Last Updated: June 01, 2018.
There are a lot of price ranges, mattress brands, and features on the market. On one hand, we have the most comfortable mattresses that are built for specific needs. On the other hand, we have mattresses that have gel, copper, charcoal, bamboo, green tea, and other stuff infused into it. What is good and what is right for you? How do we make sure we don’t end up with a mattress that causes us aches and pain, only to be out several hundred dollars? In this guide, we look at what makes a mattress great and how you can pick the right one for you.
What Makes A Great Mattress?
There are a lot of reasons to buy a particular mattress. Mattress companies might get clever in the way they market their line of mattresses, offering enticing things that you might not even care about in the end. So we start with you, and what you should look out for that can have an impact to the way you sleep.
You find it’s comfortable for your sleep
The bottom line is, once you try out a mattress a few nights and it works, then that’s really all you need. You could have a bed with amazing edge support or all these cooling features and design or cool 365-night trial periods. But if it doesn’t sleep comfortably in the end, nothing else matters. You could enjoy a bouncy mattress like latex or innerspring. Maybe you love the pressure relief that memory foam offers. As long as you love it and can sleep comfortably throughout the night, the mattress gets a green light for keeping. Some shoppers might be interested in a mattress suitable for sexual activities.
RELATED: Does Sex Help You Sleep?
Having a trial period available for testing
Having a sufficient trial period is by far the most important in our opinion. A mattress is a big ticket purchase that will make a dent in most people’s savings. We want to make sure that a purchase of a mattress is treated as easy and pain-free as possible, which means being able to return the mattress if it doesn’t work out for us.
Mattresses have a break-in period. When they are shipped from the manufacturer, they may have been compressed for a long time. It can take a couple of days before the mattress fully expands and relaxes to the way you will be using it for the next several years. This is why we often hear that trying a mattress in-store is never a guarantee. You will need to give yourself and your new mattress time to adjust.
By default, a minimum expected period for trying out your mattress is 30 days. When you order from amazon, this is the default return period. Most mattress companies today offer 90 days as trial periods for the mattresses priced $500 and up. Some companies like nectar and dreamcloud do offer a full year to try their mattresses, which certainly beat return policies of most places like Wal-Mart and Costco.
Longer trial periods will be better for you because it gives you time to re-package the mattress or call a local shipping company and find time in your schedule to take care of it. We cover in greater detail what the return process for mattresses look like below.
Some nice features
We all want a great bed we can sleep and wake up comfortably on. However, not all mattresses are made equal and unfortunately some mattresses can be made worse. Let’s cover some features that we can look out for when considering a mattress:
Ideally, we want to know the entire surface of our mattress is inhabitable. some lower price class mattresses can lack support on the edges, making it uncomfortable to get on and off the bed. even worse is when you fall asleep but wake up because you sunk and roll off the side of your bed! so what does edge support look like? for foam-based mattresses, the company can make it clear that there is an additional wall of foam that goes along the sides of your mattress that is higher density than the rest of the mattress. you may find this wall-based edge support also with hybrid and innerspring mattresses, where the walls encase the coils within. innerspring mattresses with edge support may have steel coils with gauge numbers that are lower, meaning they are thicker and stronger. most innerspring coils are 15-guage or higher, with edge support coils 13-guage or lower.
It’s no picnic when you find yourself hot on your mattress. Traditional memory foam mattresses are absolutely amazing in relieving pressure, making them great for side sleepers who struggle most with pressure being applied to their arms. The problem is they retain and trap heat very well. Polyurethane foam (memory foam) as we learn are great insulators. We find them also used in house walls, roof tops, and around house pipes to prevent too much heat from escaping.
Memory foam especially as a material for mattress tend to have the most emphasis on cooling features. For example, you may see copper or cooling gel infused into the top layer of the product. Copper is a great thermal conductor (and resistance against unwelcoming microbes) and will pull heat from your body and bed. Cooling gel, as seen in reusable ice packs, does the same thing. With cooling mattresses, you may also find open cell foam structures or porous air holes that provide air ventilation and breathability for dissipating heat.
In addition to cooling ingredients, you may see other additional recipes to the mattress material such as green tea extract, bamboo, and charcoal. Both these two help capture odor and toxins, and keep your mattress nice and fresh for each sleep.
