The law will tell you I entered adulthood at age 18. I'm not sure that's true. It wasn’t until I was 20 and mattress shopping at Ikea that I felt like an actual grown-up.
Mom wasn’t there to help me pick it out, and Dad wasn’t there to pay for it. That was probably for the best, though. My parents still sleep on a waterbed.
Thanks to several moves, a breakup and buying my first house, I have since bought a few more mattresses. Still, there are several things I wish I’d known before I bought each of them. And, if you don’t have the good fortune of running into Amy Schumer — who bought an employee a mattress for letting her use the store’s bathroom — these tips may save you time and money.
9 tips for picking the best mattress
- May is the best time to buy a mattress: According to Consumer Reports, the mattress industry rolls out new products in June. In other words, by Memorial Day, most stores clear their inventory of older models. Keep in mind, though, that some mattresses feel different during different months. For example, in Montana (where I live), if the temperature outside dips below freezing, my memory foam mattress feels as stiff as a board until I add body heat and give it a few minutes to soften.
- Cutting corners will cost you: During my first mattress shopping experience eight years ago at Ikea, I only spent $100. I was on a college student budget, so I went with the cheapest option. I still shudder when I think about the nights I spent tossing and turning on something that felt about as comfortable as the bunk beds in my parents’ RV. I blame this mattress, which I slept on for about a year, for ruining my relationship with Ikea.
- Take your sweet time: One-third of your life will be spent sleeping. Keep that statistic top of mind when you're mattress shopping for your specific needs. With so many models to test, it can be time-consuming. But, when you consider how much time you will spend on it, you won’t feel so bad for dedicating three consecutive weekends to the hunt.
- If buying used, older is better: In this case, older refers to the age of the mattress’s previous owner. The one I sleep on, a life-changing $2,500 Tempur-Pedic (the mattress I have isn't sold anymore, but the brand says this one would be a close match), used to be my grandmother's. She didn’t have much to spend money on when she was in her 80s. Since she spent a lot of time in bed, she invested in a very comfortable mattress for her last days. The pillow-top mattress in my spare room — which Airbnb guests have never complained about — came from an estate sale.
- Get help picking the mattress, but assemble yourself: When my friend Kayla moved her family from Hawaii to Montana she splurged on a Sleep Number. She got her number (how firm or soft her mattress should be) calculated in store and was sleeping soundly from day one. Her husband, who didn’t get his number calculated in store, spent about a month at home trying to find his on his own. She also said she wishes they’d saved the $280 they paid to have the delivery team assemble it for them. The setup instructions are in the manual (and online), and if you have a few tools and a little mechanical inclination, it’s not too bad.
- Read the fine print: I’ve never returned a mattress (although I probably should have). But, I’ve heard horror stories from friends forced to pay exorbitant removal and/or restocking fees. Most stores will let you return a mattress, but it might cost you. Also, that warranty may not be as worthwhile as it seems. Most warranties are prorated and many require you to use the mattress with a certain frame or box spring. They're immediately void if you use things like heating pads or electric blankets. Also, remember that your warranty is only good as long as the manufacturer is in business.
- Cooling gel is worth the hype: When my boyfriend first bragged about his new cooling gel mattress, I laughed and rolled my eyes. I was convinced it was just a gimmick and that, if he really wanted to avoid waking up in a sweat, he should ditch his Eddie Bauer duvet. But, after sleeping on it, I agree that it's great. The cooling gel isn’t cold to the touch like I initially thought. It’s more breathable than traditional memory foam, so body heat doesn't get trapped and make it too warm for comfort.
- $200 can be all it takes: After experiencing that $100 Ikea nightmare, I made sure the next mattress I bought was at least $600 — as if price was the best reflection of quality. Almost a decade later, mattress technology is better than ever, and thanks to online shopping, pricing is more competitive. The idea of getting a comfortable mattress without dipping too deeply into your savings isn’t unheard of. Sure, you may not get to test the Zinus Memory Foam Green Tea Mattress before getting out your credit card. But that’s where more than 25,000 online reviews come in handy. Plus, one TODAY staffer slept on the best-selling Zinus for six months and said it's the best mattress she's ever owned.
- Lastly, check your pockets: A few years after that Ikea nightmare, I had a bigger budget and spent a long day mattress shopping only to realize I didn’t have my apartment keys. Sometime during the day, most likely when I fell back and splayed out on a test model, they’d fallen out of my pocket. Fortunately, my boyfriend let me in. But going back and revisiting each mattress store the next day until I’d found them was embarrassing.
The best mattresses to buy now
To help nail down the mattresses worth your hard earned money, we reached out to Smarter Living Expert and founder of bahartak.com, Bahar Takhtehchian. Since mattress buying is a very personal experience, Takhtehchian recommends going into a store, if possible, to lay on the different mattresses to get an idea of what you like before buying anything online. She also reminded us that we should be replacing our mattresses at least every seven years, so if your mattress is older than you can remember read on to shop a few of her favorites.
"If you have back issues or if you're just achy, I do like the Tempur-Pedic because they mold to your body," Takhtehchian told TODAY.
These affordable mattresses are great for people who want the ease of shopping online. Not only are they made with three foam layers that sleeps cool, they come with a risk-free 100 night trial.
According to Takhtehchian, Tuft and Needle makes some of the best mattresses in boxes you can buy. With more than 7,000 reviews and a 100-night trial, it's easy to see why people love it.
These mattresses have been around for a while, ensuring customers can feel confident buying them.
Takhtehchian particularly liked these mattresses because they're easily customizable. Does your partner like a firm mattress, but you're squarely on Team Soft Mattress? You can each get what you want, thanks to the smartphone app that can change the feel of the mattress at home.
We added this mattress to the list after colleagues raved about it. One TODAY editor bought this model in a pinch when she moved to New York City and says it's the best mattress she's ever owned. It's a somewhat firm, supportive mattress that also sinks just a bit when you lay in it.
Other bestsellers to consider
This memory foam mattress is perfectly plush for side and back sleepers, but gives enough support to provide a comfortable sleep for all.
This award-winning hybrid mattress has cooling memory foam and over 1,000 pocket springs for durability and enhanced support. It also comes with a 10-year warranty for the utmost customer satisfaction.
Layla lets you sleep cleaner — but how? This mattress includes copper gel inside the memory foam, which forms an antimicrobial barrier that fights off harmful bacteria.
The Bear Mattress has three layers of memory foam designed to support your body, alleviate pressure and disperse unwanted body heat.
Your life may change for the better one you rest your head on this mattress. Just ask Nectar's previous customers who've said it has helped their back pain, stiffness and other aches and pains!
If you're trying to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle, splurge on this Birch mattress. Made with sustainably sourced materials, your purchase also comes with a natural cotton cover to help you sleep cozier.
For more recommendations for a good night's sleep, check out:
- Bed in a box? Consumer Reports explains the new trends and shares its top picks
- How to sleep better: 25 gadgets for a better night's sleep
- 12 innovative products to help you get your best sleep ever
- I tried a $10 sleep mask with 10,000 reviews and have never slept better