The benefits of having a high quality mattress include muscle relaxation, better sleep and improved posture. On the flip side, if you don’t have a good mattress, you could end up with back pain and broken sleep. Our mattress reviews provide the latest and up to date information on the best mattresses out there. Here’s some further information you need to know as you shop around for the perfect choice.
Different types of mattresses
There are many different types of mattresses, but here are just a few to consider:
Innerspring: These mattresses are made using a steel coil support system. There are many different types of spring systems, including those in which the springs are connected into a single unit, and those with individually wrapped pocket coils. The innersprings are covered with padding that could be made from foams, fiber and even extra layers of smaller springs. Generally, the more coils there are, the greater the support and the better the contouring.
Latex foam: Foam mattress made from a material which combines synthetic latex and the latex of the Hevea brasiliensis tree.
Memory foam: Foam mattress made from viscoelastic foam. Some innerspring mattresses will feature memory foam in the upholstery section. These types of mattresses are good for relieving joint pain, as they soften and shape around the sleeper in response to body temperature and weight. They are affected by temperature, so in a cool bedroom, the mattress will feel firmer than it would in a warm one.
High-density foam: Uses a more compact foam, most typically deriving from polyurethane. These offer comfort and last longer than other types due to being denser than traditional foam mattresses. Those with an innerspring system will have an even longer life, especially as there is no chance of the mattress sagging.
Air mattress: Uses one or several air chambers instead of springs as supports. Lower end styles will be used for camping on occasion, while high-end luxury beds can also make use of an air mattress. Some manufacturers offer air beds which allow users to adjust each side of the bed and feature pumps for applying a pressure setting – with studies showing that beds which can be adjusted in terms of firmness are more effective for back pain.
Water bed: A mattress which makes use of water on the inside instead of air or coils. They are known for being effective at supporting the spine, amongst other parts of the body. Several types of support are available, up to 100% waveless – where it is not apparent that a person is lying on a waterbed.
Types of mattress coil
A mattress core serves the purpose of supporting a sleeper’s body. Known as innersprings, the modern kind of spring mattress is made up of steel coil springs, or coils. To determine firmness and support with a mattress, it’s important to know what gauge the coils are. These are measured in quarters, and the thicker the spring, the lower the number. Higher quality mattress coils will generally have a 14 gauge diameter, and the thickest usually available is a 12.5 gauge, which will feel quite firm. There are four different types of mattress coils:
- Bonnell coils are most commonly seen, and they have been around for the longest. This type of coil was previously seen in buggy seats during the 19th century, but nowadays you will still often find them in mid-range mattresses. In terms of shape, bonnell springs have an hourglass design, are made of steel wire and feature a knotted, round top.
- Offset coils are hourglass style coils which are designed to conform to body shape.
- Continuous coils involve rows of coils being formed from one piece of wire.
- Marshall coils are barrel-shaped coils with a thin gauge which are encased in fabric pockets. They are not wired together so work independently. As a result, the mattress is firmer and there is an allowance for motion separation between the sides of the bed.
What to look out for when you buy mattresses online
More and more people are choosing to buy mattresses online, and this is largely due to the fact that more options are available when looking on a website. In contrast, a store will typically offer a large and non refundable delivery fee, a restocking fee and an average of 30 days to decide if you actually like it. While you’ll only be able to lie on a mattress briefly in a store and decide within that short time frame whether it feels comfortable enough for you, an online description of a mattress will detail much more information that you can use to help with a final decision.
There are many companies, such as Casper, Purple, Leesa, Nectar and Layla, which let customers order a mattress, have it shipped directly to their home address, then try it out for a set timeframe. What’s more, if they don’t like it, the mattress can be returned for a full refund. Typically, these mattresses will be made of memory foam, which means they can be made smaller and rolled down to make for an easier shipping process. Furthermore, many mail-order mattress companies allow their customers to try the mattress for 100 days before they make a final decision. Some companies will go longer, with Nectar really pulling out the stops by offering 365 days as a trial period. Fortunately, our mattress reviews include all of the vital information you need.
