Mattress Buying Guide

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No one can afford a rough night’s sleep (except, perhaps, for the Princess and the Pea who earned a crown for her troubles). If you find that you toss and turn in your sleep or wake up with aches and pains, or if you feel drowsy during the day, it might be time for a new mattress.

With so many options to choose from, this task can seem daunting. But there’s no need to lose (more) sleep over it. With our handy Mattress Buying Guide you’ll learn:

I. You Need a New Mattress: The Signs

If you agree to one or more of the following statements, it’s time for a new mattress.

1. Your mattress is 10 or more years old. There’s no rest for the weary—mattress. People spend approximately one-third of their lives sleeping. Over the years, that wears on your mattress and foundation. Sleep experts recommend buying a new mattress every 7 to 10 years.

2. You feel stiff, numb, and/or achy. Your mattress should help you wake up feeling refreshed—not reaching for the ibuprofen. Older mattresses will lose their support over time, which can cause body pain. If a newer mattress causes discomfort, it may not be the right fit for your body and/or sleeping style.

3. You want to pocket the hotel’s mini shampoos and its mattress. If you stay at a hotel or a friend’s house and get a noticeably better night’s rest, your own mattress may not be hitting the mark.

4. Your sleep partner directs you to the couch. Sleep positions, patterns, and comfort levels are as individual as your fingerprint. You may be unknowingly causing your sleep partner distress in the night. Certain types of mattresses allow you to share the bed without disturbing one another.

5. Your mattress has visibly seen better days. There’s no room in the bed for lumps, bumps, and sags. If your mattress shows these signs of deterioration it means one thing: It’s ready to retire.

II. Prepare to Shop Mattresses

Mattress shopping requires some initial legwork, but not to worry—naps are highly encouraged. The following steps will help you prepare for your mattress-shopping trip.

1. Know your dimensions. Most modern beds are one of five sizes: single (twin), double (full), queen, king, or California king.

Mattress sizes, however, may vary by plus or minus .5 inch, depending on the manufacturer, so it’s best to measure your bed frame (be sure to subtract .5 to 1 inch to account for your bedding) and your current mattress and have the dimensions handy when you shop. In general standard mattress measurements are:

  • Single: 39” wide x 75” long
  • Double: 54” wide by 75” long
  • Queen: 60” wide by 80” long
  • King: 76” wide by 80” long
  • California king: 72” wide by 84” long

You should also measure the size of your bedroom, as you may decide to upgrade to a larger bed size and mattress.

Did you know: Two people sleeping on a full-sized bed have a sleeping space equivalent to that of a baby in a crib. Sleep partners should invest in at least a queen-sized bed.  Also, King Size mattresses offer couples the best night’s sleep by reducing motion and partner disruption in bed.

2. Review our glossary of mattress types and terms below. 

3. Dress comfortably. There’s no need to dress up for us. Like Goldilocks, you’ll be testing out a lot of beds so wear comfortable clothing such as jeans or sweatpants.

4. BYOP—Bring Your Own Pillow. You can certainly borrow one of ours, but we recommend you bring your favorite pillow from home when you shop mattresses. You’ll want to simulate your average night’s sleep in-store so it helps to have familiar sleep stuff.  If you don’t bring your own pillow, ask to use a regular sleeping pillow to test the mattress.  A good mattress store will sell quality sleep pillows.  Use one of those.  Do not use a display pillow provided by the manufacturer.  They are normally long body pillows that advertise the brand name on them.  They are display pillows, not sleeping pillows.

III. Mattress Types and Comfort Levels

Before you head out to take some “test-naps,” it’s helpful to brush up on mattress types and terminology. Here’s a quick guide to mattress lingo.

Mattress Types:

Innerspring mattresses are the most common type and represent more than 80% of mattresses on the market. They consist of a series of coils—or springs—which provide support, topped with comfort layers (various foams and fibers) to cushion the body.

There are two main types of innerspring mattresses:

1. Traditional Bonnell or Open Coil (Coils are tied together with a wire)
Americans have been sleeping on Bonnell-style innerspring mattresses for more than 100 years. They were first adapted from 19th century buggy seat springs. (We promise they’ve come a long way since then.) Open-coil mattress springs are made from steel-wire coils bound together by additional, interconnecting wires (or one continuous wire) that help the mattress retain its shape.


  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Supportive—helps relieve pressure on the body
  • Cost-effective—available at a variety of price points

2. Individually Wrapped or Pocket Coils (Coils are not tied together with a wire)
Rather than being bound together by wire as with an open-coil mattress, pocket coils are independent from one another. Each coil is encased in its own, fabric pocket, which allows it to move autonomously, without disturbing the coils that surround it. Pocket coils are an especially good choice for those who share a bed, as one person’s movement will not disturb the other.


  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Contours to your body
  • Provides excellent pressure relief
  • Best coil in the industry to reduce motion transfer between individuals
  • Best coil in the industry for conforming support

A Note About Coils
Coils are measured by their gauge (in quarter increments), which determines their level of firmness and support. The lower the number, the thicker the spring, the firmer the mattress. The thickest available coil is typically a 12.5 gauge (or very firm). Coils of 14- to 15.5- or higher gauge are softer and move more easily under pressure.

