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How to Choose a Mattress: All You Need to Know

by Lucille Watson

woman sleeping

At a Glance:

How to Choose a Mattress: The Basics

Sleep Hygiene and Best Practices

How to Choose a Mattress For… (Acid Reflux, Back Pain, etc.)

5 Signs You’re Sleeping on the Wrong Mattress

Mattress Shopping in Store or Online?

Our Top 3 Mattress Picks

FAQs

We all know sleep is essential and knowing how to choose a mattress is just as important. Proper sleep affects your mood, overall health, and immune system. Here are a few fun facts about a healthy sleep cycle:

  • A person experiences four to six sleep cycles in one night.
  • REM sleep takes up about 20 to 25 percent of your total sleep.
  • Two hours per night are spent dreaming.
  • Roughly 70 percent of men and just over 75 percent of women use the restroom during the night.

A lot happens to our bodies when we get a full night’s rest, but here are a few statistics on insufficient sleep in the US today:

  • Nearly half of Americans report being sleepy every day of the week.
  • 42 percent of single parents report sleeping less than seven hours per night compared to 32 percent of adults who live with a co-parent.
  • Women have a risk of experiencing lifetime insomnia 40 percent higher than men.

night and day with a brain

While you may not find these stats affecting your own life, a mattress that doesn’t fit to your body and doesn’t play to the benefits of your sleeping position can have a massive impact. Find out how to choose a mattress (whether you have back pain or a newborn) in our comprehensive guide below.

How to Choose a Mattress: The Basics

Foam vs hybrid, firm vs soft, and side vs back sleeping positions are all factors to include when deciding which mattress to choose. Some things to consider are:

  • Which positions you typically sleep in.
  • Where your body has pain points
  • The material your mattress is made of
  • The firmness or softness of your mattress
  • The size of your bed

Follow along below to see which bed is best for you.

Foam vs Hybrid vs Innerspring Mattresses

When you begin your search for the perfect mattress, one of the places to start at is assessing which mattress material is best for you. There are four main types of mattress types to choose from, and all they provide your body with different benefits.

 looking at layers of mattress

Foam

A foam mattress has no coils and is entirely constructed of foam. They provide above-average body contouring, pressure relief, and motion isolation, making them ideal for couples and side sleepers. Memory foam is the most well-known foams utilized in these mattresses.

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses have a main coil-based support system and few other layers. While the coils provide some support, pressure relief is generally lacking in innersprings. Their sleeping surface is bouncy, and motion isolation is limited. These are more popular among budget customers due to their reduced price point.

Hybrid

Hybrid mattresses include two main components: an innerspring support core and a large foam comfort system. Foam, latex, and occasionally even a shorter layer of coils can be found in the comfort layers (called micro-coils). These mattresses offer a combination of bounce and contouring with minimal heat retention and depending on how they are constructed, they may be a suitable match for sleepers in any posture.

Latex

Latex mattresses have excellent bounce and durability, as well as modest contouring. They are a popular choice among eco-conscious buyers when created from natural and organic latex.

How Much Is A New Mattress?

Most mattresses cost between $600 and $2,000 depending on size, firmness level, and material. Take a look at the average range of a Queen size mattress in each of the four main materials below.

Mattress Material Type

Average Price Range

Foam

$900 to $1,300

Innerspring

$600 to $1,100

Hybrid

$1,500 to $2,000

Latex

$1,600 to $2,400

***All prices based on queen size mattresses

How Firm Should My Mattress Be?

The firmness scale for mattresses stretches from numbers two through nine (typically). The higher the number, the firmer the mattress.

Firmness Scale

Firmness Level

Sleep Position

Weight

2

Extra Soft

Side Sleepers

Under 130 lbs.

3

Soft

Side Sleepers

Under 130 lbs.

4

Medium Soft

Side Sleepers or Light-Weight Sleepers

Under 130 lbs. or Side Sleepers Under 230 lbs.

