Choosing the right mattress is one of the most important steps to getting a good night’s sleep, but it’s not the simplest task. It can be exhausting to navigate through dozens of different types, firmness levels, and manufacturers to find the perfect bed.
But this process doesn’t have to be tedious if you know where to start and what to look for. We’ve created this guide to help you along and hopefully make the process a whole lot easier.
Where to Shop
You have two options when it comes to buying a new mattress – in-store or online. Which one you choose depends on what you prioritize when it comes to shopping for big-ticket items.
In recent years, there’s been a huge uptick of the number of online-only, mattress-in-a-box companies, providing customers much more convenience than visiting a store and dealing with salespeople.
A few positives of buying a mattress online are that most manufacturers provide excellent sleep trials with a money-back guarantee that helps limit the risk, and it’s easier to compare prices. Mattresses are typically sold at lower prices because of a lack of overhead costs, too.
Some drawbacks are that you can’t feel the mattress before you buy it, and you usually have to figure out how to get rid of your old mattress yourself since most companies ship your mattress compressed in a box. You’ll also be responsible for setup, in most cases.
Shopping at a mattress retailer allows you to see a larger selection of mattresses in person, and you can test them out to see what feels the best. Most of the time, stores will handle the removal of your old mattress, too.
Another positive is that you can usually negotiate with the salesperson on price. However, it can be more difficult to know if you’re actually getting a good deal when you’re presented with so many options to choose from and limited time to compare.
There are three main types of mattresses to choose from: innerspring, foam, and air-filled. Each of these types have their benefits and drawbacks depending on your preferences and sleep style, so you’ll need to know more about each type before making a decision.
The classic innerspring mattress is still the most commonly used type, and for many good reasons. They provide the most options for to choose from when it comes to firmness levels and price range.
Innerspring mattress also last much longer than other types because of the nature of their construction. The metal coils can generally withstand many years of use without losing their support, and they provide a lot of airflow. This means they’ll usually keep you cooler than any type of foam mattress.
One thing to note is that unless you choose a coil mattress wrapped coils, you’ll likely experience more motion transfer than you would with a foam or air-filled option.
This type of mattress is usually comfortable and dependable for any type of sleeper, especially if you go with a mid-range or high-end option. The key is to make sure there are enough springs and cushioning to provide comfortable support, but don’t be fooled by 390+ coil counts that can drive up the price, since they don’t make a discernible difference beyond that number.
If you’re looking for a bed that provides a lot of bounce and support, keeps you cool throughout the night, and has enough durability to last for many years, you can’t really go wrong with an innerspring mattress.
Foam mattresses are quickly catching up to innerspring mattresses as the most common type, with most manufacturers offering at least one foam option or incorporate it in some way, and most mattress-in-a-box companies exclusively sell this type.
There are a few different types of foam mattresses to choose from, including proprietary foams and polyurethane, but we’ll focus on the most popular ones.
Memory foam is known for its unique ability to completely conform to your body’s shape, then it slowly moves back into its original form when you’re not pressing on the material. The foam cradles your body to absorb pressure on your joints, so it’s an ideal choice for people with body aches and pains.
You can find memory foam in a variety of different densities and firmness levels, too.
This type of mattress is also great for motion isolation, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing your sleeping partner if you toss and turn or get up out of bed frequently. However, they can be more difficult to move around on and get in or out of because of their sinking qualities.
Some types of memory foam mattresses do emit a chemical smell, but it generally dissipates over time. However, if you’re very sensitive to smells, a memory foam option might not be your top choice.
Another issue is that memory foam mattresses tend to hold onto body heat more than any other type even if they contain cooling gel, so if you sleep hot, you might want to steer clear – unless you use a super cooling mattress topper.
Pricewise, they’re usually a bit more expensive than innerspring mattresses, but you can find some decent options for less than $500. Plus, they tend to hold their shape for many years and last a long time.
Authentic latex mattresses are an environmentally-friendly alternative to memory foam made from tree sap, and they provide a lot of bounce, responsiveness, and cooling without any chemical emissions. However, these are typically much more expensive than other foams.
Some companies offer a synthetic latex alternative that provides all the qualities of a latex mattress without the higher cost.
Latex mattresses offer plenty of support and relief for pressure points and pain, and they do an excellent job at preventing motion transfer. They’re also very durable and tend to last at least 10 to 12 years without noticeable wear.
Another big benefit of authentic latex mattresses are their natural anti-allergen, anti-fungal, and fire-resistant properties.
Although you can find a few different firmness levels among latex mattresses, some people find them to be on the firmer side. But stomach sleepers find the firmness level of latex much more preferable than the sinking qualities of memory foam.
Air-filled mattresses are made with air chambers that provide the main support, and they’re usually topped with some sort of foam for cushioning.
Aside from the high cost and upkeep associated with owning this type of mattress, these are ideal if you’re looking for customization options that allow you to adjust the support level anytime you want. They also typically allow you to adjust separately for each side of the bed, which is great if you and your sleeping partner prefer completely different firmness levels.
Some drawbacks are that it can often take a lot of time and experimentation to find the perfect setting, and even once you do, it’s highly subjective to change depending on the air temperature, barometric pressure, and weight of the person.
Although airbeds might require maintenance if something malfunctions or breaks, most companies offer excellent warranties and will ship the owner a part that they can use to repair it themselves, rather than having to ship the bed back or replace it.
Hybrids and More
If you’re not sure which type of mattress to choose, there are many different types of hybrids that combine the bounciness, airflow, and durability of a traditional innerspring mattress with the contouring qualities of a foam topper.
Some companies even offer innerspring mattresses with a different firmness level on each side, so you can flip or rotate the mattress to find the most comfortable side for you.
Firmness Level and Sleep Positions
Regardless of the type of mattress you choose, the right firmness level can make all the difference in the comfort or lack thereof that you receive from your mattress. You’ll also need to consider your sleeping position when deciding which firmness level would work best.
Back sleepers tend to require the most support of all, and they usually do best with a firm or extra firm mattress. If you’re strictly a back sleeper, you’ll want to stay away from ultra-soft mattresses, but memory foam tends to be a great option to provide pressure-relieving support.
Stomach sleepers usually feel their best on a medium to medium-firm mattress. You’ll want a bed that provides equal support across your entire body, since the torso tends to absorb all of the pressure in this position. Extra soft beds can lead to lower back pain in many cases.
Side sleepers often feel most comfortable in a medium to medium-soft mattress than can absorb some of the pressure on the hips and shoulders.
If you don’t have a strict sleeping position or toss and turn frequently, a medium or medium-firm mattress is usually a safe choice.
Writer and Product Researcher
Spending the last 10 years researching and writing about various home, garden and electronics topics, Shelley is more than qualified to write for Meccano Home. Her work has been featured on eBay, Pottery Barn, SFGate, TheKnot, Williams-Sonoma and various other blogs and websites.