How to Choose A Mattress in 2019

how to choose a mattress

Finding the right mattress for you should not be a head-scratcher. 

Even if the number of options seems overwhelming, you can systematically go through them. Narrow down the factors to consider. Create a shortlist of the best brands and models. Then, sleep over it. You can make a decision the next day when your mind is fresh.

Still not sure where to get started? This guide enumerates the most important questions you should ask yourself. We suggest you write down your answers. Your notes can come in handy when someone asks for your advice on how to choose a mattress someday.

But before you continue, make sure you really need a new mattress. Typically, the one you’ve got should last 5 to 10 years. It’s time to replace it when it’s causing you soreness and pain, restlessness, and overall discomfort. No one should lose sleep due to any of these.

Know Before You Buy

Questions to Ask When Choosing A Mattress

1. How much are you willing to spend on a new mattress?

Better to talk about money early. Setting a budget can definitely narrow down your options. However, we recommend finding a price range that will yield the best possible results for you. Also, you can refine your budget as you progress along with this guide.

How to nail your budget in 5 easy ways:

  • Price does not always align with a product’s quality. Some in-store mattresses can cost several thousand because retail markups range from 300% to 1000%. But expensive does not necessarily mean excellent. For instance, you can do better with a queen-size mattress that is sold online for $1,999 or below. Because they don’t need to pay for a showroom, online stores pass on their savings to customers by selling mattresses for less.
  • A baseline of $1,000 (Queen) affords you enough options from the luxury end of the market. 
  • Switch it up to $1,500 if you’re picking out King or California King.
  • Anything less than $500 should not automatically make you question its durability, quality, and toxicity. But you have to be very picky about the product model and brand.
  • Do not scrimp on your purchase. A high-quality mattress worth $1,000 has an estimated useful life of 5 to 10 years. That puts your annual investment at $100 to $200. When broken down further, you’re paying for ultimate comfort and functionality for around $0.27 per day

2. What type of mattress do you need?

Depending on its type, a mattress has features that may or may not fit your personal preference. One can also seem better than another once you factor in your physical condition.

Innerspring (Coil)

A traditional choice, the innerspring mattress is known for its durable, bouncy feel. It contains interconnected coils, usually made of steel, that provide support to sleepers. We suggest you choose one with pocketed coils over support coils if you have a bed partner who moves a lot in their sleep.

Latex

If you want cooling and support, latex sounds like the perfect mattress for you. It is bouncy, responsive, and comfortable. You can visualize how deep you’ll sink just by looking at its thickness. Newer ones are usually made of one or more layers of foam, featuring a strong and thicker support base and a thinner, lighter top.

Memory Foam

The memory foam has gained popularity among many sleeper types. But if you like lying on your stomach, you’ll probably feel uneasy due to its body-hugging effect. 

The foam follows the contour of your body, allowing for maximum support and comfort. It’s called memory foam because it returns to its original shape when it’s not in contact with your body. Capable of motion isolation, it also reduces the ripple effect caused by the movements of sleepers on either side.

There is, however, one downside: the memory foam uses a material that retains heat. But if you search hard, it’s highly likely you’ll find savvy manufacturers these days who make memory foam mattresses with cooling effects.

Hybrid 

The hybrid-style mattress is for those who want to maximize the benefits of two or more types. You can enjoy the bounce of innerspring and motion isolation of memory foam. Or you can get relief from pressure as well as support for your body from the combination of memory foam and latex. 

Hybrid is ideal for partners who have different sleeping types and preferences. Those suffering from back pains can also benefit from this mattress type.

Adjustable

Though not the most aesthetically pleasing option, an adjustable mattress is perfect for people with chronic lumbar pain. You can elevate the top or foot of the bed for extra comfort. Snorers and older sleepers are also among the target users of adjustable mattresses.

Read our review of the best adjustable beds in 2019 to learn more.

3. How firm should your mattress be?

Before you get confused, firmness is different from support. When we said a mattress provides support, we meant it is able to get your spine in a healthy alignment. That is, it doesn’t cause pressure, so you don’t wake up feeling sore. 

On the other hand, firmness refers to how soft or firm a mattress feels. It is a subjective metric that depends on your definition of softness or firmness, as well as your body type, size, and weight.