5

Medium

Back and Side Sleepers

Between 130 and 230 lbs.

6

Medium Firm

Side Sleepers or Medium-Weight Sleepers

Between 130 and 230 lbs. or Side Sleepers Over 230 lbs.

7

Firm

Heavier-Weight Side Sleepers or Medium-Weight Back and Side Sleepers

Side Sleepers Over 230 lbs. or Back and Side Over 130 lbs.

8-9

Extra Firm

Back and Stomach Sleepers

Over 230 lbs.

Recommended Read: Mattress Firmness Guide

How to Determine Which Firmness Level is Right

While the scale depicts certain weights and sleeping positions, the choice comes down to how comfortable it feels to you. A few tips on how to choose the right firmness level for you are below.

  1. Regard your preferred sleeping position and weight.
  2. Consider if your mattress at home feels soft or hard for you.
  3. Head to your local mattress store to try out a few different firmness levels. Make sure to lay on a mattress for 10 to 15 minutes.

 Mattress firmness inforgraphic

Sleeping Positions

Sleeping positions are almost something innate within us. Whether you love folding your legs over one another and drifting to your right side or finding yourself gazing at the ceiling as you drift off, everyone has a preferred sleeping position. A good observation to take into account when finding which sleeping position you lean towards is noting which position you naturally wake up in. Consider this as you take a look at the different positions below.

cloud with Zzz’s

Back Sleepers

Sleepers who sleep on their backs exert the most strain on their lower backs. When a mattress is overly soft, the torso sinks in deeper than the upper back and lower body, causing a U-shape that can cause strain. If a mattress is overly firm, the modest bend in the lower back will not be accommodated. As a result, back sleepers benefit from a mattress that is medium-firm to firm with light to moderate contouring.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers are similar to back sleepers in that they place the most strain on the lumbar spine. Side sleepers benefit from a firm mattress that keeps them from forming a U shape and doesn't make them feel suffocated when sleeping face-down on it.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers have strong pressure points in the areas of the body that are the broadest, such as the shoulders and hips. Those points will be out of alignment with the rest of the spine if you sleep on a too-soft mattress. They will feel the force at those spots if the mattress is overly firm, and they will be prone to misalignment. As a result, side sleepers benefit from mattresses that are medium soft to medium firm.

The most significant point to keep in mind when searching for a mattress that aids your natural sleeping position is to make sure your spine is aligned. Damage can happen over time if you’re sleeping on a soft mattress on your side since your shoulders will sink below your spine.

Tips on Sleeping Hygiene and Best Practices

Making sure your sheets are washed every two weeks and a new pillowcase put on your pillow is essential for sleeping hygiene. Other best sleeping practices include keeping your home at a chilled 65 degrees, according to the Sleep Foundation.

The American Sleep Association (ASA) has a few suggestions on sleep hygiene that include maintaining a regular sleep schedule and (bum, bum, bum) avoiding naps. Take a look at a few other tips and tricks on hygiene and best sleeping practices below.

Maintain a Consistent Routine

The ideal sleep routine consists of going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day of the week (give or take a few minutes here and there).

No Napping

It’s sad, but napping actually interrupts our natural sleep cycle. Most adults need roughly eight hours of sleep, but when your afternoons consist of regular hour-long naps, your body is getting too much sleep… which can actually be just as unhealthy as too little.

Don’t Stay in Bed Awake Longer than 10 Minutes

It’s actually better for your mind to physically get out of bed when your brain is racing in the middle of the night. By staying in bed when you can’t sleep (or aren’t sleeping), you’re training your mind to correlate not sleeping with… well, your bed.

No Screen Time

The Blue Light from phones and TV disrupts our circadian rhythm, which in turn decreases our melatonin levels (which is the natural hormone that helps us sleep). If you absolutely need your phone or a TV to help coax you into sleep, then studies suggest:

  • Limit screen time before bed
  • Wear Blue Light blocking glasses
  • Use screen filters
  • Set your devices to night mode

Bring in Clean Air

Purifying your air by opening a window or using an air purifier can help remove bacteria and odors from your room that may disrupt sleep.

