Mattress Buying Guide:
Take the Stress out of Mattress Shopping
Mattress shopping can be incredibly frustrating. With so many online mattress companies, there are more choices (and more confusing and contradicting claims) than ever before. Plus, most of those choices are now online-only, which means you have to rely on online reviews which, while full of good information, aren’t a substitute for trying the mattress in person and getting a personalized recommendation.
Before you know it, you’ve extensively researched five different brands, read 100 reviews, and are still hours away from confidently making a choice.
But what hasn’t changed is the positive impact finding the best mattress for you can have on your quality of sleep and overall health.
At Slumberland, we help customers find the right mattress by getting to know issues they need to solve. Are they experiencing lower back pain or do they have a medical condition like fibromyalgia and need advanced pressure relief? Do they sleep hot at night? Is the mattress for one person, or two people with different sleep styles?
By asking these questions (and more) — and giving our customers a demo of the mattresses we think will work best for them — we can take a lot of the guesswork out of mattress shopping.
This Slumberland Mattress Guide is a distilled version of the experience you get when you speak to a Slumberland sleep expert. And while there’s no replacement for talking to an expert in-person and trying the mattress yourself, we hope this helps take the stress out of online mattress shopping.
Our mattress buying guide covers:
- Mattress Types
- Mattress Sizes and Dimensions
- Firmness Levels
- Sleeping Positions
- Temperature Regulation
- Foundations and Adjustable Bases
- Warranty and Sleep Trials
Are you ready to try a mattress in person? Visit one of our Slumberland locations today.
Finding the Best Mattress for You: 3 Things to Know at the Start
There is a lot to cover in this mattress buying guide — it might be a little overwhelming at first. Below we list the three key takeaways that we’d like you to take from this guide that will help you find the right mattress for you.
1. Keep in Mind Why You Need a New Mattress
The reason why you’re buying a new bed is very important. If you’re just moving across the country and don’t want to haul your mattress with you, but otherwise love it, then look at your bed’s law tag and bring that information into our Slumberland store. That way we can help you find that model or its most comparable substitute.
But if you hate your current mattress, then we need to know that too! Similarly, our recommendation will change if the mattress is for your or a guest bedroom, if it’s for an adult or a kid, and so on.
Usually, if you’re buying a new mattress, it’s for one of six reasons:
- You're relocating, and it’s easier to buy a new mattress than to take your old one with you. – If this is the case, and you’re otherwise happy with your mattress, then take the name of the mattress (available on the law tag at the head of the bed) and head to Slumberland so we can find the exact model or something very similar.
- Your current mattress is causing you pain or not giving you the support you need.– If you’re waking up in the middle of the night to reposition your body to get better sleep, if you’re using multiple pillows to make your uncomfortable mattress comfortable, or if you’re experiencing aches and pain in your lower back in the morning, then it could be time for a pressure-relieving mattress. If you’re experiencing debilitating lower back pain, consider upgrading your sleep environment by using an adjustable bed to raise your legs while you sleep and take the pressure off your spine.
- Your current mattress is making you hot through the night.– Cheap (or older) beds can be heat traps. New mattress technology has come a long way in helping customers get cool, refreshing sleep. For more info, check out our guide on how to sleep cool on your mattress.
- Your current mattress is old.- Good mattresses tend to get more comfortable as time goes on (because your body is molding the mattress), but all mattresses will soften over time. Not to mention, there’s a hygienic factor. If you’re not using a mattress protector to keep out skin cells, sweat, and dust mites, it’s been reported that a mattress can weigh twice its original weight in as little as eight years. A good rule of thumb: if you’ve had your mattress for ten years, make sure it’s still providing you the comfort and support you need.
- Someone in your family needs a new mattress.– Sometimes, the mattress isn’t for you, but for a child or an elderly parent. When you’re looking for a mattress for another person, try to bring that person with you to your nearest Slumberland showroom.
