option to adjust for sinkage. If you are having problems with cooling, you ought to consider coil mattresses.
Ideally, choose a thick (12”) or thicker bed. This will provide good support and soft feel.
How to Select the Right Mattress for You – Summary
Hopefully, you have finished reading the above but even if you haven’t these five steps will ease your task of choosing a mattress for you or your family.
- Do you need a new mattress?– If your current bed is over eight years old, I’d consider replacing it no matter what. If you are having trouble sleeping or experiencing back or neck pain I would start searching.
- What is your current budget?– Don’t go with the cheapest option you find. Aim for $700-1200 range for a standard queen size bed (see top options). Of course, if you are buying smaller ones for your kid or teenager, the price will be considerably lower. Don’t spend less than $400 though. The quality drop-off is huge.
- What are your ideal type and material?– This is hands down the biggest challenge. Memory foam offers good contour and hug but sleeps hot. Traditional coil ones provide good bounce and cooling and are generally more durable. I recommend foam or hybrid to most people except for heavier sleepers who should opt for innerspring.
- What’s your preferred sleeping position?– This determines your ideal firmness level. On a scale of 1-10 (one being soft and ten being very firm), back sleepers will want to opt for a medium firm (4-7), side sleepers for more softer option (3-5) and stomach sleepers will need more support to avoid sinking (6-7 range).
- What’s your body type and weight?– Lighter sleepers (150lbs or less) will want a 1-2 points softer mattress to get the same feel like an average (180lbs) person. On the other hand, if you are a heavier person you will need more support and thicker mattress to support the weight.
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.
How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress
Ready for a new mattress? Here’s how to find the one that suits you best.
Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of different factors — comfort, stress level, room temperature вЂ“ but to get it right, you’ve got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber.
If you’re in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you?
To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment
"If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment," Shamie tells WebMD. "If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back." Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning.
Generally speaking, one type or brand of bed isn’t better than another, says Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.But he does find that a firmer bed seems to be better for people with lower back pain.
In fact, researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain and found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale people who slept on a medium-to-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less back pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.
Is It Time for a New Mattress?
How do you know if the bed you’re sleeping on is the right one?
"If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you," Breus says.
The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air, Breus says.
If you’re looking for a new mattress, experts suggest testing it in the store and laying down on each mattress in the position in which you normally sleep. Breus suggests spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the bed. And, bring your own pillow! The more you can replicate the way you’ll be sleeping on the mattress once you get it home, the better your chances of picking the right one.
Innerspring mattresses are still by far the most widely used. They support you with coil springs, and in most built today, each coil is individually enclosed. This helps the bed weather years of use and prevents the coils from popping out of the mattress. On top of the coils are a wide variety of materials added for comfort, from pillow to latex to memory foam. It’s all a matter of preference.
Salespeople may try to sell you on the idea that more coils mean more comfort, but that’s not necessarily true, Breus and Shamie say.
"You don’t really need a coil count above 390," Breus says. Beyond that, the difference in feel is so small it would be difficult to notice.
Pros:There are plenty of innerspring mattresses on the market from which to choose. They range in firmness, the fluffiness of the pillow top, and in price to fit nearly every preference and pocket book.
Cons:There’s no direct relationship in most cases between price and comfort, but Shamie suggests steering clear of the cheapest innerspring mattress. If there aren’t enough springs and cushion to offer you proper support, he says, you’ll likely wake up with an aching back.
Conditions:For someone who is very overweight, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of, Breus says. Firmer versions are good for people with back pain. But spring-based mattresses can be comfortable for almost anyone.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. They are made of layers of different densities of foam that respond to weight and temperature, and are known for comfort because they contour to the specific shape of your body. Memory foam toppers are also available.
Pros:By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points, and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
Cons:One of the biggest complaints with memory foam mattresses is that because these mattresses are temperature sensitive, softening and molding with your body heat, they can make you feel extremely hot during the night. Breus also says memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.
Conditions:"If you have a hard time getting comfortable, if you have chronic fatigue, or some type of muscle pain, then a memory foam mattress would work well for you, assuming you don’t have temperature issues," Breus says.
