Buying a mattress can be a challenge. Not only are there a range of price points, but the sizes, densities, and materials all vary, and each one counts. Add to that the fact that most people spend at least a third of their lives in bed, and you have an essential set of decisions to make.
Here's a complete guide to everything you need to know to make sure that the next mattress you buy is the right one. Like most things, it all comes down to knowing the right questions to ask. Read on to discover which questions to ask yourself before you begin shopping for a new mattress.
What Size Mattress Do I Need?
The first question that always comes up is about size. When it comes to choosing the right size mattress, length, width, and depth are each important factors. Not only should a mattress accommodate the height of you and your mate it should also be wide enough so that you can both sleep comfortably. According to Sleep Train, the typical mattress sizes break down in approximately this order:
- Twin Size Mattress: Width: 39” x Length: 74” (99.06 x 187.96 cm)
- Twin Extra Long Size Mattress: Width: 39” x Length: 80” (99.06 x 203.2 cm)
- Full Size Mattress: Width: 54” x Length: 74” (137.16 x 187.96 cm)
- Queen Size Mattress: Width: 60” x Length: 80” (152.4 x 203.2 cm)
- King Size Mattress: Width: 76” x Length: 80” (193.04 x 203.2 cm)
- California King Size Mattress: Width: 72” x Length: 84” (182.88 x 213.36 cm)
- Crib Mattress: Most crib mattress dimensions near 27” x 51.5.”
To help us all choose the right bed size for our needs, the Better Sleep Council offers these guidelines:
- A twin bed offers a single sleeper 39 inches of sleeping space, but at only 74-75 inches long, it may be too short for some adult males.
- A full-size mattress (also called a double) is also best suited for a single person. It can sleep two people but offers each sleeper only 27 inches of individual space, and at the same length as a twin.
- The most popular size of mattress, a queen-sized mattress gives two sleepers 30 inches of personal space apiece.
- A king mattress gives each person 38 inches, which is only 1 inch less than the space a single person would have sleeping alone in a twin bed.
- A California king is 4 inches narrower, but 4 inches longer, than a traditional king and is well suited for couples and taller sleepers.
Ideally, bed’s length should be at least 4 to 6 inches longer than the tallest sleeper, and the width should offer ample sleeping space depending on the number and personal dimensions of the sleeper(s) that will be using it. Finally, you'll need to consider the size of the room. While a king-sized bed might technically fit inside your bedroom, it may not be the right purchase if closet doors and dresser drawers won't have room to function or if the size of the bed hinders movement through the room.
How Firm Do I Need My Mattress to Be?
It is the next most frequently asked question, and while opinions on the topic abound, the truth is that there several factors at play beyond just the density of a mattress and how much support it gives. Many of these have to do with variations between mattress brands. What one company may offer as its “firm” mattress, might be labeled “medium” by another seller. More important, however, is the material that the mattress is made from and the technology by which it gives support. The sheer number of different mattress types on the market can be daunting. So, to help narrow it down, here are the four main categories.
Typically the most affordable choice, innerspring mattresses house different numbers of steel coils that support and distribute weight. The general rule with these mattresses is that the more coils there are, the more support the mattress provides. Over time, however, there is a common complaint of premature compression of padding with these mattresses.
Polyurethane, latex, and Memory foam all fall into this category. Each has a different density, level of heat retention and support, and each has a specific price point. Memory foam mattresses, which mold to the body and don’t transfer motion, have become very popular over the years. Recently, gel-infused memory foam (memory foam composed of thousands of tiny gel beads) has been introduced as a more breathable alternative to high-density memory foam. With any foam mattress, moisture-wicking fabric covers can add another layer of comfort. Latex mattresses, too, can trap heat, so look for added top layers that purport to solve the heat issue—but be aware that these heat-lowering amenities can also lead to significant increases in price.
Relatively new to the market, and often viewed as the best of both worlds, hybrid mattresses are comprised of a mix of innerspring coils and specialty foam. These mattresses offer excellent support, contour to the body, and are often more cost-effective than foam alone. Additionally, they are purported to be especially beneficial for those who experience muscle and joint pain. It is important to note, however, that these mattresses rarely possess an even 50/50 ratio of foam to coils. So if you need one more than the other it's important to find out which is more prevalent in the mattress you intend to buy.
