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Ultimate Mattress Buying Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Mattress

If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably in the market for a new mattress…or at least wondering if your bed’s glory days have passed. Because quality sleep matters (for so many reasons, including your health)—and because there are so many options when choosing the perfect sleep solution for you—we’ve created this step-by-step guide to walk you through each consideration.

Getting the sleep of your dreams means getting educated on what’s ideal for you!

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Mattress?

The average life span of a mattress is six to eight years. You know it’s time to replace your mattress if any of the following apply to your sleep experience:

  • You awake with chronic morning aches and pains.
  • You’re suffering from night sweats.
  • Your mattress sinks…excessively.
  • You get a better night’s sleep elsewhere—whether you’re sleeping in a hotel or at another person’s home.
  • There are visible rips and tears in (or any other damage to) your mattress.

In addition, Consumer Reports advises that you "learn lessons from your old bed." If you have to search for your mattress's "sweet spot" in order to get comfortable, it may be telling you the time has come to invest in a new one.

Now comes the fun part: deciding which mattress is the best fit for you.

Sleep Position

Determining your sleep position is an essential first step in building your sleep profile and, in turn, choosing the right bed. Are you a side, back or stomach sleeper—or a combination sleeper? Here are a few general tips for each type of sleeper:

  • Back Sleepers. Back sleepers require full support of the entire body, including proper spinal support. Back sleepers need to avoid excessive sinkage in the mattress, which can result in back pain. A medium firmness level is recommended for sleepers who weigh under 250 pounds—a medium firmness level will provide ample support for the shoulders and lower back while still cradling the natural arch of the spine. A true firm (and perhaps even a plus-size sleep solution) is recommended for sleepers who weigh over 250 pounds. The goal, again, is to provide ample support for the entire body—including the natural arch of the spine—while taking into account the greater displacement of the mattress due to a heavier body type.
    • Important tip: back sleepers who choose a firm still need contouring—all of our mattresses feature some form of a top comfort layer, including quilting, to ensure pressure point relief.
  • Side Sleepers. Side sleepers need optimal pressure point relief for their shoulders, hips and knees with equal distribution of weight throughout. The overwhelming majority of average-sized side sleepers prefer a medium firmness level for its combination of adequate support, coupled with contouring relief. Sleepers with a smaller body type though—weighing less than 130 pounds—tend to experience more of a sleep-on-top feel. To ensure adequate pressure point relief, truly lightweight sleepers should opt for a soft firmness level.
    • Important tip: side sleepers should rarely, if ever, choose a firm mattress.
  • Stomach Sleepers. Stomach sleepers face unique challenges related to proper spinal alignment and neck support. They need equal distribution of weight while avoiding excessive curving in the spine. Sleepers who weigh less than 250 pounds should opt for a medium mattress—which creates a level sleep surface for adequate support. Sleepers who weigh more than 250 pounds should opt for a firm mattress, with less give—this also ensures a level sleep surface but takes into account the greater displacement of the mattress due to a heavier body type.
    • Important tip: stomach sleepers should never choose a soft mattress. Stomach sleepers should also opt for a thinner (or lower profile) pillow to ensure the neck and spine are aligned as they sleep.
  • Combination Sleepers. Most combination sleepers partially sleep on both their sides and stomachs. They may shift to the extreme of each position while they sleep, or even move to their backs. Combination sleepers of all weights should opt for a medium mattress, allowing for proper spinal alignment during their most prevalent sleep positions and motion—all while getting adequate pressure point relief for areas like shoulders and hips. While combination sleepers may occasionally roll to their stomachs, a firm mattress is highly discouraged.
    • Important tip: combination sleepers should pay attention to the position they’re in when they fall asleep and when they awake—this will help in choosing the right pillow to complement their most prevalent sleep style.

All-Foam vs. Hybrid

When it comes to getting optimal sleep, remember that you know your preferences better than anyone else. As we mentioned earlier, listen to your old mattress. If you've preferred sleeping on a firm mattress for 20-plus years, you'll probably enjoy a firmer feeling mattress in a newer model. With the constant evolution of technology and materials, there's never been a better time to explore your options. If you're unsure about the best fit for you, a quality mattress company can give you a professional recommendation based on your unique sleep needs and profile.

