How to Choose a Mattress, According to Science – 9 Factors to Consider

Many mattresses out there will definitely satisfy your sleeping habits. But there are a few big factors you need to be aware of to consider buying something new. Because there’s nothing better than sleeping on a comfortable, plush, and warm mattress night after night. It’s time you find the mattress that’s easiest to maintain and is snug.

You may be tempted to budget your way to a decent mattress, but please don't. For a good night’s rest, a comfortable mattress is very important. With that said, I’d like to show you the results of a poll conducted by National Sleep Foundation. According to this poll, 92% of people said that a comfortable mattress is essential for a full night’s sleep. (1)

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Research also shows that a change in the bedding system can dramatically reduce back pain and other stress-related symptoms. There were signs of reduced neck, shoulder, and back discomfort along with severe muscle stiffness. This study concluded that poor sleep quality is associated with other head concerns that may be reduced with a soft, medium firm sleeping surface. (2)

So why shouldn’t you choose an impeccable mattress? Here’s what you should know about mattresses before buying the right kind. Also, you won’t be able to test a real mattress if you don’t know anything about them!

1. Which Type Of Mattresses Can You Buy?

It goes without saying that there isn’t only a single type of mattress on the market. Mattress manufacturers are always looking for new ways to fabricate a comfortable mattress to suit unique needs. And currently, there are already so many to consider, so finding the type of mattress best for you can be tricky.

Here are some basic types of mattresses and their features:

Memory Foam: Memory foam or viscoelastic mattresses offer an incredible support system of high-density polyurethane. They’re as snug as they are permeable. Most people rely on memory foam mattress because of its highly-adaptive and energy absorbent foam. Memory foam mattresses are also the most recommended foam mattresses by sleep experts.

Memory foam mattress reverses the severe effects of a stiff mattress. It provides immediate back pain relief as much as it provides ergonomic support to the entire body for good posture and flexibility. (3)

The only disadvantage to memory foam mattresses is that they’re not as snug to sleep on in the warm weather as they are in other seasons. (4)

Innerspring: These are more traditional than memory foam mattresses. As the name suggests, innerspring mattresses consists of steel coils called as a “pocket coil” system. It helps reduce pressure points and balance body weight more efficiently. The best quality about innerspring mattresses is that they are suitable for all body types and weight.

Innerspring mattresses are perfect when you like your bed to have a slight bounce. The durable pocket coil system reduces motion transfers so you get less disturbed while sleeping on one side of the bed.

Latex Mattresses: If you want to firm mattress that’s environmentally conscious and substantial, latex is perfect for you. It is mostly dust, mite, and microbial-resistant. Natural latex might come close to memory foam mattresses in terms of firmness, but they’re more long-lasting.

The fact that  latex is all-natural, made of rubber tree, it is more comfortable to begin with. It offers incredible spine alignment and good postural control. Plus, most latex mattresses and hypoallergenic in nature with solid ventilation.

Latex mattresses come in medium to high level of firmness. And as studies suggest, a medium-firm bedding system offers significant improvement in sleep, back pain, and quality of life. (5)

Adjustable Air Mattresses: Air mattresses are more customizable if that’s what you’re after. They might not be as universal in build as memory or latex, but that doesn’t mean they’re not homelike. For a restful night’s sleep, choosing an air mattress is good choice. But they’re far more expensive and not so simple to maintain for the long run.

People who buy air mattresses have specific sleeping preferences. Factors such as comfort, firmness, and motion transfers work well with air mattresses, but they’re not at all similar to the qualities of a memory or innerspring mattress.

But air-pressure mattresses, according to multiple studies, offer healthy blood circulation, pain relief, and improvement in sleep quality. (6)

2. What Kind Of Sleeper Are You?

You can either be a stomach, back, or side sleeper. Or you can be all. But how you sleep is a major factor to consider when choosing a mattress. According to WebMD, it also determines your quality of sleep and health.

Finding the right mattress for your sleeping position may not be as difficult as you might think. So here’s what you need to know about each sleeping position and the type of mattress it suits:

Back: According to research, if you’re a back sleeper, you represent 15% of sleepers in the world. Back sleepers often take on different variations of sleeping positions. People with minor spinal problems are advised to sleep on their backs for better posture and alignment. It also relieves pressure points from your bones and joints.

The best mattress for back sleepers are latex that’s not too firm or too soft to begin with. Medium firmness is ideal for a back sleeper as it doesn’t interfere with weight distribution or cause excessive motion transfer. (7)

Side: Side sleepers find soft foam mattresses most comfortable. And truth be told, there’s lots of health benefits to reap by sleeping on side. For example, a recent study found that sleeping on your back can have a positive effect on reducing cognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. (8)

Side sleepers often require something snug that alleviates pressure off the shoulders and hips. Anything that allows the body to completely sink in promotes neck discomfort and joint pain. So the best mattress for side sleepers helps the body relax and adapts to the natural curves without mistreating the spine. (9)

Stomach: Stomach sleepers have it easy. A typical innerspring or memory foam mattress for people who sleep on their stomach is essential. It’s a known fact that many consistent stomach sleepers have lower back pain and stiffness, so a firmer mattress can do them good.

