How to Choose a Mattress

Mattress Buying Guide

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Home and Spirit

Considering we spend one-third of our lives in bed, finding the right mattress seems incredibly important. But, shopping for a mattress can be a stressful experience, especially because a good mattress can be a very pricy investment. So, how do you know it's time to upgrade, and how can you ensure you're getting the best deal on that new mattress?

While a good mattress will always be one of the more expensive items in your home, you can save a little money by shopping at the right time. To help your hunt go a little more smoothly, we talked to Dr. Michael J. Breus—aka The Sleep Doctor—to get the lowdown on everything you need to know about buying a mattress.

Meet the Expert

Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and both a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Before Buying a New Mattress

While caring for your mattress and cleaning it regularly will help extend its life, there comes a time when every mattress must be replaced. But, how do you know it's time?

There are some guidelines out there recommending between seven and 10 years, but those suggestions are not always cut and dry. According to Dr. Breus, it's best to listen to your body.

"I believe that your body and certain life events will tell you when to buy a new sleep surface," he says. "As we age, different things happen to our bodies, which make certain sleep surfaces better or worse. As an example, as we age, many people experience lower back pain."

When you find yourself waking up with chronic back pain or struggling to fall asleep, it may be time to consider replacing your mattress.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Mattress

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LeClair Decor

Room Layout

Determining which size mattress to buy all comes down to your layout and personal preferences. If your room is on the smaller side, stick with a full-sized mattress. If you have plenty of room to spare or share a bed, a queen, king or even a California king might be right for you.


There are a few questions to ask yourself before zeroing in on a mattress. One of the main decisions you need to make is about the material of the mattress: memory foam, innerspring, or hybrid.

Dr. Breus says he always asks clients to focus on what they need most out of a mattress. For example, if you struggle with back pain, choose a hard mattress that helps alleviate the tension. If you are constantly woken up by your partner tossing and turning, a memory foam mattress may be your best bet. If you sleep very hot, a spring mattress is a great option, as foam can trap heat.


Mattresses come in four main sizes, but how do you know which is best for you? Of course, a small bedroom may dictate what size you can accommodate. But if space is not an issue, here is what to know:

  • Twin: A twin mattress is 38 inches by 75 inches and is a good choice for a child or for use in a small guest room.
  • Full: Measuring 54 inches by 75 inches, a full mattress is typically the smallest mattress suitable for an adult.
  • Queen: A queen mattress measures 60 inches by 80 inches and is ideal for two smaller people or a single sleeper who loves a lot of extra space.
  • King: If you have the space, a king mattress is 76 inches by 80 inches and offers ample space for two adults.
  • California King: If you're looking for something a little bit longer, the California king is 72 inches wide and 84 inches long and perfect for people on the taller side.

Types of Mattresses

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Corner House Creatives

Once you've decided it's time to spring—get it?—for a new mattress, you have to narrow in on what kind you want. Here's a quick breakdown of the types of mattresses you should know.

Memory Foam

A memory foam mattress is made with layers of foam to offer support without the use of springs. There are a variety of densities when it comes to all-foam mattresses, so they can range from very soft to very firm.

Foam mattresses will mold to your body, so they can protect your spine and will often help reduce motion transfer between partners.


An innerspring mattress is what you may think of as a "traditional" mattress. These mattresses use coils or springs to support you while you sleep. The springs are encased in a soft cushion that ranges from very plush to firm.

Innerspring mattresses do not sink in the way memory foam does, so they are a good choice for someone who needs more support.


As the name suggests, a hybrid mattress is a combination of both a memory foam and spring mattress. They often feature a system of coils covered with memory foam, providing more stability than a traditional foam mattress but with the cushion of memory foam.

Cost of Buying a Mattress

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Home and Spirit

It's no secret that a mattress is a spendy purchase. Today, you can often find a memory foam mattress for as low as a few hundred dollars, but we wouldn't recommend it unless you need a bed for only occasional use.

A high-end memory foam mattress will run you anywhere from $800 to $1,500, while most well-made spring mattresses start at $1,000. From there, customizable mattresses such as Sleep Number or some hybrid mattresses can cost upwards of $2,000.

While your budget is important, we recommend finding the best mattress in your budget rather than trying to save a few dollars.

Buying last year's model could save you a lot of dough — some retailers will discount up to 50% or more.

How to Choose a Mattress

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Devon Grace Interiors

Deciding between a soft and a firm mattress is a personal choice for every sleeper. According to Dr. Breus, there are two main components to a mattress.

"When we look at overall sleep quality and a bed, we are really trying to best understand two areas: support and comfort," he says. "Support is the product's ability to keep the spine aligned, while comfort is the product's ability to keep you in a position of alignment."

A firm mattress will offer a bit more support, while a soft mattress may feel more comfortable to those who enjoy a plush feel. Deciding between a firm or a soft mattress typically comes down to personal preference.

You may want to consider your sleeping position as well. Side sleepers tend to do better with softer mattresses, while stomach sleepers may prefer a firmer mattress. Consider something in between the two if you sleep on your back.

Where to Shop for a Mattress

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LeClair Decor

Buying In Store:

Buying a mattress in person is a great opportunity to test out various models in real time. Because buying a mattress is not an inexpensive purchase, some consumers feel more comfortable testing out a mattress in person instead of making a gamble online. If you need help deciding on the type or firmness of your mattress, a trip to the store might be worth it.

Buying Online:

Twenty years ago, most people would never have considered buying something as important—and comfort-oriented—as a mattress online. But today, many e-commerce retailers have popped up to help bring the mattress buying experience right into your bedroom. So, should you buy a mattress online?

"It really depends upon the purpose of the purchase and your budget," Dr. Breus says. "The good news is that all the online companies give people lots of time to 'test' the bed."

If you decide to buy a mattress online, consider focusing on retailers who offer trial periods so you know if the mattress is right for you. Just be sure to note if they expect you to return your mattress yourself if you don't like it or if they will pick up an unwanted mattress for you. And always read the reviews.

Where to Buy a Mattress:

Depending on your needs, there are several mattress retailers to consider. Our editors recommend Tempur-Pedic, Saatva, Casper, Mattress Firm, Purple, and Avocado to name a few.


When's the Best Time to Buy a Mattress?

If the idea of spending an entire paycheck on a mattress makes you sweat, consider planning your purchase around a big sale. Most mattress retailers will release their new mattress products in the spring, and so will often discount last year's model accordingly.

Can't wait until spring? Beyond new product launches, you are most likely to find the best deals during major holiday sales events. Big shopping events such as Black Friday, Labor Day, and Memorial Day as well as New Year's will often bring the deepest discounts.

Should You Wait for a Sale to Buy a Mattress?

Now that you are ready to upgrade your mattress, should you wait for the next big sale? If you can afford it, the best time to buy a mattress is whenever you need it. Sleeping on a mattress that is causing you to wake up in pain or taking away from your precious shut-eye is a negative for your health.

If you're lucky, that back pain will line up with a big sale. But if not, it's best to invest in a mattress sooner rather than later.

What About the Bedding?

It's clear that picking the right mattress is a big decision, but finding the sheets that suit your sleeping preferences can be equally as important. If you have upgraded your mattress, you may want to consider doing the same for your bedding.

From duvets to comforters to everything in between, there are endless choices for bedding. A hot sleeper may want to consider a cooling fabric such as percale or linen, while flannel or 100% cotton may work best for those who run cold.

Spend some time researching the right bedding for your sleep style before you splurge on a new set.

Article Sources
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  1. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.