- You're furnishing a guest room.– It can be tempting to rush through purchasing a mattress that won’t often be used, but we do recommend buying a quality mattress for your guest room. You never know when guests will be staying for a prolonged time, or if you may need to temporarily relocate to your guest bedroom.
2. Don’t Worry about Your Mattress Budget Just Yet
Sometimes mattress buying guides will have a section about pricing. And while pricing is important, it’s not always the deal-breaker a customer thinks it is.
There’s a huge variety of prices in our mattress showroom, from a few hundred dollars for a queen size to over $6,000 for a mattress and adjustable base combo. What’s important is finding the mattress solution that will bring you the most comfort and support. After that, you can use Slumberland’s resources to find a financing option that makes your ideal purchase affordable.
Plus, if you find a mattress that you love, but it’s price is out of your budget — and you don’t want to finance the purchase — then our staff can help you find the most comparable mattress that fits within your budget.
This is why we recommend that you don’t worry about pricing at this point of your mattress shopping journey.
3. Adjusting to a New Mattress Takes Time
We offer a 120-Night Comfort Guarantee on all of our mattresses (with a purchase of mattress protector) — because, like buying a pair of shoes, there’s a break-in period when you get your new mattress home.
But as great as sleep trials are (if you don’t like your mattress, we come to pick it up from you, and you get the amount of your purchase, minus a small re-selection fee, towards any new mattress in our store), no one wants to buy a mattress just to return it. It’s a waste of time, bad for the environment, and it means you’re going even longer without getting a good night’s rest.
Visiting a showroom to try a mattress in person is still so important, if you’re able to. As convenient as it may seem to purchase the trendy mattresses you see all over social media, the truth is that online-only mattress shopping has led to a direct increase in mattress returns.
You can significantly reduce the risk of having to return a mattress by spending time in a showroom trying out the mattresses you’re interested in and asking an experienced sleep solutions expert questions about customer feedback, mattress technology, and more.
Mattress Buyer Pro-tip: When you visit a Slumberland showroom, we’re going to ask that you lay on the bed as you’d normally fall asleep (whether that’s on your side, stomach, back, or something in between). And we’re going to ask you to spend some time on it (at least 15 minutes, but there’s no rush). Plenty of customers just want to sit on the edge of the mattress or push on it with their hands, but that’s not how you go to bed. Mattresses were designed to be laid on. The longer you try a mattress in our showroom, the more likely you’re to notice whether the mattress you're on will work for you.
If you’re ready to visit one of our showrooms, find the closest Slumberland near you.
Understanding the Different Mattress Types
One of the first things to ask yourself when comparing mattresses is what type of mattress is best for your needs?
There are three main types of mattresses available.
- Innerspring mattresses are the most common type of mattress. They’re usually the mattress everyone grew up on, and they’re the ones most often found in hotel rooms across the country. They consist of a series of coils — or springs — which provide support, topped with comfort layers (various foams and fibers) to cushion the body.
- Foam mattresses achieve support with various foam materials, as opposed to spring coils. This could be a mixture of polyurethane foam (polyfoam) and memory foam (visco-elastic polyurethane foam) or all poly-foam (all memory foam isn’t an option, as too much memory foam wouldn’t support you) or latex foam.
- Hybrid mattresses are a combination of innerspring and foam. The base support layer is made of innersprings. Above that is one or more layers of memory foam, latex, or poly-foam that adjusts to and cradles your body. A hybrid tries to give the bounce of a coil mattress along with the contouring comfort and support of a foam mattress.
No matter what type of mattress you get, you can roughly segment a mattress into three parts:
- The cover— This can be all kinds of different fabrics, from organic cotton to cotton-poly blend to wool. In some brands it's removable and some brands put cooling technologies into its cover to help you sleep cooler.
- The comfort layer(s)— This is generally the softest layer in the mattress, and it’s located in the top of the mattress, directly below the cover. A comfort layer can actually be more than one layer, and then there’s often what’s called a transition layer, which works as the middle man between a comfort layer and support layer.
