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How to Test a Mattress in Store Before Buying?
By Dustin Morgan | 5 Minute Read
How do You Know it’s Time to Replace Your Mattress?
The reason to buy a new mattress is purely your choice. But how would you know you need to replace your old mattress?
Here are some signs to help you figure out why your mattress might need replacing.
Your mattress is more than 10 years old: On average, a mattress lasts between 7-10 years. So, if your sleep surface is too old, it’s time to think about a replacement, especially if you’ve tossing and turning at night more than usual.
Your allergies are flaring up: Old mattresses hoard allergens and dust, and with time and regular use, the level of these allergens increases, so does the risk of allergies and asthma.
Your sleep quality has declined: Do you struggle to fall and stay asleep at night? Or do you keep tossing around uncomfortably? Your mattress might be the culprit here, either because it’s old or perhaps it is just not comfortable for your body type.
Saggy, lumpy, uncomfortable mattress: If you notice your mattress has lumps or dips where you sleep, or springs stick out, then it’s definitely time for a new bed. If your mattress is still under warranty, you can get it replaced as well.
You wake up sore: If you often wake up with a neck or back pain, your aging body is not to be blamed here. Your mattress isn’t supporting you as it should, hence the discomfort.
A mattress is an expensive investment. You would sleep on it for years to come, and so it’s essential that you make the right decision based on your sleep needs.
But which mattress is right for you? In this guide, we’ve put together a list of the most common mattress types with their unique properties. We’ll also explain how to test a mattress in-store before buying, and what kind of mattress will suit your sleep style.
Testing Guide for Mattress Materials and Types
Memory foam, innerspring, hybrid, latex — it is understandable if you get overwhelmed with so many choices while buying a new sleep surface.
In this table, we are breaking down the prominent pros and cons of popular mattress types and how they feel.
Provides pressure relief
Excellent spinal alignment
Ideal for side and back sleepers
Exceptional motion isolation
Captures heat from body
Strong initial off gassing
Gradual contouring with exceptional pressure-relief.Some people feel stuck in the mattress as if lying on quicksand.
Good for couples
Excellent for side, back and stomach sleepers
Exceptional blend of comfort, support, and bounce
Minimal sinkage with an elevated and supportive feel.
Naturally sleeps cool
No chemical odor
Some people are allergic to natural latex
Incredibly comfortable with a buoyant feel.
Many firmness options
Excessive motion transfer
A springy feel with a rather hard sleeping surface
Limits motion transfer
Great for couples
More expensive than a basic innerspring
Initial contouring followed by exceptional deep compression support.
Customized firmness system
Suitable for all sleep positions and sleeper body types
Above High average price-point
Susceptible to malfunctions
High noise potential
The feel depends on the type of material used in the top layer. Some have foam comfort layers, while others only feature a cover.
When buying a mattress, of course, most buyers decide on the price and the reviews, however, deciding on the types of mattresses, and how each mattress material feels is also crucial.
Mattress Types and Their Feel
1. How to Test Memory Foam Mattresses?
Memory foam mattress provides great support while you sleep, as it conforms and contours to your body shape. The mattress becomes more supple with body heat, ensuring the cradling support your body requires.
Whether you have a plush or a firm memory foam mattress, it’s a good practice to rotate your mattress 180 degrees every three months to extend its lifespan.
Support and Spinal Alignment: Memory foam conforms to support your curves and spine, helping to maintain natural spinal alignment and alleviating back pain. Do look out for excessive sinkage. When sleeping on the side, ask your partner to see if your spine is straight. Else, notice any discomfort along your backbone.
Comfort: Whether it’s soft, medium, or firm, you’ll find yourself being embraced by the conforming feeling of the memory foam. You’ll find yourself being hugged by the foam. Whether you like this gentle cradling or not,depends on your personal preference.
Responsiveness: Delayed recovery of the mattress to its original shape may affect the changing of your sleeping position. Lack of responsiveness can be a hassle for you if you’re a combination sleeper as it takes time for the foam to adjust to your body in the changed position.
However, if you sleep in one position mostly, you may appreciate its slower response time, allowing you to really sink into the mattress and get that deep pressure relief.
