12 Questions: A Mattress Buying Guide

It may sound crazy, but buying a mattress is one of the most important purchase decisions you will make over the next five to ten years. Not a car, not a house, not your job… a mattress.

If it seems unrealistic, just think about it for a minute – a healthy sleeper will spend roughly 1/3rd of his or her life (8 hours per night) on a mattress; buy the right sleep set and you will have it for at least five years, often more; buy the wrong sleep set and you can wreak havoc on your body. This includes back pain, obesity, missed hours at work, big medical bills, job loss and the list goes on.

The reality is that buying the right mattress is extremely important. The following diagram shows four key elements that go (or should go) into your mattress purchase decision. They are:
mattress purchase decision Mattress Reviews – where you read up on mattresses you are most interested in to see what experts think about the product. We offer more than 100 individual, proprietary mattress reviews right here.

Mattress Ratings – where you see how relevant mattress rate compared to their peers on a series of measurements likes comfort, support, motion transfer, quality, value and overall satisfaction levels – again, we offer mattress ratings on the major brands and ours are all based on existing owner feedback, comments and complaints.

Mattress Complaints – where you see what dissatisfied owners say about the mattress you are considering and where you use their feedback to determine whether it will impact your sleep and/or whether you have already explored those concerns.

Mattress Warranty – where you see what kind of “coverage” you will get from the mattress manufacturer – do they stand behind their product and, if so, what does their warranty truly and honestly cover?

You must incorporate these four areas of consideration into your decision process. And that process alone is an ever-evolving one – expecting to go out on a Saturday morning and sleeping on the best mattress in the world that same night is probably unrealistic unless you are either very lucky or you have done the kind of research we advocate here.

More realistically, the purchase decision will take time. It looks like this:

Buying a Mattress ProcessEvaluate Options – here you will create a shortlist of potential mattress products that meet your needs and expectations.

Question Features – here you will itemize the features offered by the product and determine whether they are relevant to your needs and expectations.

Research Mattress – here you will read up on mattress reviews, ratings, complaints, and warranty information, such as what you find on our site as well as a host of others on the internet.

Test Mattress – in many cases you will want to touch and feel the mattress for yourself. The one exception is discount memory foam mattresses as they offer the same “feel” generally speaking.

Record Results – at this stage, you may be able to “pick a winner,” but for many it means returning to Evaluate Options where you make changes to your shortlist and continue with the process.

This Mattress Buying Guide consists of 12 Questions you should answer when shopping for a new mattress. This Guide helps you with the Research Mattress and Question Features stages specifically.

Those twelve essential questions are as follows – some may be easier to answer than others, but they are all essential pieces for consumers who are looking to find the perfect mattress for their needs. They require more involvement than our 6 Golden Rules of Buying a Mattress which helps shoppers ensure they do not feel ripped off during the mattress buying process.

The 12 Questions

Take the time to consider each of these twelve questions carefully. Given them some serious thought because you need to really know the answers to these questions before you can successfully find the right mattress for you.

