How To Choose A Mattress In 7 Steps: The Ultimate Mattress-Buying Checklist

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Choosing the right mattress is a significant decision that makes a world of difference in how you feel and how you live your life. Whatever you do, don’t neglect this impactful decision!

The question is “How to Choose a Mattress?”

In the search for the answer, we have put together this ultimate guide to help you find the best mattress according to your needs. With our Mattress Buying Checklist below, you can choose the perfect mattress without any second-guessing, stress, or overwhelm.

Read on!

Related: Best Mattresses of 2022

Step 1: When Should You Buy A New Mattress?

According to the CDC, there is a link between a lack of sleep and heart disease, depression, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. If your mattress is failing you, then it can severely impact your life.

If you’re second-guessing the quality of your mattress, then it’s probably time for a new one.

The average life span of a mattress is about 8 years.

More important than any statistic, is how you feel sleeping on your mattress. If sleeping becomes a nightmare instead of a relaxed dream, then you should consider a new mattress.

Look for these clues that signal the end of life for your mattress:

  • Your mattress is sagging
  • Your mattress shows apparent wear and tear
  • Your mattress has more dust than an abandoned attic
  • You wake up with stiffness or drowsiness
  • You’ve owned your mattress for more than ten years
  • You disturb your partner while on your mattress, or vice versa

Most importantly, pay attention to how you feel as you’re sleeping, and after you wake up.

Is your bed comfortable? Do you wake up well-rested and recharged? Are you ready to successfully tackle a new day?

Going to sleep is a fantastic event that you should look forward to and enjoy. If so, then your mattress is probably excellent. But, if you dread laying on your mattress, then your mattress probably needs to go.

If you think that a new mattress is warranted, then consider the following mattress characteristics and considerations.

How To Choose A Mattress

Step 2: Here Are the Most Important Mattress Characteristics to Consider

You can easily choose a mattress that matches your body shape, comfort preference, and lifestyle. The key is to understand these essential mattress characteristics.

1 – Size

How To Choose A Mattress

You can easily find a mattress that fits your lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you want a bed for yourself, or if you share with a partner, children, or two golden retrievers.

You may find that mattress size varies slightly from brand to brand. However, it’s still a good idea to know the fundamental mattress sizes.

A list of the conventional mattress sizes and estimated mattress dimensions:

  • Twin – (39 inches by 75 inches)
  • Twin XL (39 inches by 80 inches)
  • Full (54 inches by 75 inches)
  • Queen (60 inches by 80 inches)
  • King Size (76 inches by 80 inches)
  • California King (72 inches by 84 inches)

We love this mattress size chart, and the list above reflects their proposed dimensions.

2 – Firmness

How To Choose A Mattress In 7 Steps: The Ultimate Mattress-Buying Checklist 1

The first thing to know about mattress firmness is that there’s a firmness scale from 1-10. Let’s take a quick look at a level 1, 5, and 10, so you can get a better idea of how the firmness scale works.

Level 1: SoftLevel 5: Medium Level 10: Firm
A mattress firmness of 1 indicates an extra soft mattress. Level 1 softness is your ideal level if you love the idea of snuggling and disappearing in the comfort of your extra-fluffy mattress. If you want the ultimate level of sinkage, then consider a mattress at this lower end of the scale.
A mattress firmness of 5 indicates medium firmness. The surface of this level-5 mattress will still offer some conformity. Yet, they’re not nearly as soft as a level-1 mattress. This level of firmness usually has the most positive rating from users.
A mattress with the firmness of 10 offers much less softness compared to their lower-tiered varieties. This level of firmness is ideal if you don’t want any sinkage. This level of firmness is great for heavyweight users.

3 – Thickness

If you browse mattresses in person, then the thickness of your mattress is one of the first things you notice. That’s because different mattresses sport widely varying levels of depth! Some mattresses are barely 10 inches in thickness, and others are much thicker and stack-in at over 14 inches or higher. This usually associated with sleeper weight. Thicker mattress tends to serve heavy users better, while light sleepers might enjoy thinner mattresses more.

Step 3: What Type of Sleeper Are You?

If you want to choose the perfect mattress, then consider who you are as a sleeper. Let’s look at three critical sleeping categories to help determine just that.

1 – Sleeping Position

Different sleep positions

Your sleeping position makes a significant impact on which type of mattress you’ll like the most. When your body rests in varying positions, different levels of firmness are ideal.

