Tossing and turning trying to decide on a new mattress? We’ve created a simple mattress buying guide to make your decision easier. We have highlighted the most important factors when choosing a new bed:
When is it Time to Buy a New Mattress?
If you wake up with lower back pain that subsides within a half-hour of regular activity, it may be your mattress. It’s likely not providing you the proper support and alignment it once did. Check for visible lumps, sags, or wear spots on the surface of your mattress. The average lifespan for a mattress is seven years. This can vary with the quality of your bed. A higher-end mattress could last you 8 – 12 years, where a cheaper mattress may only last a few years.
It’s a popular misconception that there are better times during the year to purchase a mattress. The reality is, prices seldom vary all that much. Today’s big sale is pretty much the same as the price you would have paid last week, last month or last year. Although both retail and online companies market each promotion a bit differently, price rarely goes down that much. Eventually, they do go up while you are holding out for the big sale. The best time to buy a mattress is when you need one!
Not sleeping well can cause decreased productivity and leave you feeling lethargic. A good night’s sleep refreshes and rejuvenates your body, so don’t sleep on getting a new bed.
What Size Mattress Should You Buy?
Choosing the right size mattress is the first and one of the most important choices you will make. These are the key factors that contribute to making this decision.
- How Large is the Room?
- How Tall Are You?
- Is mattress for a couple?
Room Size is the first thing you need to consider when buying a mattress. A tiny room may limit you to a twin or (twin extra long) size, while very spacious accommodations may allow for a king or California king. Read more about mattress dimensions and room sizes.
Mattresses for Taller People: Prior to the 1960s, twin and full size beds were the only available options. Both are only 75” long and offer a rather cramped sleeping environment for taller people. Over the last century, Americans have grown significantly taller. The demand for longer beds was met with the development of queen, king, and California king mattresses.
Queen size mattresses have now become the most common size sold in the US. At 60” x 80”, it’s both longer and wider than a full. Anyone over 5’ 9” will appreciate not having their toes extend past the foot of the mattress.
King size, while still the same length as a Queen at 80” long, provides an additional 16” inches of width. A luxury for larger sleepers, couples, or anyone who likes to sprawl out across their bed.
The twin xl (extra long) is an excellent option for taller people confined in a smaller bedroom. These are a favorite of college dorms or those living in small studio apartments.
California king mattresses are 72” wide by 84” long. Although you sacrifice 4” of width compared to the regular King, the extra 4” of length can be a huge benefit to those 6’ 3” and over.
A Cal king may also be the solution if you are replacing your waterbed with a more traditional mattress. The Cal king is the same measurement as a king size waterbed. It will likely be a snug fit in a waterbed foundation. Most standard size beds are designed with an extra inch or two on either side that allows for easy access to change sheets or rotate the mattress. Putting a Cal king mattress into a king size waterbed frame will not provide you that same convenience.
Best Size Mattress For Couples: Full size beds were the standard for couples for a very long time. Thus the term double was used to describe them. Today, those with a sleep partner typically prefer either a queen or king size mattress. A queen offers just enough extra length and width to accommodate most couple’s space and comfort requirements. A king size has the same 80” Length as a queen, but it’s 76” of width creates the maximum amount of space for couples. The additional sleep area is very advantages if your bedroom will accommodate the size.
How Sleep Position Affects Sleep & Comfort
Whether you prefer to sleep on your side, back or stomach impacts how firm or soft of a mattress you should consider. Generally, the firmness level you will like depends on your favorite sleep positions and personal preference.
Sleeping on your back is a great position for most people as it takes the pressure off the shoulders and hips. It also keeps your body in better alignment. If you spend most of the night on your back, we recommend a firm to a luxury firm. Bear in mind, perception of firmness is subjective and is affected by weight and physical condition. Some individuals should avoid back sleeping due to specific health conditions. Pregnant women should avoid sleeping on their backs after the first trimester. Likewise, those who suffer from GERD or Sleep Apnea are recommended not to sleep in this position unless the head is elevated.
While on your side, the curves of your spine are most pronounced. Sleeping in this position puts your body weight on the shoulders and hips. We recommend choosing a mattress that is soft enough to contour and cradle your body. This alleviates pressure points allowing you to sleep comfortably on your side. That said, no two people interpret firmness the same way. Depending on your weight, health, and pressure sensitivities, comfort preference will vary.