Some mattress brands are designed to give universal comfort to all kinds of sleeper. In this case, the mattress adjusts to the needs of its user/s. Leesa, Casper, and Tuft & Needle are good examples of mattresses that offer universal comfort. Out of 10, their firmness levels fall between 4 and 7.

Leesa Mattress:

Sale
Leesa 10" Memory Foam Mattress in a Box, Luxury...
  • Our mattress: Great things come in small packages. The Leesa mattress in a box is beautifully designed with three premium foam layers for cooling, body contouring and pressure-relieving core support. With the all-new Top layer of high Quality foam, you’ll experience enhanced pressure relief and better rest. The Leesa mattress offers a universal adaptive feel, which adapts to your body type while you sleep, regardless of your sleeping style.
  • Cooling comfort: Our exclusive high quality foam’s microcell structure promotes airflow while still providing the perfect amount of hug and bounce. So, you sleep cooler and get the comfort and support you need.
  • Made in USA: The Leesa mattress is designed, assembled and manufactured in the USA with high-performance foams.

Casper Mattress:

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Casper Sleep Foam Mattress, Queen 10
  • 4-layers of premium foam construction for support, breathability, and bounce
  • Breathable open-cell foams have tiny pores to let hot air escape, keeping you cool at night
  • Combination of softer foam for shoulder region and supportive firm foam for core and hip area

Further, you can choose an optimal firmness level according to your sleeping position. Side sleepers feel most comfortable with soft to medium (between levels 3 and 6). Those who lie on their backs need a mattress in the 4 to 7 range. Lastly, any firmness level from 5 to 7 is recommended for stomach sleepers.

4. What’s your body type and weight?

The firmness level can also be determined by other crucial factors. While there is no exact way to tell how comfortable you will feel, you can get an idea by aligning your body weight with its ideal firmness level.

  • If you’re on the lighter side (less than 150 pounds), getting a medium-firm mattress (5 to 7) allows you to experience universal comfort. Remember that you don’t sink too deeply into the mattress. You can go for 0.5 to 1 level below and still feel comfortable as most medium firmness mattresses cater to average sleepers.
  • As mentioned above, average sleepers (150 to 200 pounds) should find the industry standard of 5 to 7 as their sweet spot. Manufacturers had you in mind when they invented universal comfort. Look for mattresses with medium, medium-firm, and luxury firm labels when you shop. If you’re close to 150 pounds, you can also pick out a mattress with a firmness level of 3 or 4.
  • Heavy sleepers (200+ pounds) tend to sink more deeply into the mattress. To avoid forming pressure points, settle with a firmness between 8 and 9. For a medium feel, the 5 to 7 range is enough to provide you with comfort. Anything above 9 is under further and careful consideration as this is too hard for anyone to sleep on.

Factors to Consider

Construction & Materials

Related to mattress type are the materials used in designing dream beds. As a general rule, you have to know the anatomy of the mattress you’re eyeing. Typically, it will have comfort, transition, and support layers. Cooling or plush foams are often used at the top. Supportive foams or spring systems lie at the base. Transition layers are often optional but exist to offer deep compression.

Certifications are important as they distinguish the affordable, high-quality models from the budget-friendly yet poorly-made ones. The most common is the CertiPUR-US certification, which makes sure the mattress contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful chemicals. Others worth noting are OEKO-TEX, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

Firmness & Feel

We touched on firmness levels in the above section. But what do those numbers mean? Although there is no definitive way to measure firmness, industry experts and reviewers have come up with a handy firmness scale. 

Firmness Scale

1 as softest, 10 as firmest
Ultra Soft – 1-2
Soft – 3-4
Medium – 5-6
Firm – 7-8
Ultra Firm – 9-10

Take note that some brands create their own scale to determine the firmness. You may find them refer to 1 as hard and 10 as plush. For instance, Zinus Mattress uses the latter.

Read our full review of Zinus mattress models here.

Motion Transfer

Motion transfer refers to the transfer of movements from a source location to another location in the mattress. You can experience this when you share your bed with someone else: a partner, a kid, or a pet. These days, advanced features allow better motion isolation. This is great news for light sleepers who tend to awaken at the slightest tremor.

