Mattress buyer guide. Part 3

  • Thickness
  • Mattress life and durability
  • Consider your lifestyle


The thickness of your mattress really is a matter of preference, although there are differences for people of different weights.

Heavier people prefer a thicker mattress, at about 11-15 inches. Mattresses of this thickness tend to be medium firm to firm. They are preferred for heavier people because body weight tends to force mattress to conform to the shape of the body. Heavy people also benefit from higher density foam or a higher coil count mattress. Choosing a thinner mattress for a heavy person may lead to the need to replace the mattress more frequently or bottoming out.

Lighter people will do well with a mattress that is eight to ten inches thick; with this thickness, you’ll find a medium to soft firmness. Smaller people can use a lower density foam or lower count coil mattress as well.

Mattress life and durability

A mattress is a big expense for most of us, so we want to make sure we get one that will last. High quality mattresses should last up to ten years, depending on care. Average quality mattresses will last about five years. Choose the highest quality you can afford.

A note about warranties

All mattresses will come with a warranty. Do not assume that the length of the warranty is an indicator of the durability and lifetime of the mattress. Warranties are subject to stipulations regarding normal wear and tear, stains, and whether or not you comply with manufacturer recommendations. Most warranties only cover manufacturing defects, which are usually discovered in the first year of ownership.

Consider your lifestyle

The way you live and sleep will have an impact on your mattress selections. Sleeping style, body weight, allergies, and whether or not you sleep alone will all contribute to your decision.

Sleeping style

Side sleepers need a mattress that will disperse and support their body weight. Very firm mattresses are the least desirable if you sleep on your side. Choose a plush memory foam mattress or a fluffy mattress topper for comfort. Side sleepers usually prefer a soft mattress, a 3 to 6 on the ten point scale.

If you sleep on your stomach, you probably don’t want a cushy mattress that will allow you to sink down and make you feel like you are being smothered. Tummy sleepers should select a semi-firm or medium-firm mattress, probably not memory foam, and a 5 to 7 on the 1-10 scale.

Back sleepers need a mattress that provides support with some give for the spine to stay aligned. Almost any type of mattress can provide the support, but try them on for firmness and comfort. Sleeping on your back will be best with a mattress in the 4 to 7 range on the ten point scale.

Do you get hot when you sleep?

Old school Memory foam tends to hold heat, making it uncomfortable for those of us who generate heat in our sleep. Manufacturers are now making foam mattresses with a cooling gel layer or gel infused, but reviews are mixed as to whether or not they work. I find that they do sleep cooler than regular memory foam for sure.

Do you or your partner move around a lot?

If you or your sleeping partner are light sleepers, or if you move around more than the typical forty times a night, you might want to purchase a pocketed or wrapped coil spring mattress. These mattresses are designed to isolate motion and reduce movement across the surface of the mattress.  All foam mattresses are perhaps the best for motion isolation.  But if you like a coil mattress a hybrid coil will perform better than an inner-connected coil unit you find on traditional or “old School” or inexpensive entry level mattresses.

Another choice to avoid being jostled by your restless sleeping partner is an air adjustable bed. These beds have distinct sides, separated by a foam barrier. The separator keeps the movement on one side of the bed from becoming a movement on both sides.

If you sleep with a partner, you should also consider the width of your mattress. Will your partner’s movements encroach on your sleeping space? Better to buy a larger mattress than to have his or her elbow in your face every night.

Do you have allergies?

Latex and memory foam are best choices for people who suffer from allergies. While both of these mattresses do contain chemicals that may be irritating, they are generally antimicrobial and allergen free. If you prefer the comfort and support of an innerspring mattress, you should encase it with an allergen resistant mattress protector.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top