Reversible: Mattresses like latex4less design reversible mattresses to offer two different firmness sleeping surfaces for your choosing. we don’t see reversible mattresses as much today as they tend to wear out unevenly compared to a mattress with a solid foundational layer to give it its shape. However, the extra choice in firmness helps!
Bonus extras: Some mattress orders may also come with other additional things to entice you to try their mattress. Things like extra pillow or two, bed sheets, or promo discount deals with $100 or $200 or whichever amount subtracted from your total price paid.
Five Tips On How To Choose The Right Mattress For Your Sleep
Now that you have a better idea of what’s out there in terms of mattress selection, let’s talk about how you might be able to find the right mattress for you.
Falls within your budget
First thing first would be your available budget. As much as we want to recommend the absolute best mattress for you, sometimes we have a particular budget in mind and need to stick to it. We highly recommend a mattress budget of around $1,000, but you can also make due with a budget of under $500 and or $300 and under. Mattress will vary in trial period, warranty, thickness, material type, and features in each price class, which we talk about in their respective buyers guide.
Considerate to your sleeping position
There are three key sleeping positions: on your side, on your back, and on your belly. Your sleeping position matter because it will dictate two things: 1) the potential material material choice, and 2) the firmness range you might be interested in. Let’s break it down further on how a mattress might be different depending on your preferred sleeping position:
Sleeping on your side will have a lot of pressure applied to their arms, shoulders, and neck. Aside from owning the right pillow to support the neck, side sleepers will want a mattress with more give and less upward buoyancy to relieve your arms of body weight. What we are looking for are mattresses that are considered medium-firm to firm. Plush is also acceptable. The mattress material choice we recommend to side sleepers are:
- Memory foam for contouring support and pressure relief,
- Latex foam for its cushion-y sleeping surface,
- Pillow top innerspring for the extra padding and bounce, and
- Hybrid mattresses that use memory foam or latex as an upper layer
- Mattresses in the medium-firm to firm category (5 to 7 out of 10 in firmness)
Sleeping on your back provides the least amount of pressure on your body overall. You can get away with a mattress that is a little more firm, but mattresses that are plush may be less forgiving as it curves the spine and back. Most pressure gets exerted on the hips, so having a mattress that won’t let your hips sink too deep into the mattress is best. Here are some mattresses that you might want to look out for:
- Memory foam for contouring support and pressure relief,
- Latex for its bounciness and cushion-y sleeping surface,
- Innerspring in general can provide a great bouyant sleeping surface especially if its pocketed coils,
- Hybrid mattresses can also be a great choice
- Mattresses that have emphasis on zoned support namely in the center for extra support
- Any mattress that is medium-firm to firm (5 to 8 out of 10 in firmness)
Sleeping on your belly proves some challenges. Most universal mattresses are designed to appropriate for side and back sleepers, which are the two most popular sleeping positions by quite a bit compared to stomach sleepers. That said, the interesting challenges for sleeping on your stomach is maintaining a back that doesn’t curve uncomfortably. We also want to ensure your neck is taken care of. Some stomach sleepers either use a thin pillow or no pillow at all, and will still require cushioning to support the neck, chin, and jaw areas of the face. Mattresses you might be interested in as a stomach sleeper are:
- Memory foam for contouring support and pressure relief,
- Latex bounciness and cushioned sleeping surface,
- Pillow top innerspring mattresses with pocketed coils can provide great support,
- Mattresses with a plush to medium-firm in firmness (4 to 7 out of 10 in firmness)
- Hybrid mattresses can also be an excellent choice
Choosing the mattress material you enjoy
After learning about the sleeping position you tend to prefer, and the mattress types you can look out for, let’s take a look at the different mattress materials, what they can do for you, and what makes them any good. There are five key classes of mattress materials:
An extremely popular choice of mattress, and growing further in popularity, memory foam beds (also known as polyurethane foam) is known for its development and creation by NASA to cushion their astronauts during launch and space travel. Memory foam is durable and can take a serious beating. They are also great for insulation and are seen in house walls, roof tops, and house pipes to prevent heat from escaping. Memory foam is best known for the following good and bad:
- They do an excellent job relieving pressure as the memory foam conform and mold to your body curves
