Selecting the Ideal Mattress for a Good Night’s Sleep


In spite of what you may see in ads, there isn’t one ideal mattress that suits all — even if it cools you off, warms you up, lets you pick a magic number, elevates your head, your feet, and pretty much gyrates like Elvis at the touch of a button. Depending on the size, a new mattress is not an inexpensive purchase; you can’t afford to get it wrong.

So, how do you select the perfect mattress? When it does its job correctly, a mattress should support your body while your head, shoulders, spine, rear and heels are in proper alignment.

A mattress that’s too firm will push on those main pressure points and can take you out of alignment. Conversely, a mattress that’s too soft won’t support those pressure points properly. Too soft or too hard, the wrong mattress can have you waking up feeling sore and achy in the morning. According to Michael Breus, PhD and author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep, firmer beds seem to be better for people with lower back pain.

“If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you,” Breus says.




He goes on to say that the right mattress is one on which you feel no pressure, almost as if you’re floating in air. One important caveat: Many mattress stores have a return policy. While it may seem like a big fat hassle to set up a bed only to return it a week or so later, it’s even more of a pain to get stuck sleeping on the wrong mattress. Take advantage of that policy if needed.

To help you navigate the sea of available mattresses on the market today, here are some advantages and disadvantages of the popular types of mattresses you’ll encounter when shopping.



Popular brands include, Serta, Stearns & Foster, Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy Posturepedic.


Widely available.
Good initial comfort and support.
Many models are inexpensive.
Many firmness options.
Consumer familiarity — this was probably your grandparent’s mattress.


Below average owner satisfaction.
Below average durability/lifespan.
Below average pressure-point relief.

Can be noisy.

Memory Foam

Popular brands include Tempur-Pedic, IKEA, Serta iComfort.


Often widely available.
Above average pressure-point relief.
Good motion isolation.
Several brands/models affordable.
No noise.


Initial odor/off gassing possible.
Heat retention possible.
High-density types difficult to move on.

Hybrid (combines innersprings with memory foam)

Popular brands include Simmons, Beautyrest, Sealy Posturepedic.


Effective comfort/support combo.
Many firmness options.
Usually good motion isolation.


Durability/lifespan questionable.
Somewhat pricey.
Heat retention possible.
Weight often substantial.

Air Mattress

Popular brands include Sleep Number, Tempur-Pedic Choice, Comfor-Pedic IQ, Innomax.


Adjustable support/firmness.
Each side can have own setting.
Above average back pain relief.
Above average longevity.


Long-term cost can be high.
Mechanical in nature.
Uneven sleep surface possible.


Popular brands include Foam Sweet Foam, Habitat Furnishings, Savvy Rest.


Above average pressure/pain relief.
No noise.
Often appeals to “green” buyers.
Customizable in some cases.


Limited availability.
Heat retention possible.
Initial odor possible.