Buying a new mattress can feel like an overwhelming experience.
And to be fair – the stakes are pretty high.
Because if you choose the wrong kind of mattress, you could quite easily end up buying an expensive torture device that leaves you with aches, pains and even chronic health problems like insomnia, back issues, or year-round allergies.
So what is the best type of mattress to buy?
Well, that depends on a number of factors such as your primary sleeping position, your body weight, if you sleep alone or with a partner, and a few other key factors that I’m now going to share with you – as I show you how to choose a mattress that’s right for you in 6 steps.
This guide is going to help you regardless of whether you’re looking to buy your mattress online or in store.
How to Choose a Mattress in 6 Steps
When I first looked online to buy a mattress – my head began to spin.
All this talk of memory foam, choosing the right firmness, and knowing how much to spend left me feeling burnt out.
And I was wary of going to a showroom to buy my new mattress because I was worried about the sales person ripping me off.
But thankfully, after researching and writing many different mattress related articles for this website, I’ve realised that choosing the right mattress can be done by following the 6 steps below.
1: Choose the Right Firmness
Arguably the most important factor when choosing your mattress is getting the right level of firmness.
Mattress firmness is NOT the same as mattress support.
Mattress firmness is how much pressure relief you feel when lying down on the mattress, and is influence by the outermost ‘comfort’ layers.
In other words, the mattress firmness is how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ the mattress feels to you when you lie down on it.
Whereas mattress support is how well the lower layers of the mattress are able to keep your spine in its correct alignment – crucial for avoiding back pain.
Image source: stock photo – used with permission.
Mattress Firmness Ratings Explained
Mattress firmness is typically defined as being either soft, medium, or firm – but there are intermediate firmnesses too.
Mattress manufacturers usually grade firmness on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the most firm.
A more complex way involves ILD (Indentation Load Deflection) values – but I personally think these are an unreliable gauge of mattress firmness because the ratings vary between brands and there are so many variables that can influence the final real world comfort of the mattress.
Your Primary Sleeping Position Influences Your Ideal Firmness
I’ve already written an in-depth article that explains how to choose the right mattress firmness for you.
But to summarise, the first thing that you need to do is decide on what your primary sleeping position is because this is the main factor that influences what your ideal mattress firmness is going to be.
Here’s an explanation of how each sleeping position relates to your potential perfect firmness.
Back Sleeper: Medium to Firm
If you spend most of the night sleeping on your back, then you’ll probably be best suited to a medium, medium-firm, or firm mattress – depending on your body weight – in order to stop you sinking too far into the mattress and throwing your hips out of alignment.
Having good support from the underlying layers is also critical if you’re a heavier-weight back sleeper so that your spine will stay in the right position.
Front Sleeper: Medium to Firm
Sleeping on your stomach is generally considered the ‘worst’ sleeping position because it puts the most amount of pressure on your lower back.
As such, you’ll probably require a medium, medium-firm, or firm mattress – depending on your body weight – to provide enough surface tension to keep your hips in alignment and prevent back pain.
Support is also key if you’re a heavier front sleeper – but stacking your pillows too high or even having your arm under the pillow can cause your upper body to lift up and increase the pressure on your lower back and neck.
Side Sleeper: Medium to Soft
If you sleep mostly on your side, then you’ll typically require a medium, medium-soft, or soft mattress in order to relieve the pressure on your shoulders and hips – two areas that are pain hot spots when you’re sleeping on your side.
There are also variations of the side sleeping position, such as tucking your legs all the way up to your chest, or having your legs almost fully outstretched. If you tend to switch between several variations during the night, then you’ll also need a mattress that allows for such transitions smoothly and without getting ‘trapped’ in the materials.
Natural latex mattresses are good for this.
I’ve actually put together a list of the best mattresses for side sleepers that cater to the intricacies of sleeping in this very popular position – which could save you a lot of time and hassle.
Combo Sleeper: Medium to Medium-Firm
If you’re a ‘combo sleeper’ that tends to cycle through various positions during the night, then you’ll probably be best suited to a medium or medium-firm mattress because a mattress that’s too soft can cause you to get ‘stuck’ in the materials as you switch positions.
