How To Choose A New Mattress
A new mattress is one of the most important purchases you will make. Your overall health depends very much on the quality of your sleep and the proper amount of support throughout the night is essential for keeping your spine and neck properly aligned. This both relieves and prevents aches and pains, allowing you to feel properly relaxed and refreshed after a good night’s sleep.
Choosing which mattress to buy, however, can be complicated! There are so many different varieties available, made with everything from latex to custom foam, and all at a range of different firmness levels. So which is right for you?
That’s the question that this guide is designed to answer!
We’ve put together a list of all the main points to consider when making your choice and looked at them in more detail, suggesting the best type of mattress for you based on your own unique needs!
Things To Consider When Buying A New Mattress
1. The age and condition of your current mattress
Different mattress materials have different lifespans. Latex mattresses tend to be the most durable, giving in excess of 10 years faithful service before beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Memory foam and hybrid mattresses are not far behind, both lasting up to 10 years, whereas innerspring (coil) mattresses tend to last less well, for around 8 years on average. Pillowtops are the least durable and if you have had yours for longer than 7 years, then it is probably time for a change.
Even if you’ve had your mattress for less time than this, it may still display signs that it is past its prime. Saggy areas or lumps and bumps that persist even when the mattress is rotated indicated that it is not in good enough condition for a healthy night’s sleep.
But there is more to take into account than just the age and visible condition of your mattress – indeed, the most important sign that it is time to look for a replacement is when you wake up feeling stiff, suffering from aches and pains and feeling as if you have slept poorly!
2. How much you weigh
The reason that two people may disagree about how comfortable a mattress feels is often down to the difference in their weight!
When you are reading the descriptions in your search for a new mattress, you will often see references to the weight of the sleeper, usually classified as ‘light’, ‘medium’ or ‘heavy’.
In general, ‘light’ refers to people weighing under 150 pounds and ‘average’ refers to those between 150 and 200 pounds. ‘Heavy’ sleepers are those weighing 200 pounds or more.
- Lightweight sleepers
If you are on the smaller, thinner side you may find a firm mattress quite uncomfortable. Rather than giving you the luxurious sensation of sinking into it, you are more likely to feel as if you are perched on top of it. You could even experience pain at your pressure points as a result.
Instead, you will probably prefer a softer mattress that still offers support. That way you can be sure that your body is in the proper alignment whilst simultaneously enjoying the ‘hugging’ sensation of a mattress you can sink into.
Avoid a firm memory foam or latex mattress, or an innerspring (coil) mattress that has a dense top layer. Even mattresses described as ‘medium firm’ may be too firm for a small person.
- Average sleepers
If you are of average weight then it is a bit easier to find a mattress that suits you and you have a bit more leeway either way. Medium-firm will likely be the best choice – avoid very soft or very firm mattresses. To help better refine your choices, consider your sleeping position (discussed below) as this will help you find the best firmness level for your needs.
- Heavy sleepers
If you fall into this category then you may have discovered that it can be more difficult to find a mattress that is completely comfortable. It is important to find one that combines a comfortable level of softness with the necessary level of support. Too much softness can lead to misalignment of the spine, along with too much pressure being placed on the shoulders and hips.
A mattress that is 12 to 13 inches thick and made with a high density foam would be ideal. If you opt for an innerspring (coil) mattress, ensure that it has a foam comfort layer several inches thick for a softer feel, or with a pillowtop to provide a firmer feel.
3. Your favorite sleeping positions
People tend to fall into one (or more) of 3 categories when they sleep – back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and side sleepers. The sleeping position you are most comfortable in when you sleep plays a huge part in influencing which type of mattress you will find the most suitable.
- If you are a back sleeper…
…then the good news is that your favorite position is the one most commonly recommended by experts to keep your spine in perfect alignment! You will want to look for a mattress that offers you the comfort of softness combined with enough support to stop your back from curving into the mattress.
Whilst an innerspring (coil) mattress would be a good choice and offers general support, an even better option might be a pocket spring mattress. These are a little bit different to innerspring mattresses in that their individual coils are better at shaping themselves to your body, offering the ultimate support.
A memory foam mattress is another great choice, preferably one with at least a medium firmness. Unless you are very small and light in weight, you should probably avoid a soft mattress.