- The support layer(s)— This is generally the firmest layer in the mattress. It’s there to make sure you don’t sink through the mattress when you lie on it.
Lets cover each type of mattress in more detail below.
1. Innerspring Mattresses
There are two main types of innerspring mattresses: traditional bonnell coils and individually wrapped coils.
Traditional Bonnell or Open Coil Mattresses
Americans have been sleeping on Bonnell-style innerspring mattresses for more than 100 years. 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.
Benefits of open coil mattresses:
- Extremely durable and long-lasting
- Cost-effective—available at a variety of price points
But open coils are also not the best for eliminating motion transfer. Motion transfer is when you’re sharing the mattress and you can feel your partner when they move. To get a coil bed that helps eliminate motion transfer, pocket coils may be a better fit for you.
Pocket Coil Mattresses
Rather than being bound together by wire as with an open-coil mattress, pocket coils, also called individually wrapped coils, are independent of one another. Each coil is encased in its own fabric pocket, allowing it to move autonomously without disturbing the coils surrounding it. This is what makes a mattress with pocket coils a good choice for those who share a bed, as one person’s movement will not disturb the other.
For more customized support and comfort, there’s also a two-in-one coil. Two-in-one coils are always pocket coils but they have (you guessed it) two coils in one. This usually means a thinner gauge coil (so a thinner coil) is for the top half and a thicker gauge coil (a thicker coil) for the bottom half. This gives your mattress a bouncier feel and helps sleep partners of different sizes find comfort and support from the same mattress. (The heavier partner will push down through the thinner coil and feel the support of the thicker coil; the lighter partner will get the support and comfort they need from the thinner coil.)
Benefits of pocket coil mattresses:
- Extremely durable and long-lasting
- Contours to your body
- Provides excellent pressure relief
- Best coil in the industry to reduce motion transfer between individuals
Is Coil Count Important in a Mattress?
Coils are measured by their gauge (in quarter increments), which helps determine their firmness — the lower the number, the thicker (and firmer) the coil. 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 as the gauge of the coils. A mattress with a low coil count made from thick, high-quality steel coils can be a more comfortable mattress than one with a high coil count from cheaper metals. You will need to determine by a comfort test which type (gauge) of coil feels the best to you.
But, as a general rule, the coil count of your mattress should be at a minimum:
- Full: 300
- Queen: 375
- King: 450
2. Foam Mattresses
Foam mattresses are excellent for pressure relief and conforming support. There are several different types of foam mattresses:
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are great for providing pressure relief and comfort. Memory foam adjusts to your weight (the heavier parts of your body sink deeper into the mattress) and reduces pressure across your entire body. Some memory foam mattresses – like Tempur-Pedic – are also temperature sensitive, so they conform more specifically to your natural body heat.
Benefits of memory foam mattresses:
- Significantly reduces pressure points (and tossing and turning at night) by contouring to your body
- Adjusts to your body weight and body shape
- Best mattress for eliminating motion transfer
To clarify, with a memory foam mattress, it’s only usually one or two layers in the mattress that are memory foam. The rest of the mattress is poly-foam, which is a similar molecular structure but a totally different feel. Poly-foam doesn’t have “memory.” Instead, it’s extremely responsive, which means it bounces back quickly and doesn’t conform to your body the way memory foam does. On their own, poly-foam mattresses will be firmer and less conforming, but as part of a memory foam mattress, it provides durable structure as the base layer.
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. But there’s a major difference in feel. Latex mattresses are generally firmer and can feel a bit more like you’re “on” the mattress vs. the “in” the mattress.
When shopping for a latex mattress, check to make sure if it’s organic latex or synthetic. Synthetic latex is more affordable, but it is also less bouncy, less durable, and isn’t as eco-friendly as natural latex. In terms of average price, natural latex mattresses tend to be the most expensive type of mattresses on the market.
Benefits of latex foam mattresses:
- Durable and long-lasting
- Naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to bacteria and dust mites
3. Hybrid Mattresses
A number of manufacturers have hybrid mattress lines, blending the durability and consistent distribution of support one can expect from a foam mattress with the greater support and breathability of a coil mattress.
