How to Choose the Mattress Right for You
At Nolah, we believe there are few purchases as consequential as buying a new mattress. This may sound dramatic, but think about it; if your new mattress lasts 20 years, you’ll spend roughly 58,000 hours sleeping on its surface. During those hours, your body will rest and repair while your brain processes and stores the memories that make up your life.
To take care of your physical health and mental wellness, you need plenty of restorative sleep each night. And finding a comfortable, supportive mattress that meets your unique needs is the best way to help yourself fall asleep and stay asleep.
Following these seven simple steps will help you through the mattress shopping process and lead you to your perfect-fit mattress with the right materials, firmness level, and features for quality sleep.
1. Know Your Budget
Setting a budget or identifying your ideal price range may not be the most exciting part of the mattress shopping process, but it’s a necessary step for making any major purchase.
Mattresses vary widely in cost and quality, and a range of factors (like size, material type, and support features) determine their price. So before you get too deep into the shopping process, you’ll want to set guidelines for how much you plan to spend on your new bed. Doing so will help you target your search on options within your price range and save time by ruling out ones that don’t line up.
Average Mattress Prices
We took a look at pricing for a selection of main competitors within each category and have included a range here.
2. Select a Mattress Size
If you don’t know what size mattress you’re after, we recommend making that decision now. Our Mattress Size Guide will walk you through your options and all the aspects you should consider to find the right fit. These deciding factors include your budget, who you’re shopping for, body type, and bedroom size limitations.
3. Compare Mattress Types and Materials
Budget and bed size aside, choosing a mattress type is the most important decision you have to make when shopping for a new mattress.
Mattress type—a mattress’s structural construction and primary materials—determines or influences all of the following mattress qualities, making it the biggest differentiating factor for mattress shoppers. Understanding the following terms will help you choose your ideal mattress type and identify which features you care about most.
Check for these points
- Support: How well a mattress holds the body in place and keeps the spine aligned.
- Pressure Relief: A mattress’s ability to distribute a sleeper’s weight evenly, reducing pressure at peak pressure points like the shoulders, back, and hips.
- Firmness Level: How soft or firm a mattress feels. Firmness level is measured on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the firmest.
- Contouring: The way a mattress material molds to your body, hugging your curves.
- Responsiveness: How quickly a mattress reacts to pressure and pressure removal.
- Motion Isolation: A mattress’s ability to contain the motion when you add or remove pressure.
- Cooling: How quickly and effectively a mattress dissipates heat.
- Breathability: How much ventilation or air circulation a mattress material allows.
- Edge Support: How well the perimeter of a mattress resists sinking and supports your weight.
- Durability: How well a mattress resists sagging and natural wear and tear.
- Lifespan: How long a mattress lasts without sagging and losing structure or support.
Now that you know the lingo mattress brands and reviewers use to assess a bed’s attributes, you’re ready to identify the mattress type and materials that will work best for you.
Hybrids combine the contouring comfort of foam and latex mattresses with the strength and stability of innerspring mattresses. All hybrid mattresses have multi-layer construction, joining a coil support system with foam or latex layers on top. Hybrid mattresses typically have a thick profile and pack in the latest mattress features and technology.
What You Should Know About Hybrid Mattresses
- Hybrid mattresses offer the benefits of both innerspring mattresses and foam or latex mattresses. That said, they also take on many of the disadvantages of their respective parts. For example, a hybrid memory foam mattress may trap heat and conform too deep, just like a standard memory foam mattress.
- Hybrid mattresses tend to use the latest technology, including pocketed (individually-wrapped) coils. You won’t come across many hybrids using the outdated continuous coil design.
The term “foam mattress” generally refers to mattresses made with polyurethane foam (polyfoam), a material known for its flexibility and cushioning capabilities. Mattress foams contour to your curves while the tiny air pockets within the material support the body and redistribute pressure.
Anyone interested in a foam mattress should know right off the bat that not all mattress foams are created equal. Because mattress makers use different foam formulas, foam mattresses can widely vary in terms of their firmness level, flexibility, responsiveness, heat dissipation, support, and lifespan.
