Ideally, you spend eight hours each night sleeping on a mattress. That time is important for physical recovery and mental wellness. However, not everyone is getting restful sleep—50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep-related problems, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Having the right mattress can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare, and picking the wrong one could negatively impact your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Regardless of whether you’re an endurance athlete, a tired parent or an older adult, it’s important to find a mattress that allows you to sleep and rest comfortably.
With so many types and styles to choose from, finding the right mattress is an investment and process that begins with understanding your options.
What to Consider Before Mattress Shopping
A new mattress can solve your old mattress problems, so pay attention to what does and doesn’t work for you now. A few simple questions can help set your search in the right direction:
- Is there a problem with your current mattress?
- Is it too soft, too firm, too squishy or too flat?
- Do you wake up sweating or wishing that you slept a little better?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep due to back or neck pain?
Consider that mattresses come in a range of materials, which affect warmth, moisture, firmness, softness and many other things. Besides the obvious variety of sizes, they also come in a range of prices, which could significantly affect which type of mattress you purchase. Different brands and styles promise different things, but what you really need to focus on is yourself. What are your needs and preferences? What is your budget? Keep in mind that your medical history and allergies could also come into play when making an informed decision.
If you’re ready to start looking, here are a few more details to consider during your search.
Your Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position can be a major factor in determining which mattress is best for you. Different positions change the way your body weight is distributed and how your spine is aligned.
While back and side sleeping is usually recommended over stomach sleeping, you know what’s most comfortable for you. Sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side may strain the muscles of your neck. If you suffer from acid reflux, you may need to prop up your upper body slightly to make sure your head is above your esophagus. Sleeping on your back with pillows under your knees may reduce low back strain. If you have a history of hip pain and sleep on your side, a super firm mattress might be irritating overnight, though well-placed pillow propping can help offload some of the pressure. If, on the other hand, you sleep on your back and don’t enjoy sinking into a soft pillow top, a more firm mattress can help.
Your Body Type
Body type can affect how each mattress feels, and personal preference differs for everyone. Whether you’re curvy, slender, heavy or frail, different mattresses support you in different ways. Someone with less soft tissue on their body may seek a softer support underneath them, whereas someone with a lot of tissue separating bony prominences from the surface of the mattress may want something firmer. It’s not a rule, though— it comes down to how it feels.
One of the main reasons people seek out a new mattress is health concerns. Whether you have back pain, neck pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea or joint pain, choosing the right mattress can make a huge difference in your health. Whatever your medical history, consider what works best for your body. If you want to try something new, try sleeping on a new mattress for a month to get a sense of whether it feels right for you. Pay attention to the materials in your mattress, too, as the temperature and any allergies you may have can also impact health and sleep quality.
How to Choose the Best Mattress for You
Choosing the best mattress for you requires prioritizing all the things you know you need for your best sleep and finding a mattress that checks all those boxes. Then, test it out. Lay on your potential mattress in the store or order it online for a trial run.
Many mattresses come with a trial period, which allows you to try the mattress in your home before committing to it for the long run. No matter how comfortable it is in the store or how good the online reviews seem, you need to spend time dozing on a mattress to know if it’s really the right fit for you. If you sleep with a partner, it’s also important to test that the mattress works for both of you simultaneously.
Pick a Type
When it comes to types of mattresses, there are three main categories to choose from: foam, innerspring and hybrid. Narrow down your search by picking which of these best suits your needs.
- Foam mattresses are comfortable, supportive and come in a variety of materials, including memory foam, latex foam, polyfoam and hybrid foam. In general, they provide a softness for the body to rest upon, embracing the contours of the body rather than just holding it up. This support allows for more neutral positioning, supporting the whole body with fewer spaces created between the body and the mattress. While foam is very comfortable, some models capture an impression of the body that can feel uncomfortable if you move often. But because of this design, two people can lie comfortably next to each other without feeling the other one move.
- Innerspring mattresses have linked metal springs or coils within the mattress that are encased by fabric and padding for comfort. The springs allow for support that matches the weight of the body but, unlike foam, the springs move as more of a network rather than adapting the contours of each body part. Innerspring mattresses tend to be cooler than foam and are a more traditional style of mattress.
- Hybrid mattresses use both foam and springs to provide support for the body. They vary in firmness and feel by model. Hybrid mattresses attempt to provide the benefits of both spring and foam to create an optimally comfortable solution. While spring mattresses can be too bouncy and foam can be too warm or dense, hybrid mattresses are an option for anyone looking to find a middle ground.
Think About Firmness and Support
Mattress firmness is one of the main features to consider when shopping. Some people love a firm mattress while others prefer something soft. While there may be benefits to both, which type helps you sleep better comes down to personal preference.
A firm mattress offers solid support that doesn’t change with body positioning. If you find lying on the floor comfortable as long as you have the right pillow and a thin layer of cushioning between your body and the floor, then a very firm mattress might be for you.
If just thinking about lying on the floor makes your hip sore, your back creak or your shoulder ache, then a softer mattress might be for you. While foam mattresses can be softer than innerspring mattresses as a whole, it’s the top layer of the mattress that adds softness. Pillowtop mattresses add an extra layer of softness to the top of a mattress, enhance plushness and allow versatility to an otherwise firm mattress.
If you prefer your body to be cradled and held, supported at every inch with no big spaces between you and your mattress, then you may prefer a soft foam mattress.
Consider the Construction
The construction of a mattress can affect weight, comfort and durability, among other things. Mattresses are constructed in layers of materials that work together to create the right feel for a person, according to the Sleep Foundation. Mattresses usually consist of a comfort layer, transition layer, support core and cover. Ultimately, the construction of the mattress is how all the materials—memory foam, cotton, coils, latex, air chambers and more—come together in the final package that you sleep on, making mattress construction and materials important factors.
Explore Special Features
If you want to take your mattress search to the next level, explore special features included in the mattress of your choice. These features may include (but aren’t limited to) hypoallergenic fabrics, washable covers, adjustable surfaces, air and water fillers, foldability, flippability, portability and more.
Keep to Your Budget
Not all mattresses come with the same price tag, but there should be a mattress that works for you at any budget. Most mattresses cost between $200 and $2,000, but you could easily spend over $5,000 on a premium mattress if you’re looking for premium materials and additional features. Also, when purchasing your mattress, ask about trial periods, free shipping, free returns and warranties.