Many hybrid mattresses combine a few layers of foam, whether latex or memory, on top of a coil base. With those coils beneath the foam, more air can flow and keep you cool while you sleep. Customers who like a hybrid mattress often like a hybrid mattress’s responsiveness – the bounce that feels more like a traditional mattress.
Benefits of hybrid mattresses:
- Better airflow than a foam mattress, which helps reduce the risk of sleeping hot
- Eliminates pressure points more than a coil mattress
Understanding Mattress Sizes and Dimensions
Most modern beds are one of five sizes: single (twin), double (full), queen, king, or California king.
In general, standard mattress measurements are:
- Twin: 39” wide x 75” long
- Twin XL: 39” wide x 80” long
- Full: 54” wide by 75” long
- Queen: 60” wide by 80” long
- King: 76” wide by 80” long
- California king: 72” wide by 84” long
Keep in mind if you’re changing mattress sizes, such as buying a king after owning a queen, you’ll also need to buy all new mattress accessories, including the mattress foundation, bed frame, sheets, pillows, and mattress protectors.
Let’s look at the major mattress sizes in more detail and why you might pick one over the other.
Twin vs Twin XL vs Full
Twin mattresses are generally sold for young children or single adults living in very small living spaces.
A twin mattress is 75” long, which means if you’re near 6 feet (or taller) you may have an issue with your feet going over the edge. (While 75 inches equals 6.25 feet from head to foot, most people don’t sleep at the very edge of their bed.)
A Twin XL (XL stands for extra-long) is the common size of mattresses in college dorms across America. It’s the same width as a twin (a narrow 35”) but is 5 inches longer than a normal twin.
A full-size mattress is the same length as a twin size, but it’s 15 inches wider, making it more comfortable if space is available.
Full vs Queen
A queen-size mattress is the most commonly sold size to adults, whether they’re sleeping with a partner or alone. A queen size is 6 inches wider and 5 inches longer than full. This makes it great for tall people and for people who need more space on the side (whether for themselves, pets, family, or partners).
The difference between the cost of a full-size and a queen-size mattress is small for most brands, and it’s often worth it to get the queen size for just a little more.
Queen vs. King
A queen-size mattress (60” x 80”) is just as long as a king-size, but more narrow. A king-size mattress is 16 inches wider than a queen, making it a great option for couples who will be consistently sharing the mattress.
A king-size mattress decreases the risk of feeling motion transfer, which is when your sleep is disturbed by your partner moving.
King vs California King
A common misconception is that a California king (Cal king) is larger than a king (sometimes called a standard king).
But really, what changes is the placement of 4 inches.
A regular king-size mattress 4 inches wider than a California king. But the Cal king is 4 inches longer than a regular king.
A Cal king is less popular than a standard king, so it can be more difficult (and more expensive) to buy cal king sheets and mattress protectors.
King vs Split King
Customers can also buy a split king. A king-size mattress has the same dimensions as two twin extra-long mattresses.
Customers often choose a split king mattress so they can use a split king adjustable bed, and lift up each side of the mattress independently. For example, this means you can have your side of the bed elevated as you read your book at night, while your sleep partner can have their mattress flat.
Another plus of a split king is you can have different comfort levels. For example, if you prefer a very soft mattress and your sleep partner prefers a firm mattress, you can each get the firmness you want and then put the two mattresses side by side.
Note:There is a small gap between the two mattresses when you buy a split king, but it’s often hardly noticeable and in some models you can’t even notice the gap. But if the gap is noticeable, then whether it bothers you or not depends on how you sleep and the specific mattress you’re getting. If you both sleep in the middle of the bed, then the gap might take some getting used to. However, the gap also has a major benefit — it eliminates any risk of motion transfer. Your sleep partner can get in and out of bed and you’ll never feel it.
