For starters, if you want to replace your old mattress with the same brand—as 1 in 5 respondents to our new survey of nearly 62,000 Consumer Reports subscribers has done—you probably won’t be able to get the same model. That’s because manufacturers regularly discontinue or rename their products. Names and claims on mattresses range from the ethereal to the incomprehensible. Salespeople invariably hint at nocturnal disappointment unless you buy the priciest pick in the place. And trying to approximate the intimacy of sleep by lying down on a mattress in a fluorescent-lit public space can be awkward at best.
On the plus side, mattress makers are experimenting with new methods of construction, rearranging the layers of foam as well as the placement of coils in innerspring models in a bid to improve comfort. Meanwhile, savvy online retailers are trying to improve the shopping experience by removing the store from the equation altogether. And they’re doing a good job: The highest satisfaction scores from our survey went to two of the newer mattress brands in America—online outfits Casper and Tuft & Needle. They’ll ship a foam bed-in-a-box to your front door for a very competitive price. As for performance, Casper took the top overall score among foam mattresses.
Innersprings, however, are still the most common type of mattress sold, although that seems ripe for consumer reconsideration. In our survey, 65 percent of respondents said they were highly satisfied with innersprings, vs. 75 percent of memory foam owners and 80 percent of adjustable-air owners. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. And adjustable air mattresses, such as those sold at Sleep Number stores, rate very well in both our mattress tests and reader survey, especially among those who report neck pain, back pain, sleep apnea, and other health problems.
Whether you already have an idea of what you want or are starting from scratch, we think you should give your mattress choice at least as much consideration as a new car. True, it’s only a fraction of the price, but you spend nearly a third of your life in a prone position, so making the wrong choice has consequences. “If your mattress is uncomfortable, it could disturb your sleep, exacerbate orthopedic problems, or possibly have a negative impact on your long-term health,” says Michael H. Bonnet, Ph.D., a neurology professor and sleep expert at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
That’s why we put every model we purchase through rigorous tests utilizing actual people as well as use sophisticated equipment to measure support and firmness. These machines pummel and abuse the mattresses to gauge how they’ll hold up over time. Then we tear them apart to expose what’s inside—springs, layers of foam, gel-infused foam—to determine which materials improve performance. This year, we’ve introduced some methodology improvements, including a way to matchmake a mattress for you and your honey.
Here, seven steps to shopping for, choosing, and buying a mattress you’ll love, and that loves you back: