Few things have such an impact on your quality of sleep as the mattress you use does. After all, your entire body lies on it for a number of hours per day. Choose a bad one, and you’re almost guaranteed to sleep badly and to wake up tired and sore, sometimes even worse than the night before. Such a scenario is not that uncommon, especially given that those who buy mattresses often have no idea what qualities to focus on when picking their products.
Perhaps the most glaring misconception about the mattresses is that they’re all spring-based fillings for your bedstead. These days, the number of different types and solutions is immense, allowing you to find the absolute best fit for your needs.
To achieve this, though, numerous factors should be considered, starting from mundane aspects, such as size or the type of filling, to even the position in which the user sleeps.
This may sound a bit overwhelming but don’t worry. To aid you in finding the best choice for you, we’ll cover the most important factors you should consider below.
Mattress’ dimensions, meaning its width and length, tend to be standardized into a set of size categories. Ignoring cribs and child-size beds, the smallest choice you might consider is the twin-sized mattress.
Essentially a one-person solution, it measures 38 by 75 inches. Such a choice may be a little too cramped for larger people, so if a single-occupant mattress is still your priority, it’s better to choose a twin XL size, as it offers additional 5 inches in length.
Moreover, their cover is usually small enough to machine wash with other types of laundry, eg. rugs or weighted blankets (providing you know how to wash a weighted blanket or a rug correctly).
Should you need a mattress for two, the smallest offer you can usually get is the full-size mattress. With a width of 54 inches, it is sizable enough to comfortably fit two people without being too big, which makes it the best pick for more compact apartments.
Without a shred of doubt, the most popular solution in the United States is the queen-size mattress, followed by the king-size. These may be big, measuring 60×80 and 76×80 inches respectively, but the level of comfort they offer is leagues above the previous solutions.
Because of their popularity, the available selection is very high, so you can endlessly personalize your sleeping space. More than enough for two, these are a good choice if you need a lot of space or if you have children that prefer to sleep with you.
The rest of the mattress sizes aren’t new variants per se but rather a modification of the queen or king design. These tend to be absolutely immense, ending with the enormous Alaskan king mattress that measures 108 by 108 inches.
This may come as a surprise, but the way your body is positioned when you doze off should always be considered when choosing the best mattress for you. That is because depending on how you sleep, some parts of your body may need more support than others to preserve the spinal alignment.
In essence, we can distinguish four types of sleepers:
The recommended choice here should be a mattress in the range between Medium Soft and Medium Firm. As the pressure points are at the shoulders and hips, they should be able to sink deeper than the middle spine. Allow too much softness, however, and these parts will get out of alignment.
For those types of sleepers, the choice between Medium Firm and Firm is recommended. As the pressure point is on the lower back, a solution too firm will not take into account the back’s curve, while opting for a too-soft mattress will force the pressure points out of alignment with the rest of the body.
Putting most pressure on the lumbar spine, back sleepers should find the Firm mattress most comfortable. It will allow you to avoid the u-shape problem (a situation where the torso sinks lower than the upper back and the lower body) and keeps you from suffocating when lying down.
This group of people tends to change their sleeping positions more than once during the night, so the Medium Firm option, as an all-rounder, should be the best choice here.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a common fallacy to think that there is only one type of mattress available commercially. In reality, there are five main categories:
The most traditional choice of mattress, the innerspring solution, involves a coil-based support system covered by different layers. What they lack in pressure relief and motion isolation, they make up with an attractive price. As such, despite their limitations, they’re still a popular choice among those on a budget. 👉 Read more about innerspring here
Made entirely of foam, these mattresses offer a good combination of pressure relief, contouring, and motion isolation. Perhaps the most popular solution of this type is the so-called memory foam – a material that becomes much more adaptive to the contours of the human body when exposed to bodily heat.
As the name suggests, it takes both of the above types and combines them into one. In essence, that means we have a mattress that has an innerspring support core but with the addition of foam comfort layers.
A solution often valued by eco-minded users, this category of mattresses involves products made out of latex rubber. Such a choice of materials gives it substantial amounts of bounce and increased durability while still providing the user with some contouring.
Often considered a “smart” solution due to being programmable, airbeds include a sort of air chamber that can be inflated or deflated using an in-built pump. In simple terms, this allows different firmness levels in various parts of the mattress, making it one of the most adaptable choices here. For convenience, such devices are typically controlled via a smartphone app.
As you’ve seen, the options available to you are numerous. However, a proper choice should always be based on the individual needs of each sleeper. By addressing such aspects as size, sleep position, and build, it’s easy to narrow down the list of candidates to just a few items.
From there, it’s just a question of testing them out in person and finding the one that best suits your needs. It’s more than worth the effort – after all, the quality of sleep impacts virtually every aspect of our lives, so why not make it a positive one? Good luck with your mattress hunting!
Lauren is an occasional contributor who helps Ted and Stacey at the peak busy times. She's a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, but also studied Marketing and Classical Literature.
Updated at March 13, 2022