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Choosing the Right Mattress
How to Find the Best Mattress for You

Last updated on August 19, 2020

Mattresses are highly personal, which means that no mattress will be a good choice for everyone. To find the right mattress for you, focus first on GoodBed's 3 F’s — Fit, Feel, and Features.

 

GoodBed's "3 F's"

The first thing you need to know when shopping for a mattress is that mattresses are highly personal. This means that:

  • we all have different needs when it comes to how a mattress fits our body
  • we all have different preferences when it comes to how a mattress should feel
  • we all have different priorities when it comes to what features a mattress should have

Very importantly, this also means that there is no such thing as the "best mattress." The concept of "best mattress" lists — ranking the "best mattress for side sleepers," "best mattress for back pain," or the like — was invented by people who lack expertise in mattresses and worse yet, has been perpetuated by scam mattress review websites that use these lists as a ploy to dupe you into buying whichever mattresses make them the most money. The truth is that finding the best mattress for you depends on dozens of personal factors, so any ranking that doesn't take these into account is completely irrelevant to you — even it comes from a source you have found credible when shopping for other types of products.

At GoodBed, we focus on mattresses, and have over 10 years of experience in matching consumers with the right mattress. We created the straightforward "3 F's" framework to help you successfully find the best mattress for you — one that will FIT your body, FEEL, the way you like, and have the FEATURES that are important to you. We also created a groundbreaking Mattress Match Quiz to help you quickly narrow in on the options that will best match your (and your partner's) requirements, searching across both online options and options available in your local stores.

What does it mean that mattresses are a highly "personal" type of product?

With most products — e.g., washing machines, toasters, wireless routers, etc. — any given model will perform equally well for all people. For example, if you buy the same washing machine as your neighbor, you can expect it to clean your clothes just as well, just as quickly, and just as quietly as it does for them. But we all know that not all products are like this. For example, serious runners know that a given model of running shoes could be perfect for one person and terrible for another. And we all know that just because your friend has a certain pair of pants they love doesn't mean you can borrow them and expect them to look and feel just as great on you. However, what most people don't know is that mattresses are much more like pants than they are washing machines

How does shopping for a "personal" product differ from shopping for other products? 

With most products, the key distinctions between different products (beyond price) relate to their features. As you shop, you learn about these features and decide how important they are to you. For example, one washing machine may boast a steam cycle — a critical feature for some people, but an irrelevant one for others. Personal products (like mattresses) have features as well — things like motion isolation, edge support, or natural materials (more on all of these below) — which work in a similar way, in that these features may or may not be important to you. But personal products also involve a high degree of fit and personal preference as well. This is why even if both you and your friend want a pair of 5-pocket boot-cut jeans, you probably won't both end up wanting the same size, style, and cut. These same aspects of personal preference and fit are equally critical when choosing the right mattress.

 

FIT: The Two Things Everyone Needs from a Mattress

Mattress Fit relates to the two things that every person MUST get from their mattress. The first is proper back support (a.k.a. "spinal alignment"), which means that during the night it should hold your spine in a "neutral position" (i.e., the same shape it has when you're standing). Not getting proper spinal alignment from your mattress means waking up with back pain. The second is that it must provide sufficient pressure relief, especially when lying on your side (which is when your body's weight is distributed over the smallest surface area). Not getting adequate pressure relief leads to aches and pains (especially in the shoulders and/or hips), loss of circulation in the arms and/or legs, and excessive tossing and turning.

The trick with back support and pressure relief is that no mattress can do these two things equally well for all people. Terms like "best back support" are used often in mattress advertising (and by illegit mattress reviewers). But the truth is that in order to hold your spine in neutral alignment, a mattress will need to be a fit for your unique weight, body shape, preferred sleep position(s), and more. So, for example, a mattress that provides great spinal alignment for 125-lb. curvy side sleeper will typically provide very poor spinal alignment for a 250-lb. stomach sleeper. 

Read more about which mattresses or types of mattresses will do this best for you, as well as other guidelines for choosing a mattress that matches your body, share, and sleep position(s) in our Guide to Mattress FIT.

 

FEEL: Things That Are Up to Your Personal Preferences

After the must-haves of spinal alignment and pressure relief comes the "feel" of the mattress. The attributes that determine Mattress Feel are what we call "preference-based" characteristics, meaning they can not be universally better or worse — they can only better or worse for your personal preferences. Here are the key Feel characteristics of a mattress:

  • Softness: From soft like a bed of feathers to firm like a carpeted floor, your mattress should have the right amount of softness for your comfort preference.

