Size & Firmness
Mattress size can vary and have different dimensions, depending on the manufacturer, amount of padding, type of support, and the country of origin, as each has its own dimensions and terminology. In the United States, mattresses can come in 12 different sizes, though the most common are twin, full (or double), queen, and king. Some manufacturers also make additional, intermediate sizes, such as twin XL, three quarters, full XL, Texas (or athletic) king, and California king. Some mattress sizes are best suited for specific bed frames, such as the California King, which is a good choice for adjustable beds. When mattress shopping, it’s therefore important to take your bedframe into consideration.
Mattresses are manufactured from a surprisingly large amount of materials, which influence the type of bedframe to be used and the need for a boxpring or a topper. In the United States and Canada, the most common type of mattress sold is an innerspring, but this is slowly changing, as interest in foam or latex cores has recently been on the rise.
Innerspring mattresses are comprised of an inner core or support layer made of steel coil springs which bear the weight of the sleeper’s body, and an upholstered comfort layer that can be made out of a variety of different materials. There are four different types of coils that offer varying levels of support: Bonnell, offset, continuous, and Marshall. Offset and continuous coils have similar effects of conforming to body shape, whereas Marshall coils, (also known as wrapped, encased, or pocket springs), are generally pre-compressed in order to increase firmness and allow for motion separation between the different sides of the bed.
The upholstery layer usually has three parts: the insulator, center upholstery, and quilt topping. It’s where the mattress gains its cushioning and support, which is why it’s also called the comfort layer. The materials from which its manufactured include various types of foam, polyester, wool or cotton fiber, felt, and non-woven fiber pads. These are generally flame-retardant, which may pose health risks, increasing sensitivity for certain types of cancer or fertility issues. It’s therefore important to verify which fire retardants were used on the mattress. Natural retardants such as wool or fiber are generally non-toxic, but another good tip is checking that the mattress has the TB117-2013 label, indicating that it meets standards without the use of fire retardant chemicals.
Foam mattresses, on the other hand, use different weights, densities, and thicknesses of petro-chemical-based, flexible polyurethane, memory foam (visco-elastic foams), or latex rubber foams, some of which also incorporate plant-based content. Latex foams are usually made from a blend of petrochemicals and natural latex, although some manufacturers leave out polyurethane-based chemicals. Latex foams are made via either the Talalay or Dunlop processes, which provide different levels of firmness (Talalay is softer due to its incorporation of more air, whereas Dunlop offers more support and is actually considerably heavier). High density mattresses, on the other hand, use a highly compacted foam which tend to have more longevity than traditional foam mattresses. When high density foam is paired with an inner spring, they last even more, and sagging is minimized.
Memory foam mattresses are composed of two layers of foam: conforming visco-elastic over a firmer polyurethane core. The visco-elastic provides the famous memory foam comfort, which can relieve pressure on painful joints, by molding itself to the sleeper’s body. Though this type of latex generally sleeps warmer than traditional, springform mattresses, (the foam retains heat, and actually firms up in cooler temperatures), manufacturers have implemented various measures to combat this, and improve air circulation. They’ve also incorporated faster response times, so the foam springs back quicker from the depressions formed by sleepers.
It is an undeniable fact that mattresses deteriorate over time. Since they’re an item that receives continuous use, often after a cursory trial at a showroom, unexpected issues are bound to arise (the number-one complaint is overly rapid deterioration, which is only noticeable after time). It’s therefore doubly important to fully understand your warranty and and return policy.
In the United States, manufacturer’s warranties are typically for between 10 to 20 years, though some can extend for up to 25 years. Generally, mattresses are either replaced for a nominal fee within a specific time period, if defects are due to manufacturing or faster-than-expected- deterioration, and not to misuse. Subsequently, mattresses are usually subject to repair, or can be replaced for a percentage of the sales price. Warranty specifics will always vary according to each specific manufacturer or company, but are generally only valid if certain measures are taken, such as the use of continuous support bedframes, with a certain number of legs, and cross-slats, for instance.
Return policies are determined by either the seller or the manufacturer, which in some cases may be the same. 60-night sleep trials are fairly standard, although some companies will grant a trial period of up to 120 days. Breaking in a new mattress can take approximately 8-10 weeks, so this trial period is very important. Some companies require you to sleep on the new mattress for a minimum of thirty days, after which the second thirty-day period is available for replacing the mattress of equal or greater value. Fees to look out for include re-stocking, delivery, pick-up, installation or replacement.
Customer Support & Reputation
Mattress purchases are generally large, and an investment into an item that should hopefully last at least a decade. When this doesn’t turn out as expected, and the $1000+ you’ve spent result in a mattress that can quite literally cause you pain to sleep on, the importance of good customer support turns invaluable. Companies that are committed to maintaining and fostering positive relationships with their customers will receive better customer reviews. Beware, however, of businesses with an unusually high number of positive reviews and very few negative, as some companies have been known to pay for good feedback. It’s always best to check inedependent review sites such as the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot, rather than rely solely on reviews on the company’s page.
A company’s reputation is important because it gives you another good measure by which to determine their legitimacy. Many mattress manufacturers are well-established, but it can be difficult to obtain information on newer companies, especially when these are online-only.