Although most beds boast dozens of special features, choosing the best bed for you ultimately requires assessing your personal needs and preferences as they pertain to mattress comfort, support, durability and size.
To help you with this process, we have provided a list of key questions in each of these four areas for determining your "Personal Mattress Criteria." Once you have established your inclinations along these parameters, you will be able to vastly narrow the universe of mattresses to a finite selection that meets your personal requirements. Among this consideration set, you can then search for stores offering the best combination of service, selection quality, and price.
Here are some questions to consider in selecting a bed that will meet the comfort preferences of you and your partner:
Studies have shown that it can be hard for people to adjust to vastly different levels of comfort than they have experienced in the past. This is true even if you are switching bed types — for example, if you are switching from a waterbed to an innerspring mattress, you will probably prefer a pillow-top.
Side sleepers (the majority of people) often prefer more cushioning, since their weight is being supported by a smaller surface area of their body, creating more "pressure points." Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, tend to prefer a harder feeling mattress. Back sleepers generally fall somewhere in the middle, but have the widest range of personal preferences. Back sleepers that prefer a more upright sleeping position may also want to consider an adjustable bed.
Studies have shown that the impressions people have in as little as 10-15 minutes of lying on a mattress tend to be highly consistent with longer-term satisfaction.
If so, consider that it is easier to "soften up" a firm mattress than to "firm up" a soft mattress. Thus, it is recommended that you purchase a bed that suits the firmer preferences, and then add padding on one side to accommodate the needs of the other partner. Alternatively, certain mattress models are available with differing levels of comfort on each side of the bed.
If this is an issue, you might want to consider a bed that uses pocketed coils (Simmons has the widest mattress selection using this type of coil) or memory foam (Tempur-Pedic is the leading brand), both of which are known for their effectiveness at motion separation.
Here are a few questions to consider when determining the appropriate level of support for your new bed:
If so, you may want to start by focusing on beds with a comparable level of support. As a general rule, orthopedic experts recommend going with the firmest (i.e., most "stiff") mattress that you find comfortable.
Side sleepers (the majority of people) often prefer a slightly more springy mattress (e.g., medium firm), so that the bed is able to accommodate the body's natural curves while keeping the spine in alignment. Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, tend to prefer the stiffest, most supportive mattresses. Back sleepers fall somewhere in the middle, but have a slight bias toward stiffer mattresses. Due to their stiffer support requirements, most back and stomach sleepers prefer innerspring mattresses to other types of mattresses such as memory foam (see our mattress product guides for an overview of the various types of mattresses).
In general, the heavier you are, the stiffer the support you need in order to keep your spine in proper alignment.
Here are some questions to consider when evaluating mattress durability:
A good mattress can last 10 or more years, even with regular use. However, if you anticipate buying a new bed in only a few years (e.g., upon moving, graduating, upgrading, etc.), you may be able to get away with a less expensive mattress that meets your support and comfort criteria today, but is likely to wear out more quickly.
Beds used in guest rooms or vacation homes are exposed to less wear and tear than primary use beds, and thus do not need to meet the same durability standards.
Certain types of mattresses (e.g., pillow-tops), are more prone to creating body impressions over the life of the bed. This can be of particular concern if you and/or your partner spend an extended amount of time in bed. Measures such as regular flipping of the mattress, particularly in its first few years, can help protect against this. However, if body impressions are a major concern, we recommend you purchase a bed without a pillow-top and pad it with a separate topper that can be replaced over time.
In general, beds have gotten better at protecting against these rather common troubles. However, if you believe there may be something specific in the way you use the bed that leads to such problems, then you may want to consider a mattress that contains special features geared toward the specific durability issues you've encountered.
Here are some things to consider when choosing the right mattress size for you:
Studies have shown that most people find it very difficult to adjust to a smaller mattress than they have had previously.
To minimize disruption during sleep, make sure you choose a bed large enough to allow for free, easy movements.
If possible, your mattress should be a minimum of 6 inches longer than the tallest person sleeping in it.
If so, you may want to factor this into your decision of what size mattress to purchase.
Large beds can be difficult to navigate, particularly around tight corners, hallways, doorways, and stairwells. Be sure to take detailed measurements in advance if you think this may be an issue.