Choosing a mattress is more than a years-long commitment; it’s a choice that will impact how well you sleep for what amounts to a third of your life. With so many options, and baffling price differences, how on earth do you begin?
From the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, here’s how to pick the mattress best for you:
Determine your needs. Are you currently sleeping well? Waking up with aches? Do you wish your bed was softer? Firmer? Flexible?
Know the differences:
Innerspring mattresses support you with coil springs. Cost is generally determined by the number of springs, and while it is not absolute that the number of springs determines overall comfort, the cheapest options may not have enough springs to provide adequate support.
Memory foam mattresses are layered with different densities of foam that respond to weight and are known for comfort because they contour to the shape of your body. A memory foam topper added to your mattress might also do the trick—but memory foam products are also heat conductors, so if you have temperature issues while sleeping, they may not be right for you.
Latex mattresses are made of natural or synthetic rubber and are uniformly firm—a boon for people with bad backs. If you prefer a softer bed, latex is not for you.
Air or ‘Sleep Number’ mattresses are high-end air beds that look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils and are topped with a foam layer. They are adjustable in terms of firmness, which makes them ideal for couples with different preferences, but even if you sleep solo, you will need to experiment to find the firmness level best for you.
Adjustable beds are able to bend and elevate at various angles, and since springs don’t bend, they are most commonly made of latex, foam or air. They are especially helpful for people with sleep apnea or acid reflux issues.
Do a thorough test-drive. Wear comfy clothes, remove your shoes and lie down on several mattresses. Spend at least 15 minutes in each, changing positions and trying out adjustments, but focusing on your usual sleep position. Keep in mind some stores allow you to test the mattress at home and/or offer a return policy.
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