Not all foam mattresses are created equal. Because mattress makers use different foam formulas, foam mattresses can widely vary in terms of their firmness level, flexibility, responsiveness, heat dissipation, support, and lifespan.
While some mattresses companies—including Nolah—use their own proprietary polyfoam blends, most use a derivation of memory foam. Originally developed by NASA in the 1970s, memory foam is a subtype of polyfoam that uses viscoelastic chemicals to achieve flexibility.
At Nolah, we see memory foam (also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam) as an outdated material. Because of its chemical composition, memory foam traps heat, conforms too easily, and responds slowly to pressure removal. Our proprietary AirFoam™️ blend is 100 percent free from the viscoelastic chemicals that give memory foam these properties.
What You Should Know About Foam Mattresses
- Most high-quality foam mattresses have a multi-layer design. Each foam layer serves a different purpose and may use a unique foam formula or differ in density. For example, many foam mattresses have softer foam layers on top for comfort and contouring and firmer foam layers underneath for support and stability.
- Many mattress companies add coolants like copper and gel to their memory foam mattresses in an attempt to counteract the material’s heat-trapping qualities. At the moment, little scientific research supports the effectiveness of these infusions.
Traditional Memory Foam
Made from the sap-like latex harvested from rubber trees, latex foam is an all-natural mattress material popular among eco-conscious shoppers. Tapping latex does not harm the rubber trees, and the processed foam is durable and biodegradable, making it a highly sustainable resource. It also keeps cool and resists bacteria naturally—no chemical additives necessary.
Latex mattresses have a uniquely buoyant and flexible feel. Like polyfoam, latex foam distributes your body weight, relieves pressure, and contours to your curves. However, it responds faster to pressure and pressure removal, giving the material its distinctive bounce.
What You Should Know About Latex Mattresses
- While this guide focuses on natural options, you’ll also see mattresses made with synthetic latex. Shoppers will also see two types of natural latex foam, Talalay and Dunlop. They derive from the same rubber tree serum but are processed differently. You can read more about these distinctions here.
- People often associate latex with firmer mattresses, but like polyfoam, latex foam comes in a range of firmness levels. Indentation load deflection (ILD) measures latex foam density, which translates to how soft or firm the foam feels. You can learn more about latex ILD here.
- Like foam mattresses, latex mattresses typically have multi-layer construction. Each layer may have a different ILD depending on its primary purpose: comfort or support.
- Latex mattresses typically use other organic or natural materials such as cotton and wool.
Innerspring or Coil Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses—also known as coil or spring mattresses—date back to the mid-1800s. While they're still the most common mattress type, they'll likely be eclipsed by hybrids, their more advanced counterpart, in the upcoming years.
Today, most coil mattresses have an internal support system with at least 1,000 springs. These springs are either interconnected or pocketed (individually wrapped in fabric) and provide the necessary tension to hold a sleeper in place and distribute their body weight across the mattress's surface.
What You Should Know About Innerspring Mattresses
Each mattress type has its strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to innerspring models, you should take the following characteristics into account:
- Most coil mattresses feature a pillow top or foam layer on top. These top layers add cushioning, but are thinner than the comfort layers in foam, latex, and hybrid models.
- Innerspring mattresses—especially those with continuous, interconnected springs—provide limited responsiveness and motion isolation compared to newer mattress technology.
- You can’t judge an innerspring mattress on coil count alone. If you choose this mattress type, look at coil count in combination with the coils’ flexibility and gauge.
4. Identify Your Ideal Mattress Firmness Level
Once you know which type of mattress best fits your needs, you can start to compare specific mattress brands and models. The next mattress characteristic you should consider is your ideal firmness level, which depends on your sleep position, body type, and personal comfort preferences.
What is Mattress Firmness?
A mattress’s firmness level refers to how soft or firm it feels. Firmer mattresses provide more pushback than their softer counterparts, meaning the surface of the mattress won’t flex or “give in” as much. Soft mattresses provide less resistance, allowing the body to dip slightly into the mattress.
Mattress brand and product reviewers use the mattress firmness scale to compare the feel of different mattress models. The scale spans from 1 to 10, 10 being the firmest rating.
