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Cooling, innerspring, flippable, all-foam... let's face it, shopping for a mattress is confusing. A whole lot of the time, things are made to sound even more complicated than they actually are, so making an informed decision about which bed is worth the investment is tough. After all, a mattress is a purchase that's meant to last anywhere from 5 to 15 years! Wouldn't it be great if an impartial third party compared mattresses in a scientific, unbiased way?

Thankfully, it's finally a reality. Consumer Reports tested queen-size mattresses by running a 308-pound roller over the mattress 30,000 which they felt simulated 8 to 10 years of use. Here's what they found out, plus what you as a consumer can learn from each...

1. It’s hard to compare.

Mattress companies make exclusive lines for many dealers. A shopper may try to compare, but it’s hard. When Consumer Reports went to three mattress chains and asked for a mattress comparable to three they had purchased at department stores, 5 out of 6 were “far off the mark”. Yikes.

Tips and Takeaways:

Comparing mattresses based on particular elements is difficult, because every company describes and rates their mattresses differently. It's a little like trying to accurately compare a bicycle, a car and a horse-drawn carriage. What factors are even consistent across those things, apart from being modes of transportation?

The same goes for mattresses - it really comes down to what you, as the buyer, is looking for (and what is most important to you). Everyone's approach is a bit different, but our favorite way of rating mattress quality is with three simple indicators: support, comfort, and cooling.

If you have chronic back pain, support is probably the most important element for you. If you have trouble with getting comfortable in bed and staying asleep, comfort is high on the list. If you tend to wake up clammy and sweaty, cooling is number one. Decide first what is the most important deciding factor for you from those three, and go from there.

2. Foam layers can make better bed, but only with the right combination.

When testing innerspring mattresses with layers of foam, the thickness of the foam was important to the overall durability and quality of the mattress. The mattresses that scored well had foam layers several inches thick – but even then performance varied.

Tips and Takeaways:

The takeaway here might be to know and understand how each layer plays a part in either support, cooling or comfort - the three key elements of finding the best bed for you. After you know what is in each layer of your bed, make sure you know exactly why that layer is used. Is it just there as a filler, or does it serve a purpose? We like to say that layers really do matter... so long as they are curated to enhance either support, comfort or cooling.

3. More coils doesn't automatically equal a better bed.

Consumer Reports tested mattresses with 600 to 1000 coils and found that just having more coils didn’t make the bed an automatic winner. The same was true of the different types of coils (hourglass, continuous wire or individually pocketed). None of the different coils proved to be “inherently better”, so much as better for a particular thing.

Tips and Takeaways:

The trick here is to figure out what - if any - of the benefits of pocketed springs is most important to you. While pocketed springs are best for enhanced motion isolation, continuous wire tends to hold up better over time. Consider things like firmness level (for your height and weight), edge support (for shared beds) and cost.

4. Gel is cooler... most of the time.

Gel-infused foam is supposed to provide a cooler night’s rest. Consumer Reports says that if the layer is buried in other layers, it’s not very effective. In fact, their research showed that while innerspring mattresses with a gel-infused layer slept cooler, the opposite was true with foam beds.

Tips and Takeaways:

The takeaway is that gel can certainly help you sleep cool, but only if that layer is carefully constructed into the upper-most layers of the bed. Even better? Add a cooling enhancement in the very top cover to really nail body temperature regulation. The Brooklyn Aurora combines the two methods for even better cooling.

5. Support is variable.

People who sleep on their back are often encouraged to look for special lumbar support. Mattress manufacturers can make a sales pitch based on special back support as they try to set their mattress apart from others. However, Consumer Reports showed no significant improvement when lumbar support was provided in a mattress, so long as the mattress as a whole was constructed to offer overall support as opposed to targeted support.

Tips and Takeaways:

Support is subjective, so what one person might consider great lumbar support, another may consider too firm to get comfortable. Take into account your height, weight and preferred sleep position - and then determine what type of support is sufficient for your needs. An easier route might be to find a support option that is designed to be a more general delivery of support that works for most, if not all, sleepers. Pocketed spring technology and purposefully crafted layers is our method, whereas other companies prefer particular blends of foam.

Buying a mattress can be difficult. Price doesn’t necessarily mean comfort, and specifications change from store-to-store. One of the things you should look for when you’re shopping is a good return policy. Internet mattress retailers have led the way in extending the return time to months, not days. They know that when you change what you sleep on your body needs time to adjust – 30 days is recommended.

So before you pull the trigger and buy a new bed, consider how your individual sleep needs play into the perfect mattress purchase. Not sure where to start? Talk to one of our Sleep Specialists for no-nonsense, expert guidance on choosing your perfect bed.


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