How Firm A Mattress Should I Get

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How to buy the best mattress

We explain how to find the best mattress without paying thousands of pounds.

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Do you want a good night’s sleep? Deciding which type of mattress to buy is only part of the story. Whether you prefer a pocket-sprung or a memory-foam mattress, our tests have found big differences between the best and worst of each mattress ‘type’.

Make the wrong choices and you risk being lumbered with a needlessly expensive mattress that’s uncomfortable, unsupportive and unable to stand the test of time without sagging and softening.

Thankfully, we’ve explained everything you need to know below to ensure you get the right mattress.

Video: how to buy the best mattress

Watch our video to help you pick the perfect mattress for your sleeping position, body shape and bedroom.

Types of mattress

Pocket-sprung, latex and memory-foam mattresses have all impressed in our tough tests, so the type of mattress you choose really comes down to personal preference and budget.

Pocket-sprung mattresses

If you want a traditional mattress with natural fillings, such as wool, you’ll want a pocket-sprung mattress.

With these, each spring is enclosed in its own fabric ‘pocket’ – each reacts to pressure from your body independently. However, these can be pricey and our tests show they can sag significantly over time.

Memory-foam mattresses

Memory-foam mattresses can be more durable and mould to your body shape but, in some cases, this can increase your body temperature and restrict your movement.

For more information about mattress types, see our guide to choosing the best type of mattress.

How much does a good mattress cost?

A new mattress can cost anywhere between £100 and several thousand. Factors such as brand, size and the types of material used can all have a significant impact on cost.

But, as the graph below shows, our mattress tests have found you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a mattress that will support your spine and last for years to come. Take a look at our list of the best cheap mattresses.

Number of Best Buy mattresses by price

What are the best mattress brands?

Our April 2018 survey of more than 5,000 mattress owners revealed that three in 10 Which? members bought their current mattress because it’s made by a brand they trust. If you’re not sure what the best mattress brands are, we can help.

Check out our guide to the best and worst mattress brands. This reveals what people think of the brand of mattress they own, including how comfortable their mattress is, and covers major brands such as Casper, Ikea, John Lewis, Sealy and Silentnight.

Soft vs firm mattresses

When it comes to firmness, the most important thing is to buy a mattress that you find comfortable.

Don’t buy a mattress that’s firmer than you’d like on the assumption that it will be more supportive. Time and again, our tests have shown you don’t have to buy a firm mattress to get excellent and long-lasting support.

Equally, don’t assume that a firm mattress in one store will feel the same in other shops. Firmness is subjective and manufacturers describe the firmness of their mattresses in a range of different ways.

That’s why we don’t use terms such as soft and firm in our reviews. Instead, we objectively test mattress firmness on a scale of one to 10, where one is the firmest and 10 the softest, so you can easily compare the firmness of different mattresses.

We also measure how supportive each mattress is for a range of different body sizes and sleeping positions.

Use our mattress reviews to arm yourself with a shortlist of supportive mattresses to try out in store.

Best mattresses: features to look out for

As mattresses serve a single basic function – to help us sleep – they don’t come overloaded with jazzy features. But there are still a few things to look out for.

  • One-sidedAs the name suggests, only one side of a one-sided mattress is designed to be slept on. Mattresses can be extremely heavy – the heaviest we’ve seen weighs more than 50kg – so you may be relieved not to feel obliged to flip it. You’ll probably still need to rotate it from head to toe, though, so it’s a good idea to check the ease of use rating in our mattress reviews.
  • Natural fillingsMany pocket-sprung mattresses also contain layers of synthetic fillings, such as foam. If you’re keen to avoid these, look out for mattresses specifically claim to be made using only natural materials.
  • Memory foamSimilarly, just because a mattress contains memory foam doesn’t make it a memory-foam mattress. We only class a mattress as memory foam if it contains more than just a token layer of the body moulding material. See all our memory foam mattress reviews.

Try before you buy

Buying a mattress online may be cheaper and more convenient but, unless you’re buying a bed-in-a-box mattress (see below), it’s always best to try before you buy.

When we asked Which? members about their experience of buying a mattress, more than a third of them told us they feel intimidated trying out a mattress in the shop. A good mattress shop shouldn’t mind you doing this. See our guide on the best mattress shops.

When trying out a mattress in-store:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and remove your outdoor gear.
  • Lie on a mattress for at least 10 minutes, in positions that you normally sleep in.
  • If the bed is for two, go with your partner.
  • Don’t shop for beds when you’re tired, as all the mattresses will feel great.
  • Don’t let sales assistants influence you – they can’t decide whether the mattress is comfortable for you.

