Mattress Buying Guide 2024
The importance of a good mattress
We all need a good night’s sleep to function properly. Without it, it can be difficult to focus, you can find yourself lacking energy too, and of course, it makes you feel terrible all day as well. While there are many things that can affect sleep, from temperature to light levels and so on, one of the most crucial is the mattress you sleep on.
If the bed is too firm or too soft, it can cause issues with your back or other muscles over time, and stop you from getting a good amount of rest. A quality mattress can better support your body and is more likely to give you that quality sleep you need to be healthy, alert, and active during the day.
What type of mattress you need will depend on many factors, and it is a very personal thing. Some prefer a softer mattress, others need more support and a firmer feel, but importantly, how we sleep has an effect too. New technologies such as the gel memory foam mattress allow for a body-conforming, very soft and supple upper layer and firm support underneath, giving the best of both worlds, but while the most common is still the medium firm mattress, a hybrid mattress is definitely becoming more popular.
It is also important to remember that as we grow and age, our bodies change too, and with that comes different needs from our mattresses. What may have been ideal six or seven years ago may not be what you need now. Speaking of new mattresses, you should really change yours every seven years or so, and make sure you get the quality mattress that suits your needs every time.
What are the main types of mattresses?
While a mattress may seem like a simple product, there are a lot of things to consider when buying a new mattress, and this starts with deciding which type of mattress you want. There are five common types of mattresses to choose from, which is right for you will depend on how you sleep and your budget for the mattress. We can look at each type, in turn, to see what they have to offer, how they are made, and why you may prefer one over another.
We will look at these in ascending order of cost, based on the average for each type, although you will find examples of each at a much higher price point depending on manufacturers.
The first type of mattress to look at is innerspring, which uses coil springs housed inside the mattress body. As you sit or lay on the bed, the springs provide the support you need, and as a result, they are not mattresses that offer a lot of range or adjustment where comfort is concerned. Springs are robust enough to support your weight, and they give as much as they can give while still supporting your weight. This construction has no way to relieve pressure either, and for a double bed, if your partner moves then your part of the bed will begin to move as well, whereas other options can isolate that movement better.
Innerspring mattresses tend to be the lowest cost, as they are a relatively simple structure with only a thin layer between springs and the surface. However, that simplicity also means there is a lot of air inside, and that helps reduce the heating effect, so they stay cooler even in hot climates, and with springs making up the basic construction of the mattress, they tend to have an excellent edge to support those other mattresses may struggle with.
This type of mattress has been the mainstay of the industry for a long time, and before the introduction of the hybrid mattress, gel memory foam mattresses and so on were the only option. While they offer the best value for a new mattress, the thin layer of material for the top and bottom can mean they wear out quicker than alternatives too, and springs can develop squeaks, making them noisy to get in or out of.
The next style of mattress to take a look at is the foam mattress, which has become one of the most popular types available today. These mattresses are made from layers of foam, each with a different level of firmness or suppleness to create a specific feel for the finished product.
Foam mattresses can use foam or latex inner layers, or a combination of both, and are held together using a fabric outer layer as the innerspring mattresses are. There are no springs or other objects within a foam mattress, just various types of foam and latex.
Because the layers of foam can be adjusted to get the desired firmness and support, foam mattresses are excellent for pressure relief, providing ample support without pushing back onto the body as a spring does. With no moving parts, you won’t get that spring squeak with a foam mattress either, and they are great at isolating movement when one person moves it doesn’t impact the other. With products like a gel memory foam mattress, you can enjoy all the benefits of foam mattress support and a body shaping top layer for incredible comfort too.
However, the construction of foam mattresses means that they perform best towards the center, and have less edge support than other options, and as a solid mattress, they tend to retain heat as well, which can be an issue for warmer climates. Gel memory foam mattresses and others with gel inserts can overcome this problem though, although they do tend to cost a little more. In general, foam mattresses tend to be a little more expensive than spring versions, but remain cheaper than the more complex mattress options.
Hybrid mattresses take the best from innerspring and foam mattresses and blend them into what some think of as the ideal mattress solution. They use springs at the core to provide the consistent support and bounce that people enjoy from spring mattresses, and a combination of foams to create the comfort system that foam mattresses deliver so well.
