The Ultimate Mattress Buying Guide
All You Need to Know About Mattresses and How to Select the Right One for You
Looking for a mattress? Choosing a mattress isn’t as easy as simply drawing one from a hat. There are many different features, types, and materials available. There are also many factors to consider when buying a mattress, and if you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This guide will help you find the best mattress for your needs, covering everything from budget, different mattress options, and what to do when you and your partner just can’t seem to agree.
How do I choose a good mattress?
This guide will help you find the best mattress for your needs, covering everything from budget, different mattress options, and what to do when you and your partner just can’t seem to agree.
Follow this step by step guide to learn what to look for to ensure you select the right mattress for you.
This guide covers four steps including:
- Setting a Budget
- Understanding the Different Mattress Options
- Factors to Consider During the Research Phase
- Shopping for a Mattress
Step 1: Set a Budget
When looking for a mattress, you need to treat it as an investment in your health and wellbeing. Aim to purchase one that is as expensive as you can afford. A mattress is extremely important for posture and comfort while sleeping, and by looking at it as an investment rather than just finding the cheapest option available, you’ll not only notice better quality, but also find that your mattress lasts longer, is more comfortable, and is better suited to your needs. Even if you are just buying a mattress for a spare bedroom or guestroom, having a decent mattress will ensure that your guests or relatives get a decent night’s sleep.
Work out what your budget is and how much you are willing to spend. If you are willing to spend $5,000 then stick with that price. There may be better mattresses that are more expensive, but only choose what you can reasonably afford. In saying that, be as generous with your budget as possible to ensure you purchase the best quality mattress. Remember, a salesperson will also want to try to upsell items such as mattress protectors, pillows, and linen, which you may not even need. If you don’t need these items, leave them out and use that money to invest in a higher quality mattress.
Step 2: Understanding the Different Mattress Options
Do you need a Firm or Soft Mattress?
Mattresses are sorted into categories depending on how firm or soft they are. You’ll see them labelled as Extra Firm, Firm, Medium, Plush, or Ultra Plush. You may also find firm mattresses with extra cushioning within a pillow top, making them softer yet still firm enough for those needing a good support while sleeping.
So which option is best for you? It’s a bit easier to determine this by looking at the way you sleep.
Back sleeper – If you sleep on your back most of the time, a medium-firm mattress is best. A decent support core will help to care for your back, spine, and neck while keeping you comfortable.
Side sleeper – You’ll need to look at a mattress that allows you to profile more into it if you sleep on your side. Sleeping on your side means that you need to support the curves of your body as you sleep, which a softer mattress will be able to do for you.
Tummy sleeper – If you predominantly sleep on your stomach, a firmer mattress will help keep your spine aligned while you sleep. Although not an ideal sleeping position health-wise, a firm mattress will help to alleviate any issues you may have while sleeping in this position.
Once you know that, now lets look at what goes inside a mattress:
Continuous or open coil
These are generally one of the cheaper types of mattress, however some of the premium models can cost thousands. A continuous coil mattress is made up of a single piece of wire looped into strings, while an open coil mattress is made of single springs fixed together by a single wire.
Pros – Usually more affordable than other types of mattresses. They are also generally lighter than other types of mattresses, so it will be easier to turn over or move.
Cons – This type of mattress is not responsive to your body, as the springs generally move as one unit. This also means that your movement will likely interfere with a partner’s sleep.
The most well-known memory foam mattress is the Tempur, which was originally developed and designed by NASA. Memory foam mattresses are topped with a layer of memory foam or temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material.
Pros – You will generally feel your weight being absorbed by the mattress, which will help to relieve pressure points in the body. This will also help to increase circulation.
Cons – Because the mattress is close to your body most of the time, you may feel as though it warms up your body more. This could be a problem in warmer climates. Also, a memory foam mattress is manufactured from man-made Petro-chemicals that can be toxic to those with sensitivities.
Latex mattresses mould to your body’s shape. Natural latex is a white liquid produced by rubber trees. Latex mattresses comprise of a network of millions of ultra micro-cellular structures distributed evenly amongst the entire mattress.
Pros – Latex is a great option for allergy sufferers as it can’t harbour dust mites. It’s a durable and breathable material, and the way it contours to your body relieves pressure points, relaxing the muscles and allowing for optimal alignment of your spine. They can also last for 20 to 30 years.
