Picking the perfect mattress is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your home—it’s, after all, the key to a good night’s sleep—but the sheer number of options when shopping can make it seem like a Mission impossible. It can be exhausting between browsing the various materials and marketing terms, sorting through all the sizes and specifications, and figuring out how much you should spend.
Fortunately, the bedding experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Textile Lab have done extensive testing to find the best mattress for every type of sleeper. We research brands and features, get mattresses reviewed first-hand by analysts and consumer testers, and conduct proprietary surveys with our test panel to get long-term feedback on models they already own. After evaluating hundreds of models over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to shop for the ideal mattress. Before you jump in, remember: there is no one best mattress for everyone. It is important to consider your individual needs when shopping.
What to Consider When Choosing a Mattress
When you lie down, your spine stays aligned. Your sleeping position, body shape, and personal preferences for feel and materials will all play a role in determining which mattress is best for your needs. You’ll also want to consider cost, convenience, durability, and any sleep concerns — namely, whether you’re a heat sleeper, have back pain, or are woken up by your sleeping partner. We’ll break down these topics (and more!) to help you decide. Use fleece mattress topper for mattress proctecter.
Type of mattress
Memory foam and innerspring beds are the most popular types, but add-on structures are also becoming more common, offering shoppers a variety of options. Within each mattress type, you’ll still find a variety of firmness levels and price points. Here’s how to choose a mattress type:
Memory foam mattresses provide the best pressure relief because they mold to your body and take weight off pressure points. Users describe lying on the foam bed as feeling like being held in their arms. These mattresses are especially good for side sleepers or those with back pain, as they reduce pressure on the shoulders and hips, thereby helping to promote proper alignment of the spine. They also help isolate motion, so you’re less likely to feel your sleep partner move.
There are usually multiple layers, with harder foam on the bottom for durability and support, and softer foam on top for comfort. One downside of memory foam is that it tends to trap heat more easily, although many brands now offer built-in cooling to prevent overheating.
A latex mattress feels somewhat similar to memory foam, but it’s more resilient (i.e. bouncy), feels firmer and less prone to sinking. Natural latex is made from the rubber tree and is used in organic mattresses, making it an ideal choice for environmentally conscious shoppers. As a result, it tends to be more expensive than memory foam.
There are two main types of latex you’ll notice when shopping: Dunlop latex (which is usually denser) and Taralay latex (which can be softer to the touch). But in reality, you might not even feel the difference between the two.
These beds are made of steel coils to make them stronger and provide more bounce. Innerspring mattresses feel familiar to many shoppers, especially compared to the boxed mattresses that have become popular in recent years. They are better for back and stomach sleepers, as the firmer surface keeps the spine aligned.
Please consider the coil specification and the number of coils when purchasing. A tape measure tells you the thickness of the steel; it usually ranges from 12-15, with lower numbers meaning it is stronger and more durable. The coil count tells you how many coils are in the mattress; premium models have at least 400 coils in the Queen size. You can also consider pocket springs, meaning each spring is individually wrapped (rather than webbed together) for targeted support.
Hybrid mattresses use memory foam or a combination of latex and coils, so you don’t have to choose just one or the other. These have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for online mattress brands . Typically, C oil is on the bottom for support and foam is on top for pressure relief. Many hybrid beds on the market—especially box-bed brands—feel very similar to foam beds when you lie down. Note that they are more expensive to install and heavier than all-foam alternatives.
While these are less common, adjustable mattresses have an air chamber that allows you to control the firmness of the mattress. They are especially useful for couples with different preferences. They’re expensive, but users consistently tell us their purchases are well worth it due to the quality sleep they get.
Mattress Firmness Rating
Mattresses are often described as soft, medium, medium firm, or firm. Medium firm to medium firm beds are the most popular as they can meet a wide range of needs. When choosing a firmness level, it’s important to consider your sleeping position and body type:
- Sleeping on your side: This is the most common preferred position and is often recommended by doctors to avoid back pain. The best mattresses for side sleepers are soft to medium firm, as they help keep the spine aligned. If it’s too hard, you could end up putting too much pressure on your hips and shoulders.
- Tummy sleepers: A firmer mattress is better for someone who prefers to sleep on their stomach: you don’t want the pressure point to sink too deep in this position.
- Supine: In this case, a medium firmness is ideal. If your mattress is too soft or too firm in this location, you run the risk of not aligning properly.
- Combination pillows: If you’re moving around at night, you can also choose a medium-firm pillow to best support your various positions.
- Heavier body weight: Firmer mattresses are best for heavier bodies, as more weight means more pressure on the bed. Too much pressure can cause the bed to sag and jeopardize the alignment of the spine, leading to back pain. Some of the top-performing mattress brands also make models designed for people over 250 pounds.
- Light sleepers: Smaller frames are better for softer mattresses because they don’t put as much pressure on the bed. If the bed is too hard, it won’t sink far enough to relieve stress on the joints.
Consider your sleeping position and body weight when deciding on the best firmness level. For example, if you are a light sleeper, you can choose medium firmness for a compromise between soft and firm.
Another thing about firmness: Brands sometimes describe their mattresses on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the softest and 10 is the firmest. These ratings can help you compare firmness levels when shopping, but don’t get too attached to the numbers. We often ask mattress testers to rate firmness on a scale of 1-10, and their responses often don’t match what the brand specifies.