And as I’ll shortly explain in more detail in just a moment, latex or innerspring mattresses may be better for you if you’re a combo sleeper because they typically allow you to transition more easily when compared to memory foam.
2: Factor in Your Weight
Have you identified your ideal firmness level relative to your primary sleeping position?
Then the next step is to adjust this firmness level depending on your weight.
The general rule here is that the heavier you are – the more firmness you’ll require.
As far as exact numbers go, an average weight sleeper could be from 130 lbs – 200 lbs, with lighter and heavier-weight sleepers falling outside those ranges.
Furthermore, your individual body weight will affect the relative level of mattress sinkage and support – along with the resulting hug, feel, and cooling properties of the mattress.
What About the Support?
As I said earlier, the support differs from firmness in that it corresponds to the lower layers of the mattress that are responsible for keeping your spine in its correct alignment.
Arguably, support is affected mainly by the type of materials and the structure of the mattress – which I’ll cover in the next section.
However, you could also say that a firmer mattress could complement the support layers because the greater surface tension could help support more body weight.
But I personally prefer to separate the two because you could have a ‘soft’ mattress that still provides excellent support from the lower layers.
But generally speaking, you can say that the ‘heavier’ you are – the ‘more’ support you’ll require.
Mattress thickness is important – especially when dealing with memory foam mattress.
Because the heavier you are, the more likely you are to sink into the mattress materials and crash into the support core below the ‘comfort’ top layers.
Many heavier-weight sleepers say that they require a mattress that’s at least 12 or 14 inches thick to stop them from sinking too far into the support layers below.
More specifically, you’ll want to make sure that the comfort layer is at least 4 – 5 inches thick in order to provide enough clearance from the support layers.
Cooling is Important Too
One commonly overlooked aspect of buying a mattress is how ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ it can cause you to sleep.
As a general rule, the heavier you are, the better the cooling properties of the mattress need to be due to the increased compression forces being placed on the materials.
If you sleep hot, then look for an innerspring, hybrid, or latex infused mattress due to the better air flow and cooling properties.
Memory foam mattresses tend to cause most people to sleep hot – which could be useful if you’re often cold at night – but if you’re naturally a hot sleeper, then you’ll either want to avoid memory foam mattresses, or look for one that’s infused with cooling gel or graphite to wick away heat and moisture.
If you’re a heavier-weight side sleeper that tends to hug the edge of the bed at night, then you’ll want to get a mattress with good edge support so that you don’t roll out or experience that ‘falling off’ feeling as you creep towards the edge of the bed.
High quality innerspring and hybrid mattresses generally have the best edge support – whilst memory foam are often the worst.
Putting it All Together
That’s quite a lot of things to consider when picking out your mattress!
But I think that your sleeping position, body weight, and how they relate to each other are the most significant factors overall.
So I’ve put together the table below to help simplify the buying process for you.
The numbers on the left-hand side represent the typical firmness ratings provided by most mattress manufacturers and review sites – but I’ve omitted the ILD values because they tend to confuse matters.
For most people, mattresses that fall into the 4 – 7 rating range will cover their needs.
|Rating||Firmness||Body Weight + Sleeping Position|
|1 – 2||Extra soft||<100 lbs – side sleeper|
|3||Plush or soft||100 – 130 lbs – side sleeper|
|4||Medium-soft||130 – 200 lbs – side sleeper|
|5||Medium||130 – 200 lbs – back, front, side, combo sleepers|
|6||Medium-firm||130 – 200 lbs – back, front, combo sleepers|
|7||Firm||200 – 230 lbs – back, front, combo sleepers|
|8||Extra firm||>230 lbs – back, front, combo sleepers|
|9-10||Ultra firm||Orthopaedic use|
What is Universal Mattress Firmness?
Some brands make mattresses that have a ‘universal’ firmness rating.
These mattresses only have one level of firmness, but the structure of the materials and they way they are layered together is such that they can accommodate a wide range of body weights and sleeping positions comfortably.
