10 Mattress Shopping Tips

10 Tips: How to Shop For a Mattress

1) Know Thyself

First and foremost is knowing your sleep style, preferences, and tendencies. Do you start out on your stomach, and wake up on your back?  Do you sleep so hot at night that you often kick your blankets onto the floor? Take a minute to analyze what priorities need to be addressed in order to get the best sleep possible.


2) Beducate Yourself

Two excellent resources for mattress research that should be required reading for anybody in the market for a new mattress.  sleeplikethedead.com is filled with data and statistics gathered from reviews, forums, and reports compiled from across the web. The statistics are well laid out in easy to understand diagrams and graphs. themattressunderground.com is filled with informative articles and essays that really give the lowdown on how to properly select and purchase a mattress. Both are a treasure trove of information and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not perusing either of them when conducting your research.


3) Set a Budget

How much would you pay for the best sleep ever? When you break the numbers down, your mattress is actually relatively inexpensive. Spread out over 10 years, a $1000 mattress costs you a little over .27 cents a day. How important is your sleep? Whats the most you would pay per night indefinitely for the comfort of sound sleep? .50 cents?  $1.00?  Set aside as much as you can afford, which leads us to number 4…


4) Don’t Be Cheap About Your Sleep!

Is there any item you own that you spend more time with in a more intimate fashion than your mattress? We’re talking about a third of your life. Do you really want to relegate that third to anything less than the most comfortable and pleasant sleep experience?  Some food for thought.


5) Try Before You Buy

You really need to give the mattress a test run to know for sure whether or not the mattress will be right for you. Take the time to try the mattress in all of your various sleep positions. Spend at least 15 minutes in each position. Pay attention to how well it supports your lower back, and how it feels on your side. Pay attention to any pressure points that develop on your hips or shoulders. If you feel any discomfort after a few minutes, you probably need something a little softer. The surface of the mattress should yield enough to fill the recessed areas of the body, evenly distributing your weight across the surface of the mattress.


6) Comfort vs Support

The two most important factors when selecting a mattress are how well it supports your lower back, keeping your back in proper alignment, and how comfortable it feels in all the various sleeping positions. Everything else is secondary. There are other factors to consider, but these two should be at the top of your checklist when narrowing down your choices.


7) Ask Questions

Ask about any comfort guarantees. What is the store policy? Find out about the warranty, the terms, and what exactly is or isn’t covered. It isn’t the retailer’s fault if you fail to ask before making the purchase. The most common cause for buyers remorse is due to not asking the right questions. Never buy a mattress before knowing the store’s return policies.


8) Skip the Name Brand

It’s a common misconception that the Big “S brands” (Simmons, Serta, Stearns and Foster, Sealy) make the best quality mattresses. This isn’t necessarily true. While it is true that they make high quality mattresses, there are many local manufacturers who make high quality beds at a fraction of the cost, providing a much better value overall. Don’t dismiss a brand simply because you fail to recognize them.


9) Size Him Up

Determine whether or not your salesperson is worthy of your business. Is he more interested in telling you what you need, or does he actually listen to what you are telling him you need? A genuine sales associate will not make any recommendations without asking you some qualifying questions first. If you encounter an associate who shows little interest in the information you are giving him, take your business elsewhere. Finding the right mattress for an individual is a highly personal process of elimination, and will often entail various lines of questioning and probing to determine the best mattress for your needs.


10) Negotiate Like a Pro

Don’t buy from the first mattress store you go to. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down, respectfully inform your sales associate that you intend on shopping around, and ask for an absolute best out the door price. Ask him to write it down and let them know you will be in touch. Ask if they are willing to price match or if they have any best price guarantees. Take that quote to the next store and rinse and repeat. Be sure to let them know if another store is offering freebies like frame or pillows with their offer. Follow your gut, and choose the store that you feel most comfortable doing business with.

