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Are you ready for a good night’s sleep? If you’re having trouble getting the rest you need, maybe it’s time to get a new mattress. Here’s how you can find the perfect mattress that’s right for you.
First and foremost, you’ve got to know when it’s time to replace your mattress. If you’ve had yours for more than about five years, it’s probably time for a new one. While a worn-in groove may be comforting in its cocoon-ness, sleeping in a rut can cause back and neck issues. A new mattress will provide a flat, even surface that allows you to move about freely in your sleep.
The Best Mattress for Every Sleeping Position
Most of us, whether we realize it or not, tend to favor one sleeping position. So the most important factor in finding the mattress that’s right for you is to determine what kind of sleeper you are: back, stomach, or side. Or some combination of all three.
The main consideration is to make sure that while asleep, your shoulders, spine, and hips remain inline and relatively straight. Waking up with a creaky back is most often the result of sleeping in a position where your shoulders are turned one way and your hips another; this is usually the result of having a mattress that’s too soft.
If you prefer to sleep flat on your back, you should opt for a mattress that’s at least medium firm for solid support head to toe. Side sleepers should go a bit softer, so the spine and hips can remain straight while pressure points are still supported. Stomach sleeper? Medium soft is your best bet, to allow your spine to stay flat.
In general, no matter which position your prefer you should avoid mattresses that are too firm or too soft. Stick to the medium range, and tweak slightly in either direction depending on your comfort level.
What Size Mattress Should You Buy?
If you are going to shop for a new mattress, get one that’s appropriate for your room size. So measure your bedroom. Go for a mattress that allows at least three feet of space around three sides, so you can move freely about your room. And be sure it stays clear of opening doorways—especially closet doors.
Mattresses come in seven sizes, although individual measurements between mattress companies definitely vary. Here are the typical mattress sizes:
- Twin—38″ x 75″
- Twin XL—38″ x 80″
- Full—53″ x 75″
- Full XL—54″ x 80″
- Queen—60″ x 80″
- King—76″ x 80″
- California King—72″ x 84″
Big and Tall guys should definitely consider getting an XL or Cal King size, because you want a mattress that extends beyond your frame. Generally, XL mattresses run about six inches longer than their Standard counterparts. They may cost a bit more, but it’s worth it.
How Firm Should Your Mattress Be?
While the firmness level that’s comfortable for you will obviously vary, the mattress industry has developed a 1-10 “firmness scale” to make the decision a bit clearer:
- 1 (Very Soft): Cloud-like; maximum softness
- 2-3 (Soft): Soft and plush with noticeable sink
- 4-6 (Medium): Most common; some plush feeling but limited sink
- 7-9 (Firm): Much harder; limited softness and sink
- 10 (Very Firm): Like a rock; no softness or sink
Side sleepers generally should opt for mattresses in the two-to-five range; the extra softness provides support and relief at the shoulder and hip pressure points while keeping the spine aligned. Back and stomach sleepers will likely prefer the four-to-seven range, so they get full firmness throughout the body. Mattress with a firmness ratings of one or ten are very rare.
The thickness of our mattress will depend on a variety of factors, but the bottom line is this: You shouldn’t choose a mattress solely on how thick it is. That is to say, the depth of a mattress doesn’t truly determine whether it’s soft or firm.
However, the thickness will contribute to the amount of support you get—and the lifespan of your mattress. A thick mattress will take longer to develop that worn-in groove that will signal when it’s time to buy a new mattress. Particularly heavy guys will find that the thicker the mattress, the longer it will last.
Here’s a general guideline:
- If you weigh 225 pounds or less, you can expect to sleep comfortably on a 9-inch mattress;
- Weigh between 225 and 275 pounds? A 10-inch mattress should suffice;
- If you weigh in excess of 275 pounds, a 12-inch mattress should last for years.
One alternative to buying a thicker mattress: A mattress topper, or pad. Many people choose to go this route because it can add plushness and thickness to a standard mattress at a more reasonable cost than buyer an extra-thick mattress. Usually a quilted cover of some kind, they’re also often made of memory foam.
Unfortunately, a mattress topper can also make for a hotter sleep experience. Why? Because these pads tend to envelope the body and the material, particularly foam, can trap heat. Besides, if you think you need a mattress topper, chances are what you really need is a brand-new mattress. But if you can’t afford that and want to extend the life of your existing mattress, a mattress pad might be a (temporary) solution.
How Much Should You Spend on a Mattress?
Let’s face it: mattresses can be expensive. Mattresses at the top end of the scale run in the thousands of dollars. Sticker-shock is definitely a common by-product of mattress shopping, resulting in people spending less than they should on a lower-quality mattress.
But the common argument to this—and despite the cliche, it’s a valid point—is that we spend nearly a third of lives in our bed. That’s far more time than we spend in our automobiles, and a car that cost a few thousand dollars would be a relative bargain.
