Choosing the right mattress is an important decision.
The average person spends about 1/3 of their life in bed, making their
bed the most used piece of furniture in the home. Meanwhile, over 70%
of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, and nearly
25% complain of sleeplessness.
The good news is that by keeping
your spine in proper alignment and offering you a comfortable night's rest,
the right mattress can help with both of these problems. That said,
today's mattress shoppers are often overwhelmed to find thousands of models
available across an extremely wide range of prices, each with complex features
that can be hard to understand, and even harder to compare. At Best
Bed Guide, our goal is to simplify the process of finding the best bed
The first step to choosing the right mattress is to
understand the three general criteria that differentiate mattresses from
one another: comfort, support and
durability. Within each of these
categories, beds can be compared objectively; however,
mattress buyers must also factor in their personal
needs and preferences,
as well as with the amount they are willing to spend on their new bed.
To help you with this process, we have provided a brief summary of the
three criteria below, along with a list of key
questions to help you determine
your "Personal Mattress Criteria."
"Comfort" is the way the surface of the mattress feels against the surface
of your body. It is what makes you feel cozy and relaxed in your bed, and
it is probably the first thing you notice when you lay down on a bed. In
an innerspring mattress (see our Innerspring
Mattress Guide), comfort is driven primarily by the upholstery layers,
particularly the cushioning and
Mattress companies typically use words like "firm,"
describe the comfort attributes of a bed, though what they are really getting
at is whether the top layers of the mattress (e.g., what you feel when
you press the mattress surface with your fingertips) feel "soft" or "hard." Other
comfort-related attributes include features that minimize
from your partner's movements, or that provide for differing levels of
comfort on each side of the bed. More than any other aspect of your bed
purchase, judging a mattress' comfort will be a matter of personal preference.
With mattresses, the term "support" refers to the aspects
of the bed that push back in order to hold your spine in position while
you sleep. Unlike with comfort, which is largely a matter of personal preference,
everyone requires support from their mattress, though to varying degrees
based on some of the factors discussed below. Improper or inadequate support
can result in tension or back pain, as your muscles try to compensate to
keep your spine in alignment, and frequently causes pain and/or stiffness
when you wake up. Though mattress companies use words like "firm" or "extra
firm" to explain the support provided by a bed, what they are really describing
is the extent to which the inner core of
the mattress (e.g., what you feel when you put one knee on the bed and
then lean your weight into it) is "springy" or "stiff." In
support is driven primarily by the coils,
both in their quantity and their construction (see the Innerspring
Mattress Guide for more details on the factors that make a coil system
springy or stiff).
"Durability" refers to the length of time a mattress will continue to
provide you with adequate support along with your desired level of comfort. The
durability of a mattress is driven primarily by the quality of its materials
and the way it is constructed. In general, durability tends to correlate
with both the weight and price of the mattress, since higher-durability
materials tend to be denser and more expensive. Not surprisingly,
higher-quality construction techniques also tend to be more expensive (e.g.,
hand-tufting). Durability can also be impacted by special features
in a bed. For example, some mattresses contain specific features
to protect against common durability problems, such as
"edge break-down," stains,
or sagging. Conversely, mattresses with more layers
of upholstery on top (e.g.,
pillow-top beds) are more likely to develop
body impressions over time.
One way to increase the longevity of your mattress
is to flip it
regularly, particularly in its first few years. That said, a popular trend
in beds today is the "no-flip" mattress,
for which only one side is designed as a sleep surface. Naturally, this
prevents the use of flipping as a means of avoiding body impressions, however
manufacturers have generally offset this by replacing less durable padding
materials like polyester
packs down over time) with longer-lasting materials like memory
foam and latex.
Contrary to popular belief, mattress durability does
not correlate with warranty length.
While warranties will protect you against defects in materials or workmanship,
they are not a guarantee of durability, and do not offer protection against
general deteriorations in comfort over time. Similarly, durability does
not correlate with manufacturer brand— each mattress manufacturer
makes a range of models at various levels of price, quality, and durability.