While there are many types of hybrid mattress, the most common are those that use pocket springs, which as the name suggest. Are fitted into pockets within the foal construction. The result is a hybrid mattress that has good edge-to-edge support as with an innerspring mattress, and thanks to the pockets providing air circulation, they tend to stay cooler than foam too.
However, how a hybrid mattress performs is very dependent on the foam used for the comfort system, with some vastly outperforming others. So, while a hybrid mattress does, in theory, provide the best of both worlds, these are mattresses that you really need to try a few of to find the ideal one to suit your needs.
Latex is a form of rubber, and a latex mattress is made entirely from this substance, with no springs or other inserts. Like a foam mattress, they will use different densities and types of latex in the construction to provide support and comfort, with a more dense, supportive center and compliant, comfortable material on the top.
A latex mattress offers great bounce, and like innerspring mattresses don’t heat up, so it is a good choice for hotter climates, and because the layers can be tailored to deliver a medium-firm mattress or any other comfort level, there is a version of the latex mattress perfect for every need. As with foam, there are no moving parts or springs, so they don’t make a noise when you move, and that, along with the material itself, also makes a latex mattress extremely durable.
Of course, like all mattresses they are not perfect, latex mattresses are very heavy, as the material itself, especially the dense center, is also heavy, and they tend to be at the more expensive end of the mattress industry too. Finally, they don’t do well in motion isolation, meaning that when your partner moves, you will feel that too.
If you can justify the cost though, a latex mattress can be one of the most comfortable things to sleep on today and are the choice of many for that reason.
Airbeds don’t use foam or springs to create the supple support and comfort you need from a mattress, but instead, use an air chamber within the bed and this has a crucial advantage over all other types of mattresses. You can adjust the feel and comfort whenever you want.
Today you may prefer a medium-firm mattress, but if you suffer an injury, or even as your body changes through age, you may prefer something softer, even temporarily. With normal mattresses, there is nothing you can do but purchase a new one, but with an air mattress, you can adjust the pressure and get the comfort level you want.
With most airbeds having an air chamber for each side of the bed, you and your partner can have completely different mattress feels, one side is a medium-firm mattress, the other soft. Aside from a custom-made and very expensive mattress, this would be impossible to do with any other kind.
They are expensive though, and some people never find the right comfort level, but if you want the ultimate in adjustable mattress performance, the air mattress is definitely one to try.
How to choose a good mattress?
When deciding which type of mattresses you want, whether that is a gel memory foam mattress, hybrid mattress, or any other kind, that choice is only part of the purchase process. In fact, it can be a real challenge to get it right when buying a mattress, so here are some tips for finding the right mattress for you, whatever kind you are looking at.
1. Firmness and Support
We are all different when it comes to the support and comfort we want for a good night’s sleep. Some of us need a very firm mattress with little give, others need something a bit more forgiving, a medium-firm mattress that strikes a balance between support and comfort.
All types of mattresses can offer a wide range of comfort levels, so always make sure you try any mattress out to make sure it is everything you need. For double beds, you will often have to find a compromise with your partner, as unless you buy an air mattress, whether you choose firm, soft, or anything else, you will both get the same experience.
If you don’t really know what works for you, try a range of mattresses and see which one feels right. When you find that perfect balance of support and cushioning that works for you it will stand out in seconds. Remember, when testing the mattress, adopt your usual sleeping position to get a better feel for how it will work for you.
2. Temperature Regulation
Especially if you live in a warmer climate, overheating can be a problem at night, disrupting sleep and leaving you feeling tired and without energy the next day. There are many factors that contribute to feeling cool, whether you can sleep with open windows, fans or air conditioning have an impact of course, but the kind of mattress you choose does as well.
A memory foam mattress tends to retain heat and warm you as you sleep, while an innerspring or latex mattress will help keep you cool even during hotter months, so if you do live in a warmer region, avoid foam and go for latex or springs can be a good idea. An air mattress falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to heat retention, and can remain comfortable for most people all year round.
3. Motion Isolation
For those who share a double bed with their partner, this can be an important factor in the choice of mattress. If your partner is having a restless night, the last thing you want is to be bounced or moved every time they turn over, but in mattresses with poor motion isolation that can be the case.
Innerspring mattresses suffer most from this, but it can be an issue in others too, with latex mattresses also being problematic. Choices such as a gel memory foam mattress are excellent at isolating movement, so your partner can have a restless night without disturbing you at all, but the very best option is an air mattress that uses individual air chambers for each side of the bed.
