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How We Test Mattresses

The behind-the-scenes of our mattress testing process and what we look for when we test each bed.

A mattress showroom
Getty Images

Testing mattresses is a rough gig, but somebody has to do it. All jokes aside, we thoroughly review mattresses to give consumers an honest opinion of the beds before they commit to buying. For each mattress review and roundup, we put them through a series of tests to learn the ins and outs of each bed. That way, we can tell you the beds that are worth the money and the ones that are total snores. 

We have a small, dedicated team of mattress testers who know a lot more about beds than your average Joe. They have tested out many mattresses (over 100 and counting), and have dedicated hundreds of hours to the job. Below is the criteria we look for when they test and insight into what the process is like. And to answer the question you must be wondering about, yes -- we sleep on mattresses for a living! 

Firmness

A mattress' level of support is one of the most important factors to consider when shopping: It means the difference between a good night's sleep and waking up feeling like you've slept on a concrete slab or something too soft that failed to support you. We get a feel for a bed and, using all the mattresses we've tested in the past as a gauge, determine where it falls on the spectrum from soft to firm. 

We rate numerically on a 1-10 scale, as well as industry terms like "medium" and "medium-soft." We also collect multiple opinions on firmness from people with different body types because it's valuable to get different perspectives on this: The heavier you are, the more support you'll want from your mattress. If you're a back or stomach sleeper, you'll especially want a firm mattress. But lighter individuals might find that a firm mattress is too hard and that a softer mattress is more comfortable, especially side sleepers who are lighters.

Feel

Does the mattress feel like memory foam, which remembers our shape as we nestle into the mattress? Is switching positions during the night difficult? Or is it like neutral foam, which responds more quickly to pressure and offers a nice, plush feel? Does the bed feel like latex foam, which is very bouncy and supportive? How about the innersprings, can we feel them poking through the bottom layer? We try to let you know how each bed feels in a descriptive, honest way. 

Construction

If it's not a luxury bed and we have no plans to donate it, we've been known to cut mattresses open to check and see what's inside. That way, we get a look at the layers and what the foam looks like underneath the cover. Otherwise, we'll study the brand's description of the construction for a good understanding of the different foams and materials used. 

Body type

Using construction as an indicator, we try to determine how supportive and durable a bed will be for different body types. Typically, people over 230 pounds require hybrid mattresses, with both foam and coils, because those mattresses are more durable. They also tend to find that beds feel softer. On the flip side, smaller people in the under-150-pound range tend to find that beds feel firmer. We always try to take these factors into consideration when we're testing mattresses. 

Sleeping positions

We test the mattress by sleeping in every different position: side, back, stomach and switching between positions. If it feels too firm for our side or soft for our back or stomach, we make note of it in our review. 

A hand squeezing the edge of a mattress in a showroom
Getty Images

Motion isolation

There are a few methods we like to use to test motion isolation. The first is just regular co-sleeping. Our tester will ask their partner to "sleep aggressively," tossing and turning for a while like they can't sleep, to see how much motion the bed absorbs. 

The second is placing a glass full of water near the end of the bed. We roll around, getting as close to the glass as possible, to see if it will tip over. This is a nod to the OG commercial with the woman jumping on the memory foam mattress with the wine glass sitting on top. 

Edge support

We sit and lie on the edge of the mattress to see what kind of sensation it gives. Is it supportive or do we feel like we're going to roll off the edge? We'll let you know! Hybrid mattresses tend to be more supportive because they contain both foam and steel coils, rather than all foam. As you could imagine, steel is stronger than foam and offers a bit more support. With that being said, a lot of foam beds these days have really stepped up their edge support game and support better at the edge than foam beds used to. 

Temperature

In the same room, at the same temperature, with the same bedding (cotton sheets or no sheets), we test the temperature of mattresses by seeing how hot we feel. Sometimes we'll break out the temperature radar gun, but we've found that we get the point across better by describing, in detail, how hot we felt while sleeping. Beware of claims from mattress brands that their beds are cool. We've found that more often than not, beds sleep more neutral than cold. There are only a handful of beds that actually live up to the claim of being a cooling mattress

Smell

A lot of bed-in-a-box mattresses emit an interesting smell once they are unboxed, kind of like a new car. The foams have been manufactured, compressed and packed in plastic, so you'll notice an odor when you unroll it from its packaging. It's not something to be concerned about, and it should go away in anywhere between a few hours to a few days. But we'll make sure to mention obvious smells in our review, especially if the odor is overwhelming. 

The only way to avoid the off-gassing smell is to purchase an organic and natural mattress made with latex foam and certified organic materials like cotton and wool. 

Noise

Nobody likes a squeaky, loud mattress that wakes you up every time you switch positions. So, we also keep a lookout, or rather an ear out, as we flip and flop around the bed we're testing.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.