If you’ve ever spent the night on an uncomfortable mattress and awakened to find yourself sore, sleep-deprived and short-tempered, you know mattress quality matters. However, finding the right one can be daunting. It’s an investment of a few hundred to several thousand dollars and, as any salesperson is sure to remind you, we spend a third of our life asleep, so you want to choose wisely. But don’t lose any sleep over this. Here are some tips to help you find the mattress of your dreams!
Like Goldilocks: Purchase your mattress in person, not online, and seek local stores specializing in mattresses over department stores that just happen to sell them. Now get ready to spend a few minutes on each one. You many not need to go as firm as you think. Many people overcompensate with a firm mattress because they imagine it will soften over time, but with a good quality mattress, medium may provide more than enough support.
Smaller may be better: In days past, the big names in mattresses (often starting with an “S) used to be family-run; however, many have now been purchased by large conglomerates focusing more on quantity than quality, meaning those high prices often reflect the cost of major marketing, not a superior product. On the other hand, mattresses from smaller, lesser-known companies can run around 35% less in price, yet last significantly longer.
Choose your core: Innerspring mattresses: the gauge of the coils and placement of said coils will determine the firmness of the mattress. Memory foam mattresses: think Tempur-Pedic. This petroleum-based product offers a very sinkable surface which is great if you’re a side sleeper and want to cushion your hips and shoulders; however, its squishiness can impede flipping your body from your back to your side and vise versa. Other complaints are the foam can become too stiff when the room temperature is cold and become too heated as you lie upon it. (Not ideal for those who tend to run warm!) Latex mattresses: latex contours to your body and is more bouncy than memory foam, making it easier for you to flip yourself over; 100% natural varieties, sourced from the sap of the rubber tree, are available. Note: Natural rubber latex is also breathable and won’t harbor dust mites which makes it a healthier alternative to petroleum-based foam. Air chamber mattresses: think Sleep Number. These mattresses contain air chambers which can be adjusted via remote control to vary their firmness; one bed can be divided into, ideal for partners whose weights and preference for firmness differ.
Sleep on it: You won’t really know if a mattress is right for you until you spend the night on it. Ask if your local retailer offers a Comfort Guarantee, which is a period of time for you to try a mattress at home and still exchange it for free.
Delve deeper: A mattress labeled “organic” may contain organic cotton (yay!) that has been dyed and softened with chemicals (boo!), be constructed with chemical-laden adhesives used to attach its layers of foam, and be doused with fire-retardant chemicals. You owe it to yourself, and your health, to press beyond labels that read “natural” and “organic” and ask for explanations and sources.
Sleeping safe: By law, mattresses must be fire retardant. The cheapest way to achieve this is with chemicals and, unfortunately, companies do not have to label which ones are used. Worse, these often include a combination of boric acid (used as roach killer), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), antimony (chemically similar to arsenic) and the list goes on. Fire-retardant chemicals are associated with reproductive, thyroid, and neurological disorders, hyperactivity and cancer. They can be transferred transdermally and stored in our fatty tissue–they’ve even been found in breast milk! Ask your salesperson about wool-coated mattresses which are naturally flame resistant. Tip: Wool has the added benefit of absorbing moisture and regulating your temperature as you sleep. However, some wools are additionally treated with flame-retardant chemicals to make them even more fire resistant so do not be satisfied with a label that reads “wool”; inquire further!
Don’t take it lying down: Warranties generally cover manufacturing defects, not wear and tear or comfort. Stains and soil will void warranties, so you may want to add a waterproof guard beneath your mattress pad. Resist the urge to remove the mattress label lest you ruin your chance of a return. If your bed’s foundation is in good shape, you may consider replacing only the mattress or paying for a higher priced mattress with a lower priced foundation, but proceed with caution as, in some cases, this can negate a mattress warranty altogether. Tip: Many pillow-top mattress cannot be flipped, but their longevity can be extended by rotating the mattress at lease twice a year.
Image source: Hastens
Counting zeros, not sleep: For literally the best mattress money can buy, visit a Hasten’s showroom. (Fun fact: the first American Hasten’s showroom opened here in Santa Barbara.) Since 1852, this Swedish company has been making custom, handmade mattresses comprised of horse hair, (tubular so air circulates and you don’t overheat), flax (to dissipate static electricity), wool (a natural fire retardant and insulator), natural cotton, metal coils, and slow-growing pine. Nothing they make is artificial–or inexpensive. Running $6,000 to $100,000, Hasten’s mattresses are designed for you to sink into, not sleep on top of yet, as Tracy Jackson of Santa Barbara Mattress says, “No bed is more supportive!” In a world where most products are made by machine, these mattresses are handmade, customized to your body and made to last.
Consider this: A poorly made mattress will last 1-2 years, a good mattress 9-12 years, a Hasten’s mattress up to 60 years. However, as each Hasten’s mattress is a custom creation, they do not offer a Comfort Guarantee.
Note: This post has been adapted from my newspaper column, Design Intervention, which runs in the Santa Barbara News-Press.