Let’s look at the four primary sleeping positions:

The “Back” SleeperThe “Stomach” SleeperThe “Side” SleeperThe Combination Sleeper
You’ll probably find that a firm mattress (level 7-8) offers adequate comfort for a snug yet comfortable position. A firm mattress aids and renders support for your shoulders, neck, and back.
Your stomach isn’t as rugged as your back. At the same time, you want your bed to feel supportive. You’ll probably find ultimate comfort and support with a mattress of medium firmness (try a level 5-7).
If you’re a side sleeper, then you love to stay as comfortable as possible. You want to offer a soft cushion for the side of your body, shoulders, and neck. You might consider a slightly softer mattress. Consider a bed with a firmness level of 3-5 for ultimate relaxation.
As a switch sleeper, you love to experiment. You continuously strive to find the ultimate comfort zone. Since you may change positions regularly, it’s a great idea to stay on the soft rather than firm side. Consider a bed in the 4-5 firmness range so you can maximize comfort and support.

2 – Your Weight

Your body weight plays a significant role in determining the ideal firmness of your mattress. That’s because different weight categories interact with mattresses differently.

Let’s examine different weight categories for maximum mattress comfort:

A light sleeper’s body isn’t heavy enough to sink into a firm mattress. For that reason, light sleepers might prefer soft mattresses. Consider a mattress firmness of 4 or below.
A medium sleeper of average weight will probably find maximum comfort in a bed of ordinary firmness (consider a firmness level of 5). Though remember, that unique tastes and preferences vary.
Heavier sleepers might appreciate the firmness and support that mattresses high on the firmness scale provided. Consider a mattress with a firmness scale of 6 or higher depending upon how much support you desire.

3 – Sleeping Temperature

Your mattress affects your sleeping temperature in two ways.

First, the material of your mattress influences temperature. Some specially formulated mattress materials help to absorb heat, while others are neutral. If your mattress absorbs heat, then this is bad news if you’re typically uncomfortably hot while sleeping.

The firmness of your mattress also impacts temperature by providing adequate airflow. While a lack of airflow may not necessarily increase your temperature, it can surely make you feel less comfortable if you’re a hot sleeper.

When your mattress is soft, it’s easier to sink into the deep soft crevice of your mattress, thereby reducing airflow.

On the other hand, firm mattresses don’t absorb you into the mattress. Instead, you lay more flatly on top of your mattress, which can help promote airflow.

Step 4: How Much Should You Spend on a Mattress?

How To Choose A Mattress

The price of mattresses varies based upon the material, the brand, and the model. As you shop online or in a brick and mortar mattress store, you’ll notice a huge variance in price. Also, remember that the size of the mattress also helps determine the cost.

Let’s look at the five most popular types of mattress sorted by cost:

  • Innerspring ($600 – $1,000) – Innerspring mattresses are the most common mattress style because of their widespread use, and relatively straightforward design. They’re also among the most budget-friendly options.
  • Memory Foam ($700 – $1,100) – Memory foam mattresses boast impressive comfort and support features. Memory foam mattresses are arguably the best bang for your mattress buck and are in the same ballpark as innerspring mattresses.
  • Latex ($1,400 – $2,000) – This type of mattress boasts a level of comfort that only latex offers! Latex is rubber made of synthetic or natural sources. While latex boasts amazing support features, a latex mattress often costs much more than memory foam or innerspring mattresses.
  • Hybrid ($1,700 – $2,000) – A hybrid bed sports a fantastic comfort layer atop a spring-filled core. Because of the intricate design and various comfort features, a hybrid style mattress is another expensive option.
  • Airbed ($2,000 – $2,500) – Airbed mattresses contain inner chambers of air. The uppermost portion of the airbed mattress boasts a comfort layer with latex or memory foam. Because of the various moving parts, an airbed is easily the most expensive mattress style.

Please note that the price points above are just rough estimates! Your results may vary big time based upon the specific brands, mattress styles, and retailers that you choose.

Step 5: What Types of Mattresses Are Available on The Market?

You have nearly-infinite options when looking for the perfect mattress.

As you browse different styles and brands, you’ll see that many models are unique hybrids. Many mattresses also contain distinct layers, so that no brands or styles are indeed alike.

Besides, it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with the following mattress types, so you have a general idea of your options.

Memory Foam Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress

The standard foam mattress is easily one of the most popular materials for mattresses, and a good reason. If you want an affordable mattress that offers optimal support, then foam mattresses are a great choice.

Foam mattresses often contain memory foam. Memory foam is fantastic because it forms around your body, providing maximum comfort and support. There are several foam mattresses that have special infused covering such as bamboo mattresses.