Pressure Point Relief: Whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper, deep pressure relief, and hug makes a memory foam mattress an excellent choice and will give an incredible pressure relief to your painful joints. Stomach sleepers may prefer firm memory foam to experience minimal sinkage while enjoying the pressure-relief.
Temperature: Memory foam can trap and retain heat close to your body, resulting in less airflow around you, due to deep sinkage and contouring. Less airflow around you means high sleep temperature, so you might want to consider another option if you sleep hot.
Motion Transfer: Memory foam mattresses have exceptional motion absorption properties. Enhanced motion isolation ensures you can sleep soundly through the night regardless of your partner moving in bed or getting in and out of it.
Edge Support: Support near the edges may be inadequate for sleeping or sitting, especially for heavy people.
Initial Odor: Memory foam has an unpleasant chemical smell. Foams that carry the Certi-PUR label are verified to have low VOCs. Ask the salesmen for certifications.
Noise: You’ll notice no noise on a memory foam mattress. These mattresses are almost always silent under all conditions.
As the name suggests, a hybrid mattress is a combination of foam and pocketed coils, creating a superior sleep surface with the benefits of both mattress materials.
A hybrid mattress has a unique feel. Initially, you’ll experience the softness and pressure-relief. As your body will engage more mattress layers, you’ll also feel reinforced support from the coils, making it easier to move around and change sleeping position.
Support and Spinal Alignment: You’ll experience a bouncy and responsive sleep surface due to the pocketed coil support system. As you move in bed, you should experience total support without any over-extension of your spine.
Comfort: The mattress contours to your body very well compared to traditional innerspring mattresses. However, much depends on the foam materials and thickness in the comfort layer of a hybrid mattress. When memory foam is used in the construction, the mattress offers balanced comfort and support.
Responsiveness: You’ll feel a good amount of bounce in a hybrid mattress, suitable for couples’ night time amorous activities.
Pressure Point Relief: The pocketed coils in the mattress evenly distribute your weight across the bed, preventing pressure build-up. Lying on a hybrid mattress, you’ll feel the pressure relief from foam, and then you’ve got the elevation that’s provided by the active support of an innerspring.
Temperature: If you sleep hot, hybrid mattress tends to keep you cool at night. Since more air circulates through the springs, the mattress is less likely to become uncomfortably hot.
Motion Isolation: You won’t feel excessive motion transfer in a hybrid mattress. Therefore, it’s suitable for you if you sleep alone or with a partner. When your partner moves, their movement will not disturb your sleep.
Edge Support: Hybrid mattresses have adequate edge support due to the sturdy coils with extra support on the mattress perimeter. Lying or sitting near the mattress edge is usually enough to test edge strength.
Initial Odor: You’ll notice off-gassing in hybrid mattresses, often chemical-like or musty in nature, due to the ingredients that make up the foam.
Noise: Hybrid mattresses are mostly quiet due to pocketed design. You may hear occasional squeaking and creaking of their spring system.
3. Natural Latex
If you’re looking for a natural mattress, natural latex (made using a rubber tree sap) is the best option. Latex mattresses tend to be more on the expensive side.
Latex mattresses mold to your body, but they feel different from memory foam, because the material has a more natural elasticity, meaning it will quickly regain its original shape.
Support and Spinal Alignment: A huge advantage of a latex mattress is its ability to promote proper spine alignment. Sleeping on this mattress will make your shoulders and hips sink into the latex, while lighter body parts are strongly supported for natural spine alignment.
Comfort: Latex mattresses are known for their firmer sleep surfaces. They are available in soft, medium, medium-firm and extra firm. Although, a soft latex mattress will feel firmer than a soft foam mattress.
Responsiveness: Latex mattresses provide much buoyancy, you will never feel as though you’re sinking into the mattress. You’ll find a faster response time, so you feel consistent comfort and support when you change positions in sleep.
Pressure Point Relief: When you lie on a natural latex mattress, it compresses under your hips and shoulders, while supporting your waist and legs. The spring-back feel is similar to pocketed coils, creating a luxuriously comfortable sleeping surface that relieves pressure points and contours your body with every move.
Temperature: It is naturally cool and does not absorb or retain heat. Latex mattress allows air to flow freely. As a result, heat and moisture escape, helping you sleep cooler all night if you are a warm sleeper.