An innerspring mattress helps correcting spinal alignment while reducing pressure off joints and the shoulders. Typically, for people who sleep on their stomachs, a firmer mattress avoids chronic lower back problems and stiffness.

Mixed: If you’re a mixed sleeper, traditionally, as type of mattress would work for you. Since it’s a combination of stomach, back, and side sleeping positions, the firmness of a latex mattress, the snugness of a memory foam mattress, and the springiness of an innerspring mattress might work.

3. What Are Your Sleeping Habits?

Most people take their sleeping habits for granted. Taking your general sleep habits into consideration to choose the right mattress is essential. If you’re in the market for a new mattress, you should have your physical health, employment status, and quality of sleep in mind. Believe it or not, this matters too.

With that said, according to National Sleep Foundation, your sleeping habits can be grouped into specific categories. This will help you understand what kind of sleeper you are and which mattress suits you the best. (10,11)

Active sleeper: Those entering their teenage or 20s are often found to be active sleepers. They are mostly young, with a healthy lifestyle. So symptoms such as fatigue and weariness is often never a medical condition to worry about.

That said, children and young adults sleep for more hours than older adults. (12)

So a latex mattress would support the whole body and relieve pressure off joints when sleeping for a longer time. This also reduces muscle soreness and lethargy after a full night’s sleep.

Early riser: If you’re an early riser, it means you sleep early and have a strenuous work life. Doing many things in the day can drain most of your energy and stamina. So the physical and mental health are equally stressed out as you get closer to the end of the day.

Early risers often work for more than 40 hours a week with limited physical exercise. So they’re more likely to feel fatigued when it’s time to go to bed.

That said, memory foam mattresses do their best at relieving joint and muscle pain and soreness. They support your neck and shoulders to relieve stress while minimizing motion transfer (if you have sleeping partner).

The Nap Enthusiast: If you take naps in the middle of the day because you run too many shifts for work, it means you sleep less than most people. For anyone who sleeps less, snoring is a major problem. According to medical report, sleep apnea is directly associated with snoring. (13)

For someone with a snoring problem, buying a supportive memory foam mattress can promote proper alignment of your neck and head. This helps reduce excessive relaxation of your airway, which alleviates habitual snoring.

4. Choosing The Right Mattress Size

Apart from relying the comfortable sleeping surface of mattresses, it’s important to buy the right size. Your bed and mattress should bond well with each other for you to have a good night’s rest. You will never be comfortable if the mattress is a bit too small or too big compared to your bed and bedroom size.

Based on multiple researches, I found the ideal mattress size chart for you. This will help you find the perfect sized mattress for your bed without compromising on quality and convenience. (14,15)

Twin Size: Unlike the name suggests, a twin sized mattress is actually a single sized one. People often mistake it for double as in “twin” sized to fit two grown adults comfortably. Twin mattresses are 38 inches wide and 75 inches long.

Twin XL size: Twin XL mattresses are often found in college dormitories and hostels. They’re only slightly longer than twin mattresses, measuring 38 inches wide and 80 inches long.

Ideal for: Adults living alone such as in studio apartments. Always perfect for teenagers and young adults living in dormitories.

Full size: Also referred to as a double mattress, a full sized mattresses are good for sleeping, reading, and sitting. On the other hand, twin size mattresses are only ideal for sleeping. Full size mattresses are 53 inches wide and 75 inches long.

Ideal for: Children and teenager’s bedrooms. It gives them plenty of room to lie down or sit or read a book comfortably.

Queen: Queen size mattresses are ideal for adults sleeping alone. It’s 60 inches wide and 80 inches long. It’s always comfortable enough for couples, being one of the most popular mattress size for families.

Ideal for: Single sleepers who love sleeping on their back and stomach. Also best for couples due to the increased width size.

King size: King size mattresses are 76 inches wide and 80 inches long. They’re of the same length as queen size mattresses and 16 inches wider. This allows plenty of room for couples to sit, lie down, and read books on. It offers a more flexible arrangement to move around without fighting for space on either side.

Ideal for: Big, comfortable bedrooms.

California King: This is the biggest and most comfortable mattress size on the market. It is 72 inches wide and 84 inches long. The increased length makes it perfect for people with an average height of 6 feet.

Ideal for: Single sleepers who are at least 6 feet all. Couples with one or more pets.