The number of coils in a mattress is referred to as the coil count. It’s common for people to talk about “coil count” when mattress shopping, but in reality, the count is not as important than the gauge of the coils. A mattress with a low coil count made from a thick, high-quality steel can provide as much or more comfort than a mattress with a high coil count.  You will need to determine by a comfort test which type (gauge) of coil feels the best to you.

In general the coil count of your mattress should be at minimum:

  • Full: 300
  • Queen: 375
  • King: 450

Rather than with spring coils, foam mattresses achieve support with various foam materials. In general, foam mattresses tend to feel sturdier than innerspring mattresses because they don’t push back against your body. Instead they conform to your body, relieving your pressure points and  allowing you to sink in.  They are excellent for pressure relief and conforming support.

There are two main types of foam mattresses:

1. Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses have the effect of lying on soft sand that perfectly conforms to your body. It adjusts to your weight (the heavier parts of your body sink deeper into the mattress) and body temperature and reduces pressure across your entire body. Models vary in foam weight and density to cater to individual comfort preferences.


  • Eliminates pressure points (and tossing and turning at night) by perfectly contouring to your body.
  • Adjusts to your body weight and temperature
  • Extremely stable and supportive
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Best at motion separation (reduction)

2. Latex Foam
Where memory foam is like lying on sand, latex foam is like floating on feathers. It feels as though you are weightless on the bed, versus sinking into it. Both sensations are nice, but certain people will prefer one to the other. Like memory foam, latex molds to your body and evenly distributes your weight to provide pressure relief throughout your body. Latex is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to bacteria and dust mites.


  • Eliminates pressure points (and tossing and turning at night) by perfectly contouring to your body
  • Adjusts to your body weight
  • Extremely stable and supportive
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to bacteria and dust mites

A Note About Comfort Levels
Ultimately, your choice in a mattress is best determined by your comfort—how it makes you feel, versus its internal material or coil count, etc. Each manufacturer will have its own terms for comfort levels, but in general, there are four main ways to describe mattress comfort:

  1. Ultra Plush: The softest, cushiest-feeling mattresses
  2. Plush: Firmer than ultra plush, but still on the soft end of the spectrum
  3. Cushion Firm: Less give than the plush varieties, but softer than a firm mattress
  4. Firm: The hardest feeling surface

It’s important to note that comfort levels only describe the feel of a mattress, NOT the degree of support it provides.  It’s a common myth that a “firm” mattress is the most supportive – which is not always the case.  Choosing the right mattress comes down to what feels best to you.

IV. How to Test a Mattress

Now comes the fun part: Your visit to the store to test out mattresses. Taking a “test rest,” as we like to call it, is essential to selecting the right mattress.

Prepare to spend at least 5 minutes on each mattress that interests you in the sleep position you normally use. If you have a sleep partner, the two of you should test rest together. Please don’t feel embarrassed: We’re used to customers falling asleep on the merchandise!

Questions you may want to ask your Slumberland sales representative include:

  • Does this mattress offer proper back and body support?
  • Does it minimize tossing and turning? How?
  • What are its best features and benefits?
  • Will it support my sleep positions and patterns, as well as those of my sleep partner?
  • What are some similar mattresses at both higher and lower price points?

There are many different mattress styles available at all price points. And since you’ll spend so much of your time on your mattress over the years, it’s important to take your time and make the best possible investment.

Make sure you test rest at least three traditional coil beds (soft, medium and hard).  Once you determine which one you prefer, try one specialty bed (like a foam-based model) that most closely matches the “feel” you like.  This will give you a good comparison and will make your choice between traditional coils and specialty foams easier.

V. Your Final Purchase: What to Consider

This is it. You’re about to invest in one of life’s greatest and most essential experiences—a good night’s sleep. At this point, you’ve likely narrowed your decision down to a small selection of mattresses. Before you make your purchase, consider:

How long do you want the bed to last?  In general, the higher end models are more expensive because of the quality of materials that goes into them.  They also tend to retain the comfort level for a longer length of time because of those higher quality materials.   General rule of thumb is the more you spend the longer the comfort life of the mattress.

How will this mattress be used? If this is the mattress you’ll sleep on most nights, you may want to invest a little more money. If this is for a guest bedroom with infrequent visitors, you may veer toward the lower end of your price point.

Did you know: The majority of people are side sleepers. Keep this in mind when you choose a mattress type for your guest room.  Also, give careful consideration to moving your current mattress into a guest room and getting a new one for yourself.

Adjustable Lifestyle Power Bases? More and more people are reading, watching TV and using a laptop in bed. Power Bases are great for this. Ask your sales associate for a demonstration.

Pillows? Pillows are a big part of the sleep system. The pillow is 20% of your sleep surface. It also supports your neck. It is very important to a quality night’s sleep. Make sure you invest in a good one.

Mattress Protectors? It is important to protect your new surface (and pillows) from dust mites and moisture. It is moisture that gets into the foams in beds and pillows causing the material to break down faster. Purchase a quality protector that breathes, yet is moisture and dust mite proof. Usually these are only available at quality mattress stores.

We Don’t Sleep Well Until You Do:  With Slumberland’s satisfaction guarantee, you are eligible for a comfort exchange on your new mattress for up to 120 days provided a Protect-All mattress protector is purchased for the item at the time of sale. It does take time to adjust to a new mattress so try to sleep on your new bed for a minimum of 30 nights before you make your final decision to exchange it.