For example, a mattress with a universal firmness may have top layers that allow a lighter-weight side sleeper to sink far enough into it to experience pressure relief on the shoulders and hips – whilst the same mattress may respond to heavier weight sleepers through cumulative compression of the top layers to produce greater firmness and support.
Similarly, front and back sleepers would experience a level of compression relative to their weight in order to provide the right amount of firmness and support.
Mattresses with universal comfort can be a great option for couples because the materials will adapt to each sleeper’s position and weight individually.
3: Select Your Mattress ‘Type’
The next step is to actually figure out what the right ‘kind’ of mattress is for you based on its properties, qualities, and how it complements your sleeping position and body weight.
Here’s an overview of each of the major mattress types that you can buy online, in store, and how they relate to your requirements.
Image source: stock photo – used with permission.
Memory foam mattresses are designed to provide custom pressure relief by contouring to your exact body shape – whilst denser foam is used in the lower layers to provide support.
- Moulds to your exact body shape to provide comfort.
- Can reduce allergy symptoms.
- Good for pain relief.
- Motion isolation to stop you getting woken up by your bed partner moving.
- Some brands may retain heat and cause you to sleep hot.
- Edge support may be poor with some brands.
- Lower quality foams can be prone to sagging and indentation.
- Off-gassing means that some mattresses may smell ‘new’ for a few days or weeks.
Modern memory foam mattresses can suit a wide range of sleepers with differing weights and sleeping position preferences.
The keys are to look for the right level of firmness and good support – especially if you’re a heavier-weight sleeper because you’re more prone to sinking into the support layers below and you’ll need better edge support too.
Memory foam mattresses are also a good option if you suffer from allergies because the material is typically resistant to allergy-causing dust mites, pollen, and pet dander.
If you have any sort of chronic pain or discomfort a memory foam mattress could be perfect for you because of its pressure relieving qualities.
Look for a memory foam mattress top layer that’s infused with cooling gel or graphite, and has an open cell sub-structure to allow for good airflow if you tend to sleep hot.
Check out the AS range from Amerisleep – they have 5 memory foam mattresses that cover the major firmness levels and have high quality support.
Image source: stock photo – used with permission.
Latex mattresses have similar characteristics to memory foam – but latex tends to be more responsive and breathable.
- Custom pressure relief.
- More durable than memory foam.
- Easier to move around in than memory foam.
- Tends to sleep cooler than memory foam.
- Less prone to indenting and sagging than memory foam.
- Naturally hypoallergenic to help allergy sufferers.
- More likely to feel your bed partner moving compared to memory foam.
- Can be quite expensive when compared to innerspring and even memory foam mattresses.
Much like memory foam, a latex mattress can help provide pain relief and comfort thanks to its ability to conform to your body shape – albeit not typically with the same level of precision as memory foam due to its more resilient qualities.
And it’s this ‘bouncy’ feel that generally makes it easier to move around in when compared to memory foam – which is great if you’re a combo sleeper or tend to wriggle around during the night because you’ll be able to transition without getting ‘stuck’ in the materials.
The downside being that if your bed partner moves around a lot – you’re more likely to feel it when compared to a memory foam mattress because latex generally isn’t as good at limiting motion transfer.
Latex mattresses tend to sleep cooler than memory foam mattresses because latex doesn’t conform to your body quite as precisely and doesn’t rely on your body heat to change shape.
This means that latex mattresses can be more resilient to indentation and sagging when compared to memory foam.
Although latex mattresses come in a range of firmnesses and varying support cores, most would agree that they feel firmer than memory foam – making them a good choice for front and back sleeping, and heavier-weight sleepers.
One of the huge benefits of natural latex mattresses is their hypoallergenic properties – making them a good choice if you have allergies.
Check out the best hypoallergenic mattresses here.
Image source: stock photo used with permission.
Traditional innerspring mattresses are characterised by the old fashioned Bonnell coils – with thinly topped outer layers that aren’t the most comfortable.
