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  • Writer's pictureSarah McNeil

Put a Spring In Your Step

A Mattress Buying Guide

So you are interested in a new mattress. Perhaps your current mattress is hurting you, or you wake up tired. Maybe you just want a bigger size. Maybe you’re moving and don’t want to lug your old mattress from place to place. Whichever is the case, my goal is to help you select the right mattress so you don’t make a mistake and so you don’t pay a penny more than you have to.

A mattress is perhaps the most important piece of furniture in your home. If you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night, you will spend at least 1/3rd of your life on that mattress. That means if you keep that mattress for nine years (which is about average), three of those years will be spent on it. However, many of us don’t think about our mattresses and how it impacts our lives every day.

In this guide, I will go over the basics of selecting the correct mattress. If you just want a recommendation, check out some of our top picks below.

When Is It Time To Replace Your Mattress?

Chances are good that if you’re thinking you need to replace your mattress, you are probably right. A substantial portion of the population is sleeping on mattresses that are either out of date or ill-suited to their body. If you’re still unsure, here is a list of questions you may want to consider.

Is your mattress old?

Are you sleeping on the same bed you slept on in your college dorm room or maybe you inherited your mattress from a beloved aunt’s dusty guest room? Be honest. Do you even know how old it is?

Regardless of the warranty, a decent bed only lasts seven to eight years depending on its quality, what it’s made with, and how often it is used.

Is there deformation in the mattress?

Peel back the sheets and give your sleep space a really good once over. Can you see yourself in it? You really shouldn’t be able to, and if you can, it may not be good for you.

Rotating and flipping (if possible) your mattress regularly can help offset the inevitable formation of body impressions, sagging areas, and dips. However, almost every bed will develop these over time, and they can affect how well it is able to support your body properly and deliver the right amount of comfort.

Has your body size or sleep position preference changed?

A lot can change in 7 or 8 years. Growth, injuries, pregnancies, or sleep position(s): all of these things can affect how we experience a mattress and how we prefer to get our rest. A bed that is perfect right now may be less than ideal 5 years down the road through no fault of its own. If your body has changed substantially in size or you are sleeping differently than you were when you bought it, you may want to consider replacing it.

Do's and Don'ts of Mattress Buying

DON'T be afraid of price

You will be spending (hopefully) 8 hours a night on your mattress. It is important to get something that will support your back and be comfortable! There is no worse way to start your day than with back pain. Studies have shown the median price for a new bed is $700-$1000.

While it’s very important not to exceed your budget and put stress on your finances by buying a bed, you do need to consider a mattress as a significant investment in your physical and mental health. Expensive does not always mean better, so you may look for brands who endeavor to keep costs low by cutting costs in the supply chain or by selling exclusively online.

DO the 15-minute snooze test inside the store!

Mattress retailers have the beds on display for a reason! To help the consumer decide what bed they need and want. When looking for a bed, take 15 minutes and lay on the one you believe is for you. This will help ensure you don’t have to go back twice!

Do I need just a mattress or the set?

It is recommended to replace your box spring especially if you have an older mattress. If  you decide to use your old box spring, be sure to check your new bedding warranty to ensure it remains valid. If your bedroom set utilizes a platform base, you do not need a box spring.

DO protect your investment!

Don’t forget to get a mattress protector for your bedding. This ensures there will be no accidents on your mattress. A simple stain can void your manufactures warranty.

DO forget about comparison shopping

If you like a mattress at one store and ask elsewhere for something similar, you’re likely to be steered toward a same-brand mattress claimed to have the same construction, components, and firmness. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally, but when those brands are sold through major chains such as Macy’s or Mattress Firm, they’re typically exclusive to those chains. And manufacturers don’t publish a directory of comparable mattresses. When shopping across brands, it's best to pay attention to coil count and construction features; such as back support, individually pocketed coils, and edge support.

DO lie Down

If possible, lie on any mattress that you’re considering. Wear loose clothes, and shoes you can slip off. Make yourself comfortable, and shoo away the salesperson if you’re feeling pressured. Salespeople should expect you to take your time. Spend at least 5 or 10 minutes on each side and on your back (your stomach, too, if that’s a preferred sleeping position). Panelists who took beds home for a month-long trial rarely changed the opinion they formed after the first night. Shopping online or at a warehouse club? Tryouts aren’t usually an option, so checking return policies before you buy is extra-important. Mattress retailers have the beds on display for a reason! To help the consumer decide what bed they need and want. When looking for a bed, take 15 minutes and lay on the one you believe is for you. This will help ensure you don’t have to go back twice!

DO check return policies

Make sure the store offers a full refund or credit toward another mattress. Return periods, often called “comfort guarantees,” range from a couple of weeks to 120 days. Some retailers, including Macy’s and Sears, charge a 15 percent restocking fee. Some sellers provide free pickup if you want a refund or an exchange, but otherwise, you’ll have to pay for it—or cart the mattress to the store. Macy’s, for example, charges an $85 pickup fee. And you’ll be responsible for any damage.

Other Things to Consider

Edge Support

Sleeping alone or partnered, a mattress that has reinforced edges will increase the amount of space you can comfortably stretch out in while still remaining well supported. Because of the nature of their compressible materials, bed-in-a-box options might perform less optimally in this category. If you are someone who needs the maximum amount of space in a smaller bed or regularly sit on the edges, you may want to think about this feature.

Motion Transfer

Beds that cannot absorb movements can cause disruptions throughout the night for sleeping partners, especially if you’re up and down or tend to change positions a lot. Foams, especially memory foams, tend to perform exceptionally in this category, while traditional innersprings might transfer more motion. Light sleepers who share their bed may consider an all-foam brand to ensure peaceful sleep.

Extracurricular Considerations

If you and your partner enjoy an active sex life, you want to make sure your bed enhances your experience rather than put a damper on the fun. Less responsive materials may make it more difficult for you to change positions or move around on the surface of your bed, while beds with a touch more bounce may offer the push-back you need to navigate easily.

Temperature Control

Being temperature sensitive, memory foam tends to be firmer (more viscous) in cool temperatures and softer (more elastic) in warm temperatures.

Temperature sensitive also means that memory foam – especially high density memory foam – responds to body heat by molding to the curves of a person's body within minutes. This characteristic explains why people often experience a "melting in" feeling when lying on memory foam.

This molding or conforming ability may make moving on or getting up off the bed somewhat difficult. And for some high-density memory foam especially, this molding ability can for some people give the sensation of sleeping in mud or quicksand.

Weight Sensitive

Memory foam is also weight sensitive. Unlike polyurethane foam that compresses and returns to its original shape right away, memory foam returns more slowly to its original shape, thereby having longer "memory" than polyurethane foam. High-density memory foam tends to have a slower response time than low-density foam.

People who don't weigh much (under 120 lbs or so) often say that they don't sink into memory foam. Due to this, they can't fully benefit from the conforming ability of the foam and as a result tend to experience excessive pressure points. This problem can occur with all densities, but it is especially an issue with higher density foam.

Final Thoughts

"I need a good mattress" is one of the most common questions/statements that we get.  It’s a simple question, but the answer is not.  The real answer is… it depends.  Mattresses are not one size fits all.  Your decision should be based on your specific sleep and lifestyle preferences. 

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