  • Traditional Innerspring and Hybrid Mattresses

There are two main types of innerspring mattresses: traditional innerspring and hybrid mattresses. Traditional innerspring beds are made with an interconnected “grid” of coils covered by a layer of wool or padding. Hybrid mattresses, like the popular Brooklyn Signature, are made with individually pocketed springs, tending to minimize motion transfer better than other types of innerspring mattresses while delivering deep compression support—hybrid mattresses are the most common type of innerspring mattress on the market today. Hybrid mattresses typically also feature one or more layers of foam on top of the base of individually encased coils. This combination allows manufacturers to pair the advantages of coils with the key benefits of foam, including contouring, responsiveness, quilting and even surface infusions for cooling.

    • The types of coils used in a mattress will change the way it feels. Many high-quality hybrid mattresses use individually encased coils, which reduce motion transfer while enhancing support. Consequently, hybrid innerspring mattresses with individually encased coils are great for couples who need some extra support.
    • Hybrid and innerspring mattresses allow for greater airflow, allowing you to sleep cooler than other types of mattresses.
    • Hybrid innerspring mattresses that blend springs with comfort foam layers are usually the most versatile type of bed, providing targeted pressure point relief with variable foams and surface treatments for those who have unique sleep needs.
    • Quality hybrid and innerspring mattresses have heavier gauge coils on the perimeter of the bed, offering superior edge support compared to most all-foam beds.
    • Both hybrid innerspring and traditional innerspring mattresses tend to be more affordable than other types of mattresses—though you can still expect to pay more for certain types of hybrid beds with higher quality technology and materials.
  • All-Foam Mattresses

All-foam mattresses come with a variety of features and benefits. Some foam mattresses are made using one or two types of foam, while others can feature up to five different layers. Contrary to popular belief, the number of layers does matter—that’s because foam mattresses with three or more layers can create more dynamic support, a gentler transition from top comfort layers to core support layers and provide enhanced breathability. An important feature in an all-foam mattress is a high-density core, which will ensure your mattress is not only stable, but also durable over time.

The Three Foam Types

Both all-foam and hybrid mattresses can be constructed of different types of foam. More advanced mattress construction will offer key benefits like cooling gel infusions to moderate sleep temperature but, generally speaking, there are three basic types of foams.

  • Quick Response Foams
    • Quick response foams are exactly that—meaning they respond more quickly to movement. Consequently, these foams are great for sleepers who want contouring pressure point relief but want to avoid the sinking feeling of memory foam.
    • Energex™, TitanFlex™, and CopperFlex™ are all examples of quick response foams used in the construction of our mattresses. They are naturally breathable, making them a great choice for hot sleepers and those that suffer from night sweats. They also offer a distinctive blend of pressure point relief with a “sleep-on-top” feel that’s less extreme than latex.
    • Overall, quick response foams offer a “just right” feel that are the most universally preferred of all foams.
  • Slow Response Foams
    • Memory foam, like that found in the Dreamfoam Arctic Dreams and Dreamfoam Chill, is considered a slow response foam. Best-in-class for motion isolation, memory foam beds are great for couples who want uninterrupted sleep, even if a partner is tossing and turning.
    • Since memory foam is a slow-response foam, memory foam mattresses are a good choice for light sleepers who have a hard time getting comfortable.
    • Memory foam is extremely adaptable to the curves of the body, making them particularly good for side sleepers and people with chronic pain near pressure points.
    • Because of their enhanced contouring properties, memory foams tends to trap heat more than quick response foams or latex. Always look for cooling gel treatments, or cool gel infusions in memory foam to assure optimal temperature moderation. Gel swirl memory foam is another name for a slow response foam that has cooling benefits “swirled” into the mattress’s foam layer.
    • Overall, slow response foams are for sleepers who like a big hug when they sleep.
  • Latex Foams
    • Latex foam is in a class all by itself. Its uniquely buoyant, resulting in the highest responsiveness to movement, comes from greater elasticity. Those who are passionately in favor of latex foam usually gravitate towards the material because of its tremendous pressure point relief, breathability and resilience. 
    • Latex foam can be natural, synthetic or a blend of both varieties. Natural latex is derived from the sap of rubber trees, which is a renewable source.
    • Overall, latex is a great choice for sleepers who want the truest “sleep-on-top” feel. Natural latex is also preferred by those who have skin sensitivities, or who are looking for environmentally friendly materials in beds like the Bloom Hybrid by Brooklyn Bedding or the Eco-Sleep by Brooklyn Bedding.

