Want to look and feel good in the morning, work productively and be nice to the people around you? Then it’s time to throw away the literal nighttime thorn in your side, your mattress.
The foundation of a good night’s sleep is your mattress. It’s one of the most practical and necessary things a man can own, and it’s deeply connected to your wellbeing. A great suit will do nothing to hide the bags under your eyes!
A few years ago my wife and I were in the market for a new mattress, and so we analyzed the market carefully and tested numerous mattresses. Eventually, we purchased a brand-name Sealy mattress from Macy’s for $2,000 after markdowns. It seemed like a lot of money but the pillow top mattress promised comfort, support, and a long life span. Less than two years later, it had sagged so badly that my wife and I constantly slid into the middle and getting out of bed felt like climbing out of a hole. Since used mattresses are not a hot commodity on craigslist, we wasted our money.
Ideally, you have to shop for a mattress once every 10 years. The trouble is, mattress shopping and buying simply sucks. It really does. Trying to make a decision about something you will use everyday for the next 5-10 years after trying it for 2 minutes (in a public place, fully clothed, salesman hovering) is a recipe for disaster. Not only that, but mattresses can be insanely expensive. I am all for spending money on quality, but it can be hard to separate marketing speak from the real pros and cons you need to know. When we tested the $7,000 Tempurpedic mattress, we both were not happy with it. So money doesn’t always buy you quality.
To help you find a mattress that works for you, we decided to put the knowledge we gathered over the years, and put it into a guide so you can forego buyer’s remorse and make the process as painless as possible without having to make a return.
Comfort Is The Key To a Great Mattress
So, let’s start with the goal first: you want a good mattress for your needs. But what exactly makes a good mattress? A good mattress supports you and feels comfortable to you, no matter if you sleep on your back, your side or your belly.
Sounds simple, right?
Why is Buying a Mattress So Difficult?
We did some research, and here are the biggest issues out there with regards to buying mattresses:
- It doesn’t live up to the claims (your back still aches, it sags)
- Minimal warranties
- Comparison shopping can be impossible – even major brands private label special editions for stores
- Descriptors aren’t regulated (super plush, ultra firm)
- Meaningless marketing gimmicks (500 coils per mattress! cooling gel! 25 layers!)
- Negotiating the price
- Fake pricing (originally $4500, now $1699!)
- Doesn’t negate motion transfer (you can feel your partner’s every move)
- Evaluating price relative to quality
- It’s hard to know what your back needs without trying it first
- Not all people are alike. A person that weighs 120 lbs has different needs than a football player with 350 lbs
- If you sleep on your back, you have different needs for a mattress than if you sleep on your side
- Chances are your partner is not the same weight and sleep type as you are
In the end, it is challenging to determine what will work for you because so much of what is said or promised about mattresses is wrong or meaningless.
Understand Different Types of Mattresses
To find a great mattress for you, it is important to understand key differences in construction. Today you can find 5 main types (though many hybrids are popping up).
1. Innerspring Mattress
This is probably the most well-known type of mattress (particularly in the U.S.). The inside of the mattress is filled with coiled metal springs. Pillowtop mattresses are usually innerspring.
- Familiar bouncy feel
- Even tightly packed coils will leave gaps in support, and pillow tops often don’t bounce back after a year (hence the getting out of a hole anecdote)
2. Foam Mattress
This type of mattress uses only foam as the main material. Different densities, materials and layering techniques will create different levels of support.
- Budget friendly option known to retain it’s shape and support over time
- Often thinner and more insulating causing you to overheat
3. Memory Foam Mattress
Commonly know by the brand name Tempur-Pedic, a memory foam mattress uses high-density polyurethane foam that slowly conforms to the shape of the body.
- Personalized feel because it adapts to the shape of your body
- Famous for feeling like mud – difficult to move around and get out of due to the slow contouring process; cheap memory foam can be hot
4. Air Mattress
You may think this is only the inflatable variety for guests and sleepovers, but in fact, many mattress makers are using air chambers to offer “customizable” comfort in their mattresses.
Dual adjustable air chambers are a great option for couple with different sleep styles
- Can experience same sagging or compression issues as coil mattresses due to top cushioning layer
Popular in the 80’s and 90’s in the US, these waterbed mattresses use water to support the body and are now virtually extinct.
Removes pressure from the spine, allows for unique distribution of support
Creates fewer pressure points on the body via unique distribution of support
- Expensive and so heavy a reinforced floor is usually required; large amount of water needed that needs to be heated constantly; always a risk of popping
How To Buy a Mattress That Works for You
First, you need to figure out a few things.
How do you sleep?