Motion Isolation: The bouncy nature of latex mattress prevents your movement from transferring to your partner. Or if your partner tosses and turns or makes trips to the bathroom at night, your sleep will not be disturbed.
Edge Support: Thick, firmer latex mattresses tend to perform best. Sitting on the edge or pressing down on it will give you an idea of how well it works under your weight.
Initial Odor: Natural latex mattresses may smell of rubber initially, but this is non-toxic and absolutely safe. The odor also fades quickly.
Noise: Natural or organic latex mattresses are silent, and if you weigh less, you’re likely to enjoy uninterrupted rest.
Innerspring mattresses are a popular and affordable choice. Whether you’re a back sleeper or a stomach sleeper, an innerspring mattress accommodates you. It’s also suitable for heavyweight sleepers or anyone with back pain.
If you’re not rotating your spring mattress, then you’re severely reducing its lifespan. Rotating your mattress once every three months for even wear is important to prevent sagging, and help retain its shape.
Support and Spinal Alignment: Much depends on the coil count, but generally, innerspring mattresses are good at support. Spinal alignment can be an issue for some because the coils move together and offer limited contouring.
Some innerspring mattresses have higher coil count, and hence more contouring. So, it’s always better to test in-store and see if your spine is in a healthy posture.
Comfort: Those who prefer the traditional innerspring feel, find these beds comfy. But, usually, its feel depends on the coil gauge and the batting used in the mattress. Some luxury innerspring mattresses use pocketed coils and conforming foams to offer you a luxury sleep experience.
Responsiveness: The springy surface pushes back against your body with the same force your body weight applies to the mattress. Innerspring mattresses are exceptionally responsive to your movements.
Pressure Point Relief: Spring mattress won’t offer you sufficient pressure point relief, especially if you sleep on your sides. No matter how much padding the coils of your mattress has, it can still cause soreness in the heavier parts of your body. However, stomach sleepers may experience improved pressure points relief on an innerspring mattress.
Temperature: Innerspring mattress is ideal for you if you sweat heavily during sleep. Due to enhanced air permeability, moisture and sweat dry away quickly. As a result, you enjoy a cool sleep on an innerspring mattress.
Motion Isolation: Innerspring mattresses don’t absorb motion isolation. So, if your partner moves ever so slightly, chances are you’ll feel its impact and wake up.
Edge Support: Sleeping or sitting near the edge of an innerspring mattress can vary by model, but it tends to be at least average.
Initial Odor: Innerspring mattresses have the least odor because of only a thin foam in comfort layers. However, if there’s a lot of batting and thick foam layers, they tend to have an off-gassing odor.
Noise: Some spring mattresses can be noisier, and can disturb your sleep. You may notice squeaking, creaking, clunking sound from the mattress as you move.
5. Pocketed Coils
Pocketed coils, also known as pocketed springs, contain coils individually sewn into fabric pockets. These coils move independently of each other, allowing the mattress to respond to your every movement.
Pocketed coils are seldom used alone in mattresses. They are present as support core in hybrid or luxury innerspring mattresses. They are a more responsive version of a traditional innerspring mattress with enhanced motion isolation.
Support and Spinal Alignment: Instead of absorbing pressure, the mattress reflects it while offering improved support. Since the coils move independently, they closely follow your curves and thus prevent the sinking of heavy body parts, and promote a healthy posture. It also maintains the natural alignment of the spine with a consistent distribution of weight.
Comfort: If you apply pressure to a pocketed coil mattress, only the coils being pressed down will react. This allows the mattress contour your body better, offer high point elasticity, and guaranteed improved comfort.
Responsiveness: The wrapped coils have an amazing response time. The construction of this mattress makes it possible for each pocketed coil act independently and respond quickly to movement. As a result, you can change positions on the bed without a change in comfort or support or feeling stuck in the bed.
Pressure Point Relief: Pocketed springs offer pushback depending on the weight on them. As a result, they allow the heavier parts of the body to sink more. However, pressure points may still form depending on the foam layer above the coils.
Temperature: The empty spaces between the pocket coils act as channels for enhanced airflow. As a result, the mattress distributes heat away from your body, both from the sleep surface and through the sides and the base. So, if you sleep hot, check out mattresses with pocketed coils.
