Picking a mattress to spend years of sweet z's on is no trivial task. Yet in a world of digital convenience — and galore — it's tempting to turn to the web for a .
If you skip a brick-and-mortar excursion, it's crucial to make a careful, considerate, and well-researched decision. Not only does your perfect mattress depend on your individual preferences, body type, and sleep style, but it's where you spend an entire . Even more, your mattress endures quite a bit of wear over the years: In just one night, the average person changes positions an average of nine times, according to Nick Shamie, MD, an orthopaedic spine surgeon and associate clinical professor with the .
Before you press "buy," follow these expert-approved tips for picking the most comfortable mattress, online.
1. Try To Visit A Store First
As with any major new purchase, research is imperative. Even if you plan to buy a mattress online, try to spend ten minutes inside a brick-and-mortar to get a (literal) feel for what type of mattress you'll be most comfortable on.
Say, for example, you're considering making the switch from an innerspring mattress to a foam mattress. "In surveys, people who have purchased foam mattresses and adjustable air mattresses tend to be more satisfied with them than with innerspring, but it's still a very individual choice," says Ed Perratore, senior home and appliance editor at . "Even if you're not going to buy a mattress at a store, try out a few before you buy one online, just so you know what kind actually feels good to you."
2. Be Wary Of Marketing Language
Online descriptions are designed to induce ooh's and ahh's. That doesn't, however, mean that they signal a mattress is of a particularly high quality. Take the number of coils: In a test, the better innerspring models had 600 to 1,000 coils. Some mattresses, however, had coils with thinner-gauge metal — meaning more coils did not always translate to a better mattress.
"If a mattress company says it has this many more coils, it's probably a marketing tactic," says Dr. Shamie. "The number of springs isn't the only factor, because if you have a lot of flimsy springs, it's going to make for a very soft mattress, which doesn't offer much support or durability."
Some mattress companies also tout coil variations such as Bonnell (hourglass type), individually pocketed springs, and continuous wire. None, however, is superior according to Consumer Reports.
3. Don't Spend Extra On Gel
It isn't necessarily as "cool" as it seems. "Some mattresses may say they have a gel layer, which is supposed to cool the sleeper," says Perratore. "It might help, but we measure for retention of heat in our tests, and we haven't found that it makes any difference." If you can't feel the gel for yourself because you're buying online, investigate how close the gel layer is to the very top of the mattress. Perratore's advice: If the gel isn't on the very top layer, just beneath the outer skin, don't expect it to make a difference.
4. Base The Firmness On Your Body Type
Though it's best to test out mattress types in person before buying online (which you've promised to do, right?), a general rule of thumb is that smaller-framed people will need softer mattresses. "If you have a very firm mattress and you're lightweight, your body is not going to sink in as much as a heavier person," says Dr. Shamie. "This means your shoulder and your pelvis are going to be points of , so those areas may be sore when you wake up."
Have an achy back? If you spot "extra lumbar support" in a mattress description, don't assume you need it. Consumer Reports tests show that although a special lumbar-support zone is one way mattress manufacturers attempt to make their product lines stand out, there's no proof it has any significant benefits.
5. Ask Customer Service These Two Questions
First: "What's your return policy?" Secondly: "Will you take away my old mattress?"
The former question is particularly important if you don't have the chance to try out a mattress before buying. "With most of the sites we see, there's no risk involved," says Perratore. "Companies like and will pick it up if you don't like the mattress." Just make sure you request a return within 100 days. Both companies will donate the used mattress to a charity.
It's also important to consider what you'll do with your old mattress. It's typically easy to negotiate a mattress drop-off and pick-up with a brick-and-mortar store associate, but if you don't see the option on a mattress website, ask customer service. "If you want your mattress taken away, as most people do, check upfront," says Perratore. It likely won't be an issue: "These companies are very eager to have your business," he says.