- They provide an excellent cushioned sleeping surface and can be great for all bodyweight
- Memory foam can be infused with other properties such as cooling and refreshing agents
- It absorbs movement and motion extremely well
- They can keep you warm very well during cold weathers and climate
- But they may retain heat too well and cause sweating
- Too plush and memory foam can cause a sink-in trapped feeling
Is known for its hypoallergenic properties and bounciness without the heat trapping and sink-in trapped feeling of memory foam. As a cousin to memory foam, latex beds can provide a cooler sleep and confident, consistent sleeping surface for types of sleepers. Latex is known to be grouped into two types: synthetic and all natural. There is also two types of latex constructions: Dunlop and Tatalay. The type of latex construction differ in their consistency and feeling of the surface, as well as the structure of the mattress which affects the durability and longevity of your bed. Here is the run down of latex mattresses:
- Reliably uniform sleeping surface where all parts of the mattress is well supported as latex hold its shape very well
- Can be supportively firm for the body
- They relieve pressure just as well for all types of sleeping positions
- The bounciness can be great for sexual activities
- Responsive so there is no sink-in trapped feeling
- Hypoallergenic as it resists against dust and allergens
- Durable foam material that lasts longer than memory foam
- However, latex does transfer some motion which may disturb light sleeper partners
- The bounciness can wake you up at night when you adjust your body unconsciously
- Those with latex allergies beware!
Innerspring beds have gone a long way in development. This mattress type used to be a single, uniform mesh net of coils that had noticeably short lifespan because of how soon they sag. Nowadays, innerspring mattresses use pocketed coils that are individually encased. These pocketed coils provide a much “customized” feeling on the sleeping surfaces of the mattresses, and being individually encased prevents motion transfer while improving the longevity of the coils from scraping against one another. This also helps minimize noise from the historically designed innerspring bed. Here are the good and bads to innerspring mattresses:
- Significantly cooler sleep compared to foam-based mattresses because of greater airflow
- The bounciness makes innerspring mattresses great for sexual activities
- Does an excellent job at alleviation pressure across the entire body
- Pillow top beds, a subset to innerspring mattresses, provide extra padding and pressure relief
- Uses a variety of foam from regular supportive foam, latex, to memory foam as cushion from contact with the springs
- There is a range of firmness available for innerspring based on gauge levels of the coils
- Classical choice that is still widely used today
- However, innerspring is susceptible to premature sagging (coils indenting)
- Does not contour as well as foam-based mattresses and may feel “too firm”
- Can be a bit too noisy for sexual activities and disrupting to sleeping partners
Hybrid beds combine the best of two worlds. The most popular hybrid mattresses consist of memory foam and innerspring. Innerspring provides the bounce while memory foam provides the contouring pressure relieving support. Typically innersprings by itself uses a very thin layer of support foam, pillow top padding, or a thin layer of memory foam. Hybrids take this a step further and expand on the upper layers to provide more cushion. The deep compression support of the innerspring creates a reliably consistent sleeping surface. Another popular hybrid build is the use of latex and memory foam. Latex provides the bounce and consistent buoyant support while memory foam absorbs your body weight. Here are the good and bads of hybrid mattresses:
- Best of two or more worlds, combining the benefits to alleviate the down side of individual mattress materials
- Hybrid mattresses due to their higher price class can be extremely customizable by the bedding company
- They provide a unique experience unlike the typical memory foam, latex, or innerspring-only mattresses
- Hybrids tend to be thicker and can provide an excellent height for easy climbing on and off the bed
- They have a lot of other additional features included such as edge support and cooling features
- However, hybrid beds can be much more expensive
- Can be noisy and transfer motion if it uses innerspring despite the upper layers absorbing pressure
Air beds are well-known beds for travels. They are portable in nature and comfortable cushions for supportive rest. Air mattresses are also popularly used as beds for overnight guests and as a bedding alternative for those who cannot sleep in their current bed because of recent surgery. Air beds although are used for the rare occasion, some owners love sleeping on them every day. The nature of air beds, we should warn, is that they can’t be used for long periods. They do eventually leak air somewhere. It can be patched, but air beds are simply not designed to be a replacement for solid mattress beds.
