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Mattress buying guide: 5 things you should know before you shop

The process of buying a bed looks much different than it did 10 years ago. Here are the steps you should take before buying a new bed.

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Let's face it, a new mattress isn't nearly as exciting to shop for as a new phone or car. You buy it once, sleep on it for years and then getting a new bed doesn't cross your mind until your current mattress is past its prime and has large, human-sized craters indented on top. Trust me, I get it. However, a quality mattress you enjoy sleeping on can positively impact your overall physical and mental health by promoting the restful sleep you need to have a productive day. 

It's possible your old bed is contributing to poor rest, and even body aches or household allergies, leading you to wake up feeling drowsy or stuffed up. This could be due to pain-promoting sags that naturally form after years of use, a misaligned spine because your bed has softened over time or even millions of dust mites living in the bed flaring up your sniffles. Old beds can actually get pretty gross, let alone uncomfortable. If you think your bed has reached its expiration date, you've come to the right place for your mattress search. 

Whether you're looking to replace the mattress you bought before your 9-year-old was born or you're a first-time mattress buyer, the market can be a bit overwhelming. Especially if you're used to the traditional way of bed shopping. Nowadays, you can buy your mattress in-store or from the comfort of your own home -- and there are pros and cons for each. Though, whichever route you choose, there are important considerations to take into account before you make your purchase. Below is CNET's extensive guide to buying a mattress that'll suit your needs and promote z's. 

1. Consider your budget

A mattress is an investment in your sleep and you get what you pay for. With that being said, there are literally hundreds of brands to choose from and I think there is a comfy mattress for almost every budget. Here are the general tiers when it comes to bed:

  • Budget (around $600 and below): There are several great beds that fall under the $600 mark after discounts. Beds like Allswell or Casper Element should last you several years. You can find the unicorn that offers both comfort and support, but is ultra budget-friendly. 
  • Average (around $600 to $1,200): You'll find a majority of quality beds fall within this price category. These beds include Casper, Purple, Leesa and other top-dog brands who seemingly set the standard for pricing on bed-in-a-box mattresses. 
  • Affordable luxury (around $1,200 to $1,600): Beds in this tier come with extra bells and whistles such as an extra supportive, dual-layer innerspring design or an active cooling cover. These are great values -- they could be priced higher, but instead they go for fair prices. 
  • Luxury (around $1,600 and up): These are the TempurPedic beds and Purple Hybrids of the bedding world. They tend to be very thick, stacked with multiple comfort and support layers, and can include special added features you don't find with your every-day bed. 

2. Identify your primary sleeping position

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Think back to last night: Which position did you sleep in the most? That's important to consider when you're choosing a mattress because your sleeping position can help you determine how soft or firm your new bed should be. 

Side 

Side sleepers usually feel most comfortable on soft to medium-firmness mattresses because they conform to the curvature of your hips and side without pressing into your joints. The less you weigh, the softer you'll want your mattress to be as a side sleeper. 

Back and stomach 

If you sleep on your back or stomach you'll likely fare best with medium to firm mattresses that offer accommodating support. Firm beds ensure your back and spine remain properly supported all night, as opposed to soft mattresses which can let your back droop into the bed and promote back pain. 

Combination 

If you think back and realize you sleep in every position, you have a couple of options. Pick the one you think you spend the most time in or opt for a middle-of-the-road option. Medium firmness levels offer enough support for back and stomach sleepers, and they have suitable pressure relief for side sleepers. 

A significant number of brands construct their beds with medium firmness levels to accommodate a wider range of sleepers. 

3. Take your body type into consideration

Once you're familiar with your sleeping position, next is to factor in your weight or BMI. Weight distribution plays a part in how soft or firm you think a bed will feel. For example, a medium mattress will feel more soft to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but Olympic gymnast Simone Biles will likely think that same mattress feels a bit firmer than advertised. 

Heavier individuals exert more pressure into a mattress, and as a result, have a more plush experience. So, if you weigh 250 pounds and sleep on your stomach, I'd suggest at least a medium-firm mattress. 

People with larger body types should also look into hybrid mattresses. These are beds that include both foam and innersprings. Hybrid mattresses are much more supportive than all-foam beds because of their steel base layer. And in turn, that means they end up lasting longer. Though, if you weigh under 200 pounds, most foam beds should work just fine for you in the long-term. 

4. Determine the materials you like

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The Purple Hybrid comes in three different models, each with a different thickness of the Purple Grid gel layer.

Slumber Yard

Memory foam isn't the only mattress material available nowadays. There's also polyurethane foam which is a lighter, more breathable, quicker-responding material. You also have latex foam, in natural, organic or synthetic form. Natural and organic latex is hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, while all latex foams are breathable, bouncy and spongelike. Latex foam offers more support, durability and airflow than both foams I just mentioned. Though, it can also be more expensive because of its various benefits. 

Here are the pros and cons of the most commonly used comfort materials:

Types of Foam Mattresses


Pros Cons
Memory foam
  • Pressure relieving
  • Feels like the bed is giving you a hug
  • Can retain heat
  • Provides resistance for combo sleepers when they switch positions
  • Latex foam
  • Breathable
  • Bouncy
  • Durable
  • Hypoallergenic (natural or organic)
  • Antimicrobial (natural or organic)
  • More costly
  • All latex foam beds tend to be heavy
  • Poly foam
  • Light and airy
  • Open-cell design is more breathable than memory foam
  • Not as durable
  • Some can be cheaply made
  • 5. Do you buy in store or online? 

    You're probably familiar with regular ol' in-store mattress shopping -- the process of laying on beds one by one until you find a good match. But how do you buy a mattress online? It's just the same as buying anything else online, shipped direct-to-consumer and rolled up inside a cardboard box. Each has their own benefits and setbacks. 

    If you shop in store, you get the benefit of hand-testing the beds yourself before you buy. Also, master hagglers might be able to talk a mattress salesperson down on the price of a new bed. 

    On the other hand, online brands know you're taking a risk by purchasing a bed over the internet so they sweeten the deal with additional perks such as free shipping, free returns, a lengthy free trial policy and a solid warranty to back your bed. It will be shipped directly to your door, either inside a box or hand-delivered via white glove delivery, taking the hassle out of transportation and additional costs.

    Regardless of how you choose to buy your new bed, you should always read mattress reviews. Both from experts and from customers who've tried the bed before. They will give you insight on how your prospective new bed will be to your average consumer, and speak the truth on any claims that might just be mattress marketing mumbo jumbo. 

    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.