It can be difficult to find the best mattress. There are several factors you need to consider, such as your weight, your body shape, and firmness preferences.
We also want to pay close attention to mattress types or technology and the sleep trials or warranty a company offers.
What We Look For in Mattresses
Just because a company has been around the longest, doesn’t mean their products will be the best. But brand longevity is something to consider. The longer the company has been around, the more reviews they hopefully have acquired. Sorting through mattress reviews is a great way to read authentic feedback.
Pro Tip #1: A lot of companies will work hard to only make it easy to find their good reviews. Spend a little more time on the site and look at the middle of the ground ratings to try and get a neutral look.
Just as important as company background, is how long have the current mattress models been in production? A lot of companies will alter their product design based on customer feedback. Mattress companies are no different. If you buy a Tuft and Needle mattress now, it isn’t the same mattress they were selling in their first two or three years of being a business. Densities may have changed, ILD ratings may have changed. It’s possible the entire manufacturing plant may have changed as well.
If you can’t find out this information on the company’s website, reach out through a personal chat service or send the company an email.
Sleep Trials and Warranty
At Healthy Sleep, we see sleep trials and warranties as one of the most important things to consider when shopping for a new mattress. Though, as we will explain in more detail below, a longer trial and longer warranty does not necessarily mean a stronger product.
Trial Periods and Return Policies
Before online mattress shopping became the norm, sleep trials and warranties left quite a bit to be desired. If you bought your mattress from a major retailer (think of Sears or JCPenneys or Macy’s) chances are your return and exchange options were restrictive. Some companies required the customer to keep the mattress for 30 or 60 days (this is called an Adjustment Period and we will cover more of the idea behind it below). Most, if not all, companies required a restocking fee or pick-up fee. So, let’s say you went to your local department store and tried out a few mattresses. After spending a good thirty minutes in the showroom, you decided on the right one and made a purchase. A few days it gets delivered to you but after sleeping on it for a month, your back pain is actually worse. So, you call the store from where you made your purchase and talk to your sales associate. If the store offered returns, they would often come with a restocking fee. Sometimes this would be a flat fee (say, $100 or $150 or more) and sometimes it would be a percentage of the retail value of the mattress (10% or 15%). The logic of this is sound: it costs money to pick the mattress up and properly dispose of it. However, as consumers became privy to the higher-than-average mark-ups, people agreed there should be a better way. After all, it seems wrong to financially punish a customer for not being able to have a good night’s sleep. Now you are out of a mattress and a couple hundred bucks. And that’s if the retailer offered returns. Some retailers were final sale or “exchange only,” meaning you could exchange your mattress for another model but not get your money back.
Enter the new and improved sleep trial. Thanks in part to their less overhead, online mattress companies began to offer excellent, customer-focused sleep trials. Now you can buy a mattress and get it delivered to you. If, after so many nights, you decide it isn’t right for you, just arrange to get it picked up and receive a full refund. No restocking fee, no pick-up fee.
There is still some variation with the new and improved sleep trial. Some companies offer 90 days, others offer 60, 100, 101, and so on. Some companies still require you to keep the mattress for a set number of days, whereas others will accept returns as soon as the product is delivered.
When looking for a quality sleep trial, look for one that is at least 90 days long, doesn’t require the mattress be kept for 30 days (or at least, per the reviews, is willing to be lenient in the case of extreme circumstances), and does not, in any way, require a restocking or return fee.
Above, we mentioned longer sleep trials don’t necessarily signal better products. And this is true. Some companies offer a full-year sleep trial. And while this seems fantastic, such longer sleep trials are unnecessary. Experts show breaking a habit takes around three weeks. When adjusting to a new workout (or sleep solution) one should know if the mattress is working for them in three to four weeks.
Pro Tip #2: Sleep Trials are fantastic (and should be included with your next mattress purchase) but don’t buy because of one. Instead, spend some time doing research and investigate how companies offer to assist you if, after getting their product, you are unsatisfied.
A mattress warranty is a company’s way of saying how long, and to what extent, they stand behind their products. Mattress warranties are actually some of the longest warranties available. If you go buy an appliance, usually the salesperson tries to sell you an extended warranty. High-end TV warranties rarely last more than a year. With a mattress, the industry norm is a 10-year warranty. While some companies offer longer warranties (20, 25, 30+ warranties), a 10-year warranty is sufficient for two reasons. First, the jury is out on whether or not a mattress, at it’s 11, 12, or 13-year mark, even if it is still comfortable and supportive, should be kept. Second, research shows most mattresses, if they are to develop a defect, develop them early in their lifespan.
A mattress warranty may be longer than a TV or appliance warranty because there is less that can go wrong with a mattress. When it comes to warranties, most companies are protecting their product from developing a sag or indentation. What changes from company to company is how much of a sag or indentation they allow. This seems to correspond with the materials used. For example, innerspring mattresses usually require a sag of 1 ¼” or greater to develop for the product to be considered defective. Meanwhile, foam mattresses usually only require sags of ¾” or greater. When looking at mattress warranties, find one that covers sags of ¾” or greater.
