Choosing a Mattress: Everything You Need to Know

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Make sense of your options before the high-pressure salesperson gets you in his or her grips.

Chances are, you’re pretty picky about the shoes that you wear—especially for exercise—since you know that the wrong ones can set you up for aches and pains. But when was the last time that you thought about the kind of foundation that your mattress gives you each and every night? When it comes to a good night’s sleep, the mattress that you choose can make all the difference. After all, you spend nearly 3,000 hours lying on it each year. Read on for a run-down on how to pick the right mattress for you.

Innerspring Mattresses

What It Is: The most common type of mattresses in the U.S., innerspring mattresses are made up of anywhere from 300 to 1,000 or more springs that are insulated in cushioning. They can be firm or soft, depending on the gauge (thickness) of the wire and the cushioning used.

Best For: Innerspring mattresses are a good choice for nearly anyone, though the firmer support can make them easier to get in and out of if you’re very overweight.

How To choose: You may hear that more coils means a more comfortable mattress, but that isn’t necessarily true. It’s tough to tell the difference once a mattress has more than 390 coils, (unless you’re the princess and the pea!). The real test: Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes lying on any mattress to get a literal feel for it. And bring your own pillow.

Memory Foam or Latex Mattresses

What It Is: Memory foam mattresses are made up of different densities of foam that contour to your body, while latex mattresses are made of rubber that provides firm, consistent support throughout the bed. Both can be found as toppers for any mattress.

Best For: Memory foam is often a good choice for people with chronic fatigue or muscle pain, because those conditions can make it difficult to get comfortable. Steer clear if you tend to overheat at night, since memory foam can exacerbate temperature issues. Latex is best for fans of a firm bed, especially those who have back pain.

How To Choose: Like with any mattress hunt, make sure to spend plenty of time lying on your options. Don’t be shy about it! Pay attention to any unpleasant smells you notice (some people complain about off-gassing with memory foam).

Air Mattresses

What it is: We’re not talking about the blow-up types that you pull out for camping and overnight guests. Some brands feature mechanical air chambers that allow for customized support.

Best For: He likes it firm, and she likes a pillow-top feel? Couples who have dramatically different preferences for firmness do well with these mattresses since each side is individually adjustable, allowing each sleeper to have his or her own way.

How To Choose: In addition to cozying up with your prospective choices, make sure to try out the controls. Tip: You may need to make it firmer than you think that you do to get the support that you need to prevent back pain. Also, since air mattresses have working parts, it’s a good idea to check out reviews online or through the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Reports to make sure that the brand doesn’t have a reputation for malfunctioning.