Mattress Buying Guide
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself falling back into a comfortable, soft, supportive bed … onto a mattress creating a perfectly-calibrated-to-your-body sleep cloud.
But what kind of mattress are you flopping on?
There are so many different options. Maybe too many. You could go cross-eyed trying to research them all—plush, pillow-top, innerspring, gel, air, foam. (Sorry, you crazy waterbed lovers. According to Wikipedia, they peaked in 1987 and “…can be useful and comfortable for some, dangerous for others.”)
So for now, what do you say we stick to the non-hazardous kind of mattresses and group them into three simple categories: Innerspring, Adjustable Air and Memory Foam.
Once you’ve selected the perfect mattress for your sacred slumber, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation and care. Before your new mattress purchase arrives in the delivery truck, evaluate the sturdiness of the bed and frame upon which it will rest. Make sure the set-up crew secures all bolts and balances the foundation for you.
Regular rotation of the mattress helps maintain the support system. Unless your mattress instructions indicate otherwise, try to rotate your mattress every few months, alternating between an end-to-end turn and a top-to-bottom flip. The Better Sleep Council suggests keeping the mattress tags on and making a note on them each time you rotate or flip to maintain a record. Keep your mattress clean by consistent vacuuming to help control dust mites.
As for how long to keep a mattress, the National Sleep Foundation points out that the best way to judge the condition of your mattress is through the quality of your sleep. Once the mattress begins sagging or shows areas of uneven wear, or if you feel better-rested after a hotel stay, it’s probably time to start shopping.
Types of Mattresses
Pros: Least expensive, most readily available in stores, firmer support makes it easier to get in and out
Cons: Restless sleepers could cause bouncing that disturbs partner
Longevity: Cores last about 10 years but noticeable sagging can occur as quickly as three years
Budget: Good ones start at $400 and can be as much as $5000
The Upshot: Although it’s not true that more coils equals better mattress, do try to get a mattress that has at least 400 coils.
Pros: Different sleepers can choose different firmnesses, adjustability prevents constant pressure points
Cons: Underinflating can cause backaches, cheaper mattresses can bulge on one end when you sit on the other
Longevity: 9+ years, but that can be extended by owner’s ability to repair their mattress with new parts
Budget: $1000+ for good ones
The Upshot: Air mattresses have come a long way from the campsite. Today, sophisticated inflation systems inside the mattress help partners fine-tune each side of the bed to their preferred firmness level.
Pros: Tossing and turning won’t disturb partner, body-molding foam reduces pressure points and pain, no noise
Cons: The body- conforming feature can make you hot when you sleep, chemical smells are common
Longevity: Eight years, with possible permanent indentations appearing years before
Budget: $200-$2500 depending on thickness and foam quality
The Upshot: It can take some initial getting used to, but memory foam fans are quick to praise their comfort and lack of soreness. Great for folks who like a lot of warmth when they sleep. (Although possibly not great for, um, romance.)
Adjustable Air: Support created by air chambers with inflation level controlled by sleeper
Coils: Wire spiral springs providing support inside a mattress
Foam: High-density, lightweight material containing air pockets of various thicknesses
Gauge: Measurement of the thickness of wire used in coils; low gauge is heavy wire and high gauge is more flexible
Hybrid Construction: Combination of coils and foam support systems
Innerspring/Bonnel Coil: All springs linked together with helical wire attached to metal edge; durable pressure relief but prone to motion transfer
Pillow-top: Additional layers attached to surface for softness and comfort
Pocket Coil: Each spring individually wrapped in fabric casings; move separately to contour to the body and motion of sleepers
Pressure Points: Areas on the body where pain or irritation causes discomfort
Quilting: Top layer of mattress padding
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