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Is it time for a new mattress?
It has been a while since you went mattress shopping, hasn’t it? And let me guess, you forgot the mattress rule of thumb, flipping the mattress over every few months. If your mattress is over 8 years old, it might be a good time to replace it, though this varies with the type of mattress. So now you might have noticed visible signs of wear and tear on the mattress, and sagging. You easily roll towards the middle or edges of the bed and sometimes it’s hard to ignore the feel of the coils when lying on the bed. You might even hear noises or a creak or two when moving around! Or you simply just need a bigger mattress but you never decide to buy one. Why should you, happens to everyone right? Wrong. You have an old mattress and it’s time to change it. Sometimes the reasons have nothing to do with the mattress and everything to do with the owner. Maybe you wake up tired, with pains and aches throughout the body. You keep tossing and turning, and your arms and shoulders regularly fall asleep, all through the night. There are plenty more reasons why you would feel the need to buy a new mattress.
Impact on our lives
When it comes to mattresses, everyone has their own unique preferences that seem minute. But when you can’t sleep comfortably, nothing is ever a small matter. I dare say, a mattress is one of the most important pieces of furniture in your home. If we take the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, it means you spend a third of your life on that mattress! If a third of your life is full of discomfort and fatigue, you have a miserable life whichever way you look at it. It is therefore important that when buying a new mattress, you become very detailed and selective as to what suits you. You also need to be careful not to spend an unnecessary penny more. Many people don’t take think much about mattresses and the impact it has on our lives.
Factors to consider when choosing
There are two factors to consider when choosing the right mattress for you. These are comfort and support. When you toss and turn all night and you wake up tired, the mattress is causing pressure on your body. This means the mattress has no comfort. If you wake up with a back ache, it means the mattress is not holding your body in proper alignment from head to toe. It therefore lacks the required support. It is very important find consider these two when looking for the appropriate mattress for you.
The mattress needs to push up on your body to counteract your body weight. But this does not mean get a firm and hard mattress, no. Your body is not a straight line. Your body has arches and curves, regardless of which position you sleep in. So, similar to how a good shoe has arch support, so should a good mattress. Whether your favorite sleep position is facing down, up or on the side, the body rests in a curvy alignment. Mattresses dip around the shoulder and hip area but the spine always remains aligned. The mattress should come up to support these corresponding dips and arches of the body. If the mattress were too hard, the hips and shoulder would be pushed up and the spine would be misaligned. Sleeping in this position for too long is dangerous and is the main reason you wake up with a back ache. A hard mattress will mean you keep changing sleeping position too often, trying to keep the spine straight. This means you don’t get deeper states of sleep and is the reason you wake up tired. If the mattress is too soft also, the same consequences occur. A soft mattress means you slouch in like you’re in a hammock. The ideal mattress should keep the body in a neutral position and hold it right.
Also referred to as pressure relief, comfort is another important factor to consider. A hard mattress causes pressure to your body, which pinches nerves and cuts off circulation. If you’ve ever woken up with pins and needles on you hand (and am pretty sure you have), you pinched or compressed a nerve. It always wakes you up and forces you to change position, losing the better part of sleep in the process. Fragmented sleep patterns causes waking up with fatigue, even if you slept for 8 hours. When testing a mattress, you should be able to sleep in one position, unmoving for several minutes. If you can do this comfortably, then you’ve found a good mattress.
Movement and Separation
There other factors you must consider before purchasing the mattress. If you share you bed, you run the risk of being woken up when your partner changes position or gets out of bed in the middle of the night. You want a mattress that has the least amount of motion transfer. While in the store, test this aspect by having your partner change positions while your back is turned to see if you can feel it. A mattress that transfers too much motion to your side is discouraged.
Another factor to greatly consider is the heat dissipation ability of the mattress. Many people have an issue with heat retention. Nowadays however, most good mattresses have new features that help mitigate this problem. Cheap foam mattress is the one most affected, otherwise, new mattress models now have advanced foams, phase change materials and ventilation among other features.
You also want a mattress with a strong edge support. Too often, you tend to sit on the edge of the bed or some people just prefer sleeping at the edge. Most mattresses come with an upgraded foam encasement around the edge, for example, the innerspring mattress. Other cheaper ones just use a steel rod on the sides. Foam encasement is much better as it does not include a separate edge support. The nature of foam is efficient in this way as it is designed to take the shape of the body, even if it means just sitting on the bed.
Although many modern warranties still require a box spring, new models of mattresses don’t need them, at least not for the sake of comfort. The one-sided design of modern mattress usually contains everything necessary in a single unit. All that is needed is a firm flat surface to place your mattress on. If you place the mattress on an uneven surface, sagging occurs, which gives your mattress a very short life-span. It is for this reason that modern mattress warranties place a requirement on the use of a box spring. It is still a universal standard.
When it comes to choosing the mattress size, your body size comes into play. However, keep in mind that size often increases the cost. Choose one that relates to your body size. If you have a partner, put this into consideration.
Because mattress companies are not required to disclose any chemicals needed to manufacture them, they could turn out to be a major source of chemical exposure. Many mattresses are made with flame-retardant materials for safety. To accomplish this, they are dipped in a highly toxic chemical known as PBDE. Mattresses also contain armful compounds like formaldehyde. In addition to that, coil mattresses have an added danger of containing electromagnetic frequencies. If you opt for an organic mattress, look for one that has been certified organic by a third party like Greenguard or GOLs.
The image below, designed by sleepadvisor.org, is a great way to determine the best mattress size for you and your family.