If you’re buying a memory foam mattress, relax in one position, then move into another. Was it easy or did you struggle to move? If the latter, you might find the memory mattress will restrict your movement too much, especially in cold weather when the memory foam will be harder.

Should you buy a mattress online?

If you’re looking for a bargain mattress, one option is to try a few mattresses out in a shop, before going home to search for the best price online. That’s what 5% of Which? members did when they bought their last mattress, according to our 2018 survey of more than 5,000 mattress owners.

But around 14% bought online without trying their mattress first. That sounds risky – especially when we’ve just recommended you try a mattress before you buy – but it’s not if you buy a bed-in-a-box mattress.

Bed-in-a-box mattresses

These are mattresses that are bought online, vacuum-packed into a box and delivered direct to your door, and there are three reasons you should consider one:

  1. By cutting out the retailer and selling direct from manufacturer to consumer, many brands claim you’re getting a higher-quality mattress for less.
  2. Most online-only mattresses offer a sleep trial of at least 10 weeks. During this time you can try the mattress at home and send it back for a full refund if you don’t like it. In most cases, the manufacturer will collect the unwanted mattress from your house for free before recycling it or donating it to charity.
  3. We’re yet to test a bad one. More than half of the Best Buy mattresses we’ve uncovered can only be bought in a box.

Make sure your mattress fits your bed base

Manufacturers may encourage you to buy a mattress and bed base together, and this is a good idea if you’ve had your old base for many years.

If you buy the mattress and base separately, or are going to keep your old base, measure carefully to make sure they’re a good fit. Dimensions can vary so don’t rely on a new double mattress being exactly the same size as your old one.

Is your mattress going on to a slatted base? Then make sure that the slats are no more than 6cm wide or more than 4cm apart. This ensures sufficient ventilation, while preventing the mattress sagging through between the slats.

For more information, read our guide: What bed size do you need?

Check the guarantee/warranty on your mattress

Make sure you know what your rights are if there’s a problem with your mattress.

Most guarantees for mattresses will not cover gradual wear and tear, which leads to loss of support. So make sure you use our mattress reviews to pick out a durable mattress that will stand the test of time.

Most online-only mattresses offer a sleep trial of at least 10 weeks.

Before you buy your mattress, check whether there’s anything in particular, such as removing labels or using a base other than a recommended one, that would invalidate the guarantee.

Now you know how to go about buying the best mattress for you, check out ourbest mattressrecommendationsto reveal the mattresses that will support your spine and last for years.

How Much Does a Good Mattress Cost?

Quick Overview

Mattresses sold today range in price from $150 or less to more than $5,000, but most shoppers can find the mattress they need for under $1,000. The price-point of a mattress depends on several factors, including type, size, height, material composition, and durability.

This guide offers shopping tips for comparing mattresses based on different factors and finding the right model for you and your sleep partner at a reasonable price.

Average Mattress Prices

Mattress type impacts the price-point more than any other factor. The price range of foam mattresses, for example, varies significantly from the price ranges of latex or hybrid models. The table below features current price ranges for five common mattress types; please note that the prices listed below are for Queen-size models. Click the links in the left-hand column to read our full analyses of each mattress type.

Mattress TypeLow Price RangeMedium Price RangeHigh Price RangeAverage Price-Point (Queen)
InnerspringLess than $700$700 to $1,200More than $1,200$1,038
FoamLess than $600$600 to $1,200More than $1,200$1,044
LatexLess than $1,500$1,500 to $2,500More than $2,500$1,971
HybridLess than $1,500$1,500 to $2,200More than $2,200$2,077
AirbedLess than $1,500$1,500 to $2,500More than $2,500$2,283

Cost Factors for Different Mattress Types

Next, let’s look at some factors that influence the price of different mattress types.

Cost Factors for Innerspring Mattresses

Here are some important considerations to make when looking at innersprings:

  • The price-point of an innerspring mattress is often tied to durability and lifespan. Cheaper models tend to feature polyfoam comfort layers and bonnell coils, which typically perform for three to five years. Costlier innersprings may feature memory foam or latex in the comfort layer and more durable coils — such as offset or continuous-wire coils — in the support core.
  • Some innersprings are constructed with pocketed (or fabric-wrapped) coils; it’s important to note that mattresses featuring at least two inches of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort layer and pocketed coils in the support core are technically considered hybrids, not innersprings.
  • Gauge (or thickness) can be used to determine how durable a mattress coil is; thicker low-gauge coils are more durable than thinner high-gauge coils.
  • Many mattress manufacturers list ‘coil count’ as a measure of quality and durability — and the price may reflect this — but coil count does not necessarily reflect the lifespan of an innerspring mattress.