You might also want to consider a latex mattress. These have a gel layer that provides that nice, soft feeling, but plenty of support underneath to keep your back properly aligned.
- If you are a side sleeper…
… then choosing the right mattress is especially important, otherwise you can end up with discomfort at your pressure points.
In general, firm mattresses are best avoided as they don’t yield well to the natural curve of your body and may not keep the spine well aligned. Depending on your weight, a soft or medium mattress would be a better choice, as it will cushion your pressure points and keep you free from aches and pains.
Hybrid mattresses are great for side sleepers! They combine the support of springs with a comfortable top layer for that little bit of luxury. Memory foam is another excellent choice, as it is great for conforming to the shape of the body and providing pressure relief where needed. Latex is good, too, and responds well to the body’s natural contours. People who suffer from back pain or uncomfortable joints often notice a big improvement when they start sleeping on a latex mattress.
- If you are a stomach sleeper…
… then you need to make sure that your mattress won’t allow your spine to arch. This means that a soft mattress won’t be suitable and you should look for one that is at least medium in firmness. That being said, a mattress that is too firm might not allow your spine to fall into its natural curve, so a medium-firm option might be best.
The most popular types of mattresses for stomach sleepers are memory foam, pocket spring or hybrid mattresses. All three of these keep the spine in its proper alignment, whilst also offering cushioning for comfort.
- And if your sleeping position is a combination of the above?
Then you’ll need to look for an all-round mattress that offers support, pressure relief and comfort in any position! You will also want one with plenty of ‘bounce’ to help you easily transition from one position to another.
Innerspring mattresses usually have a bouncier feel to them, whilst also retaining a degree of firmness. Ones with ‘pocketed’ coils are particularly good, as they help lessen the annoying bounce you can feel when someone who is heavier gets into the other side of the bed!
Hybrid and latex mattresses are also pretty buoyant and make good choices for people who like to sleep in various positions.
4. The Firmness You Need
We mentioned firmness earlier in this article, so it’s important to note at this point a common mistake that people make when thinking about the level they actually need.
Firmness and support are NOT the same thing – so if you need lots of support, you don’t necessarily need a firm mattress. Instead, you need one that provides you with an even sleep surface. But if you are particularly heavy, then you WILL need a firm mattress, because a soft one might sag beneath you and the support you receive will not be even.
There are three standard levels of firmness – soft, medium and firm. Many manufacturers, however, are now making mattresses that lie between these levels (medium soft, for example), giving you a far wider range of choice and making it easier to find the perfect mattress for your body type.
5. The Different Types of Mattresses Available
Gone are the days when there were only a couple of different mattress styles – now there are plenty of different types to choose from, all with their own unique qualities!
Let’s take a look at what’s on offer!
- Memory foam
Memory foam mattresses get their name from the fact that the foam used to make them yields to the contours of your body, then returns to its original shape when you get out of bed. It is a fairly viscous material, which makes it soft and supportive all at the same time!
It yields more at pressure points than at other parts of your body – so if you are a side sleeper it will sink in more deeply at your hips and shoulders. This means that your spine will remained properly aligned, preventing back pain.
Memory foam mattresses are popular for the ‘hugging’ sensation they give you, but this can have its drawbacks too. Hot sleepers find that memory foam can make them a little too warm at night, as it has a tendency to hold on to heat.
- Custom foam
A custom foam mattress is essentially a memory foam mattress tailored to meet your specific requirements. Typically, you will be able to choose from four different qualities of foam, and can have several different layers of foam, if you wish, providing varying levels of comfort and support. With a custom foam mattress you usually discuss your requirements directly with the manufacturer.
- Innerspring (coil)
Innerspring mattresses are one of the most common types and the most popular with consumers too. They are made from a support system of steel coils upholstered in some form of padded material. The exact shape, size and type of coils used varies from mattress to mattress, and some feature pocketed coils that are individually wrapped.
Innerspring (coil) mattresses tend to be quite firm and supportive and are also one of the most bouncy. This makes them ideal if you like to change position frequently throughout the night. Because of the high level of support they offer, they are also especially good for heavier people and those that sleep on their back.