Mattress Shopping 101

three mattresses isoltad on white background

A mattress is an expensive, long-term investment that is expected to last at least five to ten years; as such, it’s essential to understand how to buy a mattress that is sure to be comfortable and of high quality. There is no one “perfect” mattress for everyone, and what works for one person’s size, body type, and preferences may not work for another’s. Knowing a bit about how mattresses work and what to look for when selecting one is the best way to ensure you make the mattress match that is right for you. To that end, the following quick start guide is being provided:

Understanding What Mattresses are Made of

Mattress composition can be divided roughly into two parts, the support core and the comfort layers:

• The support core is usually  comprised of an innerspring or foam.  There are four types of innerspring (Bonnell, Offset, Continuous coil, and Pocket coil), which are available under a variety of names. Each of these types has a different capacity take on the shape of a person’s body profile and assist with pressure, with Pocket coils being the best, Offset coils and Bonnell coils in the middle, and Continuous coils generally being the worst. Pocket coils are, perhaps expectedly, the most expensive, while Continuous coils are the cheapest. Ergo, when you are buying a mattress, if you decide to go with the cheapest option, you will be sacrificing comfort unless you prefer a very firm mattress which will not conform to your body shape over much.

•Latex and polyurethane foams tend to be more expensive than innersprings in general, but offer a greater variety in firmness levels as both support and comfort layers.

• The comfort layers (the top few inches) of a mattress are made up of either natural fibres, various foams, microcoils, or gel. The comfort layers of a mattress are very important as they do the bulk of the mattress’s pressure relief work and provide vital body support.

Latex is often considered one of the best possible choices for a comfort layer material as it is both durable and very supportive. Memory foam has also gained tremendous popularity in recent years, with its ability to conform to the body and relieve pressure. One should approach polyfoams with caution as they can have durability issues; it’s not recommended to purchase any mattress with more than 1″ of low grade soft polyfoam present in its comfort layer or quilting, as they have a tendency to lose it’s original shape and form body impressions with heavy use.

Natural fibres (and their artificial kin), while durable and perfectly suitable, are usually ranked below latex and memory foam as they are less elastic and therefore less able to conform to multiple sleeping positions (they are fine if you only sleep in one position, however). Microcoils are usually ranked in between latex and low-grade polyfoams, and while some argue that the new bucking gels available provide the best pressure relief of all, this is as yet unproven, and their price (and unusual texture) may be prohibitive.

How Does Your Body Type and Sleeping Position Affect Your Mattress Choice?

If your sleeping position has large “gaps” present between your various body parts (i.e. legs apart, arms away from the body) and/or if you change position often during the night, you will need to buy a mattress with thicker or softer comfort layers that include quality support layers and materials. People with curvier profiles often need or prefer thicker comfort layers, and those with heavier bodies often find they require thicker and firmer comfort layers with adequate support layers and quality materials present throughout. Factors such as latex allergies or sensitivities to artificial fibres will also, obviously, play a large role in mattress choice.

Steps to Take When Selecting a Mattress

Once you know how mattresses are made and what is generally recommended for your body type and sleeping position(s), it’s time to test a variety of mattresses to further feel out your needs and preferences. In doing so, try the following steps:

  1. The “flop test”. This one is pretty self-explanatory: Flop down on a wide variety of mattresses and assess your initial impressions. Do you feel a preference between springy and firm? Do you like a cushiony top or a stiffer one? (If you sleep with someone else, it’s wise to get them to do the flop test with you, so that you get a true sense of how their weight will impact the feel of the mattress.) Once you have selected a few favorites, go home and Google them so as to analyze their construction and verify their quality.
  1. Go back and lie on each of your favorites for five to ten minutes to assess their levels of pressure relief. Lie down in the main position you tend to sleep in for the most accurate results. Choose those options which seem to create the fewest pressure points on your body.
  1. Once you have narrowed down your choices again, test for back support. You should not “hammock” (sink too deeply into) the mattress, but nor should you lie too rigidly on top of it; both of these will cause poor spinal alignment and result in back pain and stiffness during the day. Generally, if you can easily slide a hand under the recessed areas of your body, that means a mattress is too firm, whereas if your pelvic area sinks down far into the mattress (and you shoulders do not), the mattress is too soft.
  1. If you still have more than one mattress you like, analyze your choices and select the one that has the best quality materials involved in its construction. After all, if you love it, you want it to last, and you want to be sure it will still feel the same in 6 months’ time, rather than having it fit your body perfectly at first, only to sag dramatically. It’s worthwhile to do some comparison shopping before you buy; try local specialty outlets if you were looking around at large chain stores, they often have better deals and superior knowledge which will aid you in making your final choice.