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How to pick the right mattress

It seems like there’s a new mattress company popping up every day. Are the ones that ship to your door as good as the ones you'll find in stores? How do you know which one to pick? And will it meet your needs? When it’s time to get a new mattress, keep our tips in mind.

When is it time for a new mattress

Common guidelines say to replace your mattress every eight years, even if you flip it. This is because at least one person is lying in it for eight or more hours a day, every day – even the best and most expensive mattress will start breaking down under wear. You may not notice the slow decline, but your body will be getting less support and comfort. Small aches and pains can result from the wrong mattress (or the wrong support underneath it). That’s also years of collecting dust and germs. If you find you’re more sore in the mornings, have headaches when you get up, or sneeze more when you’re in bed, these could be signs that it’s time for a change in your bed.

Types of mattresses

  • Innerspring – The most common mattress around is built with springs to keep you comfortable. Most innerspring mattresses now encase their coils in foam or fabric pockets for extra softness (and so that they work with adjustable beds without getting tangled). You can get a version with only coils, or you can layer on other things like memory foam and gel. Coil mattresses are cooler because of the added airflow, and can provide firm support depending on what else is with them. You don’t need more than about 390 coils but don’t settle for a low coil count either. Not having enough coils will give you poor support and cause back pain.
  • Memory foam – Memory foam is known for comfort because it will contour to your exact shape, relieving pain and pressure. Memory foam will compress easily, so you will see this type in most online mattress brands. Not all foam is created equal, though. Memory foam may be firmer or softer, and can be customized with aeration for breathability or infused with gel for cooling. Without those additions, memory foam mattresses can be very hot. Cheaper versions are also known to break down faster than other mattress types.
  • Hybrid – Usually made of a mix of coils and foam, a hybrid mattress does its best to offer more comfort than latex or coils alone, but more support than foam by itself. As technology improves, more companies are able to compress and ship these mattresses, so you can now buy them online as well as in stores. These are more expensive than other types.
  • Latex – Natural or synthetic, latex mattresses offer a firm but bouncy surface. It’s a good mix of comfort and support because it provides some resistance and doesn’t form dents like memory foam. However, if you don’t like your mattress firm, latex isn’t a good choice.
  • Air – Not the kind you take camping or put out for guests, modern air beds use air-filled pockets instead of coils and seal it all in foam. These beds allow for customization, where each person can decide where they want support each night. This also makes them expensive, and an average sleeper may find they don’t use the customization that much.
  • Waterbed – They are still around, if you can find them, and some people enjoy sleeping on a waterbed above anything else. They collect less dust and mites than other mattresses, and can provide good relief for back pain and arthritis. Because they are rarer, service and replacement can be hard to find. They’re also heavy, requiring special support, and of course you can poke a hole in one and ruin it forever.

Your sleep position

Your sleep position and health needs may determine what kind of support you need.

Back sleepers need medium firmness and support because if their mattress is too soft, their spine won’t have support. Memory foam is a good choice because it’s comfortable, contouring, and can have enough added support to reduce pain.

Side sleepers can get pain in their hips and shoulders, as those are the points pressured while in that position, but also in their lower back if it’s not supported while sleeping. A softer mattress will allow for a more even distribution of weight. Medium to soft mattresses are best for this position.

Stomach sleepers have a lot of challenges in getting into a good position. The core bears most of the weight, so without good support, these sleepers can suffer from back pain. Soft mattresses are out – it’s better to look in the medium to firm range.

Health concerns

You may also want to consult your doctor to see if they have any recommendations. If you have a back or neck condition, you want them to be in good alignment while you’re sleeping. A firm mattress may not be best for your needs since it doesn't give very much to even out pressure.

Support for lower back pain can be determined by your sleep position above. Middle and upper back pain are not as common, but if you suffer from this problem find a mattress that distributes pressure evenly. Pair it will a pillow that puts your spine into alignment to ease pain.

Weight also plays a role – the more weight you put on the bed, the more support it should have so that your body isn’t sinking too deep.

Where to buy

Everything and anything is online, so you can do research even before you go to a store. Trying out a mattress in person will allow you to test and see how well each one works for you. Some stores even have some of the online brands available for testing. If you go in-store, make sure to shop the sales. Also, lie down in your natural sleeping position. If you don’t sleep on your back, lying on your back in the store won’t tell you how it will feel when you’re trying to sleep. Wear loose clothes for comfort, and don’t be afraid to ask for time to yourself so you don’t feel rushed.

You’ll find the more expensive mattresses in stores, and also the best quality bedding as well. If you have specific needs better suited to a nicer bed, it might be best to seek it out here. A good associate can help you find what suits you best. Other benefits are that the store will deliver for you, and even take your old one away.

Buying online means you have the option of everything and anything that will ship to you. However, the better mattresses can’t be rolled for shipping, or are too heavy, so you won’t get the highest-end options. Mattresses with coils are also limited, but if you like foam, latex, or gel options, you’ll have plenty to choose from.

Online mattresses have caught up to in-store varieties in recent years, with many offering options for comfort, support, and cooling for all different sleepers. And you also don’t have to go out. The mattress is delivered to your door, although you usually have to set it up yourself and get rid of your old one. It does take up to two days for the compressed mattress to expand, so plan enough time before you need it to let it grow to its full dimensions.

Either way, make sure you know what the warranty and return policies are!