Tips for Choosing the Perfect Mattress

Tips for Choosing the Perfect Mattress

Tess Wilson
Aug 22, 2014
(Image credit: Melissa DiRenzo)

My current mattress is 10+ years old. The one before that was an air mattress, and the one before that was an ancient family hand-me-down. Clearly I need to read this post so my bedroom—and my dreams—will be fabulous.

Number of Coils, Number of Turns: The mattress expert consulted by Real Simple "recommends a minimum of 350 coils for a full-size mattress, 480 for a queen, and 580 for a king". And Martha Stewart insists that each coil "should be 'turned' at least five times in each coil."

How Tall Are You? According to Martha Stewart, "a mattress should measure at least six inches longer than the tallest person sleeping on it." This means that most of my family members should own California Kings.

Medium-Firm Is Probably Just Right: Consumer Reports, my go-to source for everything these days, consulted several experts who recommended medium-firm mattresses: "If a mattress is too firm, it won't support the body evenly and may cause discomfort at the heaviest points (hips and shoulders). If it's too soft, a sleeper could sink into the surface and have a hard time moving, which could cause tingling, numbness, or aches." Numbness?!

Hot Sleeper? If you're considering a foam mattress, Real Simple wants to remind you that "Foam retains heat well, so if you get hot while sleeping, look for open-cell construction for maximum breathability."

Make Yourself At Home: Consumer Reports wants you to really test out mattresses, odd looks from other customers be damned: "Spend at least five minutes on each side and on your back (your stomach, too, if that's a preferred sleeping position)." Danny Seo advised CasaSugar to go one step further: "Resting your head on whatever number of pillows you normally sleep on will give you a true feel for how a new mattress will feel when you sleep on it."

Be Firm: "Since mattresses soften with age and wear, it's a good idea to buy one that's somewhat firmer than what you are used to." This tip is from Martha Stewart, and I find it the most challenging— it seems difficult to tell if something is slightly too firm now but will age nicely eventually without being too firm forever.

Replace The Box Spring, Too...Or Don't: Good Housekeeping quotes the Better Sleep Council as saying, "When you replace the mattress replace the box spring as well. Over time the constant compression of the springs will compromise the structural integrity of the box spring." But Consumer Reports found that "80 percent of those who kept their old one reported that they were sleeping better after replacing just the mattress. So if your box spring isn't broken and is still structurally sound, consider keeping it and saving several hundred dollars." Controversy!

Look Forward to Turning 40: Among all the other great tips, Consumer Reports mentions, "You should think about buying a new mattress if you wake up tired or achy, you tend to sleep better at hotels than at home, your mattress looks saggy or lumpy, you're over 40..." I want a new mattress every year after my 40th birthday! And someone to move it for me.

Add your tips for choosing a mattress in the comments!

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