They require more support, and will feel less and less comfortable as a mattress compresses over time. Firm foam mattresses are usually the best choice because they offer a consistently flat sleeping surface and firm support.
Need medium-firmness for both comfort and support, as a hard mattress will cause joint pressure, but a too soft mattress will not support back alignment. Innerspring mattresses are considered a good choice for side sleepers, but a medium firm foam mattress will work just as well.
Combination back and side sleepers
Need the best of both worlds regarding firmness.
If you shift around frequently, a firmer surface will make it easier to move around while a super responsive surface such as memory foam will make it much more difficult; this is a group that is suited towards medium firmness to accommodate both movement and comfort.
How does your partner sleep?
If your partner tosses and turns, it is important that your mattress helps to isolate movement so that you are not disturbed by the movements of your partner. Foam, latex, and memory foam mattresses are great for this purpose, while the “bouncy” nature of innerspring mattresses is not. Many new innerspring mattresses claim to have pocket coil systems to reduce “motion transfer”, but they generally aren’t considered as good as foam options for this purpose.
Also, many couples have different firmness preferences, which can make it challenging to find something that works for both people. Dual-chamber air mattresses are an option though they are usually on the expensive end of the price spectrum. For a less expensive solution, consider buying a mattress that suits the partner with the hardest firmness needs and then adding a soft eggshell on one-half of the mattress for the other partner. This can be accomplished by trimming a twin or cutting a larger eggshell topper in half.
What other needs do you have?
If you have allergies, latex and foam are naturally antimicrobial and are well suited to sensitive noses. Innerspring mattresses can be covered with an anti-allergen cover, and it’s a good idea to get these for pillows as well.
How To Save Money and Be Happier with Your Mattress
A mattress is definitely worth the time and money spent to get a good one for your needs, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are our top tips for saving money on mattresses.
- Sorry showrooms, but skip the middleman – they add a markup that you don’t need to pay if you buy directly from the manufacturer.
- Don’t believe the gimmicks – they are nearly all unsubstantiated ploys to make you believe it’s worth more money
- Do your research beforehand, and read reviews. Note that these can be really hard to find for traditional mattress companies because of their sales model, but the new entrants have lots of reviews to read
- Don’t be afraid to take companies up on “money back guarantees” – despite the hassle, if you bought a dud, send it back and try again!
- Avoid pillow top and “euro top” mattresses; often this is the part of the mattress that sags, but since it’s attached, you will have to get an entirely new mattress. Skip this feature and buy an aftermarket eggshell foam or a mattress pad to add the desired softness, and replace them as needed.
- Buy a slightly too hard mattress rather than a slightly too soft one; as we said in the previous point, you can always add soft layers to the top, but you can’t increase firmness
Tested & Recommended Picks
Over the past ten years, I have owned and slept on air mattresses, two innerspring coil mattresses, and three foam mattresses. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but first, I moved from Germany to the U.S., which meant I switch from a foam mattress to a coil mattress. The problem we had then was sagging and constantly sliding towards the middle of the bed. So we invested in another mattress – the $2,000 Sealy innerspring mattress. After two years we had the same problem as with the old mattress, and we had to throw it away. Then we switched to a foam mattress from IKEA for $600, and finally LEESA provided us with one of their queen size mattresses which retails for $890. We also purchased a $300 IKEA mattress for a lake cabin.
Our Problem: Different Sleep Styles & Softness
The biggest problems we experienced was the difference in sleep styles. My wife likes soft mattresses and sleeps mostly on her side while I prefer harder mattresses, and I sleep mostly on my back but also on my belly and sometimes on the side until I feel uncomfortable, and I return to my back. So in the beginning, both of us had to compromise. I was comfortable sleeping on my back, but it was only a matter of minutes before my shoulders start to hurt when I slept on my side.
Not recommended: Sealy with Pillow Top $2,000
Then the Sealy started to sag in the middle, but we could not do anything about it and propping up the middle was impossible due to the stiff and rigid base of the mattress. So even though we had spent $2,000 we couldn’t sleep on it any longer. When we got rid of it, we disassembled it and found out that the problem was the pillowtop. It seems like they used an inferior foam that was prone to sagging. Since it was sewn to the mattress, we could not just exchange it.
Recommended: IKEA higher-end foam mattresses
After the experience with Sealy, we were open to other mattresses and came to the conclusion that we should give foam mattresses a try especially since I had good experiences with them when I lived in Germany.