Motion Isolation: Since the coils are not connected, motion transfer is minimal. Sitting down on, getting up off, and moving on a pocket spring mattress will produce the least disturbance if you sleep with a partner.
Edge Support: Pocket coil mattresses usually have lower gauge coils at the mattress perimeter to make them stronger. Much depends on the foam at the mattress top and around the perimeter.
Initial Odor: They do have a slight smell at first, usually within the first few hours. But the smell disappears later.
Noise: Pocketed coil mattresses may have a slight squeak, creak and clunk once in a while. But, for the most part, they are pretty noiseless, thanks to all the padding.
6. Luxury Airbeds
Luxury airbeds are great for every sleep position, and couples with different firmness needs, as they offer adjustable firmness and support.
These beds use one or two air chambers as the primary support core, topped by different foams as the comfort layer. You can change the level of air in the chamber to adjust the firmness of the mattress. Both partners can set the firmness to their liking on the side they sleep.
Support and Spinal Alignment: Support of an airbed can be adjusted by adding or removing air. It performs above-average for support and spinal alignment. Luxury airbeds can do wonders for your sleep posture, but if you have an ordinary airbed, long-term use can lead to back pain and stiffness. Also, without adequate support, your spine will be out of alignment.
Either too firm or too soft setting may also place your spine into an unnatural and uncomfortable position.
Comfort: Airbeds provide comfort adjustments so you can choose the exact firmness level you want, including a separate adjustment setting if you are sleeping with a partner.
Airbeds, especially 6-chamber models, tend to provide above-average conforming ability and support for heavy people. Airbeds with little or no comfort layer tend to be too firm unless a topper is added.
Responsiveness: When you lie on an airbed, you’ll feel it absorbs and spreads your body weight in an even manner while keeping you in contact with the mattress. The response depends on the air in the chamber and the foam on the top.
Pressure Point Relief: Airbeds tend to be best suited for back sleepers. Side sleepers may be dissatisfied with models that lack a comfort layer as this can place pressure on their hips and shoulders. An excessively soft adjustment may cause sore points in the back and knees of a stomach sleeper.
As the mattress deflates, your sleeping posture will change, and you may wake up with soreness on your pressure points.
Temperature: Most airbeds are made from synthetic materials such as vinyl, and so won’t breathe well. The air-filled inside the mattress takes on the outside temperature. So, when the temperature is high, you may experience a sweaty night’s sleep. Whereas, in winter, this could leave you feeling cold. High-end models allow temperature customizations.
Motion Isolation: Every time you move, your partner will be jolted. This can make it difficult to get an adequate night’s sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
Edge Support: With a foam top, adequate edge support will keep you from falling off the airbed when sleeping or sitting near the mattress edge.
Initial Odor: The initial odor likely comes primarily from the rubber air chambers and secondarily from foam used in the comfort layer. But usually, the smell lasts no more than a few weeks.
Noise: Airbeds produce a rustling, crunching, or squeaking noise when moved on.
How to Make Sure Your Mattress is Truly Natural and Organic?
Many consumers today prefer buying mattresses which are made from natural materials, have a relatively minimal environmental impact and contain negligible (if any) chemicals that are toxic to human health.
When buying natural, it’s vital to consider the ones with organic components. While no mattress is 100% organic, 60-90% natural/organic mattresses are available on the market. A mattress must be 95% organic and processed without potentially harmful chemicals to meet the USDA organic mattress standards and use the label “Organic.”
Always check certifications when shopping for an organic mattress. If you see the word “organic” with mattresses, they must have a third-party certification to validate the claim.
Look for terms like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Mattresses with this certification must use at least 95% certified organic fibers.
GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) specifies that the latex used must be at least 95% organic latex.
GREENGUARD specifies that a mattress is low in VOCs, formaldehyde, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals and that it is safe for children and the elderly.
Oeko-Tex assures that there aren’t any harmful substances that may be emitted from the mattress. This is a relatively common certification that you’re likely to come across as you shop.
CertiPUR-US applies only to the polyurethane foam in a mattress. This certification focuses on foam products rather than latex.
Organic Content Standard 100 refers only to the percentage of certified-organic materials, not to the presence of flame retardants, VOCs, colorants, or dyes.
