Mattress shopping – Insights from my trials

by | Nov 18, 2010 | Body Awareness, Posture, Alignment, Lifestyle & Leisure | 1 comment

man asleep

Buying a new mattress has got to be one of the most trying consumer experiences ever. You’re bringing a stranger into your home, and you hope to have an intimate relationship for many years to come.

The odds are stacked against you.

  • The salespeople always sound convincing in the store.  But can you rely on that to make a major consumer choice?
  • The same manufacturer puts out mattresses under different brand names, and every store features mattresses with different names and model numbers.
  • You might feel comfortable on a particular mattress in the showroom, but how are you going to feel about it over an entire night’s sleep? And what about ten or fifteen years down the road? Will it be all lumpy and saggy?
  • What’s the best firm mattress?  Can it be too firm?

And, they’re expensive.

I can’t recommend a specific brand or model, but I can share with you some tips I gained from my experience shopping.

• Firm vs. soft? You want a mattress that doesn’t sag overall, but that cradles each individual body part. So your mattress should be globally firm, but locally compliant. Within that general principle, individual preferences differ. That’s okay – whatever level firmness feels good to you can still give your spine plenty of support.

• A test run in the mattress store for a few minutes can give you an idea of the mattress’ comfort. If you like the feel in the store, you should be good for 7-8 hours each night.

• Once you find a mattress that feels comfortable in the store, you hope your mattress will last. That’s the confusing part. There are no consumer surveys that compile mattress-satisfaction data ten years down the road. And even if you have a friend who bought a mattress fifteen years ago and still loves it, you’re out of luck – you won’t be able to find the same model still being sold.

• More expensive mattresses aren’t necessarily better.

• A “memory-foam” type of mattress has been getting a lot of buzz, but it has drawbacks. It doesn’t breathe like a conventional mattress, and it can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It conforms to your body shape by forming valleys to cradle your body parts. When you roll over into a new position, the mattress takes time to readjust, so at first you’ll be lying awkwardly on the ridges formed from your prior position.

• if you’re considering an inner-spring style mattress, the number of coils per square foot is only one factor. The stiffness and thickness of each coil is more important. And your box spring is also important – it absorbs some of the forces that otherwise would deform the coils over time.

• Besides which, the padding of your mattress is likely to wear out or get compacted long before the coils lose their spring.

• A few years back, manufacturers began making one-sided mattresses that don’t need to be rotated. A lot of pillow-top mattresses have this feature. That sounds good, doesn’t it? You never have to flip your mattress. The trade-off? You’re getting a mattress with half the durability.

• That’s why you should avoid a pillow-top. That turns it into a one-sided, non-flippable mattresses. If you like extra cushioning, you can always use a removable mattress pad instead.

Hope this helps. Just remember – give up trying to make a perfect decision based on complete information. You’re never going to have complete information. Good luck.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Cristello

    I wish I had read this prior to buying my last mattress a number of years ago. I ended up with a Spring Air, Pillow Top mattress. It was great for a year or two, then the pillow top began to sag. It became very lumpy and uncomfortable. I wish I had bought a more standard type of mattress and then just added a removable Pillow top. Another thing you may want to inquire about is the warranty. Mine had a 10 year plan against defects. Last year I put in a claim, only to find that the company I purchased it from went out of business. No problem though, they said that Sleepy’s would take over the contract. So, I called Sleepy’s and they sent someone over to photograph, measure and thoroughly inspect the mattress. It got a better check up than I did from my MD a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, they agreed that it was not functioning as it should and gave me a coupon for a discount on another newer mattress. I didn’t open the coupon which came in the mail, for a couple of months, because I wasn’t ready to shop. Well, when I did open it, I found that the coupon was only good for two weeks. I called, but they wouldn’t honor it. Buyer beware!


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