Types of Mattresses
Innerspring has been the most popular type of mattress for decades and countless styles, features and options are available. Models vary greatly in cost, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Price differences may depend on the number and size of the coils, the amount and type of padding, and details such as fabric and stitching. Compared with other types, innerspring mattresses tend to retain less body heat and come in a wider range of firmness levels. They do tend to transfer more motion, which can be a concern if you share your bed with a partner, but can be a plus during sex. They're also less durable and more prone to sagging than other types of mattresses. Most experts say innerspring mattresses should be replaced after 10 years at most, although six years seems to be the best timing to avoid possible discomfort from sleeping on a saggy mattress.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Made from visco-elastic foam, a type of foam that molds itself to the body, memory foam is most popular with those who like a firmer, highly supportive mattress. While the best-known manufacturer is Tempur-Pedic, quite a few companies offer less expensive versions. Memory foam is also a good choice if you have a restless partner as it minimizes movement transfer. Going from innerspring to memory foam can take some getting used to, but most who give it time say making the switch was worth it. Some people find that memory foam traps heat -- a complaint that many makers have addressed with the development of gel-infused memory foam, which is designed to create a cooler sleeping surface. Alternatively, a wool mattress topper, which are covered in a separate report, can help keep you cool. Another big issue with all memory foam mattress is off-gassing, most have an unpleasant smell when they're first unwrapped or unboxed. This bother some people more than others, so we don't rate memory foam mattresses by that metric since it seems to be highly subjective.
The foam mattress category covers all mattresses that are made of foam, but don't fall specifically into either the memory foam or latex category (see below). Often a proprietary blend of foams, foam mattresses have shot into the stratosphere of popularity thanks to the proliferation of online-only companies that have created foam mattresses primarily for sale on the internet, though a few can be tried in person in some locations. Foam tends to trap less heat than memory foam, and tends toward a softer feel, so may be a better choice for those who prefer a softer bed. Most foam mattresses take time for the odor to dissipate, but most experts say the off-gassing is not as bad as with dedicated memory foam mattresses.
Many people like latex mattresses because those made of natural latex are eco-friendly, since natural latex is a renewable resource. Latex tends to be springier than memory foam mattresses and doesn't retain as much body heat. They are also resistant to mold and dust mites. Many latex mattresses go for several thousand dollars for a queen set, although some lower-end brands that incorporate synthetic latex and a less expensive processing method, or that use a core made from another foam material, such as polyurethane, can run as low as $300 (for a twin). Natural latex mattresses tend to have many fewer issues with off-gassing.
Mattresses for Back Pain
Experts say that adjustable, permanent-use air mattresses may be the best choice for back pain sufferers. Don't confuse them with inflatable, temporary air mattresses, though, (which we cover in a separate report); those aren't considered suitable for long-term use. Permanent air mattresses, such as those sold under the Sleep Number Bed label, have air chambers that can be adjusted to provide customized support, and are topped with padding. Some even allow each side of the mattress to be adjusted independently. Permanent air mattresses can be expensive, running at least $1,000 for a queen set. They tend to be quite durable though, because, while they rely on mechanical parts that can fail, those parts are usually replaceable.
internet has shaken up mattress buying
Thanks to the internet, there are many fewer travel agents, print
magazines, newspapers and brick-and-mortar stores. However, when it comes to
mattresses, the internet has expanded the market -- and online-only mattress
sales are exploding.
Over the many years we have researched mattresses, and as recently as
last year, we included online-only mattresses with the caveat that most experts
recommend trying a mattress out in person, by lying on it in a store. We no
longer include that caution, because experts now say if you know your sleep
style and your firmness preferences, it probably doesn't matter if you order a
mattress sight-unseen versus lying down on one for a few minutes. A lot of
people aren't really picky sleepers either -- they can snooze just fine on any
surface. For them, we recommend focusing on low prices and desired appearance.
Fortunately, online-only mattress companies are making it increasingly
easy to order a mattress and to return it you're not happy. Most have a
more-than-generous time frame in which to try them out, too.
While foam mattresses are the ones most commonly bought online, some
online-only mattress companies -- most notably Saatva -- sell innerspring
and hybrid mattresses online. The best news: online-only mattress tend to cost
much less than comparable store-bought mattresses and there's no mystery about
the "real" price.
How much is that mattress in the window?
In spite of the recent proliferation of online-only mattress companies,
the traditional way of buying mattresses -- lying down on one in a store -- has
not gone the way of the dodo. Whether it's from a department store or a
retailer devoted to just selling mattresses, there are plenty of
brick-and-mortar locations for you to try out your next bed.
There certainly are reasons to want to be sure that you're getting a
mattress you love when you go shopping. People spend a lot of their lives in
bed and poor sleep can detract from your quality of life. Beyond that,
mattresses can be pricey -- in most cases at least $400 for a twin; $1000 or
more for a queen or king -- and those are just the most basic models. Some cost
two or three times as much, and sometimes more, depending upon features and
type. And that number rarely includes the box spring or other foundation, if
needed, so you'll also need to budget for the entire bed set, unless you're
replacing a same-sized mattresses on an existing bed. And don't forget pillows and bed sheets, both of which we discuss in their own reports.
Figuring out exactly how much some mattresses cost can be difficult. The
larger mattress companies like Sealy and Simmons have specific lines, as
detailed on their websites, but those aren't the only mattresses they make. Big
companies like that also manufacture hundreds of other mattresses for retailers
with their own model names. That makes it almost impossible to compare apples-to-apples
when trying to price out a mattress from the big names. That goes the same for
standalone stores selling "factory-direct" mattresses. For example,
you can't go to, say Mattress Firm and then to Mattress Depot and find the same
beds (although they might be the same, there's just no way to tell).
We discuss price in more detail -- as well as how to get the best deal
-- on our buying guide page. We also talk a bit more there about how we
expect the traditional mattress market to change as it confronts the online
Finding The Best Mattresses
"Mattress Reviews & Ratings -- Summary"
Along with the explosion of online-only mattress sales, there's been an
explosion in expert reviews of these mattresses. It's always been hard to rate
traditional mattresses because, as we discuss above, there are too many options
in a line to be sure the various experts are testing the same mattress. That's
not the case with foam mattresses targeted to internet buyers from makers like
Casper, Saatva, Leesa and Tuft & Needle. Since these companies make only one
model of mattress (although Saatva has a few different lines), it's easy to
compare them against each other. ConsumerReports.org still reviews traditional
mattresses, but they've also added quite a few of these foam, online-only
mattresses to their testing. TheSweethome.com tests foam mattresses now, and
Sleepopolis.com is also a good resource for a variety of mattress reviews.
Another important resource for us -- perhaps the most significant -- is the detailed
analysis of consumer satisfaction feedback at SleepLiketheDead.com -- which has
compiled more data about mattress satisfaction than any other site.
Of course, we also take into account owner reviews, but, like expert
reviews, those can be limited when it comes to traditional mattresses. That's
because there's no real way to determine if the model reviewed at Macys.com is
the same model that you see reviewed at JCPenney.com -- even if they are both,
for example, Sealy innerspring mattresses. But there's plenty of consumer
feedback for the online-only foam mattresses, so that was extremely helpful in
making our picks. Factors including comfort, value and durability are included
in our analysis. The result of our research is the best mattresses for your
best night's sleep.