Among the more expensive mattress types, adjustable mattresses often range close to $2,000.00. And while aesthetically they remind us more of hospitals than of our favorite shelter mags, adjustable mattresses do have their benefits. Adjusting the height of your head, feet, and other body parts can help mitigate problems with circulation, snoring, asthma, and acid reflux—to name just a few. Add to the potential health benefits the convenience of being able to make minute adjustments with just the touch of a button, and you have a solid argument for making this significant investment.
How Do I Know Which Mattress Is Best?
Knowing which mattress is right for you means looking at a lot of different factors, including size, density, materials, and good, old-fashioned comfort. But despite personal considerations like height and room size, you'll be looking for a mattress that:
- Distributes weight evenly
- Minimizes motion transfer
- Conforms to your curves
- Regulates temperature (as opposed to one that traps heat)
- Has reinforced edges (foam-encased)
- Has quality stitching and construction
The experts at Consumer Reports recommend choosing a medium-firm mattress for the best all-around support and spending at least 15 minutes lying on the mattress before you buy to make sure that it meets your needs.
How Much Should I Spend on a Mattress?
It is always a good question to ask before any purchase for the home. Mattress prices vary widely, based on several factors including size, material and brand name. Depending on where you shop and what you need, prices can range from less than $300 to over $3,000. But with a large number of sales and discounts being offered, buying at a lower price doesn't necessarily mean lower quality.
In fact, according to Consumer Reports, waiting for a sale is always the best option, regardless of your budget as savings can reach well above 50% off list prices. Sales of this type typically occur during the long President's Day (February), Memorial Day (May), and Labor Day (September) weekends. Prices are usually lowered from 10 to 25%, and sometimes even more. Some retailers will even refund the difference on a mattress that has gone on sale as many as 4 weeks after your purchase, so make sure that you're aware of everything your retailer offers before you buy.
Where Should I Shop for a Mattress?
There are almost as many places to buy mattresses as there are mattresses to buy. While brand recognition goes a long way, several off-brand names are worth checking out, too. Often, they cost less while offering the same quality as their well-known counterparts. According to the leading independent researcher, off-brand and lesser-known names such as the following have all tested rather well in their respective categories.
- Amerisleep.com (plant-based memory foam)
- Casper (latex & memory foam)
- Englander (hybrid)
- Ikea (hybrid)
- Leggett & Platt (adjustable)
- Restonic (innerspring)
- Reverie (adjustable)
- Rize (adjustable)
- Sleep Science (memory foam)
Wherever you choose to shop, in a store or online, make sure you go with a list of the things you’re looking for in a mattress and a willingness to carefully examine labels. Keep an eye out for details such as the numbers of coil, type of material, and other details about the product you're looking to buy. Above all, don't be afraid to ask questions. If the person you're dealing with doesn't know their products or care to engage in the conversation, you may want to think twice before paying your money.
How Do I Return a Bad Mattress?
Finally, despite all of the preparation and research, it's possible that you still may end up with a mattress that doesn't give you what you want. The most important first step in successfully returning a mattress is being familiar with the policies, guarantees, and offers of the company that you purchased from. The next most important step is to be sure always to save your receipt. Many companies offer comfort guarantees or warranties that you might be able to take advantage of, and you'll need to show your receipt to do so. It's also important to keep the mattress label (you know, the one that says you’ll go to jail if you remove it). That needs to be intact as well to ensure a successful return.
Ideally, you want a warranty that will replace a defective mattress within as many as 10 years of your purchase. Warranties, however, don’t cover wear, and some even don’t even grant a full refund in the event of a malfunction.
Consumer Reports advises that “a company will void a warranty…if the mattress is soiled, or if it has uneven support from a box spring or frame.”
Some companies will allow you to test a mattress for several weeks or months to see if it’s right for you—but if you return it, you’ll probably have to pay a pickup fee, usage fee, and possibly a restocking fee. The cost might be worth it, though, if it helps ensure years of healthy, restorative, comfortable sleep.