But more modern innerspring mattresses are typically more supportive and comfortable – characterised by a better upholstered top layer, a high coil count, individually wrapped coils (pictured above), and a lower coil gauge (less than 13).
Many innerspring mattresses are actually hybrid mattresses – which I’ll cover in just a moment.
- Often lower in price when compared to memory foam and latex mattresses.
- Better edge and overall support.
- Greater breathability due to increased airflow in the lower layers.
- Easier to move around on compared to memory foam.
- Not as good for side sleepers due to less pressure relief.
- Low quality innerspring mattresses can be prone to sagging.
- Can harbour dust mites that can cause allergies.
- Variable motion transfer qualities depending on the coil quality.
High quality, individually wrapped coil mattresses with a high coil count (more than 700 for a queen mattress) and a low coil gauge (less than 13) shouldn’t sag prematurely, and are a good choice for heavier front and back sleepers due to the increased edge and overall support.
An innerspring mattress may also be good for you if you tend to sleep hot due to the better airflow coming through from the spacious sub layers – but is probably the worst choice if you have allergies because the same space is an ideal breeding ground for dust mites.
But if you’re a side sleeper then you may find an innerspring mattress too uncomfortable – unless the top layer is well padded and soft.
If you sleep with a partner, then you’ll want to get an innerspring mattress that has individually encased coils in order to limit motion transfer.
These ‘pocket coils’ are also good if you have back pain because each coil adjusts to your shape individually to provide the best possible support.
Check out my list of the best innerspring mattresses here.
Pillow Top and Euro Top
Image source: stock photo used with permission.
Pillow top mattresses are a type of hybrid mattress that usually has a coil support core with an additional layer of padding on top of the comfort layer that’s typically plush/soft and around 3 inches in depth.
A Euro top mattress is typically structured in the same way, except the material is denser and feels more firm.
Both pillow top and Euro top mattresses are designed to provide extra comfort by covering up the resistance typically felt by side sleepers on traditional innerspring mattresses.
- Good pressure relief for side sleepers.
- Good support from the spring core.
- Potentially inferior durability due to their relative softness.
- Unless hypoallergenic, the softer top may harbour more allergens like dust mites.
Pillow top and Euro top mattresses are best for heavier side sleepers that want the support of an innerspring mattresses but with enough softness to relieve the pressure on your hips and shoulders.
If you have allergies, look for a hypoallergenic version – since the softer and often more porous material can be a magnet for trapping allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
Hybrid mattresses have several layers.
With the top layers consisting of anything from memory foam, latex, or the plush upholstered material found in pillow tops – whilst the lower support layers typically contain innersprings.
Hybrid mattresses are incredibly popular with a range of sleepers because they typically blend pressure relief with excellent support.
- Good pressure relief and motion isolation with a memory foam top layer.
- A latex top layer provides cooling, good responsiveness, anti-allergy properties, durability, and resilience to sagging.
- An individually encased pocket spring support core with a high coil count and low coil gauge provides good overall and edge support.
- Pocket springs can improve motion isolation.
- Memory foam top layer may cause night sweats if lacking cooling properties.
- Memory foam top layers may be prone to sagging and indentation if low quality.
- Off-gassing from memory foam and latex top layers may still be an issue.
- Even if the top layer is hypoallergenic, the innerspring core may still cause issues due to housing of allergy causing dust mites.
Hybrid mattresses are suitable for just about every type of sleeper due to the different combinations of top layers for pressure relief and the lower layers for support.
But they are particularly good if you’re a heavier-weighted side sleeper that needs good spinal support and pressure relief on your hips and shoulders.
Otherwise, use the above descriptions to identify your perfect comfort layer and then look for a support core made with pocket springs with a high coil count (above 700 for a queen mattress), and a low coil gauge for the best possible support.
Hybrid mattresses are also generally a good choice if you’re trying to get to sleep with back pain due to the combination of support and pressure relief – check out these top mattresses for back pain by Tempur-Pedic here.
4: Consider Special Requirements
You’ve now done the bulk of the leg work of picking out your ideal mattress type based on your sleeping position, body weight, and the qualities of the main mattress types.