When looking to buy a new mattress you should try them out together, sit or lie on your sides of the mattress and move around to see what effect it has on the other person. For light sleepers, even a small movement may be too much, but if you are a heavy sleeper, the amount of motion may not be as much of a concern.
4. In-Home Trial and Warranty Period
Just as important as the type and style of mattress is the ownership experience. While you can test out mattresses in a showroom, it never really replicates the experience of sleeping on them every night. There is no doubt that an in-home trial is a very best way to see just how you get along with a particular mattress, and if you want to be absolutely sure of getting the right one every time, then stick to manufacturers who offer that service.
Warranties can make a difference too, longer warranties are better, but also check what the warranty covers, the best deal may be a compromise between coverage and duration, A 10-year warranty is not a good option if it excludes most of the things that are likely to be a problem, after all.
Price is a factor in every purchase we make, but with mattresses, the price has an effect on the kind of mattress you can buy, not necessarily the quality of the mattress itself.
A high-quality innerspring mattress can be bought for less money than a basic hybrid mattress for instance, so it is important to remember that you are usually paying more money for a different mattress technology. We have already discussed the benefits of each type, and you should really have at least some idea of the type of mattress you want before you begin looking, as this will dictate your budget too.
Even the highest price innerspring mattress will still have the strengths and weaknesses of that type of mattress, no matter how well made it is, the same with a hybrid mattress, gel memory foam mattress, and so on, so make the choice first, once you are certain of what it is you want.
How are you going to get the mattress home? It is probably last in a long list of questions, but mattresses can be awkward, bulky and heavy, and you need to think about that. Even if you are buying online, that question is important, if you live in an apartment, can you get it up the stair, or will it fit into the lift? You don’t want to be stuck trying to wrangle a large and unhelpful latex medium-firm mattress up and around a staircase, for instance.
Some mattresses can be packed into a compact space, foam mattresses in particular, while some, such as an air mattress, can be rolled up and are very lightweight without air in them. However, both innerspring and hybrid mattresses tend to be more difficult to move, while latex mattresses are very heavy and unwieldy.
If you live in an apartment or have awkward stairs, are taking a mattress home from a store, or know you will have to get it to your bedroom on your own, a foam-style mattress that is packed down for easy moving can be an ideal option to consider.
- Disposing of your old mattress
This can be a real challenge, and costly, to do properly, so always check with the store you are buying from to see if they will take your old mattress away when they deliver the new one. It can save a lot of hassle and makes the entire process of swapping to a new mattress so much easier.
Getting the most from your new mattress
You won’t get the most comfortable sleep without the right bedding. With that in mind, you can pick the type of mattress you need with confidence, whether a gel memory foam mattress, hybrid mattress, or any other, choosing the right support and comfort to suit your needs too, whatever the budget. Whether your preference is a medium-firm mattress or something incredibly soft, you have a wide choice available, just make sure to try them out first and you will end up with the very best mattress to meet your budget.
Can mattresses be rolled up?
Some mattresses can be rolled up, and some manufacturers even deliver new mattresses this way for ease of transport. However, it does depend on the type of mattress, with innerspring mattresses not really practical for rolling up as the springs themselves can be damaged. However, a gel memory foam mattress, some hybrid mattress types, and latex mattresses can be rolled up without harm.
How often to replace the mattress?
Experts say that a mattress should be replaced every 7 to 8 years, however many people prefer once every 5 years for a new mattress. While this is fine for functioning mattresses, in the case of spring failure or other issues, it may be necessary to replace a mattress much sooner in some circumstances.
How to clean a mattress?
Keeping your mattress clean is essential for hygiene and the long life of that new mattress. You can keep it clean by running a vacuum over it every time you strip the bed and change sheets. Don’t forget to turn it over and vacuum the underside too. A gel memory foam mattress will often come with a removable cover, which you can wash in your machine.
It helps to let the mattress breathe as well by opening the bedroom windows and leaving it a couple of hours before you put new bedding back on the bed.
This will deal with most cleaning needs, but if you do find a stain or other issue on the mattress that won’t go away with a vacuum, then you need to take action. Mixing water and baking soda together provides a great cleaning solution, just apply sparingly to the problem, leave for half an hour and dab away with clean water. You never want to get the mattress too wet, and always leave it to air and dry thoroughly before putting the bedding back on.