The mattress shopping experience
We all dread a trip to the mattress store for shopping. The thought of walking into one such store to find a sea of rectangles and a sleazy looking salesperson approach you is intimidating to say the least. But this is rarely the case. The actual experience of mattress shopping is not nearly as bad as that, especially if you’re prepared. If you know what to look out for, the process of testing, selecting and buying the right mattress for you can be easy, even enjoyable I might add. Plus, most salespeople genuinely want to help you find the right mattress, just give them a chance.
Which store to choose?
The first order of business therefore will be which store to choose. There are several stores out there and they all have their benefits and drawbacks.
If you want to buy a mattress online, there are hundreds and hundreds of sites where you can find many types of mattresses to choose from, even used ones (eww). You can always find anything online. Am sure I don’t have to sell you the benefits of shopping online. You can purchase the mattress from the comfort of your home and can go through dozens of stores in a matter of minutes. You may even find low priced ones much easily. In fact, there many direct-to-consumer mattress stores online that actually sell good mattresses. But, you can’t try the mattress! Buying a mattress without testing is for comfort and support is a huge risk, both with your health and money. How can you test for motion transfer without actually lying in it? Unless you can get a deal with a free return policy, look away. Plus, buying and returning until you find the right one mattress takes too much time. On the flip side, you can try the mattress and then later, buy that same model online.
Big Box retailers
There are big box retailers where you can buy everything in one trip, from a mattress, a pair of scissors to 17 rolls of tissue. In big box store, it is common for the prices to be low, much lower than what you’ll find online. In some, you need to be a member to shop and in most, you get no expert help selecting an appropriate mattress for you. They also have a smaller section for mattresses and often they don’t allow you to try them.
Unlike big box retailers, most department stores have a certain section dedicated to mattresses. They have sales people to help, many have a decent selection and you get to try the mattresses. But, the prices are relatively higher than either big box retailers or online stores. Department stores tend to shift their prices and the salespeople are not well-trained either. They might even be rotating department every few weeks. The traffic in these stores also tend to be much higher so it might be quite awkward trying the mattresses out.
It makes sense that a furniture store will have a section dedicated to mattresses, as it is also furniture. Furniture stores might have a whole bedroom set available and are usually fast on deliveries. If you’re buying an entire bedroom set, they might give you a very low price on the mattress. However, for many furniture stores, the selection is usually smaller than a mattress specialty store and the salespeople are not as specialized. These varies by store.
Mattress Specialty Stores
Mattress specialty stores vary from little local stores to huge chains. They only sell mattresses and items related to mattresses. The salespeople have to be knowledgeable and well-trained about mattresses and even sleep to a large extent. The smaller stores have fair prices to begin with and the larger ones have great price match guarantees, so for a good negotiator, this is an advantage. Mattress specialty stores also have the largest selections. However, where there is no price match guarantee, the retail price will be higher. Moreover, the shopping experience is also dependent on how good the salesperson is.
Types of mattresses
Basically, there are two categories of mattresses; Innerspring and specialty foam. Innerspring mattresses are the traditional mattresses with coils or springs and can be tied together or wrapped individually. Specialty foam on the other hand consists of latex and memory foam. Beyond these two fundamental categories, there others like air mattresses, which use air chambers for support instead of coils. Waterbeds use water is used for the support. These make a small percentage of the mattress industry as most people consider them luxury goods. Hybrid beds have features similar in design to the innerspring supported specialty foam mattresses.
The most common type of mattress is the innerspring type, named so because they have metal coils inside the mattress wrapped in foams and fibers on top. There several coil designs with the newer design being the individually wrapped coils that contours and transfer less motion. The older design include offset, continuous, and ‘bonnell’ coils where the coils are tied together. They are less expensive but don’t contour as well. Individually wrapped coils give better support and cause less pressure to your body. They are also much better at transferring motion. When one person bounces or moves around the other will not feel it as much They are however more expensive. Spend time on each mattress, focusing less energy on the titles and more time checking the comfort and support. One company’s ‘cushion firm’ is another company’s ‘plush’. The foams have varying densities, some have softer foams on top others firmer.
Coil size generally does not matter. One mattress might have more coils that are less dense than another mattress with fewer coils.
Specialty foam mattresses
There are two major types of specialty foams, latex and memory foam. Specialty foam mattresses are becoming increasingly popular and statistically seems to get higher ratings. The best pressure-relieving foam mattress in the market today is most likely the memory foam. It is the most recognized and has a slower response-relieving material. This means it takes more time to regain its original position. Older memory foam mattresses tend to retain heat but most modern dissipate it well. To add extra support, the memory foam is mixed a type of gel, which also helps keep the surface temperature neutral.
Latex foam tends to be more durable, supportive and responds more quickly than memory foam. It does not rely on gel to keep neutral temperature. However it does not separate motion nor relieve pressure as well as the memory foam. Foam mattresses from China are generally of lower quality than those made in America or Europe. They are also less durable in comparison.
Not many people have an idea of how much a mattress should cost, because no one pays attention to TV specials unless they need the mattress. A mattress and box spring set can start from as low as $200 to as high as you can spend. Grand Beds with motorized bases can cost as much as $10000. So how much should you spend? Mattresses vary by region and by retailers. Those below $400 will not give much in terms of comfort and support. If the coils are stronger and foams are more durable, expect high prices. Longer warranties also tends to increase cost. Some mattresses have extra design features like a pilowtop, which also increases price. Memory foams are generally more expensive. Tumpurpedic mattresses cost within the range of $3000 to $5000. At the highest end of the pricelist, you might start hearing of materials such as “Mongolian Horse hair” and “New Zealand wool”.
Personally, I don’t feel you should spend so much on acquiring luxury mattresses. There is not much difference because you can only add so much to a mattress before it turns counter-productive. It would be much better to spend the extra money on mattress accessories like one with an adjustable base.