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.