Cost Factors for Foam Mattresses

Foam mattresses are typically priced using the following criteria:

  • Foam density plays a role in mattress durability, and is a key factor for foam mattress pricing. Low-density foams are softer and tend to deteriorate quickly, and are most often used in relatively cheap mattress models. High-density foams are firmer and tend to last longer; they are usually used in models with more expensive price-points.
  • Another key consideration is the type of foam used. Polyfoam (even high-density polyfoam) will degrade faster than most memory foams. As a result, the cost of an all-polyfoam mattress is usually much lower than the cost of a memory foam mattress. Likewise, mattresses with specialty memory foam (such as gel or copper-infused memory foam) are more expensive than those with standard memory foam.
  • Most sleepers feel more comfortable on memory foam than polyfoam. However, price-point does not appear to be a significant factor in customer experiences with memory foam compared to performance factors like firmness and conforming/pressure-relieving abilities. For this reason, shoppers may be able to find a memory foam mattress that suits their preferences at a relatively low price.

Cost Factors for Latex Mattresses

The price of a latex mattress is often determined by the following factors:

  • Latex in mattresses is produced using one of two processes. The Dunlop process produces denser and heavier latex that is most often used in support cores. The Talalay process produces lighter and less dense latex that is typically used in comfort layers. Talalay latex tends to be more expensive than Dunlop latex, but some mattresses contain both.
  • The price of a latex mattress will also depend on whether natural or synthetic latex is used. Natural latex is extracted from rubber trees and produced without fillers using either the Dunlop or Talalay process. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is entirely manmade, but is still processed using the Talalay or Dunlop method. The differences in firmness and feel between natural and synthetic latex are negotiable. However, sleepers are much more susceptible to allergic reactions on natural latex.
  • An important distinction for shoppers is the difference between ‘natural latex’ and ‘100% natural latex’; the latter does not contain any fillers whatsoever, while the former may not be entirely natural. In some cases, mattresses sold as ‘natural latex’ are actually made of mostly synthetic latex.

Cost Factors for Hybrid Mattresses

Cost considerations for hybrid mattresses include the following points:

  • In order to be considered a true hybrid, a mattress must have at least two inches of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort system and a pocketed coil support core. Many mattresses are sold as hybrids, even though they don’t meet this criteria. For example, some models sold as hybrids feature latex and memory foam components, but the support core is made of polyfoam, not pocketed coils.
  • Some hybrids feature a layer of microcoils in the comfort system for added conforming and pressure relief. Models with microcoil layers are usually more expensive than standard foam-and-coil hybrids. However, customer satisfaction ratings between microcoil and non-microcoil hybrids are comparable, suggesting that these components do not play a significant role in sleeper experiences.

Cost Factors for Airbed Mattresses

An airbed is defined as any mattress that features air chambers in the support core, rather than foam or coil layers. Airbeds have the highest average price among all mattress types. When pricing airbed mattresses, consider the following:

  • Most airbeds sold today feature manual or remote controls that allow users to inflate or deflate air to match their comfort preferences; many can be toggled using online apps. Remote-control airbeds — especially ones that utilize smart-app technology — are almost always more expensive than manual-control models.
  • Airbeds with memory foam, latex and/or microcoils in the comfort layer are usually priced higher than those with standard polyfoam comfort systems.
  • Airbed prices somewhat correlate to mattress height, with thicker models being the more expensive option. The number of air chambers may also play a role; traditional airbeds have one to two air chambers, but some newer models have as many as six individual chambers (and cost more on average).

Cost Factors for a Bed Base

The bed base refers to the part of a bed that supports the mattress. Here are a few of the factors to consider when you’re thinking about purchasing a bed base to hold up your mattress.

  • Box springs are generally cheaper than other kinds of bed bases, but may require an additional foundation or legs if you want storage space underneath. It’s worth noting that box springs can help to extend the lifespan of your mattress, preventing deterioration and sagging.
  • Foundations or platforms tend to be on the less expensive side. Like box springs, they can help to add value to your mattress purchase by extending its lifespan. They are generally set up to have storage space below, so there probably won’t be a need for extra purchases like with box springs.
  • There are a few factors that can make your bed base pricier. Some foundations have extra storage drawers and/or headboards, for example. These are often more expensive.
  • Adjustable beds, which can be raised at the head or foot to create different angles for sleeping, are the priciest options. Still, they can be important for certain kinds of sleepers, such as people with poor circulation, sleep apnea, or other sleep problems. If you have certain sleep conditions, the price of an adjustable bed base may be well worth it for higher-quality sleep over time.

Which Mattress Type Is Best for You?