The one downside with the typical mail-order mattress is the question of what happens to your old mattress once the new one has been delivered. For example, with a local mattress order from a nearby store, the delivery guys will typically be able to haul the old one away. But with a mail-order mattress, this is essentially an order like any other you’d make online. Some companies will offer help with old mattresses though, so if you can’t get rid of yours easily yourself, this is worth considering. For example, Nectar has a White Glove option which offers removal of the old mattress and installation of the new one for $149.
Here’s what to consider if you’re looking for the best mattress for you, especially if you’re shopping online:
How big is the bed? – Take measurements of your existing bed first so you don’t buy the wrong size. If a mattress online has the same dimensions, you’ll know it will fit. Otherwise, you should move on – especially if it’s only available in one size.
What kind of sleeper are you? – Consider what your sleeping style is. Perhaps you sleep on your back, or it might be your side or stomach. Some mattresses will be firm, and others will provide a softer surface to sleep on. Matching your sleeping position with your mattress firmness will make for a better night’s sleep.
Which mattress is best for your health? – If you’re prone to joint pain, back pain or other health conditions which could be made worse by the wrong mattress, speak to your doctor before buying one online. For example, choose one with good body support if your aches and pains are a concern; plus, cooling technology is available with some types of mattress if you’re prone to overheating.
What does the warranty include? – As buying a mattress isn’t as simple – or cheap – a purchase as buying the weekly groceries, you’ll want to examine the company’s warranty before hitting that checkout button. A good warranty will include flexible coverage and various support options, so if you encounter any problems with your mattress, there won’t be a huge bill to accompany it.
How firm should a mattress be?
This depends on what your personal situation is. For example, if you don’t experience back pain, a firm mattress will often be the more comfortable option. This is because, in sleeping on a firmer surface, the bones absorb the majority of the pressure. The net result is less stress on veins, arteries and muscles. Furthermore, muscles receive less strain, leading to improved circulation. With a firm mattress, your lower back is also kept from collapsing, which contributes to a higher oxygen intake during sleep. If there is less sagging, the weight of your body will be distributed more evenly, and you will find that there isn’t a single part of the body that is taking on the bulk of the pressure. If you sleep on your back, then a firm mattress is typically seen as the best option, as the surface provided is more stable and even. With stomach sleepers, this type of mattress is the better choice too. However, if you’re switching from a softer to a harder mattress, this can feel very uncomfortable at first. Rest assured, though, that this will improve with a little time. That being said, if you have a back condition such as scoliosis or arthritis, a firm mattress is not recommended, as it can make the pain worse.
If people have experienced back pain on a standard mattress, or already have a back problem, it’s usually recommended that they pick out a softer mattress. Lighter individuals may also be better off with this style, as a firmer design may not compress for them at all and therefore be uncomfortable. If you sleep on your side, a softer mattress may be the better choice, as they will cushion the shoulders and hips, plus align the spine. However, if you are of a heavier weight, or sleep on your back or stomach, softer mattresses can cause back problems – despite seeming to be more comfortable and luxurious at first. Additionally, soft mattresses can cause problems for those who share a bed, as the heavier partner could sink further into it, leading the sleeping surface to be unbalanced. Furthermore, soft mattresses may not have as long of a shelf life as firm mattresses. As all mattresses will become softer over time, starting from an already soft point will lead a mattress to become unusable over a shorter period of time.
Therefore, the two main factors to consider when deciding how firm your mattress should be are: whether you suffer from back pain, and which sleeping position you adopt at night. An additional consideration is weight, as a heavier person will find a firmer mattress more beneficial. However, personal preference is also important, as if you don’t find a mattress comfortable, you’re not going to sleep well on it!
Types of sleeping position
Sleeping on your side
These people will lie down with their arms on their sides and their back turned towards one specific side. Also known as log sleepers, it’s said that this type of sleeper is trustworthy, easy-going, social and gullible. The health benefit of this position is primarily the fact it keeps the spine aligned, and it also helps to reduce acid reflux. Furthermore, the sideways position means you’re less likely to snore because the airway stays open. This makes it a good option for those with sleep apnea. However, pressure over vital organs such as the lungs and stomach can take place, and arms may get numb due to the restriction in blood flow. However, pregnant ladies will benefit from sideways sleeping as this position will help with complete circulation all over the body.