High-density foam either on top or at the base is your best bet in reducing motion transfer. Thick and/or all-foam beds usually fall under this category. Hybrids and innerspring using pocketed coils are also good candidates. Kids and adults alike would love the minimal disturbances at the surface and underneath.

Read our full review of the best mattress for couples in 2019.

Cooling

Sleeping hot is an important issue in the mattress industry. It became a widespread problem when memory foams were introduced. The old all-foam construction made for an inescapable heat trap. More advanced technologies now exist to put this problem behind us.

Materials like gel, copper, and green tea are infused in memory foam to address the issue. However, some all-foam beds still sleep warm. Specialty foams employ solutions like phase cooling tech, whose components adapt to and regulate skin temperature. If you sleep hot, we recommend going for a temperature-regulating mattress.

Innersprings and hybrids are generally good at this. They allow air to circulate, creating ventilation, making it possible for you to sleep cool. They may not be as efficient, however, if their comfort layers are thick.

Edge Support & Sinkage

Having stable and sturdy edges has a couple of benefits. First, it prevents your bed from sagging at the perimeter, avoiding accidents like tipping over to the floor. For couples, it lets you use more sleep surface instead of fighting for space at the center zone. Second, you don’t have to worry about sitting on the edge while doing non-snoozing activities. You tie your shoes there, right?

Sinkage, on the other hand, can refer to how deep your body sinks toward the core and base layers of the bed. If the support layers aren’t strong enough, you may feel like your body is sinking in the mud. It can also refer to the body indentation that occurs in your favorite areas, such as the middle. The indentation can change back to normal shape, which then refers to the foam’s recovery.

Pricing

We already covered this while discussing your budget. But in relation to the seller, we’d like to elaborate on the fact that mattresses sold online–either directly from companies or on marketplaces like Amazon–are more affordable than those seen in stores. This is primarily because such brands do not need to maintain and operate showrooms, which rack up overhead costs. 

Physical stores have rent and employee fees. And guess who gets to bear a portion of those expenses? Customers. If you’d like to save on several hundred to thousand bucks, check out our guide on the best online mattresses in 2019.

Other Factors

It pays to know the current industry standards for shipping, returns, warranty, etc. 

Online mattress brands lead in offering free shipping and returns. Most will shoulder the costs of picking up the bed if you decide it’s not for you. This is made possible by the existence of sleep trials (e.g. 30 nights, 100 nights, 120 nights, 180 nights, lifetime, among others). These terms are the seller’s part of the trade-off of providing customers with online options (no testing prior to purchase).

Warranties range from 5 or 10 years to lifetime coverage. And since we mentioned that the sturdiest mattress could last a decade, this sounds about right. 

In Conclusion


If you want to review your notes, let’s go over the questions again—quickly this time. 

>How much are you willing to spend on a new mattress? Luxury options start at around $1,000 (queen). Adjust your budget to $1,500 if you want a King or California King mattress. Think carefully about choices that cost less than $500 as you can’t be sure about their durability, quality, and toxicity. Also, mattresses sold online are usually way more affordable than in-store ones.

>What type of mattress do you need? The more traditional and familiar type is innerspring or coil. It provides support and has a bouncy feel. Latex, on the other hand, offers support and cooling effects. Memory foam is known for following the contours of the body, which allows for maximum support and comfort. Hybrid-style mattresses combine two or more of these types. And adjustable mattresses exist for people with back pain, as well as snorers and older sleepers.

>How firm should your mattress be? The sweet spot for all kinds of sleepers is in the 4 to 7 range. But it is ideal for back sleepers. If you sleep on your side, choose between 3 and 6. Do you lie on your stomach when snoozing? Go for 5 to 7 firmness. 

>What’s your body type and weight? Light sleepers (below 150 pounds) are advised to look for medium-firm mattresses (5 to 7), and so are average sleepers (150 to 200 pounds). Lastly, if you fall on the heavier side (200+ pounds), you will feel more comfortable sleeping on a mattress with an 8 to 9 firmness level.

To complete your decision-making process, check out our reviews on the brands mentioned in this guide. If you found this guide helpful, share it with your friends and family. And let us know your thoughts using the comments section.

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