Latex mattresses are made from either natural or synthetic rubber, and are known for providing a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed.
Pros:"Quite frankly, I think one of the best materials is latex," Breus says. He likes it for being very firm and supportive, but also for providing comfort similar to memory foam. Unlike the memory foam mattresses, however, Breus says latex pushes back, ultimately providing more support.
Cons:If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.
Conditions: Either a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is great for relieving back pain because they offer the best combination of comfort and support, Breus says.
We’re not talking about the blow-up mattresses you put your holiday guests on for a few days. Higher-end air beds look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.
Shamie notes that air beds have long been used for patients with spinal cord injuries who are lying in bed for a long time. They can be adjusted so they don’t continue to press on the same areas of the body, which helps to avoid skin breakdown in patients who can’t move.
Pros:"Couples who have dramatic differences in their individual preference for comfort and firmness levels might do very well with an air mattress," Breus says. The reason is that the firmness of each side of the bed can be altered. If you like it firmer than your partner, these beds can be adjusted for that.
Like latex and memory foam, you can also find air toppers for your mattress.
Cons:Shamie says people sometimes fail to make their air bed firm enough and wake up with back aches. Less sophisticated air mattresses also pop up on one side when you sit on the opposite end. For that reason Breus says, you want multiple chambers so that doesn’t occur.
Conditions:These beds are particularly useful when sleeping partners have different needs. If one of you has a bad back, one side can be made firmer than the other to provide greater support.
These beds are able to bend and elevate at varying angles. As a result, the mattress has to be flexible. Different types of mattresses can be used on an adjustable bed вЂ“ memory foam, latex, or air, for example. Spring mattresses are more difficult to use, however, because the springs don’t handle the bending well.
Pros:For people who have difficulty getting in and out of bed or who like to watch television in bed, Shamie says, adjustables can make life easier by moving you closer to where you need to be.
Conditions:If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping flat can make the condition worse by cutting off airways and causing the tongue to fall into the back of the throat, Shamie says. People who experience acid reflux can also benefit by sleeping in a bed that elevates their upper body.
Shamie also suggests adjustable beds for people with hip or back pain who have a hard time moving from a lying position to sitting up or standing.
When you have guests staying for a night or two, sofa beds come in handy. The mattresses in these beds tend to be very thin so they are flexible enough to fold and collapse into the couch. It’s a great convenience to have a sofa bed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who raves about their comfort.
Pros:Sofa beds are convenient, especially if you have limited space. But from a health perspective, Shamie and Breus don’t see any advantages.
Cons:A night or two on a sofa bed is OK. But "this is probably the worst kind of bed you can sleep on long-term," Shamie says. The mattresses used in most sofa beds are very thin and the springs quite weak. "It really leads to an uncomfortable situation," Shamie says.
If you’re really tight for space and need a bed that folds up, Shamie says that futons, while not the most supportive, are better for your back than the typical sofa bed.
Conditions:There are no conditions for which a sofa bed will be helpful, according to the experts. But if you have a bad back or hips, these beds will be especially uncomfortable.
When to Part With Your Old Mattress
Today’s mattresses are made to last a lifetime. But you probably shouldn’t plan on keeping yours for that long. Our bodies change over time, Breus says, so the mattress that was once a joy to sleep on may no longer feel comfortable a few years down the road.
In addition, mattresses collect dust mites, fungus, and other germs that can exacerbate allergies and impact your sleep patterns. After 10 to 15 years, it’s time to think about buying a new bed.
Ultimately, the experts say that the best bed for you is the one that feels most comfortable. And remember, Shamie says, "There’s no mattress that’s going to save your body when you get only five hours of sleep." In order to feel your best, you need to get enough restвЂ¦ no matter what type of mattress you’re sleeping on.
Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.
Breus, Michael, PhD, WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep
Kovacs, FM.The Lancet, November 2003; vol 362: pp 1599-1604.
How To Choose A Mattress Topper
Replacing your mattress can be very expensive, so a mattress topper is a great way to revitalize or change the style of your bed instead.