Cons – The expense of a quality pure and natural latex can be an expense some might not be able to afford.
Some mattresses will be labelled as latex but only a very small percentage of the mattress is comprised of latex. It is also common to find latex mattresses that contain both natural latex from rubber trees as well as synthetic latex.
Up to 3,000 springs are sewn into individual fabric pockets to make up this type of mattress. This is one of the more popular mattress choices.
Pros – The mattress is breathable due to its open-spring construction which allows airflow through the mattress, however as you can’t just sleep on springs you need an additional layer for comfort. This is traditionally a polyurethane material that can be hot to sleep on.
Cons – This type of mattress can worsen allergies in some people. It can also be hard to move for certain sleepers, and it is quite a heavy mattress.
A Bit Of Everything
If your mattress features parts of foam, latex, coils and springs – make sure to investigate how each part of the mattress works together.
When buying a mattress, look for a one that is designed simplistically. Some mattress designs may have layers of ‘extra features’ without really offering anything extra in terms of comfort.
When mattress shopping you might see technical specifications of materials that sound life changing, but they might be there because they have to compensate for something in the design of the mattress. For example; some manufacturers receive constant feedback with their mattresses that are too hot to sleep on. This is mainly due to synthetic materials close to the body. They’ve created and added ‘cooling gels,’ which are still synthetic, to compensate for the problem. This is a big issue since the added materials and labour directly affect the overall cost without significantly improving the problem.
If you’re looking at a mattress with layers upon layers of different materials, think about why they’re in the mattress in the first place, and the cost of production and installation that has gone into it.
Step 3: Factors to Consider During the Research Phase
Researching mattresses before you set out will also save you a lot of legwork. If you check out mattress stores online and see what they have on offer, you’ll be able to narrow down your search. Some stores stock different brands, ranges, and models to others, so it’s a good idea to have a good look at a few. If you find there is a good sale on a particular mattress of interest, be sure to be as quick as possible in making the purchase as many stores will only keep a handful of sale items in stock.
Remember, while one mattress may be perfect for you, it could be awful for your partner. Test more mattresses and look at our section on “What to do when you disagree” if you find yourself having trouble coming to a compromise.
If you’ve done some research, you’ll know what certifications some mattresses carry and to look for what will match you and your family’s needs. We have outlined some key certifications to be on the look out when searching for the perfect mattress:
Products bearing the Eco-INSTITUT certification are products you can use in your home with confidence that they do not contain even trace amounts of hazardous chemicals or produce offensive, unhealthy off-gassing in your home. These are important considerations for many families and can make a world of difference when looking for a new mattress. If a mattress carries the STANDARD 100 label from OEKO-TEX® this means that every component of that product; textile, thread, filling and other accessories, has been tested for harmful substances and that the article is harmless in human ecological terms.
Making sure your mattress has passed a durability test to ensure your mattress wont sag, compress, dissipate hardness or lose resilience to any degree will also give you peace of mind when purchasing. The Landesgewerbeanstalt Bayern (LGA Quality Certificate) test mattresses through 60,000 cycles which is equivalent to 10 years of simulated use. If a mattress that you’re looking at has this accreditation you know it’s going to last.
Mattresses that have the Australian Owned and Made Certification must pass higher inspection standards than those set by Fair Trade controls in other countries. This also ensures your purchase supports local jobs and the economy.
2. What is Inside the Mattress?
With all mattresses you can never be sure of what is inside the mattress unless you can open it up and see it. Even then, do you know how that material is made? It pays to ask how the foam, latex or springs are made and the impact it could have to your health.
Some common chemicals found in mattress foams are Formaldehyde, Boric Acid, and Anitomy Trioxide. Off-gassing can occur when these harmful chemicals and fire retarding agents are breathed in throughout the night. Consumers with chemical sensitives often find that these chemicals can inflame or exacerbate their illnesses and allergies. Further information on this can be found here.
Adults sleep for on average 8 hours a night and children up to 12 hours, so you can imagine the quantity of fumes that are inhaled in those periods and what that is doing to your body.
There are a wide variety of academic articles discussing the health impact of low-frequency electromagnetic fields which may occur with metal spring mattresses. These springs can act like antennas amplifying low-frequency electromagnetic waves. Instead, a metal-free mattress should be purchased to reduce the concentration of “body-resonant radiation”.