Related: Top 5 Best Bamboo Mattress

Did you know that NASA invented memory foam in the 1970s? The original idea of memory foam was crash protection for airline pilots. Who would have guessed that it’s also an excellent material for mattresses?

Foam Mattress Pros:

  • Foam mattresses help to form around your body, thereby reducing pressure points.
  • If your budget isn’t the biggest, then foam mattresses are a great choice.
  • Foam mattresses are hugely popular, so you have lots of buying options.

Foam Mattress Cons:

  • Memory foam mattresses hug your body so it can reduce airflow.
  • Some memory foam mattresses may emit a slight chemical-like scent.

Latex Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress

Latex is a particular type of rubber that offers terrific support features for mattresses. Latex mattresses are easily one of the best options if you want the ideal combination of comfort and support.

However, the cost of producing latex is relatively expensive. As a result, latex mattresses are usually some of the more costly varieties.

Latex Mattress Pros:

  • Latex mattresses offer fantastic comfort similar to memory foam.
  • If you suffer from a stiff back or neck, then a latex mattress offers outstanding support.
  • Latex mattresses are super durable and won’t wear quickly.

Latex Mattress Cons:

  • Latex is usually firmer than memory foam mattresses. If you love ultra-soft mattresses, look elsewhere.
  • Latex mattresses run a little expensive. If you are a budget shopper, a latex mattress isn’t ideal.

Innerspring Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress

Innerspring mattresses are the most common beds that you’ll find. An innerspring mattress supports your body with springs.

Usually, the springs inside the mattress come padded with layers of various foam and mattress cover.

While innerspring mattresses are easily the most common and least expensive, they aren’t ideal in all situations.

If you’re very sensitive to motion, then your partner’s movements may disturb you on an innerspring mattress.

Innerspring Mattress Pros:

  • Innerspring mattresses are the most common. Regardless of which retailer you choose, they will likely boast many innerspring mattress choices.
  • Innerspring mattresses are easily one of the most affordable mattress options.
  • Innersprings are widely available mattresses, so you have endless styles and brands to choose from.

Innerspring Mattress Cons:

  • Innerspring mattresses with bottom-barrel prices may offer the least body-support. Be wary!
  • Innersprings offer little in the way of motion-suppression. If your partner tosses and turns, you may feel every movement.

Hybrid Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress

A hybrid mattress combines the best of both worlds.

The first part of the hybrid mattress is the support core. The support core usually consists of coils like those found in a traditional innerspring mattress.

A hybrid mattress also contains a splendidly fluffy padded layer on the top to help maximize comfort and support. This protective layer’s material is most often memory foam or latex.

Hybrid Mattress Pros:

  • Hybrids offer superior comfort and support compared to plain innerspring mattresses.
  • The added foam layer provides decent motion-isolation.
  • The added foam and comfort layer gently contour your body.

Hybrid Mattress Cons:

  • Hybrid models are expensive. If you’re on a small budget, then hybrid mattresses aren’t your first choice.
  • Remember the potential downsides of memory foam. Memory foam may emit a chemical-like odor and isn’t ideal if you sweat during your sleep.

Airbed Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress

Are you an outdoorsman and love to pack hiking gear in your truck? Then you might think that an airbed mattress is some shoddy blowup that you keep in the back of your car.

While “old school” air mattresses are fantastic on the go, we’re talking about premium airbed mattresses.

An airbed mattress boasts interior chambers filled with air. These chambers easily adjust the comfort level and support level of your mattress.

The best part is that some mattress models enable you to control the firmness of your airbed mattress with a remote or app.

Atop the varying levels of support provided by the air chambers, there’s a comfort layer of memory foam or latex. Together, the air chambers and comfort layer combine to create a fantastically customized sleep experience.

Airbed Mattress Pros:

  • Very easy to customize to match your firmness and comfort preference.
  • Some air beds accommodate you and your partner’s taste, allowing you both to rest harmoniously at independent comfort levels.
  • Airbeds provide a coil-free mattress experience that lasts under the right conditions.

Airbed Mattress Cons:

  • Premium air bed mattresses are, without a doubt, the most expensive mattress option.
  • Repairs to your airbed mattress also run steep. Pay close attention to your bed’s warranty!

Step 6: What to Consider Before Buying Your Mattress?

Now that you have a general idea of different types of mattresses that exist, let’s look at the following mattress buying subtleties.