5. Determining Your Budget

Setting a flexible, but accurate budget for choosing a mattress is very important. It helps you navigate through the mattress buying process more comfortably and efficiently. Many retail stores offer mattresses at a bargain price, while some add up your expensive with hefty warranties and additional accessories.

Depending upon what you want, fixating on a set budget also helps in negotiating a valuable price. Because so many people are buying good-quality mattresses, you can now buy them at modest prices rather than pay exorbitant amounts for a great bedding system.

Once you determined the type and size of mattress you want, you always consider purchasing online. Based on my research, online mattress stores offer high-quality products at a lower price than retail stores. You’d pay at least 30% less for a good bedding system online than in a retail store.

But research also suggests that researching for good prices and products online helps customers make smarter in-store purchasing decisions to save money and enhance quality. (16)

So how can you set a clear budget to choose the right mattress? (17)

  1. First things first, it’s not always practical to equate price with quality. If you buy an expensive mattress, there is a chance you might end up with a mattress you’re not at all comfortable with.

  2. You can’t always buy cheap. If you’re willing to invest in a good mattress, setting a minimum budget of at least 800 dollars is essential. This is especially important when you want a bigger, more spacious mattress for your bedroom.

  3. If you spend less than a set amount on the market, you are sure to expect durability issues after a few months. So even if you’re setting a budget that’s not too expansive, going beyond the market value is not ideal for a great bed.

  4. Your budget determines the shelf life of the mattress. And vice versa. Mattresses generally last for not more than 8 to 10 years. So compromising of longevity is not an option when you’re setting a budget.

6. Always Check The Temperature

The type of mattress you need also depends on the temperature level of each mattress. With so many types of mattresses available, finding the right temperature can be difficult.

For example, there are certain kinds of mattresses that are a combination of memory, latex, and other materials. Such mattresses are generally referred to as hybrid mattresses. Hybrid mattresses offer incredible air circulation and cooling. It also includes an innerspring system to increase support and elevation.

According to some research, a hybrid mattress offers the features of both gel memory and memory foam. This helps keep body temperatures in check in all kinds of seasons, especially in warmer climates. (18)

On the other hand, memory foam mattresses are more temperature sensitive than latex or innerspring mattresses. They are slightly unable to adapt to your curves, especially in hot climates. So there is a possibility you might feel hot or unusually warm in the middle of the night on a memory foam mattress. (19)

Latex mattresses feature an open rubber-extract structure which promotes proper air ventilation. They also contain ergonomically balanced pinholes for better airflow and circulation. During the construction process, all-natural latex mattresses go through several testing rounds for airflow which make them the standard go-to buy for hot sleepers. (20)

The thermal properties of innerspring mattresses are also very impressive. They provide a cooler and snug sleeping environment for all types of sleepers. To accurately measure the effectiveness of innerspring mattresses, a study was conducted by Leggett & Platt.

This study proved that innerspring mattresses make use of exclusive thermal coating to stimulate normal body temperatures. It offers long-term cooling which keeps the body temperature under normal ranges. (21)

According to WebMD, insomnia is associated with bad sleeping temperatures. Your bedroom’s temperature is an important factor to consider when buying a mattress. A rise in temperature affects your brain and Rapid Eye Movement.

7. Buy According To Your Body Weight

The way your mattress reacts to your body largely depends on how much you weight. If you buy a thin memory foam mattress, it may not be as comfortable as an innerspring mattress when you’re a heavy sleeper. Hence, knowing your body type is important for the mattress buying process. (22)

With that in mind, let’s look at various mattress preferences for different body weights:

Less than 150 pounds: These are the light sleepers. Light sleepers are most comfortable with medium firmness, that is latex or memory foam mattresses. The top layers of the mattress don’t sink in completely which supports the spinal area, neck, and hips.

150 to 200 pounds: These are the average sleepers. Average sleepers often fall right in the middle of the universal category. Mattresses of medium, luxury, and more than medium firmness can suit them best.

More than 200 pounds: These are the heavy sleepers. If you’re a heavy sleeper, it is likely you are putting great pressure on your mattress. So a medium firm mattress is not suitable for you. You need either an innerspring or a customized hybrid mattress to support your spinal and hips region. Plus, heavy sleepers have extreme night sweat problems that leads to tossing and turning.

It’s true that each individual has his own sleeping habits and needs. But the main aim of considering body type for choosing the right mattress is relieving pressure points to avoid pain and discomfort. Also, the right kind of mattress makes it easy on you to get up from and lay back down on the bed.

8. Choosing The Right Firmness Level

When shopping for a brand new mattress, choosing the mattress firmness is just as important as selecting the right type. So what do you need to know about mattress firmness? When deciding about the level of firmness in your mattress, you should think about comfort. That is how soft and cozy the mattress is.