Pro Tip #3: When looking at warranties, find out how a warranty claim must be filed. Some companies send out an agent to inspect the mattress, some request photos of the sag, others require you to send the mattress back to them for testing.
A mattress is only as good as the materials it uses. However, what material is best for you is a more complicated question. See below for a quick overview of the main materials offered:
Memory Foam: one of the newest technologies, memory foam is known to offer pressure relief and contouring support. Potential Con: higher chance of heat retention, higher average dollar ticket.
When looking at memory foam, look at density. Density is a way of measuring how much pressure can be absorbed. High density foams cost more, may support you more, but also come with the added risk of being a heat trap. Low density foams, however, are less expensive and prone to break down quicker.
Latex: a tried and true technology that is eco-friendly and naturally cool, latex is a good option for someone who likes bounce and their mattress but doesn’t want a traditional mattress: Potential con: latex mattresses tend to be very expensive and it is getting harder to find natural latex mattresses. When deciding on a latex mattress, do some research to find out how much of the mattress is actual, natural latex versus synthetic, blend latex.
Innerspring Coil: perhaps the most popular mattress technology, innerspring coils is the type of mattress most of us have grown up sleeping on. There are several different types of coils—from Bonnell to individually wrapped 2-in-1 coils—which will be covered in a future article. Until then, if considering a coil mattress, we recommend individually wrapped 2-in-1 coils as they are designed to help provide comfort and support and reduce the risk of motion transfer.
Hybrid: The word “hybrid”, in relation to mattresses, has always been fickle in meaning. However, Healthy Sleep will use hybrid in its most traditional sense: a mattress that is half coil and half non-coil material (such as latex or memory foam). Hybrids were designed to have the support and bounce of a coil mattress, with the pressure relieving abilities of a memory foam or latex mattress. Potential con: While hybrids generally feel very comfortable when testing, they also usually come with a warranty that requires 1 ¼” of a sag or more to be defective. This is a risk as hybrids have more foam than innerspring mattresses but still require a larger sag than an all foam mattress. Plus, when a layer of foam being laid over innerspring coils, there is legitimate concern that the foam is not getting the support it needs to maintain its structural integrity and not sag. So the type of mattress which is possibly at the greatest risk for sagging, allows its foam to sag more than all-foam products.
Transparency of Information
How we buy mattresses—thanks to the online revolution—has fundamentally changed. If we look at how Mattress Firm organizes their showroom, we can see this difference. Mattress Firm showrooms are organized by firmness level. The plush mattresses are with the plus mattresses, the firm mattresses are with the firm mattresses, and so on. The idea being that customers can be sorted by firmness preferences.
It wasn’t necessarily important then, what kind of foam was used or how much of it. What mattered most was the feel of the mattress. The concern with this approach is whether there is a direct relationship between how a mattress feels when trying it out and how it feels after a few nights of sleeping on it. Also, what if you are only used to a certain type of feel? What if feel wasn’t that important? What if instead of using adjectives such as firm and soft, we used adjectives such as supportive and not-supportive?
Because we are shopping more and more online, shopping by firmness isn’t the norm. What is “soft” to one person may be “medium-firm” to someone else. To help with this, companies are more transparent than before, telling customers what kind of technology is in their mattress, how much coils, how much foam, what they covers are made of and so on.
Pro Tip #4: While more transparent than legacy brands, online mattress companies still tend to make it difficult to find out how many inches of foam are in the product. Knowing how much memory foam is in a mattress (is it ½” or a full 2 inches?) helps you gauge whether or not the price of the mattress is a good value.
Where to Find the Best Mattresses
Spoiler alert: there is no one best mattress to fit everyone’s needs. If there was—and it could be shown objectively—there would be no need for blogs like this. The truth is, people are different and have different needed.
Mattresses for Side Sleepers (call out box)
Generally speaking, side sleepers need a bed that has enough cushion to fill in the gaps at their thighs and torso. Imagine if you were laying on a firm surface, like the floor, you’d feel pressure build up on your hips and your shoulders. This pressure is because your weight is not evenly distributed across your sleeping surface.
If a mattress is too firm, it can lead to tossing and turning, which makes it harder for your body to fall into the deeper stages of sleep, leading to groggy mornings.
If you’re going to get an innerspring mattress we recommend looking for something with a pillow top. A pillow top mattress gives you comfort and cushion and also helps with aches and pains.
To find out more, read our article on finding the best mattress for side sleepers.
Pro Tip #5: There are a lot of opinions on which side to sleep on. Our research shows it’s clearly better to sleep on the right side of your body. This leads to optimal heart health, a faster and deeper sleep, which leads to more recovery and a better start to your day.