With some careful research, the right one will give you what you need at a fraction of the cost of a brand new mattress.
In this article, you’ll find both a list of the key factors which can help inform your decision making, and also a breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of material.
By cross-referencing the two sections, you’ll hopefully have a clearer idea about which type will be the right kind for you.
Do I need a mattress pad, topper, protector, cover or encasement?
First of all, it’s useful to understand the difference between the various categories of products available for your mattress.
Mattress covers, protectors and encasements
These are all about protecting your mattress (or topper) from catastrophic spills and/or providing hypoallergenic protection from allergens such as dust mite.
Reducing the living space for bed bugs is also a good reason to use a 6 sided encasement! This completely encloses your mattress rather than just being a fitted sheet with extras.
Different manufacturers use different terminology, so it’s important to check what the product does, and how many sides it fits. They can also sometimes included a padded top to offer some extra comfort. But their main function is usually protection.
Mattress pads might add some extra padding and comfort, but it still won’tusuallybe as much as a topper. Much like covers or protectors, they are often designed to protect against fluids, oils and spills, or help with allergies.
You can also find heated pads for use in the winter, and cooling pads for the summer (or any time really) if you have issues with overheating in bed.
Some mattress pads are designed to do more than one job, which might affect the overall feel, quality and price.
A mattress topper is likely to add a more significant layer of softness, cushioning or support for your body than the previous categories.
You can even use both at the same time to further improve the quality of your bed. By placing a mattress pad, cover or encasement over the topper, you can help protect both the topper and the mattress.
Having said that, some companies use the terms interchangeably. They may call their product a topper or pad, but it’s actually much thicker or thinner than you would usually associate with that category.
So it’s always worth checking how much padding it actually provides, along with the features.
- Encasement:completely encloses your mattress on all 6 sides to protect it from damage, and you from allergens like dust mite and bed bugs.
- Cover/protector:protects the mattress from damage, but often only on 5 sides like a fitted sheet. May provide some allergen reduction too.
- Pad:might add some comfort, protection or help with temperature regulation.
- Topper:a thicker layer that’s designed to add comfort or better body support.
Key points to consider when choosing a topper
With so many types of mattress topper, it’s perhaps more helpful to first decide what you want or need from yours. Then you can work out which material will best meet your needs.
Personal preference (and even gut feeling) will probably play a role too. But if you like to weigh up the pros and cons, here are some of the key factors to take into account.
A higher price doesn’t necessarily guarantee it would be betterfor you personally. It’s about meeting your needs, not simply buying the most expensive you can afford.
Plain egg crate foam, polyester and some cotton toppers tend to be the cheapest. With higher quality cotton, feather and down in the middle. Memory foam and wool can be quite expensive, with latex even more so.
B) Pain relief, firmness and extra support
If it’s extra support for your back and limbs that you need, memory foam and latex are usually more effective than the other materials. They are better at holding the shape of your body and supporting your natural posture.
C) Comfort and Softness
With such a dizzying range of materials, brands, densities and thicknesses you should be able to find the perfect level of softness and comfort. But your definition of comfort may be different from the next person’s.
Would you prefer a topper which molds to your body, such as with latex or memory foam? Or are you more suited to a naturally soft material such as down or cotton?
In many ways, achieving softness is much easier than firmness with a mattress topper. You could try a low density memory foam topper, or one of the many relatively inexpensive fabric toppers which literally just add an extra layer of soft material.
D) Thickness and density options
Toppers tend to fall in the range of between 2 and 8 inches thick. If you need to revitalize an aging mattress, sleep on your side, or if you weigh more than average, you may need to look at thicker options. The materials with the best range of thickness are memory foam and latex.
In addition, the density of a topper is important in determining how much support it will provide you. Memory foam and latex toppers tend to have the most choice, allowing you to find just the right comfort level you need.
See the memory foam section below for more information about thickness and density.
E) Reducing the noise of a partner moving
Memory foam and latex are good at reducing the transmission of movement from your partner. So if you sleep with someone whose tossing and turning keep you awake, they are good choices.