  • Cushioning Depth: Some people enjoy sleeping "in" their mattress for a 'hugged' or 'cradled' feel, whereas others prefer sleeping "on" their mattress for more of a 'floating above your mattress' feel.

  • Memory Feel: Some people love the 'slow melting' sensation of memory foam, while others have described this same experience as sleeping in 'quicksand.' (Note: We sometimes refer to Memory Feel as the 'slow-responding' side of the Responsiveness spectrum.)

  • Bounce: Some people like a mattress that offers more pushback or bounce, while others prefer their mattress to be more of a shock absorber. (Note: We sometimes refer to Bounce as the 'fast-responding' side of the Responsiveness spectrum.)

Note that to some degree, your needs from a spinal alignment or pressure relief standpoint (as discussed above) will set some general boundaries around what feel characteristics will work best for you. Read more about how to navigate these preference-based characteristics in our Guide to Mattress FEEL.

 

FEATURES: Things That May or May Not Be a Priority for You

Beyond the Fit and Feel characteristics discussed above, a mattress can also have a variety of "features," which encompasses most of its remaining attributes. Mattress Features are what we call "priority-based" considerations, which means they can be measurably better or worse in a given mattress, but may or may not matter to you personally. For example, couples shopping for a mattress together might find it critical to have excellent "motion isolation" — but if you sleep solo, this feature may not matter to you at all. Here are the key Features that we focus on in our reviews:

  • Motion Isolation: How much are disturbances on one side of the mattress felt by someone on the other side of the mattress?

  • Edge Support: How stable do you feel when sitting or lying on the edge of the mattress?

  • Ease of Repositioning: How easy is it to move around or change positions on this mattress?

  • Temperature: All else being equal, how likely are you to get overheated on this mattress? What features does it have to combat this?

  • Natural Materials: To what degree is this mattress made with natural or organic materials, and what precautions were taken to avoid potentially harmful chemicals?

  • Adjustable Base Compatibility: How suitable is this mattress for use on an adjustable base that elevates the head and/or foot of the bed?

  • Dual Comfort: Can this mattress provide different comfort and/or support characteristics on each side of the mattress? If so, how wide a range is possible, and does this make it hard to move across the mattress or sleep in the middle of the bed?

  • Adjustable Comfort: Can the comfort and/or support characteristics of this mattress be changed over time to better suit you? If so, how easy is this to change, and how useful is the range of available feels?

  • Other Characteristics: You may also want to consider factors like allergies, initial off-gassing or odors, noise, or suitability for sex.

Read more about these characteristics and why they may be a priority for you in our Guide to Mattress FEATURES.

 

Value

As a product you are likely to use every night for a number of years, there is no question that the biggest determinant of its value is how well it satisfies your personal requirements across the 3 F's, as described above. That said, to make sure you are getting the most mattress for your money, here are some other key things to consider on this front:

  • Budget: Determining how much you want to spend on a mattress is a personal decision that depends on both how much you can afford and how important it is to you that your mattress meet all your personal criteria. In general, a higher budget will allow you to find a better mattress that matches a longer list of personal requirements.

  • Longevity: How long will this product continue to deliver the same comfort and support characteristics that it has when it's new?

  • Product Quality: What caliber of materials was used in this mattress, and what level of manufacturing standards were used in making it?

  • Warranty: How much does the mattress need to sag before you can make a valid warranty claim? How long does warranty coverage last, what costs are there to making a warranty claim, and what remedy is offered? 

 

Retailer-Specific Factors

Beyond the mattress itself, there are other considerations that will generally be based on the retailer from whom you choose to purchase. Choosing the best retailer can be tricky, which is why GoodBed hand-picks Trusted Retailers in each market that meet our high standards in each of these areas. In addition, we are able to offer our readers an additional Cash Back reward for shopping at these retailers to make sure you're getting the best deal possible. Here are the biggest retailer-specific factors to consider:

  • Price and Discounts: When purchasing any mattress, you'll want to make sure you're getting the best price, which includes taking advantage of the best available discounts for that product.

  • Delivery: How much does delivery cost? What services are included with delivery (if any)?

  • Return Policy: How long is the trial period and are there fees or restrictions related to returning or exchanging it?

  • Customer Service: What level of expertise and assistance is available to help you make the best possible choice? To what degree will this retailer have your back in case something goes wrong during the lifespan of this mattress?

 

Find the Right Bed

Not sure which type of bed to buy? Answer a few questions to see good matches for you with GoodBed's unbiased, personalized results.

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This is awesome. Now I feel equipped to walk in somewhere and say with certainty, "This is exactly what I'm looking for."
— Sara in Phoenix, AZ

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