Create a Peaceful Environment

Needy pets, warm temperatures, and uncomfortable pillows all cause our bodies to resist sleep. If you have loud neighbors or need noise for sleeping, try a ‘white noise’ machine to drown out unwanted sounds. Also, allowing pets to sleep in the bed with you can be very disruptive. As cute as they are, your pet will be okay sleeping in the living room.

Sleep Health Infographic

How to Choose a Mattress For…

Whether you experience chronic back pain, horrible acid reflux, or you don’t know which type of mattress crib your baby needs, the essentials are below.

Recommended Read: What Mattress is Best for Me?

How to Choose a Mattress for Back Pain

Nearly 65 million Americans experience some sort of back pain, and out of that number, 16 million experience some sort of chronic back pain. That’s eight percent of America’s adult population. Whether these statistics result from poor posture, improper desk chairs, or an inefficient mattress is hard to tell, but at Mattress Land, we know a supportive mattress can improve your situation.

For those 65 million Americans experiencing some sort of back pain, it can be fleeting. Acute back pain is a sudden feeling and lasts for a short time. In contrast, chronic back pain typically lasts more than a few weeks. But acute pain can easily transition into chronic pain if it’s left untreated.

The firmness level of your mattress can greatly impact your back pain. Let’s take a look at the different types of pain and which firmness level we suggest.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is the most common among Americans and affects the last five vertebrae in the back. If you suffer from lower back pain, you might experience the most discomfort in your hips or shoulders due to the extra strain on your lower muscles.

If you are a back or stomach sleeper, you may experience lower back pain more often due to a too soft or too firm mattress that’s putting pressure on your lower vertebras. Keep your eyes out for a medium soft or medium firm mattress that will support your lower back and not put pressure on your spine.

Middle or Upper Back Pain

Your body’s anatomy in your middle or upper back is more stable, resulting in this area of back pain being less common among adults. But, if you have been experiencing chronic upper or middle back pain, we suggest seeing a doctor since there may be a larger underlying issue.

Poor posture is a leading cause of middle and upper back pain due to its strain on your spine. A mattress that focuses on pressure-relieving features is great for any experiencing middle or upper back pain. Also, invest in a quality pillow that will support your spine, neck, and shoulders.

How to Choose a Mattress for Acid Reflux

If you experience the discomfort of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), finding the right firmness level and the mattress is imperative. These conditions cause your stomach acid to release into your esophagus, which can be terribly painful, and most people experience the worst symptoms once they lay down.

Laying on your side can reduce acid reflux, and finding a mattress that supports side sleepers can definitely help. If you do experience significant acid reflux when sleeping, we suggest you raise your bed six to eight inches in height for gravity to help prevent any acid from leaking into the esophagus. Adjustable beds designed for side sleepers will be your bed option.

How to Choose a Mattress for a Child

Children between the ages of three and five should have around 10 to 13 hours of quality sleep a night. This can feel tricky if you have rambunctious kids filled with energy. But with the right mattress, a kid will easily be rested for a full day of fun.

The same considerations come into play when deciding how to choose a mattress for a child as you do with adults. Take into account your child’s sleeping position and weight to determine the mattress firmness level.

The biggest difference when it comes to choosing a mattress for a child is safety. You may want to choose a mattress specifically designed for children with guardrails and other precautions. But, some children may be big enough to easily fit into a Twin XL or Twin size mattress depending on their size.

How to Choose a Mattress for a Baby

Choosing a crib mattress for your child can be stressful. You want to make sure safety is a priority but also that your child is getting the best night’s sleep. Below are a few pointers when deciding how to choose a mattress for your baby.