Mattresses for Back Sleepers
Back sleepers tend to favor a medium-firm mattress. This firmness gives them just enough cushion to support their lower back and provide pressure relief for their shoulders.
If you’re trying to sleep on your back (maybe your doctor has recommended it), alleviating your legs may just be the way to do it. People often move to their side in the middle of the night to take the pressure off their back, but if you raise your legs, the pressure is greatly reduced.
Consider adjustable beds which allow you to raise your legs.
Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers
If side sleeping and back sleeping are considered normal and recommended sleep positions, stomach sleeping is just the opposite.
Here is the concern: sleeping on your stomach causes your body to go against the natural curvature of your spine. Your hips push into the mattress, and pressure is added on your lower back. Plus, stomach sleeping leads to a higher risk of waking up with a sore neck and puts unnecessary stress on your chest.
If you must sleep on your stomach, a firmer mattress will work better than a softer one nine times out of ten. If you’re looking to switch to a side sleeper or a back sleeper, consider investing in an adjustable bed or a body pillow which can help you transition.
Mattresses for Combo Sleepers
It seems like most people fall asleep in one position and wake up in another. This means your body was comfortable in one position during the beginning of your seep cycle but had to move to allow your body to paralyze itself, as it must do, to get to REM sleep.
For sleepers who like to move around, or want the freedom to go from back sleeping to side sleeping, consider a medium mattress
Mattresses for Heavier People
The same mattress can feel very different to two separate people. Why? The weight we bring to the mattress, and where our weight lies on our body, play a significant role in comfort and support.
If looking for the right mattress for a heavier build, there are specific brands to consider. However, coil mattresses tend to be more popular, especially coil mattresses that offer increased edge support.
Not even ten years ago it would have been uncommon to buy a mattress online. Mattress shopping meant going to a brick-and-mortar retail store, trying out a handful of mattresses, and getting the mattress delivered and set up in your home.
There were a lot of areas which can be improved in this model.
First, just because a mattress feels good for twenty minutes in a showroom does not mean it will feel good for years.
Second, most brick-and-mortar retail locations offered limited return and exchange policies (if they offered them at all). If they did offer a return or exchange, there was usually a fee associated with it. This means you could buy a mattress and get charged a restocking fee if you wanted to return it. Imagine buying a t-shirt only to find it doesn’t fit you as well as you like, so you take it back to the store and the store offers you your money back minus 20%. You wouldn’t accept that for a shirt, so it seems wrong to accept it for a much bigger purchase such as a mattress.
Memory foam mattresses are a type of poly-foam. In fact, it’s poly-foam with visco-elastic properties.
There are several different types of memory foam.
Gel-memory foam is foam infused with beads or swirls of gel which help break apart heat and keep you cool throughout the night.
The foam layer is often the best at relieving pressure but it is also a known heat trap. Getting something like gel memory foam can help with this issue.
Major mattress brands will definitely have some answer to the question of “will my mattress sleep hot?”
Innerspring mattresses use pocketed coils to offer comfort and support. Sometimes the coils are pocketed and this helps with motion isolation.
Innerspring mattresses also have the best edge support. However, edge support may not be as important as you think. It’s about trade-offs. Having edge support is good for sitting on the edge of the bed, tying your shoe, and so on.
But edge support also means the edge of your mattress is firmer.
Hybrid mattresses use half foam, such as latex foam or memory foam of poly foam, and half coils. The coils can be individually wrapped or two in one coils or just old fashion bonnel coils.
Hybrid mattresses try to have the pressure-relief of memory foam and latex and the support, bounce, and comfort of innerpsring mattresses.
Bed in a Box Mattresses
Bed in a box mattress shopping is the newest trend. It’s been around for about a decade. When replacing your old mattress, you’ve probably wanted an easier shopping experience, like finding a book on Amazon.
Well, when looking at options for a new bed, definitely check a bed in a box mattress.
You can now get a luxury mattress at an affordable price, packaged up in a convenient box, and shipped right to you.
Bed in a box mattresses are great purchases because they come with, usually, at least a 60 day trial. So while you can’t try it before you buy it, you can try it at home in your own bedding and pajamas.
Say goodbye to the annoying and frustrating mattress stores and hello to an easier, shopping experience.
Finding the most comfortable mattress can take some time. However, using the tips we provided above can narrow your search.
We recommend you look for a breathable mattress that is a medium firmness. A medium firmness is sometimes called a luxury firm in the industry, so take a look for that. A good mattress doesn’t sag on you, isn’t too bouncy, and provides significant cushioning for your pressure points.
Generally, the top layer (whether just foam or a euro top or pillow top) should have the most support and most cooling features, this is especially true for hot sleepers.
All in all, take these points into consideration, narrow your search down by price point, and find your ideal mattress for a great value.