Now that we’ve explored cost factors affecting the price of a mattress, let’s look at some distinct qualities associated with different mattress types. Customers can use metrics like these to determine which mattress is best for them based on their top priorities as shoppers and sleepers.

Mattress TypeInnerspringFoamLatexHybridAirbed
Average lifespan5 to 7 years6 to 7 years8 years or longer6 to 7 years8 years or longer
Conforming abilityPoor to FairGood to Very GoodGoodGood to Very GoodGood
SexGood to Very GoodFairFair to GoodGood to Very GoodFair
Temperature neutralityGood to Very GoodPoor to FairFair to GoodFair to GoodFair to Good
Noise potentialFairVery Good to ExcellentVery Good to ExcellentGood to Very GoodFair to Good
Odor potentialGood to Very GoodPoor to FairFair to GoodPoor to FairFair to Good
Edge supportGood to Very GoodPoor to FairPoor to FairGood to Very GoodFair to Good
AvailabilityWideWideModerateModerateVery Limited

Additional Mattress Costs

The original price-point is not the only cost associated with mattress ownership. Here are a few more costs that may arise for mattress owners:

  • Foundations:Mattress customers usually have the option of purchasing a matching foundation to go with their new mattress; most foundations are priced at $150 or higher.
  • Shipping:Many mattress manufacturers offer free delivery to customers in the continental United States; these deliveries are mostly coordinated through UPS, FedEx and other ground courier services. A few manufacturers also offer free shipping to customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and offshore U.S. territories, but most impose shipping charges of at least $100 for these locations; additional fees may also apply for customers in remote locations in the continental U.S. For companies that do not offer free mattress shipping, customers should expect to pay at least $100.
  • In-Home Assembly:A large number of mattress companies offer delivery that includes in-home mattress assembly and packaging waste removal; this is often called ‘White Glove delivery’. The standard cost of White Glove delivery is $99, but some companies charge more.
  • Old Mattress Removal:Mattress companies that offer White Glove delivery will often remove the customer’s old mattress for an additional charge (usually $50). However, most mattress companies that use ground couriers like UPS and FedEx for deliveries do not offer this service.
  • Mattress Returns:Mattress sleep trials are common; most companies allow customers to return their mattress within 30 to 90 days of their original purchase in exchange for a refund (specific lengths vary by company). However, many sleep trials include hidden ‘shipping and handling’ fees for customers that return their mattress during the sleep trial. These details are usually included in the fine print of the company’s sleep trial and return policy.
  • Mattress Exchanges:In addition to mattress returns, some companies allow customers to exchange their mattress during their sleep trial for a model of a different size and/or firmness. The same ‘shipping and handling’ fees apply. For mattress upgrades, customers will be required to pay the difference in price between the original and the replacement. Typically, one exchange is allowed per sleep trial.

Warranty Costs

A standard mattress warranty should last at least 10 years. Some span 25 years or longer. Warranty terms vary significantly between mattress manufacturers, and there are several costs associated with them.

Most mattress warranties require customers to cover shipping and handling fees associated with repairs for mattresses with defects (such as deep indentations or protruding coils). Additionally, customers should expect to pay shipping and handling fees for replacing their defective mattress with a new model.

Another important warranty consideration is whether the coverage is nonprorated or prorated; some warranties are entirely nonprorated, while others are nonprorated for a set number of years and prorated for the remainder of the warranty coverage period. Nonprorated coverage means that, with the exception of shipping and handling fees, owners do not need to pay extra costs for replacing a defective mattress. During prorated coverage periods, customers must pay extra charges for replacing their mattress; these charges are calculated by multiplying a percentage of the original mattress price (typically 5% to 10%) by the number of years of ownership.

For example, let’s say a mattress costs $1,000 and is covered under a 20-year warranty with five years of nonprorated coverage and 15 years of prorated coverage with a 5% prorated charge. If the mattress needs to be replaced during the first five years, then the owner will only be required to pay shipping and handling fees. If the mattress needs to be replaced during the tenth year, then prorated charges are calculated as 10 (years) by 5%; this means that the owner will be responsible for paying half the original price (or $500) to have the mattress replaced. During the eleventh year, this charge will increase to 55% (or $550), and so on until the 20-year period ends.

Most – but not all – 10-year warranties are entirely nonprorated. Some warranties that extend 15 to 20 years or longer are fully nonprorated, but most included prorated coverage periods. In some cases, a mattress warranty will only include two to three years of nonprorated coverage. For this reason, customers should place more emphasis on the length of the nonprorated coverage period than the overall warranty length. Furthermore, most industry experts agree that a mattress should be replaced every seven to eight years; this somewhat negates the need for warranties that extend beyond 10 years.

