How To Choose A Good Mattress (Quiz Included)

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how to choose a good mattressHow To Choose A Good Mattress: 12 Factors To Consider

How to choose a good mattress? This can be a tricky thing because there are so many options out there and what is good for one person will not be good for another. It’s totally subjective!

To help you figure out exactly what you need and to make your mattress search easier, I’ve created a list of questions you should know the answers to. If you can answer these questions, you’ll have built a really solid criteria set for exactly what the best mattress for you is. At the end of the article I’ve got a handy quiz where you can choose all your answers easily.

1. What Type Of Mattress Do You Want?

There are four common mattress types:

  1. Traditional innerspring mattress (most commonly available in shops rather than online)
  2. Hybrid mattress (has a coil support core then foam/memory foam/latex as a comfort layer)
  3. Memory foam mattress
  4. Latex mattress

Hybrid, memory foam, and latex are widely available online and you will have a range of options. Each mattress type has its own pros and
cons.  If you’re not sure what type of mattress would best suit you, these articles will help explain the components of them:

2. What Other Materials Do You Like?

Apart from the basics of coils, foams, and latex which we touched on in mattress type above, there are other considerations in the details

  • Do you want your mattress to have a natural cover, such as organic cotton?
  • Is it important to you what the flame retardant layer is made of? Cheaper mattresses may use fiberglass, while more expensive ones may use organic wool.
  • Do you need the peace of mind of non-toxic certifications such as CertiPUR-US when buying a foam mattress?

3. What Is Your Price Range?

This can be the be all and end all for many people, which can actually make the job a lot easier! If you’re looking for a budget mattress, say under $500, a lot of the other questions won’t be as important for you to answer because they talk about features that
probably won’t be an option at lower price points.  If you’re looking for mattresses at the lower end of the price range and are overwhelmed by the choices available, particularly on Amazon, these two articles will help you decide:

  1. Best Hybrid Mattresses on Amazon For Under $600
  2. Top Ten Amazon Memory Foam Mattresses

4. Is A Long Sleep Trial And Warranty Important To You?

Buying a mattress online can feel a bit strange. We have been conditioned that to choose a good mattress, we must go into the store and sit on it awkwardly for five minutes.

Do you really think that this helps you know if a mattress is a good choice for you? I don’t. Online mattress companies want to get your trust (and your money), so many offer generous trial periods that allow you to sleep on the mattress for a period of time in your own home before you need to commit to keeping it. Trial periods can be up to one year! Amazing!

Cheaper mattresses tend not to offer sleep trials, but if you buy on Amazon you’ve got the standard Amazon 30 day returns policy to fall back on.

Warranty periods also vary, I suggest 10 years is a standard benchmark to look out for. Some will offer a lifetime warranty.

5. Do You Care Where Your Mattress Was Made?

Cheaper mattresses are often made in China. Many of them do a great job at giving you comfortable sleep. On the other hand, there are many brands that make their mattresses to order in the USA. This might be important to you if:

  • You want to support your local economy and workers
  • You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your purchase
  • You want to know exactly how long your mattress has been compressed in its box (if mattresses sit in their boxes too long, they may not decompress evenly)

how firm do you want your mattress6. Do You Prefer A Firm Or Soft Mattress?

Mattresses are often rated on a firmness scale that runs from 1-10. 1 is feather soft, and 10 is rock hard. You’ll find many mattresses are rated at around 6 or 7 as this is a firmness level many people can get comfortable on.

However, as I said above, lighter people or children may want a mattress softer than this. Heavier people may want a firmer one. In my research thus far, the best quality soft mattress I’ve come across is rated a 3 out of 10 and the best firm one is rated a 9.5 (the IDLE Sleep Hybrid, which you can find more information about in this article).

If you’re a couple and you just can’t decide how firm or soft you want the mattress, there are options for flippable mattresses, which have a softer side and a firmer side. Layla is a memory foam option, read about it here. Latex For Less is a great flippable latex mattress, read about it here.

7. What Foundation Will You Use With Your Mattress?

There are a variety of surfaces we put mattresses on. These include box springs, platforms, metal frames, etc. Please don’t put your mattress on the floor, you’ll probably void your warranty!

If you have a modern box spring (better known as a foundation) or a platform that has slats less than three inches apart, it will be able to support any mattress type.

If you’re not ready to replace your foundation and you are using one that does not provide that level of support, you will limit the number of mattress choices available to you and will probably end up with another innerspring mattress.  A sturdy base is required for a latex mattress because they are heavy. Many hybrid and memory foam mattresses also require a base with slats no more than 3 inches apart to ensure the mattress is being properly supported.

If I’ve got you thinking that perhaps you need to think a bit more about what you’re putting your bed on, you can read about a great modern box spring here and a beautiful sturdy reclaimed wood bed frame here.

8. What Will The Mattress Be Used For?

How you intend to use the mattress you’re buying can have a big impact on what you choose. For example, if you’re looking for a new mattress for your main bed, you might be looking to make a bigger investment than if you were looking for one to go in a guest room. If the mattress is for a child you will probably choose a softer one over a firmer one.

stomach sleeping position9. What Position Do You Sleep In?