  • Ensure that the crib mattress you’re considering is Consumer Product Safety Commission certified (CPSC). This certification takes precautions against lead and other hazardous compounds being incorporated into the crib.
  • Consider the ease of cleaning when choosing a mattress for your baby. There are many messes that happen with little ones and having a mattress that is waterproof and wipeable is a huge plus.
  • Having a reversible firmness level crib is an excellent choice to make. As your child gets older, you may realize their sleeping positions change. A reversible firmness level crib will ensure you won’t have to spend extra money on a different type of mattress for your growing baby.

5 Signs You’re Sleeping on the Wrong Mattress

Over 30 percent of American adults in 2022 have reported getting less than the recommended amount of sleep (which is roughly seven) per night. That’s a lot of people working and living below exceptional conditions. And if you’re a single parent, that number jumps to 42 percent!

So, how can you help your body and mind find more rest? One way is to assess if you’ve been sleeping on the wrong type of mattress. Below are five signs to see if you’ve been sleeping on the wrong type of mattress.

  1. You feel excessively tired. Do you wake up often feeling like you just fell asleep? Many times if you’re sleeping on the wrong type of mattress for your body and preferences, your body will feel like it put in work rather than rested from it. A tell-tale sign is if you spend minutes, or even hours, trying to find the perfect spot but never can.
  2. You can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. On average, you should be falling asleep within ten to 20 minutes of hitting the pillow. If you’re not, it could be because your mattress isn’t cradling your body correctly.
  3. Your body hurts. Waking up sore and having to rub your neck isn’t a great sign. Either your mattress isn’t firm enough to support your neck and shoulders, or it’s too firm and causing awkward pressure.
  4. You have bad allergies. Yes! Allergies are a great sign to keep an eye out for to know if it’s time to buy a new mattress. Mildew, pet dander, mold, and dust mites can easily create a home in an old mattress which results in bad sleep and worse allergies for you.
  5. You don’t have the right size bed. A full size mattress may fit some of us but for others, you might find your feet dangling off the edge at night. Or, if you have a partner next to you, you might want to invest in that king size mattress. Feeling cramped and crammed during sleep is not restful.

Shopping for a Mattress Online vs In-Store

It can be tricky knowing whether you need to go to a physical store to buy a mattress or if you can trust a website to tell you everything you need to know about online mattresses. Shopping for a mattress online can be super convenient, but you are potentially risking choosing the wrong mattress for you. If you are going to shop for a mattress online, we recommend checking the store return policy just in case. Many big box retailers or shopping sites like Amazon may make returns difficult and do not have someone available to guide you. At Mattress Land, we’d be happy to provide recommendations for you via phone so you can still choose from the comfort of your home. We’ll list a few pros and cons to shopping for a mattress online or in-store below.

Pros of Shopping for a Mattress Online

  • You have a larger selection since stores will list mattresses they may not have immediately
  • Less hassle from workers
  • You can compare and contrast prices

Cons of Shopping for a Mattress Online

  • You cannot test the items yourself
  • Sometimes what is pictured may not match what you get
  • Potential shipping damage

Pros to Shopping for a Mattress In-Store

  • You will get to compare and contrast mattress types before buying
  • Salesmen are available for any questions
  • You don’t have to rely on a description of the mattress but test it in person

Cons of Shopping for a Mattress In-Store

  • It’s not as convenient since you can’t do it from home
  • You may miss online-only sales or specials

Our Top 3 Mattress Selections

Take a look at what we offer at Mattress Land, whether it’s a mattress for side sleepers or a full size mattress, we’ve got you covered.

1. Best Mattress for Back Pain: Tempur-Pedic® TEMPUR-Adapt® Medium Queen Mattress

 is one of our best medium firm mattresses for back pain. The Conforming Comfort of TEMPUR-ES provides you with a soft feeling mattress pad while the bed itself gives the right amount of firmness for painful pressure points. Also, for those sleepers who run hot during the night, this Queen size mattress features a premium knit cooling cover that feels cool to the touch.