Sleeping in the ‘yearner’ position
This is a sleeping position which involves lying down with the arm placed out straight. These people are said to be cynical, eager, stubborn, open-minded and quickly demotivated. This position can lead to people feeling sore and stiff when they wake up, and stretching in the morning and night is therefore recommended. A mattress which provides support for reducing pressure points and maintaining the spine in the correctly aligned position is ideal for this type of sleeper.
Sleeping in the fetal position
The person will lie down on their side with their knees pulled upwards, resting against their chest. More women are found to sleep in this position, and it’s considered to be one of the most common sleeping positions. These sleepers are said to be soft on the inside and tough on the outside. If you sleep in this position, adding a pillow in between your knees may help with comfort during the night. Sleeping in this position prevents stress over the vital organs such as the liver, lungs and stomach. It also helps people who suffer from a herniated disk by opening up the spaces which are present between each vertebra. Furthermore, it’s good for ladies who are pregnant, for circulation purposes.
Sleeping on your stomach
Also known as free fallers, these people hold their pillows with their arms placed on each side of it. This type of sleeper is said to be anxious, outgoing and nervy. They are more likely to have pain in their neck and back, and will often sleep without a pillow. However, a thin and soft cushion is recommended in order to keep the neck in a neutral position. This position is good for digestion purposes, plus those who suffer from degenerative disk disease if a pillow is placed underneath the lower abdomen. The net result is providing the back with relief from pressure application. Sleeping in this style is also good for easing snoring, but the pressure applied to joints and muscles could lead to numbness, tingling, aching and irritated nerves.
Sleeping on your back
As the name suggests, this position involves lying flat on the back, with arms placed near the body and pointing downwards on each side. It’s common for back sleepers to snore, which reduces the quality of sleep. However, it’s also considered to be the best sleeping position for reducing back pain. It’s said that this type of sleeper is reserved, quiet and has high expectations. To make this position more comfortable, you can press a small pillow in between the knees. To reduce back pain, you can add a firm mattress and a contour pillow. While back sleepers will benefit from the prevention of joint and back pain, plus delayed skin aging due to the head and neck being aligned with the spine in a natural position, it can result in difficulty with breathing and snoring issues. It’s seen as the perfect position for avoiding acid reflux problems, especially if an additional pillow is used to provide head support. This is because the stomach is placed at a lower level of the esophagus, thus preventing food or acid from being expelled out of the digestive tract.
Sleeping in the starfish position
This style of sleeper will lie down on their backs with their arms placed upwards towards their heads. It’s a position which will typically lead to snoring issues and broken sleep. It’s said that these sleepers will have good listening powers and are considered to be helpful. To help with reducing discomfort, it’s recommended to add a thin pillow underneath the knees. It’s also suggested that those who sleep in starfish position are more likely to sleepwalk at night.
Caring for a mattress
There are three main wear issues which can take place with a mattress over time – mildew, staining and sagging. To prevent these problems, precautionary measures can be implemented, which include regularly rotating or flipping the mattress, using a mattress pad or protector, using the proper support and keeping it dry. A broken or worn-out mattress will be lumpy, prone to excessive squeaking, show visible signs of permanent sagging and have springs which can be felt poking through the upholstery layer. To avoid your mattress wearing out quickly, follow these steps:
- Use a solid foundation for the mattress which doesn’t sag in itself. A sagging foundation, such as weak slats on a large bed, will lead to a sagging mattress.
- Don’t sleep in the same place and body position. If this can’t be helped, ensure the mattress is routinely rotated or flipped.
- Don’t place heavy objects on one spot, place excess force on the handles, handle it roughly during transportation or storage, or take other measures which are lacking in care, such as folding or bending it.
- Don’t place the mattress directly on the floor or on a solid surface. Slats on a bed provide space for airflow, and ventilation is required to keep mattresses dry and prevent mildew.