How to Get the Best Deal on a Mattress

When you’re looking for the best possible deal on a mattress, there are a number of factors that come into play. Here are a few tricks and tips, as well as some important factors to consider when looking for a great mattress deal.

Research

It’s important to do your homework when you’re looking for the best deal on a mattress. Conduct market research before you buy, and you’ll end up with a higher-value purchase in the end.

Mattresses vary widely in terms of durability, firmness, prices, and overall quality. Compare customer reviews and brand prices in order to get the most value for what you pay.

Holiday sales

Date-specific deals are huge in the mattress industry. If you time your purchase correctly, you can save quite a bit on your mattress. Here are some of the most common holidays and other sales days when you might snag a mattress deal:

HolidayDateSale Description
President’s Day3rd Monday in FebruaryPresident’s Day is usually the first opportunity all year to celebrate with mattress savings. Virtually all online mattress sellers provide brand-new coupon codes for this holiday.
Memorial DayLast Monday in MayMany mattress brands offer Memorial Day promotions. Brick-and-mortar stores may have some savings, but online mattress companies will usually provide ultra-steep price cuts and special deal throughout Memorial Day weekend.
Independence DayJuly 4thAlong with fireworks and outdoor barbecues, mattress sales have become synonymous with Independence Day. Okay, maybe not quite the same, but July 4th does bring significant mattress savings every year. While many stores close on this holiday, look for sales on the 3rd or 5th.
Amazon Prime DayJuly 15thThis midsummer sales day provides endless deals for members of Amazon Prime. Even if you’re not a Prime member, though, other mattress sellers will often publish new coupon codes on their own sites to draw customers away from Amazon, so scour various sites for deals.
Labor DayFirst Monday in SeptemberLabor Day has long been a major discount day for the mattress industry. Starting on the Friday before the holiday, look for new coupon codes, steep discounts, and other promotions at online mattress retailers.
Veterans DayNovember 11thNew coupon codes and promos almost always come out on Veterans Day. This mid-November discount opportunity is an especially good time to look out for great deals before the holidays, as mattress companies try to sell as much of their inventory as possible before the approaching winter rush.
Black FridayThe day after Thanksgiving, or the fourth Friday in NovemberBlack Friday is a massive sales event for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers. Because it’s a weekend-long event, and because so many sellers are competing with one another, you can usually find a steal just after Thanksgiving with a little research and price-matching offers.
Cyber MondayMonday after Thanksgiving (may fall in late November or early December)This e-commerce sales holiday boasts a longer discount window than most other discount days, with some sales lasting the entire week or even longer. Sellers actively compete in a race to the bottom of the price barrel on this post-Thanksgiving holiday, so if you’re looking for the ultimate steal, this is a good time to find one. Be on the lookout for extra perks on Cyber Monday, too, like free bedding and shipping.
Get a friend referral

If you have a friend who recently bought a mattress or is looking to buy one, you could save money on your own mattress purchase. Some retailers offer a referral deal on your purchase when someone who purchases a mattress (or, in some cases, other furniture or household goods) refers you to the company.

Choose a brand that offers free shipping

Buying a mattress online is often cheaper than buying one in person, and most retailers offer their products on the web in today’s market. Many companies offer free shipping, which is a major perk.

If you can dodge the shipping costs, online is often the best way to go when it comes to buying a mattress. On the web, you can almost always find a great mattress deal, with no markups from third-party retailers.

Consider durability

Ultimately, one of the best ways to save money in the long-term is to get a mattress that will last you a long time. When it comes to mattress value, the price point is just one small piece of the puzzle: A mattress that you can use comfortably for many years to come is key.

Do market research on the most durable mattresses. Read customer reviews to make sure the mattress will last a long time for the price you’ll be paying.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the average sleeper will be able to spend $1,000 or less for a mattress that suits their comfort and support preferences. However, mattress shoppers are urged to thoroughly research different products before making a purchase. In order to find the right mattress at the lowest available price, be sure to compare different models based on factors like type, material composition, firmness, and durability, as well as company policies regarding shipping and delivery, sleep trials, and warranty coverage.

To view and compare different mattress brands based on price, please visit our Product Comparison Page.

Firm and Soft Mattresses for Bad Backs

Grant Hughes, MD, is board-certified in rheumatology and is the head of rheumatology at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Soren Hald Collection / Stone

If you’re one of the over 70 million Americans who deals with daily back pain, a lot may be stacked against you at bed time. You likely know first-hand how pain can limit things—like the number of hours of you get per night, how restful the sleep you do get is, how well you function during your waking hours, and how satisfying, overall, sleep is to you.

Your Mattress and You

Sleeping on a mattress that is not right for you, given your individual condition, may be one of your biggest obstacles to rest and repose.