Your Unique Sleep Needs

Now that we’ve reviewed the key factors in choosing a mattress, it’s important to determine if you have any special sleep needs that a new bed can address. Below are some options you may not have considered.

  • Extra Firm Sleep

If sleeping on the floor provides more comfort than your mattress, you may be in the market for an extra firm mattress. The most typical qualities of those who prefer an extra firm mattress are those with upper or lower back pain, stomach or back sleepers, or those with arthritis or osteoporosis. An extra firm mattress will create a neutral spine position that's better for your back and posture overall. Sleeping on a soft mattress can exacerbate back problems by allowing your body to sink, causing too much pressure on your joints and improper body alignment. An extra firm mattress will also reduce pressure on your circulatory system, making for better blood flow, and compelling you to inhale more oxygen while you snooze. We developed the Plank by Brooklyn Bedding for the sleepers who can never find a mattress firm enough.

  • Plus-Size Sleep

As we mentioned earlier, your weight is one of the most overlooked factors when finding the perfect sleep solution. Independent studies by SleepLikeTheDead.com have found that the heavier you are, the more you will benefit from a thicker and firmer mattress. Whether customers identify as big and tall or curvy, customers in this category share problems unique to their mattresses that include:

  • More middle sag in the mattress
  • More softening of the entire sleep surface
  • Decreased edge support
  • Uneven distribution of support across the surface
  • Decreased comfort and support over time
  • More frequent night sweats
  • Increased motion transfer between sleep partners

A mattress engineered for plus-sized sleepers, like the Titan by Brooklyn Bedding, will not only have the qualities of extra firm sleep, but also the extra durability and extra lift that a mattress needs to stand the test of time.

  • Sleep Compatibility

Is your sleep partner keeping you up at night? Couples are increasingly having to work harder to find a balance between their individual needs for a good night's rest. The most common complaint is motion transfer, whether that be your partner getting in and out of bed, tossing and turning, or an ongoing movement disorder. No matter what the issue is, it can be extremely detrimental to your sleep. Beds that are too soft or don't have adequate support will transfer motion each time your partner rises, whereas a hybrid mattress that limits motion transfer can be a fantastic solution. A quality hybrid mattress consists of multiple layers of foam—ideally chosen for pressure point relief but with less “bounce”—combined with individually encased coils. Individually encased coils are designed to respond independently to compression, limiting the impact of any movement across the surface of the mattress. Another solution to sleep incompatibility can be getting a bigger mattress (or two.) Choosing a larger size mattress that reduces motion transfer can help put distance between you and a spouse that flails. A split California King can be the ultimate divide between you and a bumpy night with your partner, truly isolating you from restlessness and outward activity. Even snoring can sometimes be remedied with a new, adequately fit mattress!

  • Smart Fabrics

There are materials in the bedding industry that actually adjust to your individual sleep: smart fabrics, by definition, are textiles that can sense and respond to changes in their environment. They fall into a few different categories.

  • Surface Infusions

Gel infusions are a relatively new development that allow manufacturers to infuse certain technologies into mattress foam layers to provide an added benefit. Naturally occurring elements like copper and silver add stability to the foam (a bit of a yawn, we know, but structural integrity for the life of your mattress is important!) Proprietary technology, like CopperGel™ houses particles that band together under pressure to ensure that your foam doesn’t bottom out under heavy loads. Perhaps more compelling, copper is highly conductive and helps dissipate excess body heat. Copper also naturally provides protection against viruses and microbial growth, which contributes to a healthier sleep environment.

