Buyer’s Guide: Mattresses
Time to replace your mattress? We've broken down the best options on the market for your sleeping habits.
While the average mattress has a lifespan of seven to 10 years, most homeowners don’t consider replacing the sleeping necessity until it sags, causes backaches, or brings on restless nights of tossing and turning. Fortunately, most mattress woes can be solved by purchasing a new mattress that is specifically designed to improve your comfort and quality of sleep. Read on to learn which mattresses best address common nighttime complaints, so that you know how to choose a mattress that meets your unique needs and preferences.
How to Choose a Mattress
Before hitting the mattress store, consider these tips on how to choose a mattress that’s perfectly suited for you.
Know the lingo.
In a mattress store, signage and tags often contain industry terms that apply to specific mattress types. It’s important to understand the lingo before shopping so that you don’t wind up with a mattress that doesn’t fit your needs. For starters, the four major types of mattresses are distinguishable by the support system it’s named for: innerspring mattresses use steel springs, memory foam uses body-contouring polyurethane foam, latex uses a latex foam support system, and air uses an air chamber.
- The term “coils” refers to the springs of an innerspring mattress. Coils are available in multiple varieties: Bonnell and Offset (hourglass-shaped coils), Marshall (coils wrapped in fabric pockets), and Continuous (single length of wire shaped into multiple rows of coils).
- Traditional memory foam mattresses are sold alongside air cool mattresses (which dissipate heat to cool the pad) and gel memory foam mattresses (which are infused with gel for improved air circulation).
- Latex mattresses are described as natural (made from rubber tree serum), synthetic (made from petroleum), or blended latex, which is a combination of natural and synthetic latex.
A new mattress can set you back anywhere from $100 to upwards of $4,000, depending on the type and size of mattress you choose. Innerspring mattresses are the most affordable option with an average cost of $940, while memory foam and latex varieties average $1,370 and $1,600, respectively. At the upper end of the scale are air mattresses, which cost $2,180 on average.
If you’re sensitive to latex, wool, dust, or other substances, avoid mattresses that increase your risk of exposure to the allergen. For example, traditional innerspring mattresses with pillow tops—or padding stitched atop the mattress—encourage dust mites. If you suffer from dust allergies, opt for a latex or memory foam mattress instead. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to blacklist all mattresses of a certain type to avoid an allergen. For instance, even though the Pure Green mattress listed below is made of natural latex, it’s topped with a wool cover that allows latex-allergy sufferers to avoid direct contact with the material.
Give every mattress the Goldilocks test before you purchase it. Lie down on the mattress in your normal sleeping position, whether it’s on your back, side, or stomach. Change positions several times, noting if the mattress feels too firm, too soft, or just right for your needs. Also take note of any aches, pains, pressure, or skin reactions. This test run will help you pinpoint the mattress type, brand, and model with the firmness, comfort, and support level you need for a restful night’s sleep.
Comply with the warranty.
The typical mattress warranty lasts between 10 to 25 years, and it only covers manufacturing defects—not normal wear and tear. Moreover, most mattress warranties offer prorated coverage over the life of the warranty, meaning that you derive fewer benefits as your mattress ages. Understand that an improper frame or poor mattress condition (i.e. staining) can void the warranty in some cases. To prevent cosmetic damage and maximize the life of your warranty, use a mattress cover from day one.
The 3 Best Mattresses for Better Sleep
Now that you understand basic shopping considerations, read on to find the best mattress for your particular needs.
If your mattress is sagging or worn before its time…
You need a more durable mattress that can better support your weight and movement. Minor body impressions in a mattress are expected with normal use, but sags exceeding two inches in height signal that your mattress has passed its prime. Innerspring mattresses with soft cushions are more prone to sagging because their support springs easily compress. Latex or memory foam mattresses with firm cushions can better withstand weight and absorb motion, making them more likely to retain their shape over time.
BEST TYPE OF MATTRESS: Latex
The high density of latex makes it the best type of mattress for sleepers with above-average heights or builds, as well as individuals who frequently shift positions while sleeping. After being subjected to weight or movement, latex quickly reverts to its original shape, which minimizes mattress sagging and wear over time. Additionally, many modern latex mattresses offer motion isolation, meaning they can absorb movement in a localized spot without significantly compressing the mattress or disturbing surrounding areas. This explains why natural latex foam mattresses last for a minimum of ten years, but often last 20 years or longer.
TOP PICK: Pure Green Natural Latex firm mattress ($719 to $1,699)
The Pure Green Natural Latex firm mattress, which has a natural latex foam base layer and a quilted wool surface, is the best option for sleepers seeking a durable, eco-friendly product with a long lifespan. Rated 4 stars by Consumer Reports’ reviewers, the sturdy mattress can adequately support sleepers 6’2″ and 220 pounds or beyond, as well as side and stomach sleepers of all builds. Available at Sleep On Latex.
If your mattress is causing back pain…
Consider swapping it for a medium-firm mattress that relieves pressure on the spine. Overly firm mattresses force the natural curves of the spine into a flat alignment, which pushes up against sensitive pressure points on the spine and causes pain. Similarly, overly soft mattresses force the lower back to sink out of alignment with the rest of the body. Both memory foam and innerspring mattresses help relieve back pain by providing a moderate level of firmness while still accommodating the natural curvature of your back.
BEST TYPE OF MATTRESS: Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses strike the best balance between comfort and support to reduce pains for backache sufferers. Made primarily of polyurethane, the multi-layered foam mattresses leverage temperature-sensing capabilities to conform to the unique curvature of your back when you lie down but revert to their original shape when you get up. The custom contouring and firmness supports the arch of your back to improve comfort and reduce pain on pressure points of the spine. Modern memory foam mattresses also adjust to shifts in movement so that you maintain an ergonomic sleeping pose throughout the night.
TOP PICK: The Casper ($550 to $1,150)
The Casper, a 10-inch-thick memory foam mattress, puts back pain to bed with a four-layer foam construction topped with open-celled hypoallergenic latex, which keeps you cool and comfortable all night. The budget-friendly bed-in-a-box received 4.3 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers, who praised its comfort, ease of setup, and hassle-free 100-day return policy. Available at Amazon.
If your partner can sleep but you can’t…
Opt for a mattress that can be adjusted to accommodate personal sleep preferences. Conventional innerspring mattresses limit couples to a single setting for mattress firmness, comfort, or support—which may be right for your partner but cause you sleepless nights. Air mattresses, memory foam mattresses, and dual-chamber water mattresses are better options for couples, since they adjust to needs of each partner without disrupting the sleep of the other.
BEST TYPE OF MATTRESS: Air Mattress
Consisting of air chambers covered with upholstery, air mattresses have made a comeback as a permanent sleeping option for couples, thanks to their cutting-edge technology and customizability. Today’s dual-chamber adjustable air mattresses feature independently functioning halves that enable each sleeper to individually set the firmness, comfort, and support level for their half of the bed. Air mattresses are also less prone to sagging than their innerspring counterparts since there are no springs inside; instead, you’ll find air chambers that can be inflated with an easy-to-use air hose.
TOP PICK: The Sleep Number c2 Air Mattress ($499.99 to $1,499.99)
The Sleep Number c2 air mattress affords more restful nights to couples, since each partner can apply preferred settings for comfort, firmness, and support to his or her half of the bed. Optional adjustable mattress bases and SleepIQ sleep tracking technology allow for further customization of the 4.2-star rated mattress, which earned one of the top spots in Consumer Reports’ “Best Mattresses in 2016” ranking. What’s more, the mattress is covered in woven fabric and topped with comfortable quilting foam. Available at Sleep Number.