Sleeping on your stomach can cause unnecessary strain on your spine. Neck pain is also a common side effect caused by your head turned to the side. That said, sleep habits start young and are difficult to change. We recommend a medium firm mattress with solid support for your torso to keep your spine aligned. Too soft of a mattress could worsen the discomfort caused by this position. For some, putting a small, thin pillow under your abdomen may alleviate some pressure.
Firmness vs. Support
Your Physical Condition
Consider your health when looking for a new bed. Recommended sleep position, support, and comfort are all affected by your physical condition. Depending on your specific physical requirements, certain sleep positions are recommended, while others can worsen your condition. Use this section as a guide, then reference our sleep position information to help find your best mattress.
Health factors that affect sleep position and comfort
- Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop and start throughout the night. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and occurs when throat muscles relax and cause air passages to be blocked. Back sleeping worsens this condition. Lying on your side, lessens the severity. If you must sleep on your back, raising your head can reduce symptoms somewhat, but it is still not the ideal position.
Pregnancy and Sleep: Sleeping on your back or stomach after the first trimester can cause a variety of health and discomfort issues. After this time, It becomes necessary for women to sleep on their sides. If possible, the left side is more beneficial. This position helps promote better blood flow.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and Sleep: Sleeping with GERD has a short do’s and don’t list. Don’t sleep on your right side. This position causes relaxation of the esophageal sphincter. These muscles usually defend against reflux. Do sleep on your left side. This position tends to reduce acid reflux. Don’t sleep on your back if possible. This position is considered the worst when it comes to aggravating GERD symptoms. If you can not avoid sleeping on your back, try to keep your head elevated slightly. This will lessen symptoms. However, avoid raising your head too high. This may put additional pressure on your abdomen; increasing symptoms.
Arthritis and Sleep: Sleepless nights are often a common side effect of this painful condition. When considering a mattress, reducing pressure points is extremely important. Quality memory foam or latex mattresses offer great contouring support. They both conform easier to your body than traditional coil spring mattresses. Of the two, memory foam has more body hug while latex has a more buoyant feel. No mattress will eliminate all your pain. But, you don’t want it to contribute to your discomfort either. Both memory foam and latex are good options for people with arthritis. For best pressure relief, consider a medium or softer mattress.
Fibromyalgia and Sleep: Disrupted and non-restorative sleep are symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Daytime fatigue, pain, and mood swings are also signs of this disorder. Body pain makes it difficult to sleep, and reduced sleep increases body pain. It’s a difficult cycle, yet positive results have been shown when better sleep is attained. Consider seeking help from a sleep specialist to help get you moving in the right direction.
How Age Affects Your Mattress Preferences
Individual sleep comfort needs change throughout our lives. From infants to seniors, our support and comfort requirements change significantly. As we move into our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond, we develop more aches and pains that change comfort preference. Depending on your sleep position, you may now prefer a softer or firmer feel than in the past.
How Weight & Height Affect Comfort
Weight: Heavier people (200+ lbs) will perceive firmness level different than more average-size sleepers. They will sink into a mattress more than a smaller person. This results in the perception of a softer feel. A lighter than average person (below 150 lbs) may not sink as far into various mattresses. This will increase how firm a bed feels to them. Most mattress ratings are based on an average weight sleeper (around 180 lbs).
Larger individuals require a more substantial support system from their mattress. This does not mean heavier people must choose one type of mattress over another. It does mean you need to be more particular when choosing a bed. regardless of mattress type, make sure it’s structurally sound and comfortable. Ideal coil mattresses use more steel. Coil count is an important factor, but not the only thing to consider. The gauge of the steel matters, as does the number of turns. Whether or not the steel is tempered is also relevant. So, consider all variables when evaluating coil spring mattresses. A good coil unit will either have a better than average coil count (1000 is a solid unit) or a heavier gauge coil. Most mattresses use between 14 – 17 gauge coils. Occasionally, manufacturers will use 12 gauge coils as well. These broader, heavier coils do not need as high of a count to be effective.
Quality memory foam mattresses are best evaluated by the density of the foam used. A minimum of 3 lbs. is necessary for the best support. Latex is typically rated by its Indentation Load Deflection (ILD). However, this is more an indicator of the firmness level rather than support. While actual density can be calculated, manufacturers seldom disclose this information. It’s worth noting, dunlop latex is denser than talalay; but talaly is a more consistent blend. Quality natural latex will typically have a density of 4 -5 lbs. and will range from 7 – 12 inches. Heavier people will want to consider a thicker bed.
