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Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Mattress – 2017

Every night, you go to sleep—or at least you try.

But sometimes, your old, uncomfortable mattress makes sleep impossible. You wake up in the morning exhausted, aching, and stressed. Nothing ruins your day like a bad night’s sleep.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to invest in a new mattress. Though the price tags often seem daunting, your mattress supports you every night and starts you off every morning.

Studies have proven that a good mattress reduces stress, improves sleep, soothes back and joint pain, and improves our overall quality of life. Mattresses last for years, so the investment is well worth it.

However, there’s much to consider. With all the different designs and settings, and with all the different needs you might have from your mattress, choosing a new one can be as intimidating as insomnia.

We want to help you do your research and make your decision. So we test, review, and offer mattress ratings to make sure you have all the information you need before making your selection.

Consider this Buyer’s Guide along with our mattress reviews to understand better what specifications will be most relevant in your search for the best-rated mattress.

There’s no reason to stress about a good night’s sleep. Read our FAQ to make the most informed choice about which will be the best mattress for you!

Types of Mattresses

Innerspring Mattress

Innerspring mattresses are the traditional mattresses most commonly sold. The heavily quilted cloth cases surround a framework of metal springs. These springs serve as a suspension system beneath the upholstery. They support the weight of our bodies while we sleep.

There are several types of coil designs:

  • Bonnel coils — the oldest and most common; knotted, hourglass-shaped coils laced together with cross-wires
  • Marshall coils — also known as “pocket coils”; individual coils are encased separately in textile pockets
  • Offset coils — an hourglass coil designed to bend at hinges; tops and bottoms have been flattened and hinged together
  • Continuous coils — similar to an offset coil; rows of hinged coils are formed by a single piece of wire that weaves up and down

An innerspring mattress with more coils is not inherently better. The makeup of the spring framework and the strength of the coil material tend to be more important than the specific number of coils.

There are also several types of innerspring mattress designs:

  • Traditional — contains steel coils of various sizes, shapes, and tensions
  • Pillowtop — offers a soft, cushioned layer of fabric on top of the steel coils
  • Gel — offers a layer of gel on top of the steel coils

Innerspring mattresses are typically the least expensive, so an innerspring would be the best mattress for your budget. They are easier to manufacture than other types and most familiar to the consumer.

Though shifting in your sleep will be easy with an innerspring mattress, your bouncing may wake any partners.

Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam mattresses are increasingly popular and trendy. We refer to these mattresses as “memory foam,” because the material conforms to the shape of anything pressed into it. Even when the weighted object—your hand or your body, for instance—pulls away, the foam temporarily “remembers” the shape of the object before springing back into its original shape.

Made mostly of flexible polyurethane, memory foam mattresses tend to reduce back and joint pain for sleepers. However, the synthetic foam tends to retain heat more than other mattress types. Air flows more easily through the cavities of innerspring mattresses than the solid material of the foam.

Changing position in your sleep can prove difficult with a memory foam mattress.

One type of memory foam mattress is a latex foam mattress, a hypoallergenic version of the memory foam that is not made of polyurethane. Other mattress designs include layers of gel, especially as a means of reducing the heat.

Memory foam mattresses tend to be more expensive than innerspring mattresses.

Air Mattress

Air mattresses contain chambers of air instead of metal coils or foam. Some inexpensive air mattresses serve best as camping equipment or beds for surprise guests, but the higher-end, luxury air mattresses come with more features. These are designed for typical, nightly use in bedrooms.

“Soft-sided” air mattresses may even feature a layer of foam or cushion above the air bladders.

Some of the simpler air mattresses contain only one chamber of air. The more advanced air mattresses are designed with multiple, interwoven chambers that allow you to control the degree of inflation.

Adjustable air mattresses make it possible for two sleeping partners to select different inflation settings for their comfort.

Waterbed

A waterbed mattress contains water instead of metal coils, foam, or air. The material of the casing largely defines the comfort of a waterbed mattress.

Less expensive air mattresses tend to produce waves in the water when you shift in your sleep. These waves can be disruptive or soothing, depending on the sleeper’s preference. Some of the more expensive waterbeds are described as “waveless,” which means the casing of the waterbed prevents the motion of the water from impacting a shifting sleeper.

When designed properly, waterbeds support the spine and other joints better than most other mattresses.

Just be careful of puncturing the casing—nothing will wake you faster than a waterbed bursting beneath you!

Hybrid Mattress

A “hybrid” mattress is a traditional innerspring mattress with a layer or layers of foam on top of the springs.

By combining the joint support of the memory foam with the buoyancy and air flow of the innerspring, the hybrid mattress is great for anyone looking for the best of both worlds. It’s best if the layer of foam is several inches thick.

However, some of the foam layers on hybrid mattresses are too thin to make a difference or do much good for your joints.

An air mattress with a top layer of foam or gel may also be called a “hybrid” mattress.