  1. Do you sleep on your side, stomach, back or all three (consistently)? This is arguably the toughest question that people will have to answer when happy couple in bedbuying a mattress. But the reality is that most mattresses are better suited for one type of sleeper than another. Not sure which you are, look at our post on Sleeping Positions to see how you can easily figure it out.
  2. Do you or your sleep partner (if applicable) toss and turn throughout the night? Another vital question is whether your mattress has to put up with some tossing and turning throughout the night. If so, then consider a mattress that ranks high in motion transfer – that is to say a mattress than absorbs motion transfer – because that way both you and your partner, if you have one, will not have their sleep interrupted throughout the night.
  3. Are you or your partner (if applicable) a “furnace” or “hot sleeper” while sleeping? If you wake up sweating and hot in the middle of the night or if your sleep partner does, then you may want to stay away from mattresses that retain body heat, such as many memory foam mattresses and some latex mattresses. Opt instead for a mattress with excellent airflow, heat transfer or temperature neutralizing qualities. Those that use Joma Wool and latex instead of memory foam are the best options.
  4. Do you or your partner (if applicable) wake up with a sore neck or back or do you have chronic neck and/or back pain? Unfortunately, more people suffer from back or neck pain than you might expect. And often the mattress they sleep on contributes to that chronic pain. For back pain sufferers, highly supportive mattresses are the best – look at memory foam or latex mattresses.
  5. Are you or your partner (if applicable) considered “hyper-sensitive” to odors? If you have a sensitive sense of smell, it is probably best to avoid memory foam mattresses. Once they are unpacked, they need roughly 72 hours or more release their chemical odor into the atmosphere. Until that happens, a scent-sensitive sleeper will find themselves annoyed or, worse, sleepless thanks to the smells. Opt instead for a latex mattress or a traditional spring mattress for those who are super-hyper sensitive to smells.
  6. What is your preferred sleep surface firmness? Soft, Medium or Firm? This questions concerns your comfort settings and, in our view, is a secondary (albeit important) question. If you are inflexible in your firmness setting, then you will probably limit yourself to a particular mattress or mattress type. For example, latex mattresses and memory foam mattresses cannot offer as soft a sleep surface as a pocket coil mattress can. If you share your bed with a sleep partner and you both cannot compromise on a firmness setting, then consider the Sleep To Live by Kingsdown Mattress or a Sleep Number Bed. These are probably your best options as far dual-sleeper, individualized comfort settings go.
  7. Is your existing mattress older than 8 years old? If your mattress is less than 8 years old and is in reasonably good shape, you may not even need to replace it. In fact, it could be that your sleeping habits have changed and your mattress is no longer best-suited to how you sleep. However, if you are waking with aches and pains or it is older than 8 years old, consider how well that mattress has treated you over the past x years. It could very well be the best starting point in your mattress buying search.
  8. Are you pregnant? Yes, this question will only apply to certain readers, but if you are pregnant you may want to avoid purchasing a new mattress based on your current condition. The reason for this is that pregnant women are advised by medical professionals to sleep on their side. If you normally sleep on your stomach or back, making the transition could seem like you need a new mattress thanks to some new aches and pains, but really there could be nothing wrong with the mattress at all. Consider a body pillow to help get through the pregnancy and delay making a mattress replacement decision until after your baby is born and sleeping on his or her own. (Oh, and congratulations on the baby!).
  9. What is the mattress height? Unlike the standard mattress sizes, manufacturers can make a mattress as high (or thick) as they like. For the most part, the most popular heights are 18″ and less, but we are starting to see more and more push upwards to 22″ and sometimes even higher! The problem you will face with higher mattresses is that they are higher (meaning the floor is farther if you or your children happen to roll off the mattress) and sheets and other bedding accessories like mattress protectors are more difficult to find for those higher mattresses. If you do not have access to such specialty-size accessories, stick to a height of 18″ or less and you should be fine.
  10. How much room do I have for my mattress? Depending on the space where the mattress will be placed, your choice of a mattress size (Full, Twin, quilted mattressQueen or King) may very well be limited by space. So long as you have a minimum of 2’6″ for maneuvering around the mattress/bed, you should be okay to go with any size you want. For a smaller room, consider a Twin bed size; larger rooms can accommodate up to a King sized bed. Likewise, consider your personal preferences for space – someone who likes to sleep far away from their partner could be fine with a Queen-Sized bed, but if that person sprawls out, then you may be stuck with a King-Sized mattress!
  11. What about the mattress’s technical specifications? Memory Foam Mattresses. If you are looking at a memory foam mattress, find out about the different layers. How thick is that top (comfort) layer? What is its density rating? The higher these numbers, the more comfort you should get from your mattress if you sleep solidly through the entire night; if you move around, then you may not like the thickness and higher density because it takes longer for that foam to return to its natural state. Latex Mattresses. If you are looking at a latex mattress, ask about the type of latex it is. Dunlop latex will typically be more consistent and perhaps even more durable because it is not “processed” as much as Talalay latex. Dunlop is therefore more of a ‘natural’ latex and would be better for someone looking for a firm or medium-firm sleeping surface. If you prefer a plush or medium-plush surface, then you will go with Talalay latex, which can be better manipulated to achieve a proper firmness. Many prefer Talalay for this reason. Spring Mattresses. If you decide to go with a traditional mattress, find out what kind of innerspring system you are buying. Pocket coils are considered the Cadillac of the spring systems, but coil count also matters; the higher the coil count, the more comfortable and better at motion transfer you can expect the mattress to be. If you are looking at an interconnected coil system, coil count will also matter. Unless you are buying a secondary mattress, stay away from Bonnell Springs as they are the least durable and lowest quality. In all cases, find out about the foam encasement; the bigger it is, the less room for coils.
  12. Don’t forget the mattress warranty. An often overlooked piece when buying a mattress is what that warranty is all about. In most cases, people are discouraged and frustrated when they find out their warranty has been voided by any number of possible events – staining, insufficient sagging, etc.. Checking out Mattress Warranty section (on the left menu) certainly helps, but even better is asking the salesperson to see an actual warranty copy before you buy. If you are told that you have to go online to see it or that you have to buy the mattress first, then delay your purchase and do some digging around on your own (or check back here and if we do not have information on that warranty we will see about digging it up!).

These twelve questions provide an excellent starting point when choosing the best mattress for your home. We feel that our information remains unbiased and our intention is never to steer you to or away form a particular brand. Each mattress company we review at qMattresses.com is popular and successful for a reason: People buy their mattresses. If they did not build a good product, they would go out of business. With that in mind, use our Mattress Buying Guide wisely and make sure that these priority questions are addressed before you spend a single cent on your next mattress. Given the number of mattress complaints that cross our desks, the more you know, the better your decision will be.

Oh, and don’t forget to buy a mattress protector to preserve your mattress as well as that warranty!

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