Choosing Between Different Mattress Options

The right mattress can make a difference in how well you sleep at night, and how you feel throughout the day. A good bed will offer support and alignment for your spine, with comfort and a temperature that’s right for you.

Mattresses aren’t one size fits all, so what’s right for one person may not be a good fit for you. You may even have different mattress needs than a partner you share a bed with.

It’s essential to find a mattress that meets your particular needs, especially if you’re susceptible to waking up with aches and pains, or you have trouble sleeping at night. There are many mattress types available on the market to meet the needs of any sleeper, so it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you.

When you shop for a mattress, you should consider:

  • Firmness: This is a measure of how much give the bed offers when you lie down on it. The softer the mattress, the more you’ll sink into it. Generally, a medium-firm mattress is best for most sleepers, but weight, sleeping position, and other factors can require a softer or firmer mattress.

  • Support: Support is the spinal alignment offered by a mattress. Keeping your spine aligned is essential at night because it allows your muscles to relax and can help you wake up without aggravating pressure points.

  • Temperature: A comfortable temperature is essential, and mattresses that are too hot and trap heat can keep you up at night or reduce the quality of your sleep.

  • Motion isolation: Motion transfer can be a problem when you share your bed with a partner or pets. Movement can wake you up or disturb your sleep, so mattresses that absorb movement can make it easier to sleep soundly.

  • Edge support: Feeling like you’re going to roll off the bed is not comforting. If you sleep near the edge of your bed, you’ll enjoy edge support because you won’t feel like you’re about to fall out of bed.

  • Durability: A mattress purchase is an investment in your sleep quality, so you’ll want to be sure the mattress you purchase will last for several years. Look for mattresses that have an estimated lifespan of six years or more.

Mattress Types

  • Innerspring: Innerspring mattresses are the classic mattress type most people are familiar with. They have a support core of steel coils with comfort layers. They can range from soft to very firm depending on construction. This type of mattress typically has good edge support, good bounce, and sleeps cool due to the airflow. However, they can be prone to sagging, transfer too much motion, and may not be as supportive and conforming as foam mattresses.

  • Memory foam: Memory foam mattresses are made of foam with a polyfoam support core. You can choose from a variety of firmness levels for memory foam mattresses. They tend to last longer and have better motion isolation than innerspring mattresses and can offer good conforming to the shape of your body with good pressure relief and spinal alignment. However, memory foam often retains heat, which makes sleeping hot, and can be difficult to move on.

  • Latex: Latex mattresses are constructed of latex foam made from rubber trees. They offer contouring and support and can be purchased in soft or firm levels. Typically dense and durable, latex mattresses tend to last and can be resistant to mold, dust mites, and bacteria. But they can be expensive and may have off-gassing odors when first delivered.

  • Hybrid: Hybrid mattresses aim to offer the best of both worlds, combining a pocketed coil support core with thicker comfort layers of foam or latex on top. You can get a hybrid mattress that’s soft or very firm. Typically, this type of mattress offers support and contouring similar to a memory foam mattress without the heat retention, with better motion isolation than an innerspring mattress. Like innersprings, hybrid mattresses can be prone to sagging and may not last as long as memory foam mattresses.

  • Other mattress types: Other mattress types include airbeds and waterbeds. These mattresses offer chambers that can be filled with water or air to customize the feel and firmness of the bed. With customization, they can be a good option for many sleepers, and especially couples with different firmness or comfort needs. However, they can be expensive and are not as easy to find as innerspring, memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses.

  • Additional mattress options: Additional mattress options include pillow tops, gel, copper, dual comfort zones, and other features. A pillow top, or even a separately purchased mattress topper, can be used to make a mattress softer or conform better to the shape of your body. Gel or copper layers tend to be used to make a mattress sleep cooler. With dual comfort zones, you’re able to create essentially two different mattresses in one to meet the comfort needs of two different sleepers.

Choosing the right mattress for your needs is essential to comfort and avoiding pain when you wake up. Take care to consider the mattress features that are most important to you, read online mattress reviews, and take advantage of sleep trials so you can find a mattress that’s a good fit for you.

Ellie Porter
Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org


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  1. Last but not least, sleep on the floor like our tribe does… why you ask… because our bodies were never meant to be in a cast, courtesy of the modern world’s mattress, all night. Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA. She sleeps on the floor. She got us sleeping on the floor.

    Yeah, I know, it’s a bit extreme but if it works, it works! If you’re into Ancestral Health and Living, give it a go. Be sure to read Katy’s guide on how to transition.

  2. Really great article! I recently have been waking up with considerable back pain. I’ve only had my current mattress for 5 years and thought it would last longer. Next time I think I am going to consider a latex mattress. Thanks for sharing!!