In some ways, latex mattresses are opposite in nature to memory foam! Whereas a memory foam mattress ‘hugs’ you and makes you feel warm, a latex one is more cooling and a lot more bouncy. This means it is a perfect choice if you sleep hot and like to change position often. What’s more, latex is an organic, natural substance, making it an environmentally-friendly option.
Side sleepers may not find an organic latex mattress quite as comfortable as other mattress types. This is because it does not yield easily to the deep pressure exerted by the hips and shoulders when you sleep on your side.
Hybrid mattresses are not just the newest type around – they are also rapidly becoming one of the most popular, as they marry together the supportive benefits of coils or springs with comfort layers of foam on top.
This makes them great for almost every type of sleeper, as they are buoyant enough to allow you to change position easily, supportive enough to provide great spinal alignment and soft enough to give you that luxurious feeling of sleeping on air. There is a huge amount of variation from one hybrid mattress to another, so it can be very easy to find one that meets all your needs perfectly!
Organic mattresses contain properties that can help keep regulate your body temperature.
They are made from materials that are eco-friendly, such as organic cotton and organic wool, which can help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Such organic properties naturally absorb your body’s moisture, giving you a comfortable night’s sleep. They also encourage warmer air to circulate in colder months.
Ethically conscious consumers or those sensitive to certain chemicals will find organic mattresses more suitable for their needs. And – fortunately – the availability of this type of mattress is growing all the time.
Made from vinyl and filled with water, waterbeds generally come in one of two forms – hard-sided or soft-sided. Soft-sided are the most popular and don’t usually need a frame, as most are capable of standing up by themselves.
Waterbeds aren’t for everyone – they can be tricky to fill, extremely heavy and many landlords won’t allow them as their insurance doesn’t cover them. In addition, they can make you feel uncomfortably cool during the night and transfer quite a bit of motion – not ideal if you have a restless partner!
On the other hand, some come with heaters which can help relax your muscles and warm your joints. And since it is filled with water, the mattress is able to mold itself perfectly to the shape of your body, supporting your contours and relieving pressure.
6. Your budget
There are so many different types of mattresses on the market at a range of different price points that it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that is affordable AND that meets your needs.
But it is very important to remember that – when talking about mattresses – good quality tends to come at a price. If a mattress is particularly cheap, then whilst it may feel comfortable at first, it will not likely last very long. A mattress made with superior, high quality materials will not only last for a long time, but will stay comfortable throughout.
Of course, buying a new mattress can be quite a big financial commitment, so it is a very good idea to take advantage of the sleep trials that most good brands offer. These tend to range from as little as 30 days to as long as a year!
Sleeping on a mattress on a consistent basis over a period of time is a surefire way to discover whether or not it is truly right for you. It allows you to assess its firmness and support, and whether or not its transfers motion to you when your partner turns over in the night.
If you wake with aches and pains where you never had them before, you’ll know that you are not receiving support in the right places. In that case, you should be able to return the mattress at absolutely no cost to yourself.
If, however, you sleep better than ever and awake rested and refreshed, you’ll know without a doubt that the mattress is right for you and that the purchase is worthwhile.
Since there are so many mattress types from which to choose, the details of the warranty might be a deciding factor in your decision-making process. After all, what seems like a big investment may not seem quite so large if the mattress is guaranteed not to sag for an extended period of time!
Some companies will offer a full lifetime warranty, while others will allow you to extend the warranty for an extra fee. Make sure you read the small print because not all warranties are the same. Some will only cover the structural integrity of the innerspring core, while others may refuse to admit your claim if there is any stain on any part of the mattress.
7. Will you buy your mattress in-store or online?
These days, it is easier than ever before to purchase a mattress online.
Shopping online will allow you more thinking time, away from the persistent sales patter of an eager store manager.
You can get some great deals in terms of cost, but may have to personally sort out the removal of your existing mattress.
Whichever option you go for, make sure you know exactly what the returns policy entails and that you only purchase your mattress from a well-respected online retailer.
- How to Choose a Mattress – Sleep.org
- How to Choose a Mattress – Sleep Foundation
- Choosing the Right Mattress: Making a Smart Investment – Johns Hopkins Medicine