Among the most popular surface treatments are those related to cooling. Many sleepers love the customization and comfort of foam beds, but don’t love their tendency to sleep hotter than other types of mattresses. Another exclusive technology, called TitaniumGel™, contains titanium particles, used to conduct thermal energy. As foam is compressed, particles group together, creating a pathway for the heat to escape and disperse. This process is particularly important to ensure cooling in areas of deep compression support, like shoulders and hips.

More advanced technologies, like the TitanCool™ infusion used in the Brooklyn Aurora, react even more intelligently to their environment. The average skin temperature is 91 degrees, but a type of phase change molecule (PCM) surface infusion, TitanCool™, is designed to moderate skin sleep temperature to an ideal 88 degrees. Cooling gel beads liquefy at higher temperatures to deliver cooling relief; those same beads solidify at lower temperatures to ensure the ideal sleep environment.

  • Performance Tops

While surface infusions rely on thermal energy to do their multitasking, multi-faceted benefits thing, there are certain categories of technology that leverage thermal energy so uniquely, they’re in a category all by themselves. You probably remember the debut of thermal responsive clothing products—like swimwear or evening wear—that changed color, based on a reaction to heat.

The science behind the Spartan by Brooklyn Bedding, and the Propel by Brooklyn Bedding, is similarly reactive, based on the fundamental principle that heat is energy—and that energy is safely and naturally transferred every day by one of three means: conduction, convection, and radiation. The latest technology in this arena uses a thermo-reactive process on the surface of the mattress to convert your body heat into Far Infrared Rays (FIR), safely emitted back into your body as invisible waves of energy. Why does it work? Because Far Infrared Rays are unique in their ability to penetrate, soothe and stimulate local blood flow, enabling a more restorative sleep.

Standard vs Non-Standard Sizes

Once you've figured out all of the above, one of the last questions should be relatively easy: your mattress's size. Be sure to measure your sleep space, making sure there's enough room for your new mattress, and take account your current mattress if you're changing the size. Below are standard measurements in the mattress industry. Keep in mind that every mattress is different and mattresses can vary (+/-) 1-1.5"”. If you're looking for special sizing, be sure to check that the company offers it—some mattress manufacturers actually specialize in custom sizes. Mattresses specially made for RVs, fifth wheels, and campers can be found at RV Mattress by Brooklyn Bedding.

Customer-Friendly Policies

Purchasing a mattress is a major investment—whether you're shopping in-store or online, it's important to know if the company you choose offers customer-friendly policies. Despite all of your research and recommendations, you'll never really know how a mattress suits you until you’ve had a chance to sleep on it. Here are some things to look for, so you'll never get stuck with a less than perfect sleep.

  • Generous Warranty

First things first: does the mattress come with a warranty, and just how long is it? Even the highest quality products may fail or show early signs of wear and tear due to a manufacturer defect. Will the mattress company cover it? And what are the terms and conditions of doing so? Proper support and protection for your mattress can all be conditions that contribute to your eligibility for a warranty claim. Look for frequently asked questions here.

  • Generous Trial Period

When buying a mattress, talk to the company’s sleep expert about comfort guarantees and the mattress trial period. A good trial period will allow you to sleep on your decision (literally) for at least 90 days. You want to make sure to give your mattress a fair chance, so it typically takes at least 30 days for your body to adjust to the new materials, and vice versa. With that sort of comfort guarantee, you should be allowed to return the mattress—no questions asked—if your mattress is not everything you dreamed of.

  • Reasonable Returns

Regardless of where you get your mattress, make sure you know all there is to know about the return policy, and recycling options if you decide not to keep your mattress. If you're not happy with the mattress, what are your options? Some stores don't take returns, while others charge for an exchange or return. One of the most significant benefits of purchasing a mattress online is that retailers know you might not be able to test a particular mattress in-store. They will then typically generally offer a generous trial and free returns, so you can feel confident making your purchase. Additionally, any online mattress retailer worth considering will also pick the mattress up, or help you donate or recycle it as well as give you a full refund if you aren't happy.

Looking for even more information on finding the ideal sleep solution? You can check out our full glossary of tech and terms, or get in touch with a sleep expert for help. Ultimately, we’re here to help you get the sleep of your dreams. 😴


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