And this may mean you need to go shopping. If that’s the case, what type of mattress should you buy?

To a great extent, mattress choice is a highly personalized one. Likely the most important thing you can do is to match the firmness of your prospective mattress to your spine’s unique needs for support and comfort.

Dr. Michael Perry, M. D., Medical Director of the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, FL, recommends staying away from either extreme of firmness when selecting a mattress, stating that studies generally find a medium-firm mattress does the trick for most types of back problems.  

A 2003 study published in Lancet confirms this, saying, "a mattress of medium firmness improves pain and disability among patients with chronic non-specific low-back pain."  

There’s nothing like a good dose of facts, so here’s a quick run down on mattress firmness research as it relates to back pain.

A Survey of Temporary Back Pain From Foam Mattresses

One hundred Indian medical residents who slept on foam mattresses were surveyed about the effects of this on their spines in a 2000 study published in theJournal of the Association of Physicians of India. The mattresses in question were 10 centimeters in thickness—the kind one might find in a youth hostel. The residents experienced temporary backaches from the mattresses, but not the generally more serious type that is also accompanied by nerve symptoms such as sciatica, radiculopathy, or paresthesia (pins and needles.)

The sleep-induced pain was relieved for most of the residents (61%) once they returned to their own beds, and it came back when they again slept on the foam.  

Firm vs Soft

In an effort to confirm that hard mattresses exert a positive effect on the sleep of people with chronic low back pain, as is commonly believed, participants in a study tested bedding with varying degrees of firmness.

The study, a randomized controlled trial, was published in the April 2008 issue of Spine.  

A “soft” mattress group slept on a water bed.

A second group slept on a Tempur-pedic mattress, which is known for its ability to conform to your body shape without sacrificing support.

And the “hard” mattress group slept on a futon.

Overall participants favored the water bed and foam (Tempur-pedic) mattresses the most in terms of pain relief, ability to function and number of hours slept per night. That said, the difference in scores between these two types of mattresses and the hard mattress was small.

"A Tempur-pedic with a dial-in firmness feature would be my top choice," Perry comments. "When you need more support, you can simply press a button and presto! The beauty of Tempur-pedic is that you can get support where you need it. You can also get on-demand softness."

He adds that a dial-in water bed also has advantages, clarifying that more water equals more firmness.

“Just remember not to dial in so much water that your mattress bursts,” he quips.

On the flip side, Perry says that if you don’t dial in enough water, your water bed mattress may surround and enclose your body, which can decrease the quality of your sleep.

In fact, he adds, “some of my patients report they feel smothered when their water bed isn’t firm enough. This is because the lungs have less room to expand when you’re sunken down. Of course, the cure is to firm it up by in dialing more water."

Even in light of this potential drawback, self-inflatable water beds may be the way to go. A 2015 review of studies published inSleep Healthconfirmed all of Dr. Perry’s opinions, concluding that a medium firm mattress with custom inflation capabilities proved the most optimal choice for spinal alignment and sleep comfort.  

Keep in mind that few studies have been conducted on this topic overall. But those that can be found in the medical literature point to achieving the right firmness in your mattress as a key to sound sleep—despite the back pain.

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.

Innerspring (Coils)

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.

Latex

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

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.

Hybrid

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:

Adjustable

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.

Pillow-Top

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.

Waterbed

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.

Stomach

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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 choose a mattress firmness

Some considerations for choosing a firmness when shopping for a new mattress.

What is mattress firmness?

When buying a mattress, there are literally thousands of choices. Having options is great, but when deciding on just one bed that will be comfortable and suit your needs, an endless selection can make it more difficult to narrow down your choices.

One of the most important considerations when deciding on a mattress is comfort. A lot of what we identify as “comfort” relates to how soft or firm a mattress feels, and beds can range from very soft to very firm. Think of soft and firm as two ends on a spectrum and every degree on this spectrum is referred to as the “firmness level” of a bed.

Measuring firmness

Brands use different forms of categorization to label their mattresses. Some of these labels are complicated and usually involve numbered ratings. For example, Saatva offers a scale for their firmness levels ranging from 1-10. This large range makes it difficult to decide where your firmness fit may be. Some brands such as Casper and Leesa sell a one-size-fits-all mattress which features a firmness that they claim is universally comfortable. The single firmness approach can be appealing to shoppers in a world of overwhelming choice, but the problem is that since people come in all shapes and sizes, it is impossible to make a single mattress that is actually comfortable for everyone. Mattress names, such as Loom & Leaf’s “Relaxed Firm” mattress, are nearly as confusing. Realistically, the different firmness levels can be summarized in three, straightforward descriptions: soft, medium, and firm.