F) Body heat
Memory foam and latex mattress toppers tend to retain the most body heat. The thicker and denser they are, the hotter they can feel, despite the attempts of manufacturers to add elements like gel cooling or ventilation tubes.
Wool, down and feather toppers are good all year round, as they provide extra warmth in winter yet reduce heat in summer. Don’t forget that the outside material can also contribute to the temperature by wicking away sweat.
Some materials are better for certain allergies, so it’s worth checking the list below. Some are also more resistant to bed bugs, mites, mildew and mold than others.
H) Ease of cleaning and moving
Remember that you need to remove it from the packaging, get it onto the bed and potentially remove it for cleaning. So do be aware of the overall weight of the mattress topper.
Egg crate is the easiest to transport, whilst feather, down and cotton are easier to move than memory foam or latex.
Some toppers can be machine washed, but many can’t. It can be a chore if it needs to be done by hand, which is another good reason to use a cover as well.
The standard warranty time seems to be around 2 years for many mattress toppers. But this can be as short as one year and as long as 5 years. But remember that you won’t get a replacement just because it’s compressed under your weight over time.
What type of material to choose
Mattress toppers come in a range of very different styles and materials. So it’s important to know both what you hope to gain from using a topper, and what the pros and cons are of each material.
Let’s take a look now at the different types to give you a better idea of what your options are.
Latex toppers tend to be expensive, but like memory foam, can provide excellent support and comfort.
Natural latex comes from the sap of rubber trees, and is produced by one of two processes: Dunlop or Talalay (hence the name some toppers have).
Some latex toppers have mostly natural ingredients. Synthetic latex is, you guessed it, mostly made from synthetic materials. And blended has a mix of the two. Check before buying if this is an important consideration for you.
- Excellent at providing comfort and pain relief at pressure points by cushioning your body. Good for keeping your body aligned.
- Usually firmer than memory foam, but still feels comfortable.
- Natural latex might have better resistance to microbe and dust mite build up.
- Very durable.
- Excellent at preventing motion transmission from your partner.
- Usually not as hot as memory foam.
- Can be expensive.
- Can feel hot in the summer if it isn’t a high-quality latex topper.
- Often quite heavy to move.
2) Memory foam
Memory foam is one of the most popular choices of both mattress and mattress topper nowadays.
A high-end memory foam mattress can be incredibly expensive though, so a topper is a good way to get some of the benefits of memory foam without breaking the bank.
- The memory foam will conform to your body, providing a supportive and relaxing surface to sleep on.
- It can provide support if you have joint, muscular or back pain.
- It helps reduce how much the noise and movement of a restless partner disturbs your sleep.
- You can get it in a range of densities, so you can find the right firmness to suit you.
- It’s durable, hopefully lasting for many years to warrant the higher price.
- Memory foam sometimes has quite a strong chemical smell at first, though it dissipates after a few days.
- You may find it holds body heat, so if you tend to overheat, look for a breathable memory foam topper.
Understanding memory foam thickness and density
Whether you’re looking at memory foam mattresses or memory foam toppers, you’ll find a confusing range of thickness and density options.
It’s useful to understand that both elements affect the level of comfort and support. The spectrum of thickness and density keeps expanding, but let’s take a look at the difference between the most commonly found figures of each.
The choice of density of a mattress topper is very important, and is measured in pounds per cubic feet, or kg/m3 in some countries.
Most toppers have a density ranging between 2 and 6+ pounds per cubic feet. Higher density usually means higher cost, but also much better support for the body and longer-lasting conformity to your body shape.
3 pounds or under per cubic feet– will feel much softer and less supportive than higher densities. Your body will sink into it faster than higher densities. More light-weight and easily transported too.
4 to 5 pounds per cubic feet– a good option for most people, providing a balance of soft, yet supportive surface. Will mold to your body a little slower than lower densities.
6+ pounds per cubic feet– better for people who have medical needs and/or in need of a high level of support for the body. Will take longer to conform to your body shape and weight, and support you for much longer than lower densities.
And if you’re a heavy person, a higher density might be a better choice so you can benefit from the extra support for longer during the night.