Height: If you are 5′ 8″ or under, a full or twin is generally sufficient for length. Both are 75″ long and should provide adequate length and space for a single sleeper. Both Queen size and standard Eastern King mattresses are 80” long. For those who are moderately taller, this is more than enough length. But, for those in the 6’ 3” or more, it may be worth considering a California King size mattress. A Cal-King is 84” long and provides a bit more legroom for taller people. The 4” of length gained on a California King is sacrificed in width. A standard King is 76” by 80” vs. 72” by 84” for a California King.
Best Mattress for Sleeping Cool
How cool you stay at night also plays a role in how well you sleep. Regardless of room temperature, some people will often feel hot when they sleep. It’s a common issue for women going through menopause, but, for some, it’s a lifelong issue. Take this into consideration when shopping for a mattress. Choose one that regulates heat by providing cooling gels or good airflow. All foams retain some heat. That said, natural latex sleeps cooler than most synthetic foams. It’s produced from the sap of the rubber tree does an excellent job of limiting heat retention.
Fabric coverings are a factor also. Natural cotton is breathable and allows for good airflow. Natural wool batting is a heat regulator that wicks away moisture and reduces heat. Also, consider the type of sheets you use. Bamboo sheets and pillow covers are an excellent cooling option. Like wool, this natural material reduces body heat.
Best Mattress For Infants
For safety sake, a crib mattress should be relatively firm. This decreases the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Best Mattress For Kids
Young children’s needs are different than infants. As their bodies grow and develop, both support and pressure relief becomes essential. Just like adults, kids in time develop their sleep position and comfort preferences. A child’s weight is typically less than an adult. Therefore, a mattress that provides them good support can usually be purchased for much less money.
Of course, your two-year-old will not be able to tell you what feels right. Once your child has outgrown their crib, it is no longer necessary to put them in a very firm mattress. A young child does not have the same body mass as an adult. As a result, what feels firm to you will feel even firmer to your child. For this reason, we recommend a medium firmness for your child’s first real mattress.
Choosing the right size mattress for your child is very important. A twin size is more than enough mattress for any child’s first bed. But, you need to consider how long you plan on keeping them in this size. If space is limited and you don’t anticipate that changing soon, the twin is a great choice. However, if your child’s room is a bit more spacious, you may want to consider a full size mattress. While still the same length as a twin, it’s 54” by 75” dimensions allows your child to grow into a more comfortable sleep space. The price is usually not that different and may save you money by not purchasing a larger bed in a few years.
What Mattresses Give the Best Support
A quality mattress should keep your body in proper alignment. This is accomplished by having solid structural support while still contouring to the curvature of your spine. A common mistake shoppers make is confusing firmness with support. Your mattress does not have to be rock hard to provide a good night’s sleep. Many mattresses offer 2 or 3 different firmness levels that offer identical structural integrity. In this case, we’re talking about a difference in comfort, not support. A side sleeper may achieve better support on a softer mattress. Additional contouring disperses your weight and takes the pressure off the shoulders and hips.
Weight also plays a factor. The greater your body mass, the more support you’ll require for proper alignment. This means better quality coil systems and denser foams. Inadequate structure will cause improper alignment and shorten the longevity of your mattress.
Proper support and alignment are measured differently for various types of beds. Traditional coil, memory foam, latex, and hybrids each have their unique criteria to be considered. We’ll discuss what to look for when considering what to look for when choosing a supportive mattress.
Inner Spring (Coil) Mattresses
Traditional innerspring mattresses remain a popular and widely sold option. Lower priced, entry-level mattresses often use traditional bonnel or continuous coil systems. Both styles are quite serviceable but tend to perform poorly when it comes to motion transfer. Individually pocketed coils are far superior at limiting motion detection.
When it comes to support, the coil count continues to be one of the most misunderstood features. Although important, the number of coils in a mattress does not tell the whole story. The gauge of the steel, the number of turns and width of the coil all are factors in comparing coil units. Some mattresses have foam encased edges. Others use steel coils around the outside perimeter. This offers greater edge support and a more consistent overall feel. Others offer zoned (or posterized) units. More (or heavier gauge) steel is used in the center third to provide additional lumbar support. It’s also the first place a mattress will begin to sag. Extra structure in this area prolongs the life of a mattress. Coil count is a good barometer but is not the only factor to consider when determining support.