Finding the Right Firmness Level For Your Body Type
How a sleeper experiences mattress firmness is also relative to their weight. What feels firm to a lighter individual may feel plush to a heavier individual because their body puts more pressure on the bed, causing the surface to flex further.
The next chart below also shows how to factor in your weight and sleep position to determine your ideal firmness level.
Why Does Sleep Position Matter When Buying a New Mattress?
Depending on the position you sleep in, specific areas of the body will bear more weight than others. All sleep positions distribute body weight differently, creating peak pressure points where your mattress has to support a heavier load.
Your goal is to find a mattress that offsets these peak pressure points with weight redistribution and offers extra support where it’s needed to keep your spine aligned. Your sleep position determines where these pressure points fall, making it an essential consideration when choosing a new bed.
We discuss the unique needs associated with each of the four main sleeper profiles—side, back, stomach, and combination sleepers—at length in our Sleep Position Guide. Mattress shoppers can also use the chart below for quick reference.
Sleep Position, Weight, and Mattress Firmness
The above chart can help shoppers identify their ideal mattress firmness range based on their weight and sleep position. However, it’s intended as a general guide, not a formula for finding a perfect fit. Keep in mind that the firmness scale isn’t an exact science nor used uniformly across the mattress industry.
What If My Partner and I Have Different Firmness Level Preferences and Needs?
Hopefully, this guide has shown you how personalized mattresses can get, especially when it comes to firmness. If you share your bed with a partner, you may be wondering how to choose the right firmness level if you have different body types or sleep in different positions. If that’s the case, we recommend two solutions:
- Split It– You and your partner don’t have to split up to sleep well. You always have the option of buying two twin XL mattresses and setting them up side by side on a king bed frame. That way, you can both choose your perfect mattress but still sleep together in the same bed.
- Meet in the Middle– It may not be a perfect solution, but choosing a mattress somewhere in between your selected firmness levels will likely please both parties. For couples with different preferences, we usually recommend mattresses with 5 to 7-level firmness. The majority of sleepers find comfort and ample support within this range.
5. Consider Mattress Height (Thickness)
Your new mattress's height may not be your top concern, but it does affect the feel of your bed and how easily you can climb in or out. The number of layers used to construct your mattress (and their individual thickness) will determine the mattress's overall height.
In general, thicker mattresses offer more support and cushioning, though it depends on the construction and material quality. We recommend choosing a mattress at least 8 inches thick. By nature, hybrid mattresses tend to be thicker than all-foam or latex models.
You also want to know how far from the ground you’ll sleep, factoring in the height of the mattress and the bed frame. Especially if you have a hard time getting in and out of bed, you want to make sure you can plant your feet flat on the ground while sitting on the edge of your mattress. Parents should also consider bed height when buying a mattress or bed frame for young children who could fall.
6. Explore Additional Features and Specifications
At this point, you've made the major decisions that eliminate options outside of your basic requirements. Now, you can get a bit more technical and zero in on the features that aren't essential but may make you more comfortable or help you choose between similar models. Depending on your physical needs and personal preferences, you may also want to consider the following factors and features.
Solutions for Common Pain Points
When deciding on a mattress, it also helps to know what specific pain points keep you up at night and what mattress features can alleviate these issues. For example, if you often experience joint pain, you should prioritize pressure relief qualities. If you struggle with back pain, look for a mattress with targeted support in the lumbar region. For sleepers with allergies, we recommend a hypoallergenic mattress (like natural latex models) with a protective cover.
Many mattresses have enhanced cooling properties to help hot sleepers stay cool and comfortable all night. For example, the Nolah Evolution features graphite-infused foam and a breathable gusset that actively dissipate body heat.
High-quality mattresses with coils, particularly hybrids, often offer targeted support by segmenting coils into different zones. The springs in each zone are tensioned to provide just the right amount of support to different sections of the body. All of Nolah’s hybrid mattresses use this technology.
Reinforced Edge Support
If you use every inch of your bed, including the perimeter, you may want a mattress with extra-hardy edges. Mattresses with enhanced edge support (like the Nolah Evolution) use thick, tightly-tensioned coils around the sides to make the edges suitable for sleep. Reinforced edges also help people who sit on the edge of their mattress as a transitory step to make getting in and out of bed easier.
Adjustable Base Compatibility
If you own an adjustable base or plan to buy one for your new bed, make sure you choose a compatible mattress. Most foam and latex models work well with adjustable bases, as do many hybrid options. If you’re getting a hybrid or a particularly thick mattress, we recommend checking the product description or contacting customer support to confirm compatibility. All Nolah mattresses work seamlessly with adjustable bases, and we offer two adjustable bases of our own.
7. Look for Shipping, Sleep Trials, and Customer Support Services
Buying a new bed is a big investment, so you want to make sure it’s a smart and secure purchase. When it comes to mattresses, shopping smart means sticking with brands that offer convenience, purchase protection, and easy access to support specialists. As you comparison shop, be sure to read policy details and look out for the following.
Shipping and Setup
Remember when buying a new mattress meant strapping it to the top of your car and crossing your fingers the whole ride home from the store? Mattress compression technology has made this hassle a thing of the past. Now, virtually all online mattress companies offer free delivery. Any mattress purchase that doesn’t include free shipping is a bright red flag.
Setting up a mattress-in-a-box is typically a quick and easy process. Depending on the mattress type and size, you can do it alone or with the help of one other person. Most online mattress brands also offer white glove setup and old mattress removal for an additional price.
We also caution shoppers against purchasing a mattress online from any company that doesn’t offer an at-home sleep trial.
A trial allows customers to try their new bed then decide to keep it or return it within a designated period. Most reputable online mattress companies offer a trial of at least 90 days, giving you plenty of time to get used to your new bed and make a decision.
Nolah uniquely offers a sleep trial opt-out option that takes up to $150 off the price of the mattress. Many returning customers and people who have tried a friend’s Nolah bed take advantage of this offer.
The vast majority of mattresses include a manufacturer’s warranty that covers defects. A standard warranty only covers issues caused by faulty craftsmanship or manufacturing, not damage caused by accidents or misuse. Depending on the circumstances and terms of the agreement, the company will either repair or replace your mattress if they accept the warranty claim.
Mattress manufacturer’s warranty lengths vary from brand to brand. We recommend choosing a mattress with a warranty that covers at least the expected lifespan of the product, typically around 10 years for newer beds. Nolah proudly offers a lifetime warranty on all our mattresses.
Accident Protection Plans
If you’re accident-prone, sleep with pets, are buying a mattress for a young child, or simply want peace of mind, we suggest choosing a mattress brand that offers an accident protection plan.
These add-on protection plans cover the accidents that standard manufacturer’s warranties don’t, such as spills, stains, rips, tears, and punctures. As a rule of thumb, protection plans that cost less than 10 percent of the mattress’s price are generally worth the investment. At Nolah, we offer our 10-year Mulberry Protection Plan for just one cent extra for our Nolah Nurture kids' mattress. The plan costs as low as $49 with our other models.
Additional Customer Support Services
Buying a mattress online doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions or get advice from product experts. Many companies have a customer support team on standby 24/7, and you can contact them via live chat, email, or over the phone. These representatives can also help you with setup, returns, warranty claims, and more. Even years after purchasing a mattress, you should be able to contact the company for support.
How do you know if a mattress brand offers quality and convenient support? You can usually find testimonials from real customers by running a Google search for company reviews. Look out for reviews that mention returns and other customer services.
Make Your Choice and Sleep On It
If you’ve followed these seven steps, you’re ready to make a decision and order your new mattress!
Once you’ve considered mattress price, size, type and materials, firmness level, thickness, and the brand’s policies and services, there’s nothing left to do but choose the model that best fits your specifications and requirements.
With your purchase made, you’ll be well on your way to getting better, deeper sleep with a mattress that feels tailored to your exact needs. You can look forward to cozy, comfortable nights and pain-free mornings thanks to your bed. The shopping process may seem long, but the moment you crawl into your new bed, you’ll be glad you paid attention to detail and found your customized fit.