Mattress shopping can be confusing, boring, and frustrating. The reason is that everything about a mattress is really internal. On the outside, they are all just rectangles to the casual observer, which means that you may feel like you are at the mercy of the sales person at the store. However, there are a few simple things you should know about that will allow you to make an informed and intelligent decision on which mattress will be best for you.
There are a number of ways mattresses are made. Today, you will see individual coil mattresses, innerspring mattresses, foam mattresses, and even air mattresses. Sales people will give you a multitude of reasons why one is better or worse than the others, but the truth is that the best one is the one that is going to get you the best night’s sleep. Each type does have its own strengths and weaknesses, but the final determination should be your comfort.
First of all, the mattress many people are most familiar with is the innerspring mattress. An innerspring system is the one you most likely envision when you think of a mattress. It is basically a series of springs arranged in a steel box system. Most every major mattresses brand, and especially the “big three” of Sealy, Simmons, and Serta make a version of the innerspring mattress. When working with an innerspring mattress, there are some words that may get thrown around by the sales people that you should understand going in. There are a number of variations within the innerspring mattress family, but basically it is a one-piece internal coil system.
Individual Coil Mattresses
Made popular by the Simmons Beautyrest series, individual coil mattresses are what they sound like they are. Each coil in the mattress is independent and wrapped in some sort of sleeve. This allows each one to work independently, which accomplishes two things. First of all, the coils, working independently, can more easily conform to the contours of your body. Secondly, they will offer a big reduction in motion transfer. The downside is that in some of the cheaper models and knock-offs, the coils can become intertwined if the mattress is bent at all.
Foam mattresses, like the popular Tempurpedic mattress, have enjoyed a great deal of recent popularity. Basically it is a block or block or layers of foam inside the mattress cover. Generally, Visco foam is either all or part of the foam inside. Visco is memory foam that is often what sales people and commercials are referring to when they talk about “space age” foam or NASA approved foam. Foam mattresses offer the best motion separation and conform well to your body. Those who do not like foam mattresses often complain that there is so little motion that the mattress ends up making it feel like they are laying in clay or have sunk into something.
The most popular air mattress is the Sleep Number Bed by Select Comfort. Their version is actually two air bladders inside one mattress that can be adjusted by pumping air in or letting it out. The number is actually just an arbitrary way of measuring how much has been put in or taken out. The advantage of these is, of course, the ability to adjust them to your personal comfort. Those who do not like such mattresses usually have a problem with the ridge of separation in the middle.
Once you know what kinds of mattresses you have to choose from, you need to figure out what size you want. The basic mattress sizes are twin, full, queen, and king. Of course there are other sizes and custom mattresses like the California king and extra long twin, but these are the basic sizes that will fit with most bed frames.
To give you an idea of what size each mattress is, here are some simple guidelines:
Twin Mattresses are approximately 39″x76″ in size and are generally for children.
Full Size Mattresses are approximately 54″x76″ and are the equivalent to 2 crib mattresses (which means it may not be the best size for two adults to sleep on).
Queen Size Mattresses are approximately 60″x80″, which is about 1-1/2 times as wide as a full size mattress.
King Size Mattresses are approximately 76″x80″ which is close to two twin mattresses wide and the same length as a queen sized mattress.
Specs and Sales-speak
When you are shopping for a mattress, be careful not to get wrapped up in stats and specs, which is what many salespeople will throw at you. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
You will probably hear a lot of talk about coil counts if you are looking at any but foam or air mattresses. You may have heard that a big coil count means a better mattress, but that is not quite true. While a high coil count does usually equate to support and durability to a degree, you have to realize that the company can put as many coils in there as they want. However, at a point the number of coils begins to diminish the mattress. You can put 1,000 coils in a mattress if you make the coils small enough. So don’t get too wrapped up in coil counts.
Some sales people and companies will put a great deal of emphasis on the foam density. The information, of course, is somewhat useful, but it should not be a deal breaker for you. Foam density can mean it is too dense to be comfortable or too soft to last and the numbers will mean very little to you anyway. Take the information, but take it only for what it is worth.
Despite what you may remember being told or hearing at some point, a firm mattress does not necessarily mean that it is a good one for your back. If firm were good for your back, then a hard floor would be the place to sleep and you don’t want to do that. Be sure that you differentiate between supportive versus soft or firm. A soft can be supportive or a firm can be non supportive, but here is a hint on how to tell if you are getting proper support:
Lay on your back on the mattress. Place you hand beneath the curve in the small of your back. If you feel the mattress pushing back on your hand, you are getting good support. If not, then you may want to look for something a little better.
How Can They All Have the Best Price?
This comes up all the time. Everywhere you go, no matter what brand they carry, they will claim to have the lowest price. How can they do that? It is a simple trick that the manufacturers use with the retailers. If you look at the model names (like “The Reginald” or “The Apollo”) you will see that no two retailers have the same ones. That is because they each get their own cover and name for the mattresses. Essentially, retailers have their “own” mattresses. Look at specs and features to find out which are comparable so that you are sure to compare “apples to apples.”
Is No Flip Okay?
As with most anything, that depends. Today, you will find very few flip or turn mattresses, so it may not be an issue. However, just to be sure, find out what makes the mattress okay not flipping. Some will use ultra firm bloc foam of some sort under the spring system, while others have their own methods of keeping a mattress in good working order. Generally no flip is fine with modern technology, but just make sure you ask why it is no flip.
Most reputable companies will offer solid 10-15 year warranties. If you are using a newer company, though, ask yourself how long they have been around versus how long the warranty is. A 5-year-old company offering you 15 years may be something to consider avoiding. Mostly, though, just make sure you know what is covered for sure. Some body impressions will occur with a mattress, it is just the nature of foam, and it actually will enhance the comfort as they conform to your body. Ask, though, how deep an impression has to be in order to be covered by the warranty. Find out if the warranty is full or pro-rated. Most of the name brands have very good and comprehensive material and defection warranties, but if you have a specific concern, it is better to ask about it up front.
How To Know
So then how do you know which mattress is right for you? The best way is to lie on mattresses. If there are two of you, then both of you need to lie on the mattress. Don’t sit on it or push on it with your hand, you need to lie on the mattress to know what it feels like. When you do this, though, you must realize that your new one will be a bit firmer since you are lying on one that several other have lied on as well as kids jumping on, people pushing on, and the like. Foam softens over time, no matter what kind it is, so just keep that in mind; the new one will be firmer when you get it home.
Second, don’t worry so much about specs and types of mattress and worry more about what feels good and right. Decide what is important to you in a mattress, and keep with that as you shop. Mattress shopping can be confusing, but if you keep yourself grounded in what you want most, you should be able to make it an easier experience.
Finally, you have to realize that you are going to be spending a little money on a good mattress. The temptation is just to go into the store and ask for the cheapest mattress, but remember that of all the furniture in your home, this is the only one that will have any effect on your health and alertness. It is also the piece you will spend the most time on.
Mattress shopping is not usually a lot of fun. It is also not something you likely look forward to. However, with the information here you can educate yourself and make the experience a little easier on you. Take some time, make sure you know what you want, and get your mattress so you can enjoy a good night’s sleep and a better quality of life.