Understanding Mattress Firmness Levels
Mattress firmness levels provided by mattress brands are fairly subjective, but can still be helpful. They can serve guidelines that help point customers in the right direction. For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the firmest and 5 being the softest, you may not know going in that you want a 4 instead of an 5, but you would most likely know if you weren’t looking for a 1, the most firm mattress.
But there’s something to clear up about firmness levels. There’s a misconception that softer beds are less supportive and less durable than firm mattresses, and when you feel a soft bed “give in” or “sag,” the idea is that it is more likely to sag over time. This isn’t true. The quality of the materials doesn’t change when the company makes a soft mattress, but what changes are factors such as indentation load deflection (ILD). ILD is how much pressure it takes for a surface to bend. But the overall density – and the overall quality – of foam isn’t altered by going from a firm mattress to a soft one.
However, body weight and shape do play a role in which firmness level you should choose. If you’re heavier than average – with extra weight allocated around your hips – and you’re on a softer mattress, your hips may sink too far into the mattress, putting unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
But that doesn’t mean a firm mattress is more supportive – just imagine lying on the floor, the firmest surface in the house. When you lie on the floor, there are unfilled gaps in your lower back, neck, and knees.
Support in a mattress means all the curves of your body are being supported so you don’t feel undue pressure.
Why Your Sleeping Position Matters
Generally, you’re either a side sleeper, a back sleeper, or a stomach sleeper. Plenty of us are combination sleepers, which may mean our mattress isn’t as comfortable as it should be. Sleep position can dictate the firmness of the mattress you should have:
- If you’re a side sleeper, you might be more comfortable on a medium or softer mattress. This is because when you sleep on your side you need the mattress to fill the dips and curves of your body. Plus, if you’re sleeping on your shoulder on a mattress that’s too firm, your brain will tell your body to toss and turn to take the pressure off your shoulder.
- If you’re a back sleeper, you’re likely more comfortable on a medium-firm or firmer mattress. When you sleep on your back, the main area of support your body needs is the small of your back. That being said, a back sleeper can enjoy a softer mattress, as long as their hips don’t sink so deeply in the mattress that it causes back pain.
- If you’re a stomach sleeper, you probably need a firmer mattress because your sleeping position is working against your spine’s natural curvature. Experts recommend not sleeping on your stomach because it can add pressure to your lower back. If you’re only comfortable sleeping on your stomach, it might be a sign that you need a new mattress with a better support system.
Sleeping Cool at Night: The Importance of Temperature Regulation
One of the most common questions we get asked at Slumberland is whether or not a specific mattress will “sleep hot.”
Sleeping hot is when your body heat gets trapped in the mattress, close to its surface, and becomes a heat trap.
It’s incredibly frustrating and uncomfortable. You’ll toss and turn, you’ll kick the covers off, you’ll lower the temperature on your AC, and you still won’t get a good night’s sleep because the heat is trapped in the surface of your mattress.
Luckily, most quality mattresses do work to help regulate your temperature. This means keeping you from getting hot (or even sleeping too cold).
For example, Tempur-Pedic has the Breeze line. The Breeze line mattress uses phase change materials (PCMs) that are activated by heat. When they encounter heat, they absorb it, drawing it away from your body. (Good news: If a Tempur-Pedic isn’t the right mattress for you, you can still experience a cool night’s sleep with cooling mattress protectors, pillows and sheets.)
Other mattress brands will use technology such as gel-infused memory foam. The idea here is that by breaking up big spaces of foam, your mattress can’t store heat as easily.
The Benefits of Foundations and Adjustable Bases
What you rest your mattress on is as important as your mattress. There are many different options offered, but one that you’ll often find is the classic foundation. These may also be known as box springs, but most of them don’t use springs anymore. Instead, they are a very solid, rigid surface that helps promote the longevity of your mattress.
If you use an old foundation, you run the risk of voiding your mattress warranty. You also risk shortening the lifespan and overall comfort of your mattress. This is because the wood of an old foundation may start sagging, which can be detrimental to your new mattress, causing it to begin to sag prematurely as well.
