Before You Buy - Mattresses



Since you spend one-third of your life in bed, commit some time to shopping for your new mattress. A little research about the features and benefits available can pay off a many times in the quality of your sleep for the years to come. If you are like most people, you won’t replace your mattress for 7 to 10 years. Therefore you will have to live with your decision – so make a good one! Remember, a good mattress can make a noticeable difference in your health, attitude, and well being.


Wear comfortable clothing when going to test mattresses. You’ll be getting in and out of a handful of beds. The more comfortable you are when doing so, the better. You should remove your shoes (if you're a woman, it's best to go mattress-shopping in jeans or slacks) and lay down on several different models in various positions, especially the one you usually sleep in. Pay special attention to the support at the lower back, postural alignment (as if you were standing) and level of comfort at the shoulders and hips. Don't be embarrassed! This is serious stuff! Bring a pillow and use it!

Imagine yourself asleep!  Relax and let your body tell you what's comfortable for you today. Your comfort preferences may have changed since your last mattress purchase, so don’t think that just because you have a firm mattress now, that you still need a firm mattress.  Lie on the mattresses you are considering for at least ten minutes, trying different positions — especially the ones you sleep in. It will take a few minutes to really find out if a mattress supports you the way it should.  Some people have suggested this rule of thumb: when lying on your back — slide your hand under the small of your back. If it is very easy to do and your shoulders and hips are uncomfortable, the mattress is probably too hard. If there is no space between your back and the bed, it is probably too soft. Roll over — if it is very hard to roll over the bed is probably too soft.

Remember to test the mattress on the foundation that it is designed to be on. Definitely shop with your partner so the selection of your new bed is made together. Those few extra minutes of focusing on the "feel" of different mattress choices can save a lot of time later.
Roll around.  Get in and out.  See how much movement you feel because that is what you will feel when your partner is tossing and turning.

The SLEEP Test

Remember the SLEEP Test when you are checking out new mattresses.
Select a mattress
Lie down in your sleep position
Evaluate the level of comfort and support
Educate yourself about each selection
Partners should try each mattress together

Remember, too, that you'll spend nearly a third of every day on this new mattress – consider this an investment in a good night's sleep and a good start to every day. What's more, consumer research shows that nearly 90% of the people who buy a mattress are very satisfied with their choice afterwards, many reporting that a better mattress translates into better sleep.



Unless you've come from another planet, you are limited to three main sleeping positions: on your back, on your stomach, or on your side, though is common for people to use more than one position during the night. Depending on what position you are sleeping in, different parts of your body will need to be supported.

Some say that a "firm" or hard mattress will provide better support. But what really matters is that a mattress distributes pressure evenly across your body thus providing better support. Some experts recommend firm mattresses because back and stomach sleepers will not sag into the surface and will prevent spinal bending that can result in back pain.

Back sleepers usually benefit from mattresses that offer support to fill in the gaps in the contours of the back, but at the same time provide enough comfort as not to feel like a board. Keep in mind that it is easy to add some softness to a firm mattress with padding. Also keep in mind that firm mattresses are designed to feel hard, so in some cases adding a pad will not make it feel like a soft mattress or soft enough.

Side sleepers experience a great deal of pressure from putting the most weight on smaller areas of the body, reducing circulation and causing increased tossing and turning. A softer mattress can help a side sleeper by minimizing pressure in these areas. A recent study of adults with chronic back pain showed that sleeping on a medium firm mattress will create less back pain than on a firm mattress.


Considering that most people sleep better when a partner isn’t crowding them, you should buy the largest size mattress that fits your bedroom and your budget. Make sure you have room to stretch out. Whether the mattress is a twin, a full, a queen or a king, you'll know if it's spacious enough if you don't feel like you are being crowded.


COMFORT. Gone are the days when a mattress had to be hard-as-a-board to be good for you. A too-hard mattress may only succeed in putting your shoulders and hips to sleep. You'll sleep best when your bed helps you feel cradled in comfort, cozy and secure.
Today's top quality mattress/foundation ensembles are built for superior comfort. Luxurious new cushioning materials and extra-soft surface treatments create a plusher, more comfortable feel.

SUPPORT. Correct support is the essential ingredient for a healthy body. A good mattress and foundation will gently support your body at all points and keep your spine in the same shape as a person with good standing posture.
Pay special attention to your shoulders, hips, and lower back—the heaviest parts. If there's too little support, you can develop back pain. But if the mattress is too hard for you, you can experience uncomfortable pressure.
A word about "firm." Don't rely on product labels to tell you which mattress will give you the right support. One manufacturer's "firm" may feel harder than another's "extra firm." The only way to find out if the support is right is to lie down and try.

DURABILITY. It's the quality of the materials used and how they're put together that determine how long a mattress and foundation will provide the comfort and support you bought them for. The best assurance of good performance over a good many years is to buy the highest quality sleep set you can afford.
A word about the warranty. Don't look to the warranty to tell you how long to keep your mattress and foundation. It's there to protect you against product defects, not against the gradual loss of comfort and support. A sleep set may still be usable after 15 or 20 years, but it's not giving you the good night's sleep you deserve.

SPACE. Cramped quarters can turn sleeping into a nightly wrestling match. A healthy sleeper moves anywhere from 40-60 times a night, including some dozen full body turns. You need freedom of motion while you sleep and to help you relax while getting to sleep.
If you sleep with a partner, be sure to select queen or king size. Both are not only wider, but several inches longer than the standard "double" (full size), which offers each sleeper only as much space as a baby in a crib.


A mattress and foundation are engineered to work together as a set, and the foundation takes a lot of the nightly wear and tear and contributes to the bed's overall comfort and support. Putting a new mattress on an old foundation, pairing it with a foundation it wasn't designed to work with or adding a board between the mattress and foundation will impede comfort and reduce the useful life of your new mattress. It may also affect the manufacturer's warranty coverage.


Perhaps a better question is how long will your mattress continue to provide the comfort and support you need to assure the best night's sleep? How long your mattress will last depends on many factors. Is the mattress used nightly or it a guest room mattress? Was the mattress a top quality mattress when originally purchased? The weight and the sleep habits of the people who sleep on a mattress all factor into how long it will maintain optimum performance. People's bodies change over time, and their need for adequate comfort and support increases as they get older. That's why it's a good idea to compare the mattress and foundation you are sleeping on now to newer models at least every few years. Studies show that 90% of people who purchase a new mattress are satisfied with their choice and its impact on the quality of their sleep. Mattress technology is constantly advancing, and it's worthwhile to visit a store and take the SLEEP Test just to see what's new in better sleep and comfort.


Let's test your mattress knowledge.  With the proper care, what is the normal LIFESPAN OF A MATTRESS?

A. Three to five years.

B. Five to seven years.

C. Eight to 10 years.

Correct Answer: Five to seven years
How long a mattress will last depends on several factors, such as amount of use and original quality, but in general, a mattress set that has been in use 5-7 years is no longer providing you with the best comfort and support. Keep in mind that people's bodies change over time, and the need for good comfort and support only increases with age. That's why it's a good idea to compare the mattress and foundation you are sleeping on now to newer models every few years.