It’s important to note that the firmness and support level of a bed are different. Firmness relates to the uppermost layers of a bed, while support is provided in the middle and lower layers. All well-made mattresses offer an underlying support system, regardless of what the top layers feel like. Even beds that feel very soft on top may still have an excellent support system below. A firm bed does not necessarily mean more support, as some doctors and chiropractors used to suggest. The softness or firmness of a mattress refers only to the initial feel of a bed.

Which firmness is right for you?

So how do you know which firmness is best for you? Some sources explain that finding your personal preference is as simple as asking yourself, “Do I prefer a soft or firm bed?” While it might seem like a simple question to answer, there are actually a variety of reasons behind our mattress firmness preferences. If you aren’t sure what firmness level you need, exploring these reasons will help you with your selection.

Spinal Alignment

Sleeping comfortably often depends on whether your spine is properly aligned. When standing or sitting, your spine is supported because you are subconsciously controlling your posture. When you lay down but are awake, your muscles are still engaged, so your alignment is maintained. However, when you fall asleep, your muscles relax, and your body relies on the sleeping surface to maintain alignment. If you’re sleeping on a surface that doesn’t naturally support your back, you may wake up with aches and pains as a result.

It’s a common misconception that when we lay on our backs our spines are straight. Our spines actually have a slight, natural curve. So while you sleep, it’s crucial that your mattress supports this natural curvature, which also helps to relieve pressure points. The most important pressure points to consider when selecting a firmness level are those which have the most contact with your bed, such as your shoulders, hips, and legs. Choose a mattress firmness that offers adequate support without creating points of pressure, provides good body weight distribution, and is compatible with your sleeping position. For example, when sleeping on your side, your hips and shoulders should sink into the mattress enough to relieve pressure points and keep your spine in line.

Again, remember that “soft” does not necessarily mean “lacking support”. Choosing a firmness level simply means choosing the surface that will allow your spine to align properly on the mattress. Spinal alignment on the sleeping surface depends on various aspects including your body weight and typical sleeping position.

Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position is a crucial consideration when deciding on a fitting firmness level. The amount of pressure exerted on specific points in your body depends on which points are supporting most of your weight. For example, someone who sleep on their stomach will exert more downward force on their hips than someone who sleeps on their back.

While sleep positions and firmness preferences come down to personal taste, there are recommendations for those who are undecided about what firmness to choose:

Side sleepersgenerally prefer a softer mattress. A soft surface allows the mattress to conform to pressure points in the shoulders and hips, as well as the arm that gets tucked beneath side sleepers, preventing numbness and tingling.

Stomach sleepersget more comfort out of a firmer mattress. Pressure in the hips and pelvis is much greater for stomach sleepers, because these are the points supporting most of their weight. A medium or firm mattress will prevent your hips and pelvis from sinking lower than your shoulders and creating an unnatural curve in the spine.

Back sleepershave the most range in firmness, as pressure is more evenly spread across their pressure points while they sleep. Because of this, back sleepers can find comfort on soft, medium, and firm mattresses. If you’re still undecided, a medium firmness mattress is a pretty safe choice.

Sleeping Partner

Depending on your body weight and sleeping positions, you and your partner may need different firmness levels, but it can be difficult to sacrifice your comfort. A medium firmness mattress can be a good compromise to satisfy both partners.

Body Weight

Weight is another key factor in choosing a firmness level, particularly for people who are over or under the recommended body mass index (BMI) range. The more you weigh per square inch of your body, the more force is exerted on your pressure points when you lay down. A heavier person may sink very low into a soft mattress, and a light person may feel as if they are pushed on top of a firm mattress. An additional consideration for heavier people (or those with mobility issues) is accessibility; sinking into a soft mattress makes it difficult to get in and out of the bed.

A general rule of thumb: the higher you are on the BMI scale, the firmer you will want your mattress. Conversely, the lower your BMI, the softer your mattress should be. The following guide can help you find your recommended firmness level:

  • Below average BMI:Soft or medium
  • Average BMI:Medium
  • Above average BMI:Firm

Firmness levels in different types of mattresses

Now that you have a better idea of what kind of firmness levels there are, you can begin to look at which types of mattresses offer you options in that range. The firmness levels in different mattresses depend on the type, quality, and quantity of the materials used in the comfort layers, as well as the design or composition of the materials.

Traditional innerspring

Innerspring mattresses are the most varied in terms of firmness levels. The firmness of these beds depends on the shape, gauge, and number of coils, as well as the type and amount of material packed in and around the coils. It’s important not to confuse the coil count of a mattress with its firmness level. Even a bed with a very high coil count can feel soft if the thickness (or gauge) of the coil is low. The shape of the coil also matters; hourglass-shaped coils are often firmer than continuous coils.