The next step is to factor in any special requirements that you might have.
If you suffer from back pain, then using an adjustable base could potentially have the greatest impact on you being able to sleep properly – thanks to the ability to relieve pressure on your joints by moving the base to a sleeping position that suits your body type.
You can then of course apply the above guidance points for finding your ideal mattress to go with the base.
But to speed things up, you might like to check out my list of the best adjustable beds here, and look for the mattress and frame combinations – where the two will be compatible.
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, if you have allergies then you’ll want to select a hypoallergenic mattress to reduce the chance of you reacting to the actual mattress materials and limit number of allergens that can penetrate the outer layers.
Memory foam and latex mattresses generally tend to do this better than innerspring mattresses on the whole and lack the cavities that are breeding grounds for dust mites.
5: Adjust for Couples
If you sleep with a partner then you might find that you have different sleeping requirements.
In this case, you might be able to get away with a mattress that has a universal firmness rating.
If not, then you still have a few options.
The first one is to find two separate mattresses that can be zipped together to act as one mattress – with each fitting your individual requirements.
The second is to buy an adjustable bed in the ‘split’ option and choose two compatible mattresses that are tailored to your unique sleeping needs.
6: Decide Where to Buy
So you’ve figured out what your ideal mattress is – but where should you buy it?
Well, traditional thinking is that going to a store is the best option because you’ll be able to lie on the mattress to see how comfy it is for you.
And whilst this is beneficial, the major downside is that you’ll often be charged much, MUCH more when compared to shopping online.
Also, lying on a bed for 2 minutes in the store isn’t as good a gauge of how suitable the mattress is for you as you might think.
Because it can actually take many nights of use for the bed to ‘break in’ and adapt to your body – at which point you’ll find out if the mattress is right for you or not.
That’s why I recommend buying your mattress online.
Because not only can you can save a STACK of money and read through reviews from other customers that have similar sleeping preferences to you – there are plenty of online mattress companies that will offer a sleep trial.
A sleep trial means that you can sleep on the bed for a stipulated number of nights so that you can see if the mattress is right for you and return it risk-free if it’s unsuitable.
For example, Amerisleep offer 100 night sleep trials on their AS mattress range.
What is the Best Type of Mattress to Buy?
If you follow the steps above in order, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the right kind of mattress for your needs when compared to just relying on pure luck or the even the advice of a biased salesperson.
But to summarise, if you follow the steps correctly, you should find that the best type of mattress to buy for you is the one that:
- Has the right level of firmness for your sleeping position and body weight.
- Provides enough pressure relief via the top layers to prevent pain and discomfort.
- Has a high quality support core that will keep your spine in its ideal alignment.
- Is thick enough to stop you from sinking too far into the lower layers.
- Allows you to sleep at a comfortable temperature.
- Has enough edge support to stop you from rolling out during the night.
- Guards against triggering any allergies that you might have.
- Has sufficient motion isolation to stop you and your bed partner waking each other up.
- Doesn’t sag or indent prematurely.
- Is easy to move around and sit up in.
- Works with an adjustable base if you require one.
Do You Really Need to Buy a New Mattress?
WebMD say that you should change your mattress after around 10 – 15 years .
However, having consulted with several other sources, you may need to replace your bed as follows – depending on its materials and how well you’ve looked after it:
|Mattress Type||Average Lifespan|
|Latex||10 – 12 years|
|Memory foam||7 – 10 years|
|Hybrid||7 – 10 years|
|Innerspring||5 – 8 years|
|Pillow top||5- 7 years|
If you’re ready to buy a new mattress – then click the button below.
Where you’ll be able to view the best Tempur-Pedic mattresses to buy online right now.
And why Tempur-Pedic?
Because based on all of the factors that I’ve included in this guide, I personally think that they offer the best types of mattresses that will suit most sleeping preferences.
Sources and References
 WebMD – How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress. Accessed 4/1/20.
No part of this post or website is designed to provide medical advice – always consult with your doctor or a qualified professional when buying a mattress, bed, or product based on your health needs.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.