Once we purchased the $600 IKEA mattress, I could comfortably sleep on my back, but my wife felt like it was too hard for sleeping on the side. The mattress was 8″ thick, and so we got an extra 2″ layer of foam that we placed on top of the mattress. However, that turned out to be too soft for me, so we cut the extra foam in half, and we both were happy. Because of the way the bed base is built, and the fact that two people gravitate towards the middle, the IKEA mattress started to sag a little bit but not as bad as the Sealy. Since it was a foam mattress, we folded a blanket and placed it, so it was about 6 inches wide, all along the middle line between the bed base and the mattress. That way everything remained even and comfortable.
However, I was still never able to sleep on my side comfortably for more than 5 minutes. Still at less than one-third of the cost, we had a decent queen size mattress that did the job much better than the Sealy before.
When we needed a mattress for a lake cabin, where we just spend a few weeks each year, we decided to go with IKEA again because we had good experiences with our old mattresses. Of course, when we got there the model we had purchased four years ago was not available anymore, and so we looked at other options.
Because we would not sleep on it year round, we decided to get a $300 mattress in queen size. It was a little thinner than our old one, but it seemed to be ok. However, once we started sleeping on it, we clearly noticed the difference. When I got up in the morning, I could feel my back and overall the mattress felt less supportive. If this were our everyday mattress, I would definitely get a new one. This just proves that not all foam mattresses are alike even if they are from the same manufacturer. Also, thickness does matter, and I would recommend getting a foam mattress with at least 8 inches / 20 cm in thickness.
Our Top Mattress Pick: Leesa
Then the mattress company Leesa contacted us and expressed an interest to work with us on a Leesa mattress review. Of course, we wanted to thoroughly test their product first because after all we knew what a challenge mattresses could be and while other mattress manufacturers offer a wide range of different mattresses, Leesa offered just one.
It seemed impossible that one mattress was the answer to all sleeping styles, and so we were eager to test it but more than 2000 positive reviews implied it could, so we were curious. Considering that I switch up my sleep styles from back to belly and side, I felt fairly confident that we could determine any shortcomings of the mattress and so we decided to work with them. So here is our review:
First, bear in mind that Leesa is a manufacturer that sells its mattresses directly to the consumer, without a middleman. As such, all mattresses are delivered free of charge to your doorstep. Note it weighs close to 100 lbs. So bear that in mind if you have to carry the mattress up the stairs once it is delivered. I placed my order on a Saturday and received the mattress on the following Thursday making it a 4- Business Day Delivery – not bad at all!
The Leesa is a layered USA-made foam mattress that is 10″ thick. It is made of a 6″ support foam, 2″ memory foam and a 2″ Latex alternative foam so you can safely use it even if you have a latex allergy.
It comes with a ten-year warranty but, more importantly, it comes with a 100 Day Trial period, which makes the purchase risk-free. That means you can test it yourself for up to 100 days. In case you do not like it, Leesa will send people who take your mattress away, and you get your money back. So the entire process is hands-off, and you have no risk. Personally, I find that to be a huge advantage.
In my experience, European mattresses are generally firmer and harder than American mattresses. That being said, the Leesa mattress is somewhere in the middle. It felt softer than our $600 IKEA mattress on its own but firmer than the Ikea mattress with the additional foam layer. It is probably also a bit firmer than most pillowtop mattresses. That being said, my wife who likes soft mattresses find the Leesa comfortable without an extra layer of foam, and I do not find it too soft either.
The compression when you lay down is about 1.5 – 2″ which feels very comfortable. Overall, I would rate it as a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the firmest.
It’s for you if you like a neutral, balanced mattress that is soft but supportive and somewhat firm at the same time. It is probably not the mattress for you if you like super hard or extremely soft mattresses.
For the first time in ten years, both my wife and I are comfortable sleeping on the mattress without any additional foams, and that’s simply great. I can comfortably sleep on my side without aching shoulders, and even my belly sleep is excellent. I also have no issues with my back sleep. After the first week, we had Leesa, my wife remarked on how well she slept and how comfortable she was, and overall, we are very pleased.
We noticed that after a while we experienced a bit of minor sagging towards the middle, but it’s less than with other mattresses. We remedied that by adding a folded planket along the center between the bed frame and the mattress. It’s the same thing we did with all other foam mattresses we have had, and it works just as well with the Leesa.
Price & Pros and Cons
In terms of price. Leesa is positioned at the lower end. Of course, you can get a mattress for $100 or $10,000 but these are extreme. A twin mattress costs $525.
Overall, the Leesa is the best mattress we had in the last 10 years and it now is our everyday mattress. It costs less than half of what we paid for a traditional innerspring mattress and more than our IKEA one, but it’s the best compromise of our needs.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to get frustrated with all the hype, claims and pricing shenanigans surrounding mattress buying. If you are tired of the traditional store model, give Leesa a try (risk-free!) and if you don’t like it, they will pick it up and refund your money.