Academics from the Department of Biomedical and Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California found some evidence of an increased risk of melanoma and leukaemia in electrical workers exposed to regular exposure of low frequency electromagnetic radiation.
The takeout for those looking to buy a new mattress; think twice about what goes into your mattress.
3. Breathable Outer Cover
When buying a mattress, it’s important to consider the cover of the mattress. What is it made of? Will it last? Is it removable for washing? Strong breathable materials such as bamboo, a wool blend or Tencel are the most popular for their properties.
It’s also important to ask if any of the textiles involved in your cover have fire retardants in them as this is what you’re going to be breathing in and laying directly on top of when sleeping. Anything that isn’t Australian Made has to have a flame-retardant seal to enter the country so all imported products will have this chemical involved in the materials.
The outer cover of your mattress shouldn’t be overly thick and should be made of a breathable material such as a bamboo, wool blend or Tencel. Tencel and Bamboo have become extremely popular in the mattress industry due to their durability, effective moisture absorption, and gentleness to skin. Wool, although a natural product, might not be the best option for those with sensitivities to allergens. All-natural fibres will break down and compact faster than Tencel. Tencel is also a great option because of its softness, anti-bacterial properties and it is three times more absorbent than cotton.
It’s important that there are no chemical fire retardants and a moisture wicking quality to the fibres. You don’t want an outer covering that is so thick it separates you from what you’re really buying. You want to be as close as possible to the support of the mattress itself.
4. Award Winning Mattresses
There are plenty of mattress brands promoting award wins so it’s important to understand when they won and the creditability behind the supplier of those awards. An international award may not represent what Australian consumers need so always consider local award suppliers. Independently certified awards from third party providers will give an unbiased opinion based only on customer reviews.
From these award sites you can browse many different mattress types and narrow down which mattresses are the best performers for your budget. Sites like ProductReview.com.au are a great source to see independent customer reviews. A salesperson will always tell you what you want to hear but a customer review will be unbiased.
5. Warranty or Guarantee
Every mattress nowadays comes with a warranty or guarantee. Look for the best possible warranty while shopping. A solid warranty and guarantee on the product for at least 10 years is suitable and shows that the company is prepared to stand by their product. A reputable dealer will provide a warranty for their product because they believe in it and stand by what they sell.
Retailers will let you know early on in the conversation about the longevity of their guarantee, but make sure you read the fine print before spending your money. Many mattresses will come with a clause that states body depressions under a certain depth are not covered. This means that the manufacturer will not consider fixing or replacing your mattress until the depth of indentation is over 4cm. This might not sound like much, but your body will have to work that much harder to maintain your spinal alignment while sleeping if it is in a dip.
Many retailers only feel comfortable enough to offer Pro–Rata guarantees, which start declining as soon as you purchase. You might still be covered after 8 years on a 10 year warranty, but the potential refund that that mattress qualifies for after failing, has shrunk significantly.
There will always be care instructions attached to a warranty and these need to be followed or you risk voiding it which may include flipping and rotating the mattress regularly.
6. Understand the Impact to Our Planet
To make a mattress from scratch requires a large amount of resources that have a massive ecological footprint. Think of the energy and resources that are put into a single mattress. One million mattresses are thrown into Australian landfills every year. Many mattress materials are non–biodegradable and leach toxic chemicals into the soil and water. Look for an environmentally friendly sleeping solution or even better: a mattress that is biodegradable, such as pure latex.
An easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is invest in a mattress that lasts for many years into the future. Imagine the impact on the environment if you’re purchasing a mattress every 5 years! The materials involved that will end up in a landfill, the transport involved depending on the country of origin, where those materials are sourced and manufactured into your mattress, all result in harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Look for a guarantee in a mattress that lasts 20 years or over to be assured that you will have less of a carbon footprint.
7. About the Mattress Company
Companies that have been in business for a long time have started putting 20+ years on their guarantee’s because they know their product will last. This is a sure sign of their claims of selling a good product that has stood the test of time.
A recent flooding of the market of ‘mattress in a box’ companies who have not been in business for more than a few months or years, yet are offering a 10 year guarantee. How can the consumer know that the product will last up to 10 years if the company itself isn’t 10 years old? Look for a reputable company that has been in business for at least as long as their warranty states to be sure of your investment.