Shipping and Delivery

How To Choose A Mattress

The marvelous thing about buying mattresses these days is that you have many options. The even better part is that most of these services (especially online services) make mattress shipping and delivery a breeze.

If you live in the continental US, you can expect your mattress shipped to your home inside a week or two.

If you buy a mattress locally, there’s a good chance that you receive your mattress sooner, but not always. Always double-check with your preferred mattress carrier to check shipping options and any applicable fees.

Sleep Trial and Returns

One of the most stressful things about buying your mattress online is that you haven’t had a chance to sleep in it! That’s why sleep trials are such a big deal.

Sleep trials allow you to test the mattress thoroughly for a set period without any risk. If you decide that the mattress isn’t for you, then you can quickly return (or exchange) the mattress without stress.

Different mattress brands offer wildly different sleep trials, so pay close attention to the details of your favorite mattress vendor.

Some mattress brands are overly confident in their mattress and offer sleep trials of 100 days, 365 days, or more. Others provide minimal sleep trials or no sleep trials. So, pay attention to the sleep trial policy on any mattress that you consider trying!

Mattress brands that offer fair sleep trials:

  • Helix (100-nights)
  • Tuft & Needle (100-nights)
  • Purple Mattresses (100-nights)
  • Dynasty Mattress (120-nights)
  • Snuggle-Pedic (120-nights)
  • Nectar (365-nights)
  • DreamCloud (365-nights)

Our research is supported by you, our readers. When you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission (at no additional cost to you). Learn more


Another huge thing to look for is the mattress warranty. A warranty protects you from a defective mattress. If your mattress sags beyond acceptable levels or suffers from broken coils, or if the seams become undone, then your warranty is there to defend you.

Look for a solid warranty that covers you for at least ten years. Since the average mattress lasts only about eight years, a solid 10-year warranty is an acceptable timeframe.

Many mattress brands (like Purple) offer mattress warranties for ten years. Another well-known mattress brand (MyPillow) provides a 10-year warranty on their mattresses.

Pay extra close attention to the length of your mattress warranty if you buy an expensive style mattress like an airbed mattress.

Before you buy your mattress, read the warranty terms, so you understand what is covered, and what isn’t.

Your typical mattress warranty probably covers the following:

  • Excessive sagging
  • Broken coils
  • Seams that break

One final warranty snag to consider is your warranty proration terms. If your warranty includes prorated service, then you may be obligated to pay a certain percentage of the repair cost. Warranty proration is another critical reason why it’s essential to read and understand your warranty terms!

Step 7: Where Can You Buy a New Mattress?

How To Choose A Mattress

You’ve never had this many options when choosing the perfect mattress.

You have traditional options such as local furniture stores, and large stores such as Walmart and Target.

You also have an entire online universe of online mattress outlets competing for your business.

But what option is best for you? Let’s analyze your choices more carefully.

Buy Your Mattress Online

Buying a mattress online is a smart choice, simply because there are so many fantastic options.

Here are some of the most popular mattress brands that are chomping at the bit for your business:

Pros of Buying Your Mattress Online:

  • You get the ultimate convenience. You can choose from a massive variety of mattresses without leaving your home.
  • You can flexibly browse different deals and styles without stress.
  • You can get your favorite mattress at the price you want.

Cons of Buying Your Mattress Online:

  • You can’t lay down on the mattress before buying.
  • You may experience high shipping costs, especially if you live outside the continental US.

Buy Your Mattress Offline

You should consider buying your mattress offline if you absolutely must test your mattress before you buy!

Even though most commendable mattress brands boast robust “sleep trials” and returns, nothing beats trying before you buy.

Traditional furniture stores in your local area do realize that they are competing with online mattress stores. For that reason, there’s a good chance that they offer added perks, installation assistance, or old mattress removal.

Pros of Buying Your Mattress Offline:

  • You get to test as many mattresses as you like in the store.
  • No shipping fees! Many local furniture stores also offer special promotions to help get you in their door.
  • You can speak to a mattress expert in-store if you want.

Cons of Buying Your Mattress Offline:

  • It’s difficult to quickly cross-check and compare statistics across a wide variety of mattresses, brands, and vendors.
  • Shopping in-store isn’t as convenient as shopping online. (The meteoric rise of e-commerce stores like Amazon are a testament to that fact).

Regardless of where you buy your mattress, conduct your due diligence to ensure that you get a fantastic bed that you’ll love.

You spend countless years of your life sleeping. Your research is, therefore, worth every ounce of effort.

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