So don’t skimp. Do your research, and get the bed you really want and need, even if you think it’s beyond your budget. Plan spend at least $500; the neighborhood of $1K will get you a fantastic mattress that will last for years, especially if you share your bed with someone else.
To Box Spring, Or Not to Box Spring?
Without the proper support, your mattress will prematurely sag, significantly lowering its life expectancy. But do you need a box spring to provide that support?
If you’re using an old-fashioned metal one that forms a giant square, then yes, you will definitely need a box spring to support your mattress. Frankly, you’ll get better support by putting your mattress right on the floor.
Better, opt for a frame that supports the base of your mattress completely, from side to side and top to bottom. The slatted, futon-style frames are fine, and relatively affordable. A flat platform bed is the ideal choice, for firm support. Better still is the adjustable platform bed, that you can raise and lower to your desire. No matter which way you go, just like with a mattress you generally get what you pay for when it comes to bed frames. So buy wisely.
One note: Many mattress company warranties require a box spring for ensuring claims. Read your paperwork carefully. Even if your mattress fails prematurely due to a manufacturing defect, you may have no warranty recourse if you didn’t have it resting on a hard, flat surface.
What Kind of Mattress Should You Buy?
Mattresses come in all shapes and sizes—and they’re made with different techniques and with a variety of materials. Which type is right for you? As with everything bed- and mattress-related, there are two main considerations. One, it’s all subjective, so the only way to find the right mattress for you is to, ahem, sleep around; and Two, you will absolutely get what you pay for.
Airbeds: Inexpensive, portable, and really just fine for temporary bedding solutions. Still, an airbed won’t provide the support you need over a long period of time. No matter how good quality it is, your back will, ultimately suffer. And your bed will spring a leak.
Innerspring, or Coil: The first mass-produced mattresses were made like this, and several companies still use the technology: dozens of concentric coils, packed closely together, bound by wire and wrapped in fabric or some other soft material. This is how the firmest of mattresses are usually constructed. The times and materials have changed, but the tech is as solid as the support.
Pocket Coils: Fabric-encased pocket coil mattresses are the most popular type of innerspring mattress because they don’t transfer motion. Each coil reacts independently, so just because you (or your bed partner) moves, the rest of the mattress doesn’t.
Memory Foam: It’s been around for decades, and it continues to improve. These mattresses are known for being plush and fitting snugly around your body. They’re also known for trapping a tremendous amount of heat, though. Memory foam can get very warm, which is why many modern foam beds utilize an interior layer of gel to mitigate the heat that the foam absorbs.
Latex: The most popular type of modern mattress, many beds-in-a-box mattresses are latex. It conforms to your body, doesn’t transfer motion, and isn’t as squishy—and doesn’t trap nearly as much heat— as memory foam. Some companies use a hybrid of foam and latex to get the best of both worlds.
Pillowtop: Essentially, a pillowtop is an inner spring mattress with an integrated topper. It’s typically a firm mattress to provide extra support, with a padded layer sewn on top for softness and comfort.
It Doesn’t End There
Many modern mattresses utilize technology to adjust to your body. Some sync with apps and let you adjust the temperature of the bed with internal heating—and cooling— elements. Some will track your sleep for you, measuring various attributes of your rest such as deep v. light sleep, restless leg syndrome, etc. Others let you adjust firmness—often by side, so your bed partner can have their personalized sleep experience and so can you.
Does sleep need to be this complicated? Not at all. If you’re getting great rest and waking refreshed and pain-free, that’s really the only ultimate goal. But you’ve got to get the right mattress for you; if you have sleep issues you may want to look into brands such as Eight Sleep, Bear, and Purple. Each is unique in its own way, and one may be the right solution to your tormented sleep.
There’s Really Only One Way to Choose A Mattress
The bottom line is that mattress choice is a personal, subjective thing. Asking friends or reading reviews might be informative, but we’re all different. Until you lie on a mattress and even sleep on it, you’ll just never know. That’s why most bed-in-a-box mattress companies offer an extended trial period. Casper, for example, offers a full 365 days to sleep on its mattresses. Leesa does the same, and donates any returned mattresses to charitable organizations.
We recommend heading to a department store such as Macy’s to choose your mattress. Take your time, and lie on the display beds. That’s why they’re there! You can order in-store, or better yet take that information home with you and make your purchase later online. Macy’s offers free delivery, a 120-day trial period, and the selection is wide.
Macy’s offers a full range of mattresses, from traditional brands like Serta and Postur-pedic to newer brands like Purple. In fact, if we had to pick one to recommend, we’d probably go with the Purple .2 (from $1,299). Purple mattresses use modern technology and materials, such as its brand-new Smart Comfort Grid.
This unique top layer dynamically adapts to your body and stays cool for personalized comfort and better sleep. And you can also get it in .3 (3-inch) and .4 (4-inch) versions. It also has a base layer of individually wrapped responsive-support coils (innersprings) that further enhance the overall comfort, responsiveness, and durability of the mattress.