Sizes of Mattresses

Mattresses come in several sizes and, in some cases, sleep multiple people. Consider which size will be best for you and the room where you sleep. The listed sizes are based on standards in Canada and the United States of America.

King

The largest mattress size is the king bed, which measures 76 inches wide by 80 inches long. A king-sized mattress can be supported by a king-sized box spring or by two twin XL box springs. Its size makes the king-sized mattress ideal for two people sleeping in one bed.

Another type of king-sized bed is the “California king,” which is less wide but longer than the standard king. It measures a whopping 72 inches by 84 inches.

Queen

As the most common mattress size, a queen-sized bed sleeps two people comfortably. It measures 60 inches wide by 80 inches long.

Full or Double

Considered the ideal “starter” bed for an adult or a growing teenager, the full bed or “double” measures 54 inches wide by 75 inches long. It’s unlikely to be comfortable for two fully-grown adults, as they wouldn’t have more room to sleep than on a crib mattress.

Twin or Single

A twin bed or a “single” sleeps one person. Because the twin-sized mattress is the shortest, this mattress is most commonly used by juveniles. It measures 39 inches wide by 75 inches long.

Twin mattresses can be used in bunk beds, day beds, and small guestrooms.

Twin XL

Most commonly found in college dormitory rooms, the twin XL is a bit longer than the traditional twin. It measures 39 inches wide by 80 inches long—half the size of a king-sized bed. The twin XL saves space to the same degree as the twin but gives growing sleepers more legroom to stretch.

Benefits of New Mattresses

Quality of Sleep

Studies show that new mattresses increase the quality of your sleep and reduce any discomfort in your back.

About 75% of Americans report having sleep problems at least a few nights a week. The average person only gets about 6.8 hours of sleep a night, and that results in symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation lowers your quality of life and the joy you feel throughout the day. Poor sleep quality can result in anxiety, depression, and even some mood disorders.

In short, sleep loss causes stress, and stress causes sleep loss, locking you in a tragic and unending cycle.

A good night’s sleep helps you convert short term memories to long term memories. It helps you heal—mentally and physically—and strengthens your overall health. Good sleep promotes feelings of self-worth and competence.

The comfort and support of your mattress influence the quality of your sleep.

As of now, there is no way to recommend specific mattress types for specific needs. So, when testing your new mattress, make sure that you like the way it feels.

Back Comfort

Uncomfortable mattresses tend to cause back and joint discomfort or pain. Back pain can limit your physical activity, prevent you from exercising, and reduce your overall health.

We spend roughly a third of our lives lying in bed. This makes choosing a mattress that supports your back and reduces any pain particularly important.

Some mattresses are better for reducing back pain than others. Historically, doctors recommended very firm or “orthopedic” mattresses to patients with back pain. But studies showed that individuals sleeping on very firm mattresses slept worse than those sleeping on less firm mattresses.

Soft mattresses can be equally problematic. Though soft mattresses put less direct pressure on your joints, we tend to sink deeply into softer mattresses. Our joints can twist uncomfortably if we sink in too deeply.

Pay attention to the mattresses you enjoy when you sleep away from home and try to purchase a similar mattress for yourself.

You can also improve back pain by sleeping in a good position. The typical manners of sleeping include:

  • On your back — The best sleeping position, but also one of the least common. Sleeping on your back helps your head, neck, and spine align comfortably. Sleeping stomach-side up also reduces acid reflux, though it can cause your tongue to block your breathing. Your snoring might get worse if you sleep on your back.
  • On your side — Sleeping on your side with your torso and legs relatively straight elongates your spine, reduces acid reflux, and reduces your chances of snoring. Only a small percent of adults tend to sleep on their side, though you might cause wrinkles with your face pressed into the pillow.
  • Fetal position — This is the most popular sleeping position. If you’re curled too tightly into a fetal position, you might restrict your breathing, and you might experience joint and back pain. Reduce the strain by placing a pillow between your knees, or do your best to straighten yourself out and sleep on your side.
  • On your stomach — Sleeping on your stomach can lead to back and neck pain, as it curves your spine in the wrong direction. If you must sleep on your stomach, lie face down with your forehead propped up on a pillow to allow room to breathe.

No one recommends tossing and turning throughout the night. But rotating your sleeping position can be good for your body.

Pay attention to your spine and your joints. If they tend to wake you up with complaints, you might want to try sleeping on your back or stretching out on your side.

Best of all, rotating your sleeping position helps extend the lifespan of your mattress by preventing sagging in one area!

How to Select a Mattress

When selecting a mattress, you’ll need to make decisions in a few areas:

  • The type of mattress or the internal components of the mattress
  • The size of the bedroom and the number of sleepers
  • Your individual sleeping position(s)
  • Your preferred balance between comfort and support

You may also want to consider other lifestyle factors, such as the number of pillows you like when you sleep and the weight of the comforter you prefer. A heavy comforter with a memory foam mattress may prove suffocatingly hot. A twin bed with a stack of pillows may prove unmanageable.