- Don’t let stains get into the mattress. These stains could come from nightly sweating, menstrual fluids, accidental spills and so on. While they visibly stain the surface, these stains will seep into lower layers of the mattress. They are hard to wash out, unhygienic and will usually void a warranty. To avoid such a circumstance, it’s recommended to use a mattress protector, as this can be removed and cleaned separately – and replaced if it gets damaged.
How to tell if you need a new mattress
It can be difficult to tell when a mattress is worn out, as there will not be immediately obvious signs that indicate it’s time to get a new one. Therefore, here are some of the signals which indicate it may be time to find a replacement:
- Waking up in pain. If you’re regularly getting up with back or neck pain, or general aching, stiffness or numbness, this could be a sign that the mattress is no longer providing you with the support you need.
- Tossing and turning at night. Experiencing broken sleep, where you wake up often during the night, is often a sign that your mattress is stopping your body from properly relaxing and being able to sleep properly.
- You get a better night of sleep on a different mattress. Whether it’s an overnight stay at a hotel or your own sofa, if you wake up feeling more refreshed than you would on your own mattress, this is a surefire sign it’s time to get rid of it.
- A dent is showing in the bed. If there’s any visible sagging or areas on the surface of the mattress that feel uneven, you won’t be sleeping in a way that’s conducive for sleep. Similarly, coils should not be able to be felt, either.
- You experience a surge in asthma or allergy symptoms. As mattresses attract allergens, if you have a steady increase in symptoms, this could mean that there are so many present in the mattress that it’s time to replace it.
Mattress sizes explained
Twin – 39” x 75”
The twin mattress is the smallest option available. It’s best suited to children and single adults, or individuals who live in small spaces such as a studio apartment.
Twin XL – 39” x 80”
The twin XL mattress is most typically found in college dorm rooms. It’s also good for taller teenagers and adults with limited space, as it’s five inches longer than the twin.
Full – 54” x 75”
The full mattress, also referred to as a double, is seen as a decent starting choice for young adults or college graduates getting their first place.
Queen – 60” x 80”
The queen mattress is one of the most popular sizes, and provides plenty of room for couples or those who like having plenty of room in bed.
King – 76” x 80”
The king mattress is commonly purchased by couples who will share the bed with their children or pets, or want more room at night.
California King – 72” x 84”
The California king mattress is the longest one out there, making it perfect for taller people or those who want a truly luxurious option. It also benefits those who share a mattress.
How often do you need to change a mattress?
As with all other products, a mattress will deteriorate in quality over time. The lifespan of a mattress depends on a number of factors, such as the materials it is made of, the manufacturing quality, the care you take of it, and how often you use it. A foam comfort layer which is poor quality can rapidly deteriorate within a year, while a good quality latex core is capable of lasting over two decades. In between these extremes are innerspring cores, which will usually last for around ten years.
Mattresses will often come double sided in an effort to extend the lifespan, as the comfort layer is typically the first area which will start to go downhill in terms of quality. A separate topper can be used to reduce the wear of this layer, especially as it is replaceable without the need to get an entirely new mattress.
In the United States, the average mattress warranty will usually be between 10 and 20 years, with some lasting as long as 25 years. Generally speaking, it’s expected that a mattress will last for ten years. Here’s a breakdown of how long each type of mattress typically lasts for:
These mattresses last the longest, and they will remain structurally sound for fifteen years if they are maintained properly. One of the reasons they last so long is because, if a layer wears out, it can easily be replaced with a new one. Each layer can also be flipped over, which will allow wear to be even on both sides.
As this kind of mattress is made using thin coil springs, these are prone to losing their strength, which leads to the mattress sagging relatively quickly. The net result is that this type of mattress won’t usually live beyond seven or eight years.
Memory foam mattress
While these types of mattresses aren’t as likely to sag to the same extent as others, they will have a mid-range lifespan of around ten years. This timeframe is dependent on the correct care measures, including flipping it regularly.
These are popular choices for people who like to customise the firmness of their mattress, but they won’t usually last for more than five years. This is because the air inside it will start to leak out at some point.
These mattresses have durability which is mid to high range. The primary reason behind this is that they don’t have any springs which could break. Usually, these mattresses will last between seven and nine years, providing they are properly taken care of.