In addition to choosing the right mattress type and firmness, you should also consider any specific needs you may have when shopping. Here are some common issues and what to look out for with each:
A cool mattress can help you maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night, especially if you overheat while sleeping. While many factors, including physical condition and summer heat, can contribute to night sweats, and a mattress won’t make them magically disappear, the right bed can certainly help relieve heat sleep.
Note that not all cooling materials are created equal, and memory foam is often the worst culprit of trapped heat. Here are the common types of cooling features you’ll see when shopping:
- BUILT-IN COOLING TECHNOLOGY: Embedded metal particles (such as copper), gel, and phase-change technology are often used in foam beds to draw heat away from the body. Metal and gel help prevent overheating, but their cooling effect tends to be less noticeable in actual use. Phase change technology has the ability to store and release heat, making it perfect for overnight temperature regulation.
- COOL TO THE TOUCH MATERIAL: Sometimes you will notice the instant cooling effect of the cooling cover. They absorb heat instantly but won’t stay cool overnight.
- Breathable Construction: Innerspring and some hybrid mattresses (more coils than foam) will provide more airflow than an all-foam mattress.
- Electric Cooling: There are some plug-in options that use water or air to cool the bed. These are ideal for keeping your mattress consistently cool, though they’re more expensive to maintain and add components that need to be incorporated, such as a cooling unit next to the bed.
The best mattresses for people with back pain have at least some foam to relieve pressure and a medium firmness for support and spinal alignment. We spoke to doctors who specialize in back pain, and they said that an underlying problem could be the cause, but that the right mattress can be a step toward relieving discomfort. Studies show that the right mattress can reduce pain, stiffness, and improve sleep quality by 50-60%.
For anyone who prefers an organic mattress made from natural materials, it’s important to make sure the entire mattress follows strict organic standards, not just one component. Sometimes brands will use organic mattresses and call them organic, which can lead to greenwashing and make it appear greener than it really is . Memory foam can never be organic; instead, look for latex or innerspring mattresses. Check to make sure the bed is certified organic by trusted organizations, including:
- Global Organic Textile Standard ( GOTS ): This provides standards for fabrics such as cotton and wool and ensures strict requirements are followed throughout the manufacturing process, not just the growth of the fibers. We often see GOTS certification being misused in bedding, but you can verify specific brands on their public database.
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): It is similar to GOTS in that it sets standards for the entire production process, but it is specific to the latex component.
Please note that other certifications are available for beds with a green claim, such as OEKO-TEX, GREENGUARD and CertiPUR-US. These let you know that the mattress has been tested to ensure that unsafe levels of harmful chemicals are not present, but they do not, by themselves, verify any organic or natural claims.
Certain specifications about how the bed is made may not be at the top of your mind when you’re shopping, but taking these features into account can play a big role in your satisfaction with the bed. If these questions are important to you, please note the following:
- Motion Isolation: If you or your sleeping partner is moving throughout the night, a mattress that doesn’t make you feel it moving is ideal for a good night’s sleep both you and you. Foam beds eliminate motion better than innersprings, and we found the deluxe foam bed worked especially well.
- Modular firmness: A split bed with interchangeable firmness levels is a great option for sleeping partners with different preferences, especially if you prefer a traditional mattress to an adjustable one. Plus, these beds are easy to remove to move and change your firmness level over time. Both Naturepedic and Bedgar offer modular mattresses, which received good reviews in our tests.
- Edge Support: A common complaint we hear from mattress owners is that their bed sags on the sides. This can be uncomfortable if you sleep on the side of the bed, but that’s mostly because it’s hard to sit on the edge of the bed. Low-cost beds and all-foam mattresses that ship in boxes usually have less edge support.
- Mattress Height: Mattresses that are 14 inches or taller typically have more layers and feel more luxurious to lie on. That being said, shorter mattresses (about 10 inches) are likely to cost less and be easier to install. A lower mattress also makes it easier to put the fitted sheet on.
Check the mattress size before buying to make sure it will fit in your room. A queen-size mattress is the most popular mattress size, but if you have the space, a king-size mattress (equivalent to two twin beds) is ideal for sleeping two people. Here are typical dimensions for each mattress size:
Where to buy mattresses
In addition to knowing which mattress is best for your needs, it’s also important to consider convenience. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both in-store and online shopping when it comes to actually buying a mattress.
The main benefit is that you can feel the mattress for yourself. If you’re going to invest your money in a new bed, it’s certainly worth knowing how it feels in real life. That being said, shopping for mattresses in-store can be more time-consuming, can feel overwhelming, and make it harder to compare mattresses. Plus, it’s hard to know how you’re going to sleep on your mattress after only laying on it for a few minutes at the store. Before shopping, it’s worth doing some research online to make sure you’re not overpaying. If you find a mattress listed online for a lower price, don’t be afraid to ask for a price match or discount.
This new route is a great option if you’re having trouble making a decision, as online direct-to-consumer brands often simplify their product portfolios. Not to mention, comparing models is easier and you can enjoy the comfort and convenience of shopping at home! Note that some online brands say they can offer better prices because they don’t have the markups of brick-and-mortar stores, although we’ve found that this can be a marketing gimmick to mislead shoppers.
Mattress trial period, return policy and warranty
It’s hard to know if your mattress is the right fit without actually sleeping on it, and the last thing you want is a new mattress that you don’t like. The good news is that most companies offer a no questions asked return period of at least 100 nights. Just check to see if there are any hidden return fees and how to do so to avoid headaches down the road. Many companies will arrange a free pick-up, then donate or recycle your mattress, and you’ll get a full refund.