Decide on a Mattress Type or Core

As discussed earlier, there are some pros and cons to every kind of mattress. But selecting a bouncy, static, or middle-of-the-road mattress should be your first decision when mattress shopping.

If you like to bounce at night when you shift in your sleep, you’ll want an innerspring mattress. The internal coils provide more buoyancy than foam mattresses.

If you have allergies, you might prefer a memory foam or latex foam mattress. Innerspring mattresses tend to trap allergens.

If you like to sleep as still as a rock, you’ll want a memory foam mattress. The dense material makes nocturnal movement a chore.

If you like to change your level of support from night to night, you’ll want an adjustable air mattress. As your back requires more or less support throughout the week, you can change the level of support offered by your mattress.

You’ve been sleeping all your life—you know what you like. Once you’ve decided on a mattress core, you’re ready to move forward in the process.

Consider Your Partner and Your Sleeping Position

Everyone has different needs when they lie down at the end of the day. Whichever mattress you select, it should reflect how you and your partner sleep.

If you sleep on your side often, you’ll want a mattress that provides a lot of pressure relief for your hips, knees, and other joints. A memory foam mattress or a waterbed will conform to your shape.

If you sleep on your stomach, you likely won’t enjoy a memory foam mattress, which might threaten to suffocate you. A firmer mattress will be your friend. Consider a dense innerspring.

If you sleep on your back, you’ll want something that provides the best of all worlds. You’ll need a mattress that supports your spine but doesn’t force it out of alignment. You’ll need to test drive mattresses more often than other sleepers.

If you share your bed with anyone, you’ll have additional concerns. A partner who tosses and turns may force you to seek something with more motion isolation than the traditional innerspring.

If your partner radiates heat, you may prefer an innerspring mattress for its breathability.

If your preferences don’t match your partner’s, the adjustable air mattresses with multiple, separately-inflated chambers will be the best mattress for you.

How to Care for a Mattress

Once you’ve purchased a mattress, you’ll need to take care of it. Mattresses don’t last forever, but with a few basic care tips, you can extend its lifespan.

This mattress is an investment in the quality of your life. If you let your mattress deteriorate too quickly, you’ll have wasted your hard-earned money and thrown away the chance to sleep comfortably and restfully.

Mattress Lifespan

Mattress deterioration is based on several factors, including:

  • Quality and type of materials
  • Quality of manufacturing
  • Degree of care
  • Degree of use

Innerspring cores typically last about a decade, but the comfort layer typically fails first. Mattress warranties tend to last between one and two decades. It’s worth noting that marketing campaigns attempt to shorten the advertised lifespan of a mattress. With this technique, mattress manufacturers tend to sell more product.

However, studies have shown that replacing your mattress more frequently may genuinely improve the quality of your sleep. A five- or eight-year lifespan may prove more beneficial to your quality of sleep.

Mattress Maintenance

Over time, mattresses may sag, mildew, or stain. Innerspring mattresses may be punctured by their own coil springs or suffer from unbearable squeaking.

To engage in the best mattress care:

  • Provide proper support for your mattress with a box spring when necessary
  • Rotate and flip your mattress regularly
  • Keep your mattress dry
  • Do not place your mattress on the floor—ventilate your mattress
  • Use a mattress pad or protector
  • Avoid sleeping consistently in the same place or position
  • Take great care whenever transporting or storing your mattress
  • Avoid placing heavy objects on your mattress
  • Use a vacuum cleaner to clean a mattress
  • Prohibit jumping on the mattress
  • Use baking soda to absorb foul smells that sink into your mattress
  • Do not lift the mattress from its straps, which are meant for repositioning the mattress

Most manufacturers recommend flipping or rotating your mattress every month for the first six months of use. After those first six months, you may flip or rotate your mattress every other month. It’s recommended that you rotate your box spring twice a year.

As far as cleaning your mattress, the best thing to do is rely on preventative measures. Use a thick mattress pad or protector to keep any bodily fluids from staining the mattress upholstery. You can remove the mattress pad and clean it in a washing machine. When unavoidable spills occur, use a vacuum cleaner immediately.

The most important maintenance tip for taking care of your mattress is to say goodbye once its time has passed. Keeping a mattress past its prime can cause you undue harm. Trade it in for a better one and get a better night’s sleep!

And when you’re finally finished with your mattress, most communities offer mattress recycling programs. Massachusetts alone disposes of approximately 600,000 mattresses every single year! But if you participate in a recycling program, up to 95% of the materials that make up a mattress can be repurposed.

Conclusion

You deserve the best night’s sleep possible every single night. Without a good mattress, getting quality sleep can prove nearly impossible. Your health, your mental state, your competence, and your physical well-being all depend on the quality of the sleep you get each night.

If it’s been more than a decade since your mattress was purchased, it may be time to consider a new investment in your quality of life through the quality of your sleep.

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