A popular form of the innerspring mattress is the pillow-top, which includes a separately sewn and upholstered comfort layer placed over the mattress. Pillow-tops provide a cushiony feel on top, even if the mattress surface below is firm.

Ideal For: Average weight, back sleepers, side sleepers

Latex

Latex mattresses are made with foam rubber material, which gives it a distinct “bounce back” feel. Although these mattresses are offered in a range of firmness levels, they usually skew to the firmer side of the scale. This makes them ideal for stomach sleepers and those with a higher BMI.

One of the newest options in latex mattresses is the “zoned” latex mattress. Zoned mattresses are built in rows of varying firmness to provide targeted firmness on pressure points. This means that the mattress is able to provide soft cushioning where you need it and firmer support everywhere else.

Ideal For: Heavyweight, back sleepers, stomach sleepers

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a polyurethane foam that has a unique visco-elastic response that reacts and softens with heat to mold itself to the form of any applied pressure. When the pressure is removed and the foam is allowed to cool, the foam returns to its original shape.

Memory foam firmness isn’t directly related to density. Instead, its firmness is affected by the foam’s ILD rating and how the different layers are constructed. This variety of ILD ratings and versatility in layer composition means a wide range of firmness possibilities. A softer memory foam mattress will allow for more sink-in and contouring. A firmer memory foam mattress will still mold to body shapes, but will also provide more support. The foam allows your body to descend on different levels, resulting in even spine support. This uniform positioning also lessens the impact on pressure points, preventing aches, pains, and numbness.

Ideal for: Light – heavyweight, side sleepers, back sleepers, co-sleepers

Air Beds

Air beds are comprised of open compartments that are filled with air to increase or decrease firmness. These beds aren’t the inflatable air mattresses typically used for camping or other short term use. Air beds offer more support than inflatable mattresses, are made with other materials, and are intended for long term use. These mattresses often come with options for making adjustments on either side of the bed, which is a great option for couples with differing firmness preferences. Because you can regularly change the firmness level on these mattresses to reduce the downward force on specific pressure points, these beds are also often used for people with back injuries.

This type of mattress has many mechanical dependencies and may not be the most dependable choice as a result. Like many other air filled products, air leakage can be a problem, resulting in an inconsistent level of comfort as air slowly leaks from the bed over time.

Ideal for: Co-sleepers, those with back injuries or chronic back pain

What if you choose the wrong firmness?

Discomfort while sleeping on a new bed can signal one of two things: either the firmness level of the bed isn’t right for you, or you have not gone through a full “break-in” period with your bed.

If you have slept on the bed for longer than the breaking in period and you are still experiencing discomfort, there may be options to adjust the bed’s firmness level to better suit your needs. To assess whether your bed is too soft or too firm, you can observe cues from your body. Certain sensations and pains can tell you what the problem is, and what you need to do to improve your comfort.

How to tell if your mattress is too soft or too firm?

Too firm:

  • Pressure points such as shoulders, hips, or knees are pushed up above the rest of the body
  • Numb or tingling shoulders or hips
  • Sensation of sleeping on top of the mattress, or away from it

Too soft:

  • Pressure points such as the shoulders, hips, or knees are sinking below the rest of the body
  • Difficulty getting in and out of the bed
  • Sensation of “bottoming out” on the upper layer(s) of the mattress

Adjustable firmness options

Depending on the brand you choose, there might be options to alter the firmness level of your mattress after the initial break-in period. Innovations like Novosbed’s Comfort+ adjust firmness by adding a layer of polyfoam to the mattress to make the bed firmer or softer as needed. This option can help remove some of the doubts about choosing the wrong firmness at the time of purchase, knowing you can resolve comfort issues instead of going through the hassle of a return.

If your chosen mattress does not offer an adjustable firmness like Comfort+ and you are faced with a decision between a firmer and a softer mattress, opt for the firmer bed. This way if you are unhappy with how firm it is after you bring it home, you can adjust it to be softer by buying a pillow-top or a foam topper.

Making the final decision

Finding a comfortable mattress should be much easier once you’ve chosen a firmness level that suits your needs. When shopping in retail locations, keep in mind that a showroom shopping experience might not necessarily be a good indicator for which firmness level you require, because floor model mattresses are often already broken in and will feel softer than a brand new mattress. New mattresses, particularly ones made with high density foam, can take up to 30 days to break-in. On the other hand, shopping for a mattress with a good online retailer will provide you with a sleep trial, a break-in period, and any additional information you’ll need to find a mattress that you’ll love for years.

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