Tempur mattress

Shop Now

Why We Love It:

  • Medium-firm level for those with back pain
  • Conforming Comfort layers
  • Cool-to-touch Cooling Cover

2. Best Mattress for Side Sleepers: Sealy® Response Posturepedic Plus Q3 Determination II Euro Pillow Top Medium Queen Mattress

Since side sleepers need extra support for their hips and shoulders to stay aligned with the spine, a medium-firm level is typically ideal. This Sealy Queen mattress targets your back for extra support through memory gel foam and packed coils. The contrast of the memory foam and the coils will ensure a solid foundation for your body but a comfortable sensation when sleeping. Also, this medium-firm mattress includes the ComfortLoft Knit Cover that helps protect against allergens.

Sealy mattress

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Why We Love It:

  • Targeted back support
  • Extra-supportive gel memory foam
  • Comfort Loft Knit Cover with Chill & AllergenProtect

3. Best Firm Mattress: Spa Retreat Indulgence 1.5 Copper Memory Foam Firm Queen Mattress

Take your sleep schedule to a new level with this Spa Retreat mattress. On top of giving your spine the most support it needs to alleviate back pain, this Queen mattress provides you with heat-regulation technology. By moving heat and moisture away from your body via the wicking fabric and cool copper memory foam, your body will be kept at an ideal temperature all night long. Also, this mattress gives you high density orthopedic support that’ll leave your spine relaxed and rested.

Spa Retreat mattress

Shop Now

Why We Love It:

  • Cool copper memory foam for heat resistance
  • Heat and wicking fabric regulate body temperature
  • Foam orthopedic support

A lot goes into purchasing a new mattress. How it feels, the length of it, the firmness level, and the type of material are just a few things to keep in mind. Take into account which sleeping position you prefer and allow that to be your starting point. Once you know that, assess your weight and material of mattress you prefer. Keep in mind, the best time to purchase a new mattress is around the holidays like Memorial Day or Labor Day and consider which type of sleep trials you’ll receive.

How to Choose a Mattress FAQs

Mattress sizes vary and so do firmness levels and sleeping positions, but here are a few remaining questions and answers for how to choose a mattress for you.

How do I know what mattress is right for me?

The two biggest factors that matter the most when it comes to choosing the right mattress for yourself are firmness and support. Most people choose a firmness level between five and seven to give their spine support and their body comfort.

Is it better to sleep on a hard mattress or soft?

Stomach sleepers should find a firmer mattress while softer mattresses are ideal for side sleepers and couples.

Which mattress is good foam or spring?

Take a look at our breakdown below between foam and spring mattresses to make the best decision for you.

Features

Foam

Spring

Spinal Alignment

Foam mattresses maintain excellent spinal alignment

Great for back pain relief and back support

Motion Isolation

Effectively isolates motion

Allows for motion transfer

Durability

Durable and long-lasting

Less durable

Why Trust Mattress Land?

Since 1996, Mattress Land has been making strides in the mattress industry to provide our customers the sleep experience they need — and deserve. We do that by offering the ultimate customer experience, complete with our trained experts, BedFIT™ computerized diagnostics, and our impressive showroom. We’ll make sure that you find the right sleep solution for your sleeping habits so you can feel energized in your day-to-day life.

We are also proud of our diverse, employee-driven culture, where our teams work hard toward a common goal. We know that better sleep makes all the difference, and our commitment to changing the landscape of traditional mattress shopping is how we know Mattress Land is one of the best mattress stores around.

Shop Mattresses at Mattress Land

At Mattress Land, we provide quality name-brand mattresses for great prices. Our sleep experts are always happy to help you answer the question of how to choose a mattress for you. With locations throughout California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington, Mattress Land is bound to have a sleep solution for everyone. We are more accessible than ever! You can call us at 800-909-9299, visit our website to shop Mattress Land sales, and check out Mattress Land reviews online. Or better yet, stop by one of our showrooms to discover why we are everyone’s favorite local mattress store. Visit us today!

Learn More: A Quick Guide to Mattress Lifespans