The term “hybrid” implies a blend of two or more different technologies to produce an enhanced product. You could argue that most mattresses are a hybrid. It’s still a sexy, loosely defined marketing term that companies take advantage of. Originally, a hybrid mattress was one that combined a pocketed coil unit with a memory foam or latex foam comfort layer. Today, that combination has become so mainstream that the term has lost a bit of its luster. We recommend looking beyond catchphrases and focus on individual quality aspects.
Check out some of our top-rated innerspring and hybrid mattresses:
Established in 2015, Avocado Green Mattress is an affordable luxury bedding option. In this review, we break down how it fares against the competition. What type of mattress does Avocado make? Avocado Green Mattress produces an environmentally friendly, luxury hybrid…
The Two-Sided Mattress is Back! IDLE Sleep was developed by a pair of seasoned bedding professionals who recognized an enormous untapped opportunity. Two-sided mattresses had all but vanished by 2007; but not for lack of demand. Their departure left many…
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses have been around for a few decades now and continue to grow in popularity. Varying degrees of density determine how much support a memory foam mattress offers. These densities can range from under 2 lb. in lower quality entry level mattresses to 7 lbs in high-end luxury models. Generally, 3 lb. – 5 lb. offerings will provide solid support and comfort.
Firmness levels are measured by a foam indentation force deflection (IFD) rating. A mattress can have a high density and still have a softer feel. This is how companies like Loom & Leaf, Serta, Muse Sleep, and Nectar can offer higher foam densities and still provide significant pressure relief.
Check out some of our top-rated memory foam mattresses:
Loom & Leaf is manufactured by the Saatva bedding company. This mattress uses quality, high-density plant-based memory foam. It’s designed to be supportive and comfortable while remaining environmentally responsible. Loom & Leaf has positioned itself to compete with high-end memory…
The Serta Mattress Company was founded in 1931 in Illinois as Sleeper, Inc. They remain known for their popular lines of traditional innerspring, gel-infused memory foam, hybrid and a talalay latex mattresses is a dominant bedding manufacturer. In addition to…
Foam Combo Mattresses
This category is reserved for all foam mattresses that use non traditional foams or combinations of various foams. These mattresses feature the latest in cool cool sleeping technology. Most also tout pressure relief while having quick response time for easier movement.
Check out some of our top-rated latex mattresses:
Latex mattresses are great options for those seeking an alternative to memory foam. It’s pressure relieving but with more bounce than memory foam. You will feel like you’re laying on latex, as opposed to laying in memory foam.
There are different types of latex including, 100% natural, 100% synthetic, or a blend of both. They provide various quality levels and price points. Natural latex provides the best support and tends to sleep cooler than synthetic products.
High quality, reasonably priced latex beds are often hard to find. Most retail stores offer a limited selection and are very expensive. More recently, online brands like Zenhaven, Spindle, Latex for Less, and PlushBeds have changed this. These companies have made quality, affordable latex mattresses available to everyone.
Latex offers better than average support for most people but, those weighing over 270 lbs. may want to choose another mattress. Most of the common 10 – 12″ latex mattresses are not made for people this size. The exception being for a very tall individual as the weight will disperse better.
Check out some of our top-rated latex mattresses:
Latex For Less was founded in 2014 in Camarillo, CA. It’s there where all final production is completed on their all-natural latex mattresses. The company has capitalized on the growing interest and demand for healthier, more natural sleep options. Although…
PlushBeds prides itself on producing what they call the finest 100% natural organic bedding in the world. That’s a pretty lofty boast that the company backs up with several respected 3rd party certifications. Theses include GOLS, GOTS, GreenGuard Gold and…
What is your budget?
When purchasing a mattress, most of us have a budget we would like to stay within. This can help you determine a lot about what type of mattress you should consider buying. If you are going with a queen or full size bed, there are many exceptional mattresses under $1,000. If you must have a king, it’s still possible to remain in this dollar range. That said, A well-priced queen will still be your best value at this price point.
If you are in temporary housing and need a mattress to last only a few years, there is no need to break the bank. Even a relatively inexpensive mattress can be suitable for a few years. If your location and size of the mattress are more permanent, purchase accordingly. Long term, you will save money by purchasing a better quality bed.
Purchasing a new mattress can be stressful. Finding the right blend between cost and quality requires a bit of research. Ultimately, finding the best “value” is your goal. The most expensive mattress is not always the right bed for you. Likewise, a cheap, poor quality mattress may leave you restless and dissatisfied. We’ve done the legwork for you to find what we consider today’s best available mattresses.
Read our reviews: