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Confusion in the Mattress Selection Process

questionmark Most people find the mere thought of shopping for a new mattress intimidating. This is because there is a lot of confusion about mattresses and their related products.  Some of this confusion comes from the manufacturers, some comes from retailers, and the rest comes from customers themselves.  In an effort to help you in your mattress selection process let’s look at each of these separately.

While it is true that manufacturers may produce numerous versions of the same series, it is not done to promote confusion.  It is done because their customers (retailers) each demand to have something different than their competition.  This is not specific to mattresses.  Many products, appliances and electronics to name a few, sell slightly different versions of their products to the different retailers they serve.  While the difference may not be large or even noticeable to the average shopper, it’s there. This is done because the retailers always want to be able to exclaim exclusivity or have some other competitive edge.  Also, manufacturers have been criticized for using “vague” terms like firm, luxury firm, plush, ultra-plush, etc.  There is no and can be no standardized scale because there is too much subjectivity when it comes to the feel of the mattress.  If you took ten mattresses and had ten people rank them from firmest to plushest, it is guaranteed that you will get several different rankings.  Everybody may agree on the two ends; but, there will be variations in between according to the rankers’ perceptions.


Many retailers add to the confusion by trying to focus your attention on one thing: the price (and how it is better than everyone else’s).  They may tell only the facts about the mattress that they want you to hear and downplay others.  They may dazzle you with specifications in an effort to show you “how much mattress you are getting for the dollar.” At the end of the day, to them it is all about convincing you that only they have the “best deal” for you.

Finally, consumers make the process more complicated than it needs to be.  Focusing on specifications to the exclusion of all other criteria, for instance, will make the job of buying a mattress extremely difficult.  To demonstrate: let’s look at coil count.  Queen mattress A has 390 coils and costs $400.  Queen mattress B has 460 coils and costs $400.  Obviously, mattress A is the better choice, right?  WRONG.  Mattress A has 13 gauge coils; mattress B’s are 15 gauge. A 13 gauge has a larger wire diameter than a 15 gauge coil; so, there is more steel in mattress A.  Another example: mattress C has a 5-year warranty and costs $400; mattress D has a 10-year warranty and costs $400.  No brainer, mattress D is the best deal.  WRONG, again.  Mattress C’s warranty is 5 years full warranty (full replacement value).  Mattress D’s warranty is 2/10 meaning that only two years is full replacement value (a fact concealed by the retailer, perhaps).  Finally, mattress A or C may be the best choice even if their specifications are lacking.  How can this be?  Because the best choice is really the most comfortable one; see below.

How to Choose the Correct Mattress

choice In real estate there is a saying: it’s all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. A similar statement can be made about mattress selection: It’s all about COMFORT, COMFORT, COMFORT.  Certainly, there are a number of other criteria that factor into the buying decision; but, they are all secondary to and trumped by comfort.  Consider the tips below when searching for your new mattress.

1.  A spelling lesson:  firm is not spelled h-a-r-d; soft is not spelled s-a-g-g-y.  While firm support is important in a mattress, a mattress does not have to be hard to be supportive.  Support is only one half of the equation; the other is pressure reduction.  Plushness on the surface is what provides this.  A good mattress is one that maximizes both support and pressure reduction.

2.  Make finding the most comfortable mattress your goal.  The selection process is about finding the best mattress for your sleeping needs. Not the prettiest one, not the cheapest one, not the most recommended one.  The most comfortable one.

3.  Consider your sleeping position.  Are you a side, back, or stomach sleeper? All three?  Different mattresses will better cater to specific sleeping positions.  For instance, if you are a side sleeper, consider a plusher mattress.  This will provide better pressure reduction under your shoulders and hips.

4.  Size does matter. In addition to deciding which mattress best fits you, you need to figure out what size. Generally speaking, bigger is better. You don’t want to fight for space every night and get kicked, elbowed, or bumped all night.  This disturbs your sleep even if it doesn’t wake you up.  Anything that disrupts your sleep is bad.  Some research suggests that sleeping in the same bed as someone else is less restful than sleeping alone.  A larger bed gives you options; you can meet in the middle or go to a neutral corner.

5.  Wear comfortable clothing when shopping for a mattress. You will certainly want to lie down on any mattress you are considering buying. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson to give you some space if you feel self-conscious about laying down on the mattresses with others around, seeming to loom.  A good associate should move away without having to be asked.   Feel free to off your shoes if it makes you more comfortable. Better stores will have protectors for pillows, etc. so that you don’t have to lay your head where many others have.

6.  Consider a new pillow.  A pillow is a bed for your head.  It works in conjunction with the mattress to hold your neck and shoulders in the correct anatomical position.

7. Choose a store that specializes in mattresses and has only your best interests in mind.  Many products are sold by companies whose main business is something else, maybe something altogether different.  Do you go to a mechanic to get your teeth fixed?  Also, many products are sold because the seller has their own agenda.  Visit a mattress specialty store with a long tenure and good reputation. Try to find one that is locally owned, if possible.

8.  Price matters; a good mattress will cost good money. Price is a good indicator of whether the mattress has the quality that you have been told it has. So, ensure the warranty lines up with the alleged quality of the mattress.  All full quality mattress sets will have at least a 10-year full warranty period.   If you find a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is.  Simply put, buy the most comfortable mattress that you can afford.

SLEEP on it has only your best interests in mind.

expert The goal at SLEEP on it is not to just sell you a mattress; it is to help you buy one.

This is a subtle but important distinction. This is done by giving you the education and the information (and removing the confusion) you need to make a good decision about what it is that you are going to sleep on for the next 10 years or more. After all, a good night’s sleep is really what you are buying. Here is a helpful guide for choosing the correct mattress.