Step 4: Shopping for a Mattress
One thing that many people are afraid to do when looking for a mattress is to thoroughly test them out. We don’t mean going to a store in your pyjamas with a blanket and having a nap, but you should make sure you properly test the mattress out.
The easiest way to do this is to lie down on them. Don’t be afraid to put your shoes on the beds, as stores will usually have protection on the mattresses around the area where your feet go. If needed, just take your shoes off!
Test the different types and get a feel for what makes them firm or plush, and what is more comfortable for you. Remember to try to replicate the movements you normally make while sleeping. Take your time and relax. It’s important to see how your body responds after lying down and moving around on the different mattresses in the store.
If you have a partner who will be sharing the mattress with you, make sure they come along with you and test it out as well. If you both move around, you’ll be able to feel what kind of disturbance the other person might experience and see how well it can handle your weight. Be sure to also turn over on the mattress, as this is something we often do in our sleep. It will take extra effort to turn if the mattress is too soft, so be aware that your movement may be restricted while sleeping and you may need a mattress that is more supportive.
Think ahead for the logistics of installing a new mattress and base in your home. Questions to ask yourself are: Will it fit through my doorways? Do I have to take it up stairs? Most companies offer a door to door freight service only, so if you need assistance installing your new sleeping solution, look for a company that provides in home installation to take the burden off your hands. Spring, Pocket Sprung and some foams can’t be bent around narrow doorways. Most Latex mattresses are rolled or folded for delivery which is a great option to bend around any doorway and not scrape the roof when transporting up and down staircases.
What to do when you disagree
When you’re sharing a bed with another person, it’s possible that you may both want a different kind of mattress, with different levels of firmness or comfort feel. Different sizes, shapes, weights and feels of mattresses can make the buying decision even harder for some couples, as they both might need different kinds of support.
So, what are some common reasons that couples disagree over mattresses? And just what can you do when there’s a clash in opinion?
So one of you wants a firm mattress, while the other prefers something a little more plush? It’s not the end of the world!
Some mattresses can offer two different levels of firmness on each side, thus accommodating two different needs. Also by offering different densities or firmness in the layers, a mattress can be tailored to both partner’s preferences.
Another option is to have two long single mattresses sitting next to each other on the one frame. This way each individual has a mattress that suits their needs while still being able to share the same bed frame with their loved one. This is also a great option if you have an adjustable base so one of you can sleep flat while the other might want to be raised to combat a snoring problem or reading in bed.
Add a topper to one side of the bed under the fitted sheet. This may make the fitted sheet sit a little unevenly due to the different heights but could be enough to make one side of the mattress softer for the plush mattress fan.
You Feel Smothered in Bed
Maybe one of you wants to snuggle all night while the other prefers being left alone. What’s a person to do? You need room to move.
Buy the largest possible mattress size that will fit into your room. Queen size mattresses are the most popular option for couples who need room to stretch and flail around while sleeping.
If you have a large bedroom, a King size mattress will allow for an extra 30cm enabling each person to sleep comfortably. Make sure you measure the space you have available beforehand, and account for room to walk around all areas of the bed.
One of You is Hot While the Other is Cold
We all hate it when our sleeping buddy wants to sleep with a huge doona and we wake up sweaty throughout the night.
Purchase a mattress that is breathable and won’t make either of you overly warm while sleeping. Avoid memory foams that don’t allow circulation due to their chemical construction.
Look for a mattress with pin cores to allow for circulation of air flow. Pure latex has an open cellular construction that is breathable and doesn’t retain body heat so both body temperatures remain regular throughout the night.
Purchase a blanket or doona that has different weights on each side. One side will be denser and therefore warmer.
You Have Different Schedules
Perhaps one of you rises early every morning, disturbing the other’s sleeping pattern. No worries!
Avoid a spring mattress as movement is often felt by the other person when one moves.
Have two long single mattresses sitting next to each other on the one adjustable bed frame. This way each individual can have different schedules with one asleep while the other might want to be raised to read in bed.
You have Different Sleeping Positions
As mentioned earlier in the article, the best mattress for you can depend on the position in which you sleep. So, what happens if you and your partner have different sleeping positions?
One of the easiest ways to resolve this issue is to choose a mattress with different comfort levels on either side. One side can be firmer than the other to allow for different needs
Find a mattress that offers enough support for all preferred sleeping positions with enough soft comfort on top to factor in a partner that prefers to sleep on their side.
Another option is to have two separate mattresses sitting together on the one base in a split King set up. You’ll be able to have a mattress suiting your needs while your partner can have one for theirs.
Choosing a mattress for the guest room
Because everyone has different needs, not all guests are going to want the same kind of mattress. Here’s some advice for choosing a mattress that will be comfortable for all types of guests.
What kind of mattress should you get?
Although everyone has different needs, buying a latex or memory foam mattress is your best bet as they both have the highest satisfaction rating amongst consumers who recently purchased a mattress. It’s likely to be the best, universally comfortable, mattress for your guests.
How firm or soft should you buy?
It is best to buy a mattress that is more on the firm side. That way you can add a mattress topper that can soften the mattress if need be. If a guest arrives who wants a firm mattress, simply remove the topper to make it a little firmer.
What size should you buy?
You should go for a mattress size that is suitable for the size of the room. As you may generally have couples staying over, the smallest size to consider should be a standard double. If space allows, buy a Queen size mattress. If you have a large guest room, the best option is to buy a King size bed. This means that no matter how a couple sleeps, or however large they may be, they will have enough room to sleep either snuggled up or as far from one another as possible.
Is it just for guests?
Not necessarily. If you or your partner come down with the flu you may want to avoid sleeping next to them to allow for rest and ensure you don’t get ill yourself. You can sleep in the guest room if your partner is snoring, or you need to wake up early in the morning and don’t wish to be disturbed. So, when looking to purchase a mattress for your guest room, be sure to buy one you feel you could sleep on yourself.
Protecting your Investment
When you’ve made a decision about your next mattress, whether it be for yourself or your guest room, sleeping with the peace of mind is priceless. So why not take every step possible to protect your investment and ensure you’re getting the best life out of your new mattress with these considerations.
Investment 1: Supportive Base
Every house is built on a solid foundation and the same theory applies to mattresses. The base you select will directly impact the comfort and support of your mattress so be sure to select the right one for your mattress.
Posture slat bed bases and frames usually void your warranty on any mattress. This is because of the undulation and friction from movement caused by the upward arc damages any mattress that is used with these slats. Posture slats are also designed to ‘bounce’ which can cause them to creak when pressure and movement is applied to them. A box spring is also not advisable since box springs commonly sit on the floor which traps moisture and can be exposed to mould. Box springs also are designed for shock absorption and not mattress support so to extend the life of your mattress choose slatted timber.
Often a timber slat base is recommended to ensure level support and ventilation for the mattress to breathe. Gaps between the slats should be no larger than 130mm and must be flat.
Make sure you check with your mattress manufacturer their recommendations to ensure your base doesn’t void any guarantees.
Investment 2: A Quality Mattress Protector
Any stain on your mattress may void your warranty so be sure that you have a good quality mattress protector. This will also help any allergies from acting up due to potential dust mites.
Perspiration is also a factor when we sleep as our body naturally produces oils. Over time this will wear down the layers of your mattress, shortening the comfort life. A breathable, moisture wicking mattress protector made out of Tencel, bamboo or natural cotton will be the best option for your new mattress.
Investment 3: Your Time to Rotate Your Mattress
Flipping and rotating your mattress is the key to your new mattress’s healthy performance and lifespan. Most manufacturers suggest rotating or flipping every 3 months for best results. While sleeping, our body weight leaves an impression in the mattress for on average, 8 hours a night.
If the mattress isn’t rotated or flipped, it is highly likely that you’re going to need to replace your mattress sooner rather than later. Bear in mind that some mattresses aren’t designed to be flipped due to their design and can only be rotated 180 degrees head to foot. If your mattress can be flipped as well as rotated, you can be confident you’re maximising your mattresses life span exponentially.
Investment 4: Quality Bedding
Linen is an important consideration when looking at improving the longevity of your mattress. If you’re sleeping in synthetic fibres that are making you too hot, your body’s natural response will be to sweat and excess moisture will work its way into your mattress and degrade the materials.
Choose linen that is comfortable, but also has moisture wicking properties to extend the life of your mattress. Tencel sheet sets are a great option as they are softer than cotton and absorb moisture away from the skin. Tencel will also keep you cooler throughout the night lowering the risk of excessive sweat from soaking into your mattress.
In conclusion, we trust that this Ultimate Mattress Buying Guide has answered many of your questions, and that you feel better informed to select the right mattress for your needs.