While some mattresses offer medium firmness, there are others that have a more relaxed firmness level. It’s important to remember that firmness level and support level are two different factors. If a mattress is extremely firm, it doesn’t mean more support. The support level of each mattress depends greatly upon your body type, mattress size, and type.

To better judge the firmness level of a mattress, you can either opt for soft, medium firm, or adjustable. Too stiff or too soft mattresses effect various pressure points which makes it difficult to get off and on the bed. (23)

To be fair, there’s no definite way to distinguish between various firmness levels of different mattresses. That said, there isn’t any universal firmness scale to count on when choosing the right mattress. But there are certain firmness scales that help consumers distinguish better.

For example, the scales start from 1 (very soft) to 10 (very firm). For a good balance of both soft and firm, choosing a firmness scale somewhere between 4 to 6 is ideal. That said, not many people opt for 10 firmness scale as it hardly offers any padding that supports spinal alignment. So it’s always better to stick to 1 to 8 level of firmness. (24)

On an ending note, a good firmness level means better spinal alignment, postural control, and back support. The average, preferred firmness range for most people is 5 as it offers a great balance between conformity, support, and breathability.

9. Don’t Forget To Test The Mattress

After taking all factors into consideration, it’s important to test the mattress before buying. Through testing it first-hand will you be able break down its precise features and performance.

So what’s the correct method to test a mattress?

  1. Start off by reading about all the features of the mattress on its label. Check its type, firmness level, size, and whether it’s resistant to dust and mites. Ask for any special feature or warranties that may influence the total cost of the mattress. You can even look at what other mattress manufacturers usually offer so you are well-aware of what to ask for.

  2. Measure your bedroom space, especially where you decide to place the bed. This will give you an idea about the size and type of mattress you need to buy. Now is the correct time physically test the mattress.

  3. Lie down on the mattress of your choice and try different sleeping positions for at least 2-3 minutes. This will give you a good idea about how firm and supportive the mattress is. It’s important to remember that not every mattress is as the label describes it to be. So testing each mattress out physically before buying is very critical.

  4. The next thing is to check whether the mattress is dust resistant and mite resistant. As discussed before, dust mite is a major concern in mattresses. It causes allergies, skin infections, and is not good for your respiratory system and skin. Being aware of how durable your mattress is along with its protective warranty is important to the mattress buying process.

  5. According to a recent report, the important areas of assessing mattresses includes flammability score, roller durability, springiness, and foam compression. (25)

That said, these tests are carried out by mattress manufacturers to test the mattress strength, durability, and firmness. These are more technical terms, to begin with, but they’re equally important if you want a solid mattress.

Based on this report, it’s important to:

  • Test whether the springs in an innerspring mattress have enough volume and pliability.

  • Assess the foam compression of memory foam mattresses that help alleviate motion transfers and plunging after months of use.

  • Test the latex fillings of a mattress after lying down and pressing on the different layers that make up the mattress.

Should You Buy A New Mattress?

How do you know you need a new mattress? Or how do you whether the bed you’re currently sleeping on is right for you or not?

If you frequently wake up with lower back pain or neck and shoulder discomfort, it’s a definite sign. While most people overlook such health signs as the faults of their mattress, experts suggest you do otherwise. Choosing a new mattress based on meticulous is, for the first time, the most effective way to get a full night’s rest. The more spend your time on a bad mattress, the more health concerns it brings with it.

And you don’t want to struggle with a chronic back problem because of a stiff bedding system.

There are other factors that might make your current mattress unsatisfactory. It may be because of cheap quality of the mattress that makes it sink lower and lower until it looks and feels flat. Or it may be because your bed is home to dust mites due to improper air circulation and poor material quality.

Some people have mild allergic reactions because of their mattress quality. Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and a running nose can be because of allergies. And according to National Sleep Foundation, the worse the symptoms get, the lesser the duration of a good night’s sleep. So buying a hypoallergenic mattress, such as a latex mattress, can help alleviate allergic symptoms.

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So are you ready to buy a new mattress? It’s important to note the factors I’ve discussed above. If you’ve had a mattress for years and it’s still causing you discomfort and pain, then it’s time to choose the next mattress the right way. In recent times, consumers conduct their own brief research online before buying. This helps them stay in the loop and get the best quality at an incredible price.

I’m sure you would want the same thing, this time. So what’s stopping you? Is it lack of knowledge or you’ve been fooled too many times in the past? Rest assured, this post will boost your confidence (and your judgement) so you can get your hands on the best mattress on the market.

If you’ve come this far, it’s certain that you figured out what you’ve been missing out on for so long! All this effort into choosing a mattress will be worth it once you sleep on a comfortable and cool mattress. It goes without saying that it’s important to invest both your effort and money in something you spend most of your time on.