If you do intend to get an air bed, most popular brands use built-in air pumps to make consumer use easier. Plus, you can never misplace the pump!
Size is appropriate
The last thing we want is a mattress that sleeps amazing, but turns out to be too small for us and ruin our sleep because we roll off it. Having an appropriately sized mattress is another important piece of the puzzle in finding mattress right for you. If your mattress is too small for you or too small for you and your partner, then it has to go. You can roll off your mattress every night, you can kick your partner off their bed, or just not be able to sleep worrying that you can fall off.
We also want a mattress that can actually fit in your bedroom the way you want your bedroom to be. If it turns out to be too big, then we have a problem. Too big for your door, then it’s also a problem. (Although most mattress companies ship their products compressed in a box so this shouldn’t be too much of a concern).
For finding the right size, we will have to consider what your needs are. For heavyset people, we might want to consider a wider mattress. Instead of a twin, a full size may be appropriate. Instead of a queen, king or california king. For individual sleepers, you can consider twin. If that’s too small, full size or queen is equally good. For tall sleepers, you want to find something lengthy. Mattress sizes built for taller people are usually labeled with “XL” (e.g., twin XL).
We want you to be able to toss and turn comfortably. The best way is to sleep and try out mattresses, or to recall past experiences. Don’t save money simply by sleeping on a smaller sized bed. Your new mattresses will be with you for the next 5 to 10 years, and we want those to be the best years of your life. Choose your appropriate size.
Considerate to your body weight
Bodyweight will dictate the firmness you need. A mattress that is 7 out of 10 in firmness will feel different for someone weighing 220 pounds vs. someone who weighs 120. As a general rule, the less you weigh, the more “firm” a particular firmness will feel. Someone who weighs more will want a higher firmness rating because it means more support for their body. Someone who weighs less won’t need as much and can sleep better with a lesser firmness number.
We know this might not be useful. Here is a bullet point summary of what you can expect for your weight class. Keep in mind the average sleeper weighs 180 pounds for a medium-firm feel, and most mattresses are designed with such in mind:
- Light (under 150 pounds): You won’t sink as deeply as the average sleeper, therefore you can generally sleep just as well on a medium to medium-firm mattress (5 to 7 out of 10). Most mattresses will work great for you, whether they are thick or firm. If you want a softer bed, you can go as low as 4 or 3 out of 10 in firmness.
- Medium (150 to 200 pounds): Your body weight will sink noticeably into the average mattress, so we want a mattress that can maintain its sleeping surface and shape over a long period of time. Ideally, a medium-firm mattress would be 6 to 7 out of 10 and great for most medium class body weight. If you are a fan of plush, then 5 or maybe 4 would be fitting.
- Heavy (200 pounds and up): You will want a firm bed of 6 to 8 out of 10 in firmness for appropriate body support. The lifespan of the average mattress should be expected to be shorter as sagging becomes more likely sooner than later. We have done some research and do recommend mattresses designed for heavyset people. Be sure to check it out for more information. For a more plush sleeping surface, 6 or 7 out of 10 will be your ideal range for maintaining sufficient body support.
What’s the return process like if I don’t like my mattress?
We always recommend our readers to do their due diligence before buying anything online. Contacting the company or vendor first and learning what their return policy is can make your return process less unexpected and less surprising. Sometimes, you may only be allowed to exchange your mattress.
First, reach out to the mattress company and let them know you’d like to return. The customer support line will speak to you and ask you a few questions to learn more on how they might be able to make the mattress and your sleep experience better. Most companies will take care of the cost of return with a prepaid label for you to print out.
If you purchase your mattress through amazon, then you can begin the return process by visiting here. It will depend on the vendor which you bought your mattress from. However, amazon will walk you through the process and may help you with the removal of the mattress or help you with the return shipping. They will give you more details once you start the return process.
Secondly, you may need to repackage the mattress to bring to the shipping company. You can do it yourself or you can get a quote from a local shipping company. Prices will vary from location to location, so we can’t offer any price details. Some mattress companies will send a crew to your house and take care of the mattress for you.