Most memory foam toppers are either 1, 2, 3 or 4 inches thick:
1 to 2 inches– usually provides a little extra comfort, but can be quite firm if the density is also high. Good for those with a firm mattress who just need a little extra comfort and support for the body.
3 inches– a popular choice if you’re not sure which thickness to choose. Provides a good level of softness and support.
4 inches– provides even more support for the body parts that most need it.
Some density + thickness combination examples
So now we have a rough idea of how density and thickness affect the comfort and support, how do you choose the best combination?
A rule of thumb is that higher density means you can get enough support with less thickness. But a 2 inch topper with a low density really won’t provide much support and could be too soft.
Likewise, a very thick topper with a very high density might prove unnecessarily firm, not to mention heavy.
Here are two useful examples:
1.You prefer a firm surface or sleep on your front
Try a thinner 2 or 2.5 inch topper with a high density of 4+ pounds. That will provide good support (the density) but stop you sinking into the topper in an uncomfortable way (the thinner material).
2.You sleep on your side or back
Try a medium thickness of 3 inches to get more support for your back and limbs. Then either a low density of 3 pounds to add some softness, or a higher density of more than 4 pounds to provide firmer support if you prefer that.
The reality, however, is that with the huge range of material types, additional layers, and variation of manufacturing between countries and companies, it’s hard to predict exactly how a mattress topper will feel.
So it’s worth asking in advance if the company can offer advice based on your size and needs. And if you can try one in a store or they have a returns policy if you’re not happy with the topper.
At the opposite end of the material spectrum is the natural material of wool. It can be fairly expensive too, but there are some good reasons for this.
- It’s a naturally soft and comfortable material.
- It’s durable, often lasting for many years.
- It’s ideal for allergy sufferers who may have problems with synthetic materials.
- Bed bugs and mites generally stay away from wool.
- Good for keeping cool in summer and warm in winter.
- More expensive than other other fabric materials.
- Doesn’t provide the same cushioning as memory foam.
4) Goose and duck down or feathers
Bedding made from goose or duck feathers, or softer and more luxurious down, is known for its softness and comforting feel. If you’re an allergy sufferer or need a firmer topper though, it may not be right for you.
- That soft, luxurious feel that many people have come to love from down-filled duvets and pillows.
- Durable, often lasting for several years.
- Helps reduce movement disturbance.
- Good temperature regulation in the summer and winter months.
- Not ideal if you need a firmer topper to help with aches and pains.
- May not be thick enough to disguise a lumpy mattress.
- Risk of feathers eventually poking through, though good quality toppers are designed to avoid this. And down should minimize this risk compared to feathers.
- May need fluffing to keep shape (getting a segmented topper can help with this).
5) Cotton and polyester
There’s a vast range of mattress toppers and pads made from cotton, and often with a mixture of cotton, polyester and other materials. The price can also vary greatly with these.
- The possibility of finding extremely soft high-thread count material.
- Range of options from synthetic to organic.
- Often easier to clean than other materials.
- Polyester toppers can be very affordable.
- Not as durable as other materials like latex, wool and memory foam. The cotton is more likely to compress in a shorter time.
- High-quality cotton can be quite expensive.
6) Egg crate
Egg crate mattress toppers refer to the shape, specifically the little bumps as you can see in the photo.
It’s important to note though that you can get an egg crate topper made either from good quality memory foam or from more basic foam.
Because of that, the price can vary a lot for products which may appear identical at first glance.
Since we’ve already looked at memory foam above, let’s have a look at what you get from the more basic foam models.
Since it’s made from foam, it might not provide the same luxury as other types, but it’s a good choice if you’re on a lower budget or are using it for camping.
- Generally cheaper than other types of material.
- Light-weight and thin so it’s easy to roll up and transport.
- Good to use for camping or holidays.
- Can be placed on top of each other to get a thicker padding.
- Doesn’t provide as much padding or comfort as other materials.
- Less durable and can start to fall apart with frequent use.
- Can be warm in the summer months.
You might also like
For some specific recommendations of excellent mattress toppers in each category, you might like to read my mattress topper reviews .