You can elevate your sleeping environment by using an adjustable base beneath your mattress.
An adjustable base is a mechanical piece of furniture that can be used to support your mattress instead of a foundation, and can also change the position that you sleep in. Once upon a time they may have been more popularly referred to as “hospital beds” but adjustable bases now are used by many people at home to help with everything from blood circulation, watching movies in bed, handling a stuffy nose, reading before bed, working from home, and more.
For example, sleeping on an adjustable bed can help someone mitigate sciatica and lower back pain. An adjustable bed does this by raising your legs, taking the pressure off your back. When you raise your legs, you take pressure off your back. Plus, when you’re sleeping with your legs elevated, you’re not going to toss and turn because you’re finally comfortable sleeping on your back.
Like mattresses, there is a wide variety of adjustable bases on the market.
Some of them offer advanced features such as a lumbar support bar or a zero gravity button and an app remote control for your smartphone. (When you’re sleeping in zero gravity, you’re sleeping with your legs just above your hips and your head just above your heart; it takes the pressure off your body and makes you feel like you’re floating in space.) Others are more basic with a wired remote that moves only the head up and down, which can still be beneficial for those who snore or have trouble breathing at night.
All You Need to Know About Mattress Warranties and Sleep Trials
Mattress warranties are relatively standard across all the leading brands.
But here are some general tips:
- Look for a mattress with a 10-year warranty. A 10-year warranty is the industry standard. However, don’t be overly impressed with mattress companies that offer more than a 10-year warranty. Generally, these extra-long warranties are pro-rated and are also misleading. As we discussed above, mattresses can have a long lifespan, but it’s important to make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable and supportive mattress. An old mattress may not be sagging so much that it makes the warranty active, while still not being a good mattress.
- Look for what constitutes a defective mattress. The main thing that can happen to your mattress is that it can sag. By this, we mean that your mattress forms a “dip” or “canyon” where you sleep. If you’re buying an all-foam mattress, make sure that sags of ¾ of an inch or greater are covered. If you’re buying a hybrid or innerspring mattress, look for protection from sags of 1 ½ inches or more.
- Look to see how the warranty claim is verified. Most leading mattress brands will actually have the customer take photos of the sag and measure it with a rule or tape measure. However, some brands – like Casper – generally want the mattress shipped back to their warehouse where they can verify the claim and then repair the mattress if possible.
In terms of free trial periods, look for one with:
- At least a 90 day trial period. Generally, you’ll only need a good month of consistently sleeping on your new bed to know it’s the right one for you. So a 90 day trial period gives you plenty of time, without you stressing about whether or not you have time to return it. At Slumberland, all of our mattresses come with our 120-Night Comfort Guarantee (when purchased with a mattress protector).
- Reasonable processing or re-delivering fees. At Slumberland, there’s a $99 re-select fee that gets deducted from the original amount you paid. If you select a different mattress that is less expensive than your original purchase, the difference, minus the reselect fee, will be issued back to you as a Slumberland gift card. Note: Some online mattress brands offer no-fee return policies or zero processing fees, but the truth is you’re paying it in one way or another. You’re either paying a higher price for a lower quality mattress, or you’re paying for it with your time when you return a bed that isn’t comfortable. At Slumberland, we think it's a better business model to have our sleep experts help our customers find the right solution the first time.
Next Steps: Visit Slumberland for a Customized Sleep Solution
The mattress industry has radically changed in the past decade. Online retailers like Amazon are moving to sell mattresses to you in a box. While that may work for some, it won’t work for everyone.
At Slumberland, we are focused on matching our customers with the right mattress and supporting materials.
By working with one of our sleep experts, you can find a tailored solution that will help you sleep better.
If you’re reading to start the next part of finding your perfect mattress, find the closest Slumberland location.
If you want to do more online research first, Slumberland’s sleep solutions page provides more information on specific sleep problems and the mattresses that may fit your lifestyle. You can also prepare by taking a look at all check out the mattresses we offer before you visit a store.