Under normal circumstances, mattress companies will find a cost-effective way to donate the mattress where a charity will arrange a way to pick it up. However, if donating the mattress cost the company too much, they may send for a junk removal company to get rid of the mattress for you. They will ask for proof of receipt before issuing your refund. Refunds may take up to 14 business days to be processed.
Is it time for a new mattress replacement?
There comes a time when we have to think to ourselves “wow, our bed is old. Maybe it’s time it goes”. Our question is: when? we wrote about mattress life spans on different material types of mattresses before. You can check out our mattress lifespan guide here. While you are here, let’s briefly touch on several reasons you might consider replacing your mattress and finding the next right one.
Is there sagging or lingering body impressions?
Sagging and lingering occurs differently for different materials. Coils from an innerspring mattress can indent and collapse because of unfortunate poor quality. Foam may not spring back to its shape because it’s been too compressed and the mixture is weak. Whatever the case is, if you find yourself with sagging or body impressions that won’t go away, it’s worth checking out the warranty from where you bought your mattress. Most mattress companies offer on average 10 year limited warranty, and if sagging is greater than 1.5 inches, your warranty can be claimed. However, keep in mind there are certain criteria you must follow and the mattress manufacturers will make a case to avoid exchange your bed for a new one.
Does your bed cause you aches and pain?
Sometimes we forget that our bed is the one that is suppose to make us feel great. Over a very long period of time, it gets difficult to notice the little changes to the way we fall asleep and wake up. Which is why we will use the body as an indicator. There are several aches and pains to be mindful for:
- Waking up with a stiff neck and/or shoulder
- Not feeling like you are falling asleep with a straight body
- Upper back is sore and pain
- Lower back and hips with aches and pain
When you start experiencing aches and pain similar to the ones described, unless you recently injured yourself, did something strenuous recently, or greatly changed your daily routine, it might just bed. This is usually because of several reasons. We mentioned sagging and linger body impressions that won’t go away. The change in the position of your body and the uneven sleeping surface can have your body lack support in odd areas, causing imbalance nd stiffness. When you start feeling aches and pain, then it’s time to change your mattress up.
Another thing to consider is that your body changes every 7 years, naturally. As you age, your body needs for a sleeping surface will also change. For example, beds might become too firm and pillows might not be comfortably cushioned enough.
Are you waking up feeling refreshed and amazing?
When you struggle to sleep well at night, there can be a lot of reasons such as dehydration, pent-up stress, or anxiety. All else considered, your mattress should be working to help you sleep well and comfortably. If you find yourself waking up groggy, exhausted, or not as your best self then your bed might be influencing the way you sleep.
When you have amazing and refreshing sleep, it feels like you wake up from deep slumber and energetic. You feel focused and motivated to start your day and get things done. Poor quality sleep because of changed personal preferences or a worn out mattress can remove these benefits and make it that much more difficult to get your day going. If you find yourself waking up unrefreshed and not so great, and it’s probably about time to replace your mattress, then it’s time to start the mattress shopping process.
Handful Of Questions You Might Want To Consider Asking:
- What is the type and thickness of all the individual layers or components in a mattress?
- What is the density of the polyfoam or memory foam layers in pounds per cubic feet?
- What type of latex or approximate blend (percentage of natural rubber vs. synthetic rubber) of the latex layers?
- What type of innerspring system is used, gauge of the coils, and number of coils in each mattress size and thickness?
- What edge support is built into the mattress? What is the density of the polyfoam edge support or gauge of the coils along the edges?
- What type or blend of fabric and any quilting materials are used in the cover? If polyfoam or memory foam is a quilted layer (pillow tops), what is the density of the foam materials in the quilting?
- What other covers are available for the mattresses?
- Is the mattress reversible in design?
- What are the dimensions of particular mattress sizes?
Our Final Thoughts
Finding a new mattress can be tedious, so we do our best to shed some light into what steps you can take to find the right mattress and what you can consider when mattress shopping. Our sleep is important, and the mattress of our bed can make a huge different in whether we wake up with aches and pain or feeling refreshed and energized to start our day. Buy a new mattress should mean better sleep, and finding the right one for us should mean sleeping better. We hope you found our mattress guide helpful.
Further reading resources: