Selecting the Best Mattress

Choosing the best mattress for your individual needs is important for achieving quality, restful sleep for your physical and mental well-being. With proper care, the lifespan of a mattress averages between eight and ten years.

If your mattress is old or you are experiencing back, hip or neck discomfort from sleeping in your bed, it is time to invest in a new mattress. Purchasing a mattress can be a daunting task, especially with the number of choices and types that are available to you.

As you begin your search for a new mattress, familiarize yourself with the different types that are being sold in various price ranges. Your options are broad and include innerspring mattresses, memory foam mattresses, latex foam beds, futons and more. It also may be helpful to look online at ratings and reviews for the best mattress to help you evaluate your options.

Best MattressSelecting the best mattress for you promotes quality, restful sleep.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, the best mattress is the one you find most comfortable and supportive, and the only way to know for sure is to try some out.

It is important to note that while more expensive mattresses may offer thicker foam, more padding, and/or fancier materials, these enhancements may or may not make a significant difference in how the mattress feels to you. Depending on your preferred sleeping position, you may want to consider a mattress that's ideal for side sleepingstomach or back sleeping.

Following is an overview of the basic types of mattresses on the market, which can be found through online retailers or in an array of furniture and bedding stores.


Known as the traditional mattress, an innerspring mattress comes in a variety of trims and offer an extensive list of comfort and support options. As the name suggests, innerspring mattress cores are manufactured of steel coils or springs. Different mattress companies will engineer springs differently to manipulate the sleep surface's firmness, comfort and support characteristics.

Innerspring technology has been around for centuries, allowing manufacturers to fine-tune mattress-building into a near science.

This allows consumers to choose from a wide range of options to find the best mattress to address their needs for support and comfort.

Innerspring mattresses come in all price ranges. They can be the least expensive option – as well as among the most expensive choice. To get a better understanding of just how wide the pendulum can swing when it comes to these mattresses, it is worth digging a little deeper into the three most popular types of coil systems described below.

Bonnell Coil - This type of coil is shaped like an hour-glass and represents the cheapest and longest-running coil type used in mattress manufacturing. The Bonnell Coil can be easily damaged or worn out and there is a high incidence of sagging reported among owners.

  • PROS: Cheap and affordable; good comfort when new
  • CONS: Wears quickly; loses support characteristics sooner than other mattress types

Continuous Coil - The continuous coil is a single wire system weaved into hundreds of interconnected coils. This system helps to extend the mattress life and reduce the incidence of premature sagging.

  • PROS: Consistent, level sleeping surface; affordable; durable
  • CONS: Not all parts of the body need the same support; motion transfer can be an issue if you share your bed with a partner; sagging can be a problem for heavier users

Pocket Coil - Pocket coils are independent coils that are individually encased in fabric, foam or other material. This type of coil system provides varying and appropriate levels of support to different areas of the body (such as the head, chest, hips or ankles) based on weight.

  • PROS: The right support in the right areas; extremely comfortable; tough to beat luxury
  • CONS: Pricey; springs will sag with use; sagging may occur in one area but not another (inconsistent)

Of course, different mattress manufacturers may offer variations of the above in order to present a unique product that sets their brand apart from competitors.


Memory foam mattresses have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. These highly engineered mattresses are manufactured using synthetics, foams and chemicals. In their most basic form, a memory foam mattress will consist of a thick base foam layer that is not unlike many of the foams used in seats or packaging.

The top layer of the mattress is where you would find the actual memory foam. Made using technology developed by NASA (hence the name "space age memory foam" that is often used), this comfort layer is thinner than the base layer. It is designed to provide body contouring characteristics, heat retention and superior support.

Since memory foam material is highly flammable, mattresses are engineered with fire retardants and other chemicals for safety protection. However, those chemicals often leave an odor that is present when the packaging is removed on new mattresses. The smell usually disappears within a couple of days.

By design, memory foam retains body heat. As a result, some users complain about being hot during the night because of the mattress. Others find them to be the best mattress on which they've slept.

For the most part, memory foam mattresses are less expensive than luxury innerspring mattresses, contributing to their popularity.

  • PROS: Memory foam will contour your body, offering high quality comfort and support
  • CONS: Can get expensive on some brands; Memory foam does not last forever and lifespan is typically shorter than most innerspring mattresses; heat retention; odor; heavy weight


Manufactured from the sap extracted from the rubber tree, latex foam mattresses offer many of the same comfort and support qualities of memory foam mattresses but with two important distinctions: they are more natural (therefore less chemicals) and they do not retain as much body heat. As a result, latex foam mattresses are popular among buyers who suffer from scent hyper-sensitivities, as well as people who consider themselves "hot sleepers.”

There are two basic types of Latex Foam: Dunlop and Talalay. Both begin as the same sap from the same tree. Talalay latex adds two steps more to its processing life than Dunlop latex, and this is what makes Talalay more expensive.

In terms of overall quality, experts argue that neither makes the best mattress since the additional steps in Talalay latex simply add to its range of surface-firmness. Those extra steps, however, make it less dense and durable than Dunlop latex.

  • PROS: Exceptional support and comfort; better airflow than memory foam mattresses; more durable than memory foam; odorless
  • CONS: Expensive; heavy weight


Airbeds offer adjustable settings that allow users to customize the comfort and support of their mattress by pumping air into chambers for a firmer sleep experience or releasing air from those chambers to achieve a softer sleep surface. 

Some airbeds are designed with the capability to adjust the firmness of each side of the bed separately. This makes them among the best mattress options for couples who have different mattress preferences.

  • PROS: Will never sag permanently; fully customizable
  • CONS: Unable to provide "zoning" for specific support requirements; While "mattress core" will not sag, the materials do suffer from wear and tear; Some users complain that the air leaks during the night.


When most people think of waterbeds, they think of the 1980's when owners filled a matress-sized “bladder” full of water and placed it inside a bed frame. Those old-school mattresses were trendy, but they provided poor support, little comfort and no motion-cancelling qualities.

Thankfully those days are part of the past. Today's waterbeds replace the traditional mattress core with water, allowing some degree of firmness control. as well as temperature control on some models. These "new" waterbed mattresses offer good structural support and can last a long time with proper care.

  • PROS: Inexpensive alternative to traditional mattresses; Look, feel and install like regular mattresses (no special bed frame is needed)
  • CONS: Support and body motion transfer can be annoying


One of the least expensive bedding options for shoppers is the futon. Extremely comfortable, many futons offer the same benefits as higher priced memory foam and latex mattresses by providing excellent back support. Today's futon mattresses are manufactured using a variety of "fill," including cotton, wool, foam and synthetics.

Since they are lightweight, futons make excellent beds for students or people who move frequently. Futons typically need to be replaced more frequently, as they are not made with the same structural support characteristics as other mattress options.

  • PROS: Low cost; extremely supportive; lightweight
  • CONS: Poor durability; not hypoallergenic; can be awkward


This article about best mattress choices was written by mattress expert Chris Blanchet.

The following video from Consumer Reports provides an excellent primer for buying a mattress. Then, read the helpful information that follows to help with your selection process. 

Most mattresses last five to 10 years before needing to be replaced. Yet, there are things you can do to make your mattress potentially last longer. Here are 8 tips to extend the life of your mattress >>.

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