Your sleeping position will influence how firm you need your mattress. Sleeping on your side puts a lot of pressure through your shoulder and requires a softer mattress. Sleeping on your stomach means your mattress has to work hard to keep you cool and make sure your hips don’t dip, and a firmer mattress is needed. Back sleepers tend to do well on a medium firm mattress.

For detailed information on exactly what each sleeping position needs from a mattress and mattress recommendations for you, these articles
will help:

10. Do You Share Your Bed?

If you share a bed with someone, or you have small children or pets that snuggle their way in, you will want to consider the following:

  • How good is the mattress at motion isolation? This is important if you share a bed with someone who tosses and turns or gets up a lot in the night. Memory foam tends to perform the best.
  • How quiet is the mattress? Mattresses without springs will obviously perform the best!
  • How strong is the edge support in the mattress? This is important if you get pushed to the sides of the mattress during the night or if you like to sit on the edge while you get dressed. Hybrids tend to perform the best because their support coils usually have reinforced edging around the perimeter of the mattress, while latex and memory foam tend to just be cut off foam.

You can see that it can be difficult to get both great edge support AND motion isolation/silence. I’d say a hybrid with memory foam in the comfort layer is going to give you the best compromise.

11. Do You Sleep Hot?

If you find you trap a lot of heat in your bed or you live in a hot climate, how well the mattress can draw body heat away or circulate air will be important for you.

Latex is a naturally cool material, so if you’re looking for a spring free mattress it could be a great choice. A hybrid is a good choice if air circulation is a top priority, as the coil support core will allow for ventilation through the mattress.

Again you need to consider what you are putting your mattress on. If you are using a solid platform under a foam mattress, there is nowhere for air to flow and a slatted base would work better.

Memory foam has a bit of a reputation for trapping heat, but there are many new innovations in memory foam to make up for this. Some mattresses have patented air venting systems within them, and others have layers infused with gel particles, which are there to draw heat away from your body. However, if sleeping hot is your main concern, I’d steer clear of memory foam just to be certain.

12. What Is Your Weight?

Yes, your body weight will influence your mattress choice. There are a few reasons why:

  • Heavier people (over around 230lb) tend to need a firmer mattress to ensure adequate support
  • Lighter people tend to need a softer mattress to allow for enough pressure relief
  • Heavier people may do better on a hybrid mattress due to the stronger edge support they tend to have, and good air flow around the support coils (a bigger body mass means more heat when you lie down, so a mattress that won’t trap heat is a good choice)

Record Your Answers Now:

Here’s a handy summary of the considerations I’ve talked through, make sure you read it over and choose from the answers provided to create your very own set of criteria for the perfect mattress for you. You’ll also find links to more information on my favorite mattresses at the end.

1. What Type Of Mattress Do You Want?
Traditional innerspring
Memory Foam
Don’t mind

2. What Other Materials Do You Like?
Organic Cotton
All natural materials
Proven to be free of toxic chemicals
Don’t mind

3. What Is Your Price Range?
$500 and under

4. Is A Long Sleep Trial And Warranty Important To You?
I want a trial of at least 30 days
I want a trial of 100 days or more
I don’t care about a sleep trial
I want a warranty of at least 10 years
I don’t mind how long the warranty is

5. Do You Care Where Your Mattress Was Made?
I don’t mind where my mattress is made
I want a mattress made in the USA
I want a mattress made to order in the USA

6. Do You Prefer A Firm Or Soft Mattress?
I want a soft mattress rated 3-5
I want a medium mattress rated 5-6
I want a medium firm mattress rated 6-7.5
I want a firm mattress rated 8+
I want a mattress with different firmness on each side

7. What Foundation Will You Use With Your Mattress?
I have a box spring
I have a wooden platform
I have a metal platform
I was going to put it on the floor (not advised!)

8. What Will The Mattress Be Used For?
My main bed
A guest bed
A child’s bed
Inside my RV

9. What Position Do You Sleep In?
Side sleeper
Back sleeper
Stomach sleeper
Combination sleeper

10. Do You Share Your Bed?
No, I sleep alone
I share the bed with my partner
My children get into bed
My pets get into bed
My children AND my pets get into bed

11. Do You Sleep Hot?
Yes I do
Yes I do and I live in a hot climate
No I don’t
No I don’t, but I live in a hot climate

12. What Is Your Weight?
230lb or less
230lb or more

Well Done, You’re On Your Way To Your Perfect Mattress!

If you’d like help identifying a mattress based on your answers, please get in touch and I’ll do my best to help you find a mattress that is a great fit for you and your needs.

To get you started with some great mattress recommendations, here are my favorites from each category:

My Favorite Hybrid Mattress: Avocado Green Mattress

My Favorite Memory Foam Mattress: Snuggle Pedic

My Favorite Latex Mattress: Plush Beds


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of Emily's scientific background gives her an analytical, critical, and discerning eye to bring unbiased, thorough, and helpful content to the site. Your good sleep is her top priority. Find out more about Emily and here.