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Hotel Mattresses
Are They Really Better?

Last updated on July 6, 2020

Weary travelers can easily be seduced by a good night's sleep. Hotel chains are increasingly cashing in on this fact by selling you over-priced versions of their mattresses, which they position as more premium and unique than they really are.

Many readers have come to us with questions about mattresses from various hotels. In doing the research needed to answer these questions, we've learned a lot about about what mattresses are used by hotels, who makes them, and how they're sold. So we thought we'd put together a helpful primer for anyone that is considering buying a mattress from a hotel.

 

What type of mattresses do hotels use?

Hotel mattresses tend to be about as middle-of-the-road as you can get, and this is by design. The goal of a hotel owner is to maximize satisfaction for the largest number of people — and perhaps just as importantly, to minimize dissatisfaction. So, this tends to be the guiding principle how their guest rooms are appointed, and is the reason why so many hotels stick to earth tones and greys when picking out carpeting and bathroom tiles, for example.

Hotel mattresses are chosen with the same objective in mind. Since the majority of people sleep on spring mattresses, and some people greatly dislike the lack of bounce in an all-foam mattress, hotel mattresses skew heavily toward innerspring construction over all-foam or other mattress types. Likewise, very few hotel mattresses have any "memory feel" since memory foam has a distinctive slow-melting sensation that some people dislike (though many others love it). In terms of softness, to appeal to the broadest possible segment of the population, most hotel mattresses have a traditional quilted surface with a medium softness level. This softness may then be accentuated by a pillow-top or even fluffy detached padding added under the sheets, which can give the mattress a more cushy and luxurious feel.

 

Are hotel mattresses better?

Hotels do not make their own mattresses, so they purchase them from the same companies that make the mattresses you'll find in your local stores. Some mattress manufacturers may have product lines that are made specifically for hotels, but in most cases these lines share their core fundamental construction with mattresses that are available in stores under a different name. Depending on the caliber of the hotel, the hotel mattress will map to something that in the store would be at the lower-end or mid-level part of the manufacturer's lineup. It is extremely rare that a hotel mattress would be a high-end model.

In terms of whether they are better, as we explain everywhere on this site, mattresses are highly personal. This means that no mattress can be a great fit for everyone. Hotel mattresses, like earth tones, are purposely unexceptional so that they'll be at least OK for most people. For a small number of people, they may even be a great match — however, the vast majority of people and couples will be able to find a non-hospitality mattress that is a much better match for their needs and preferences.

 

Why do I sleep so well in hotels?

Many readers have reported to us that they love the sleep they get in hotels. There are several possible explanations for this, so we've listed them here in order from most likely to least likely.

  • The placebo effect. When staying in a hotel, you tend to be more tired from travel, or more relaxed from being on vacation. Either of these can lead to a better night's sleep. On top of that, hotels create a more tranquil environment, in which there are few to no reminders of the chores or stresses of your daily life.
  • Your current mattress is old. In evaluating your sleep on a hotel mattress, your best (if not only) frame of reference is the sleep you get on your current mattress. For many people, their current mattress is old, so at better hotels, where mattresses are replaced frequently, your hotel mattress is likely newer. Studies have shown that all else being equal, a newer mattress will almost always feel better than an older mattress, and lead to better sleep.
  • Your current mattress is not right for you. Sadly, many people end up choosing a mattress that is wrong for them — led astray by "best mattress" lists, a pushy salesman, fake review sites, or just not knowing how to choose the right mattress for them. If your current mattress is completely wrong for you, then a hotel mattress may feel great by comparison, even if it still isn't your best option. 
  • You can sleep on anything. As much as 20% of the population falls into what we call the "invincible sleeper" category. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this group of people skews younger and skews male. If you're fortunate to be in this group, you probably sleep great at hotels — as well as at friends' houses and just about anywhere else.
  • The hotel mattress is a great match for you. Although this is the least likely, it is possible that a middle-of-the-road hotel mattress is indeed the ideal choice for you.

The bottom line is that when you talk to someone who has the right mattress for them, they invariably say that hotel mattresses are one of the things they like least about sleeping in hotels — because no matter how nice the hotel is, the mattress is never is good for them as the one they have at home.

 

Should I buy a hotel mattress?

While there may be a few rare exceptions, we generally advise consumers not to buy a mattress from a hotel. Here are the reasons:

  • Statistically, it's probably not the best mattress for you. Just because you weren't offended by the beige tile in the hotel bathroom doesn't mean that same exact tile will be the best choice for your bathrooms at home. Likewise, just because you slept well on a hotel mattress doesn't mean that it's the best mattress for you — when it's your bed, and you have hundreds of options from which to choose, chances are there will be lots of mattresses that will better match your needs and preferences.
  • You'll pay more (a LOT more). In most cases, you can find an equivalent mattress model sold through traditional mattress stores that is substantially cheaper. Although the hotel may claim that their mattress is "custom designed to the hotel's specifications," there is rarely, if ever, anything proprietary about a hotel mattress. Hoteliers do not design mattresses, and the manufacturer of their mattresses certainly wouldn't give them an exclusive on their best features or materials. As an example, the famous Heavenly Bed from Westin Hotels is a Beautyrest mattress that they mark up by 50-100% over what you'd pay in a mattress store.
  • In buying through a hotel, you'll lose out on a number of basic services that most mattress retailers offer. For example, as of the writing of this article, Hampton Inn doesn't offer free delivery (you'll pay $225!), doesn't offer removal of your old mattress, nor do they allow for returns or exchanges (which some mattress stores refer to as a "Comfort Guarantee").
  • The bed you get from the hotel may not even be the same bed you slept on. The only reason to buy from the hotel would be to be 100% sure you're getting the exact bed you slept on. You may even be willing to pay a premium because you've been "pre-sold" by the good night's sleep you got in the hotel. But unfortunately you'll never have this certainty when buying a mattress from a hotel. For example, not to pick on Hampton Inn again, but from their own site: "The beds for purchase follow the most current, up-to-date Hampton bed specifications, which may or may not be the exact same bed you slept on at any given hotel."

Net, if you're considering a hotel mattress, your best bet is to find out as much as you can about the type of mattress it is and which manufacturer made it, and then use that information to find the closest comparable to that mattress in a local mattress store.

 

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