10-step guide to buying a mattress

The 10-Step Guide to Buying a Mattress

Buying a mattress is up there with buying a car when it comes to tasks most people want to avoid.  After all, no one wants to deal with information overload and pushy salesmen, no matter what they’re buying.

Since having the right mattress can improve your health, though, it’s important that you replace your mattress when necessary. But don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are 10 steps to getting the mattress you need.

1. Evaluate your current mattress.

If you’re thinking about replacing your mattress, here are some things you should watch out for.

  • You’re tossing and turning all night…and you used to sleep soundly.
  • You sleep, but you don’t feel refreshed when you awake.
  • Your mattress has peaks, valleys, or other signs of compromised structural integrity.
  • You wake up with aches and pains that you didn’t have when you went to bed.
  • Your bed creaks when you roll on it.
  • It has been more than 7 years since you bought your last mattress.

When you are experiencing several of these signs, it’s probably time to go shopping.

2. Choose the right sized mattress for you. 

When choosing a mattress size, there are several things to consider. Think about:

  • Who will sleep in the bed (include children or animals who sleep with you)
  • How tall the bed’s occupants are
  • The size of the room where you’ll keep the bed

      If you live in the United States, you’ll have several standard mattress sizes to choose from:

Twin39 x 75 inches
Twin XL39 x 80 inches
Full (or Double)54 x 74 inches
Queen60 x 80 inches
King76 x 80 inches
California King72 x 84 inches

You will want to choose a bed that will offer you plenty of space to move around without taking up too much of your bedroom space. Most couples choose a Queen or King-sized mattress. Small children usually sleep in a Twin, and adults who sleep alone generally want a Full or a Queen.

3. Consider important factors. 

The size of your new bed is important, but the most important criteria to think about have to do with the construction of the bed. In order to evaluate construction, always consider these main features:

  • The bed’s firmness. This is a measure of how soft or stiff a bed is. Firmness is different from support, in that a firm bed can offer terrible support and a soft bed can give you all the support you need. Many side sleepers prefer softer mattresses and stomach and back sleepers tend to choose firmer ones.
  • The bed’s support. Support is all about maintaining proper spinal alignment while you are sleeping. The type of support you need depends on your favored sleeping position.
  • Temperature regulation. Some people find that memory foam mattresses feel warmer than other types.
  • Motion isolation. If you sleep with a partner, animals, or children, you probably don’t want to feel them move all night. Memory foam mattresses are known for helping isolate motion, as well as some of the latex options. If this is important to you, you’ll probably want to avoid innerspring mattresses.
  • Edge Support. The edge of your mattress should be strong enough to support sitting on the side of the bed and even sleeping there, without sinking or collapsing.

4. Choose your mattress type. 

There are several common types of mattresses to choose from, and you may want to try several before you choose one.

  • Innerspring. These are traditional mattresses with coiled springs inside of them for support. These springs can be covered with a variety of paddings and materials.
  • Memory foam. This is a NASA-developed material that conforms to your body as you sleep. It is known for alleviating pressure points and does not bounce back like an innerspring mattress.
  • Latex. This can also mold to your body but springs back faster than memory foam. The latex can be natural or synthetic, and dense or lightweight.
  • Hybrid. These beds offer the coils of an innerspring mattress and have padding that is made out of memory foam, latex, or a combination of the two.
  • Adjustable. Made out of any of the above materials, these beds look like traditional mattresses but actually allow each sleeper to adjust the position of the bed.
  • Airbed. These have foam, air chambers, and a pillow top. Sleepers can add or remove air from the chambers, with a push of a button, to make the mattress more or less firm.
  • Waterbed. The waterbed has come far from the 70s cliche. These beds have water chambers for support, usually with foam and other materials on top for added comfort.

5. Understand how you sleep. 

Everyone sleeps a little bit differently. Think about what position you usually fall asleep in, as well as where you are when you wake. Side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses, while people who sleep on their backs or their stomachs tend to favor moderate to very firm mattresses.

Think, too, about how you prefer to sleep. Do you like the feeling of floating on your mattress? Then you probably want something firm. If you like sinking into your mattress, though, look into the softer options.

6. Set your budget. 

A mattress can cost anywhere from $300 to many thousands of dollars, so it’s important to know how much you want to spend before you go shopping. Spending between $600 and $1200 typically offers the best value, giving you the quality and durability you’ll need for a price that is more manageable. Similar to a car, you’ll be using your new mattress for the next 7-10 years, so spending a little more can mean profoundly better sleep. When beginning the shopping process, make sure to consider that in-store prices typically run higher than what you’ll find online.

7. Decide where to shop.

As mentioned above, brick-and-mortar stores do sell mattresses, though that’s where you usually have to deal with pushy salespeople and high prices. You can also shop online for a mattress, where you will usually get a better price without the salesperson. While you won’t be able to try the mattress, you can look for an extended trial period, so you can send the bed back if you don’t want it.

A newer option is to buy online, from a direct-to-consumer mattress company. This method will often make it possible for you to get a high-quality bed for less money. There is often a more limited selection available from companies like this, but they tend to offer longer trial periods so you can be sure a bed works for you.

8. Test drive your bed. 

If the bed you want is available at a brick-and-mortar store near you, go by and try it out. Be sure to lay on it for at least 10 minutes, so your body has a chance to truly relax. Try it in all of the different positions you tend to sleep in, to be sure it works no matter what. Even if you don’t buy the bed here, it’s worth a stop to try it out.



If your bed is only available online, see if you can find someone who owns the bed and will let you lay on it for a few minutes. You can also order a bed to try, knowing you may return it if it doesn’t work for you. If you choose this option, be sure to do everything necessary to keep the trial period valid.

9. Understand what your bed is made out of.

Before you buy a bed, make sure you understand what materials make it up. If you are buying a latex bed, make sure you know whether it’s 100% natural or has some synthetic mixed in. Know what type of memory foam you are getting and how it differs from other types. Similarly, know what type of coils are in the mattress, their gauge, and how many there are. Do some comparison shopping, too, to make sure you’re getting a quality bed.

10. Buy your bed.

Once you’ve done all of your homework, you should feel confident about the bed you’re buying. When you get it, read through the trial and warranty information, so you don’t accidentally void either of them.

You will also want to cover your bed with an appropriate type of mattress encasement. This protects the bed from spills, pets, dust, and many other things that might harm the longevity of your new mattress. Since many warranties will not cover a mattress that sustains certain types of damage, a cover can help keep your warranty valid, too.  

Most of all, enjoy your new bed. The good sleep you get should make you feel better all day long!