How to Test a Mattress in Store
If you’re in the market to buy a new mattress, it’s crucial to test it out in-store so you may know exactly how it will feel when you’ll lie down on it to sleep at night, and how well it suits you.
Buy the wrong one, and your comfy mattress could turn into a saggy flab in no time.
When trying a mattress in a store:
Wear comfortable clothes
Bring your pillow along if it crucial to your rest
Lie on a mattress, for at least 10-30 minutes, in a position that you normally sleep in
If you sleep with a partner, test mattresses together
Don’t try a mattress when you’re tired, as all of them will feel great
Testing out a mattress is a crucial step before purchasing. Read on to find out the best tips to test a mattress in store.
1. How to Test for Support and Spinal Alignment?
Back, side, and stomach sleepers are all going to need different support levels at different places. The most critical factor in finding the right mattress is to test it for support. Ensure the mattress has the right balance of support and spinal alignment for your sleep style.
Your body is not a straight line, it has curves, and the right mattress must bolster the arches of your body while supporting your spine. Let’s see how you can test the mattress support and spinal alignment for your sleep position.
For Back Sleepers: Lie down on a mattress, and try to slide your hand under the small of your back (the curve of your lower back). If your hand easily slides under your lower back curve, the mattress is perhaps too firm. If your hand doesn’t slide through at all, the mattress is probably too soft.
For Side Sleepers: Have your partner, friend, or a salesperson help you with this test. Lie in a bed on whatever side you would usually sleep. Ask someone to take a picture of your back, or ask them to observe your spine alignment. Make sure your spine is straight. If it isn’t, move on to another mattress.
For Stomach Sleepers: Since no mattress can fully support your back in this position, it’s not that easy to test. You can start by lying on a mattress, and checking how it feels under you. Is it making you sink into it? If yes, then your spine is in trouble. Lie on the bed for more than 20 minutes and note any pressure buildup or lower back pain. You need to avoid mattresses that are too soft or too firm.
2. How to Test for Comfort Level of a Mattress?
Another important factor for selecting the right mattress is comfort. Firmness is crucial for a comfortable rest and pain-free sleep.
However, firmness is very subjective and difficult to measure. Therefore, it is crucial to test a mattress in-store and judge the comfort level from the overall feel you experience yourself. According to a study, 77% sleepers who tested the mattress firmness in-store felt exceptionally satisfied with their choice.
The suitable firmness level greatly depends on your personal comfort preferences. Whether you find a softer mattress more comfortable or the harder one. Some people prefer the cushioning foams that hug and contour them, while some prefer the balanced feel of Hybrid mattresses.
The testing trick is when you’re trying a mattress, lie in one position without moving for at least 15-20 minutes. If you can do that with ease, you’ve found the perfect sleep surface!
3. Recovery Test- How Quick the Mattress Bounces Back?
Test different mattress surfaces in various positions for their recovery time. See how well they absorb compression pressure, and how long do they take to return to their original shape when the weight is removed.
Lie down on a mattress in your preferred sleeping position. Shift positions and notice the time a mattress takes to get back to its original condition. The response time of a memory foam mattress will usually be more than a gel foam.
Response time is crucial for you if you are a combination sleeper. When you shift positions, you’ll feel a massive difference in comfort, because the mattress might take a long time to adjust to this change.
SleePare allows you to test a mattress by taking a 30-minute nap on it so that you can feel it for a longer time, and eventually make a more informed decision. This duration is ideal for testing the responsiveness of different sleep surfaces, so make the most of it.
4. Temperature Regulation: Does It Make You Warm?
Another problem some people have is heat retention of the mattress. Most good mattresses nowadays use innovative materials and technologies to stay cool.
If you’re a hot sleeper and experience night sweats, avoid memory foam and synthetic latex mattresses. These materials tend to retain body heat. The loftier and denser they are, the warmer they can feel.
Whereas, natural latex, breathable foams, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses provide a cooling feel. So, make sure to check what mattress material will suit you best.
Mattress heat retention often results in excessive sweating. Main factors that affect heat retention include mattress type, mattress firmness, sleeper weight, and comfort layer composition.
Test the mattress to see how it deals with sweat and moisture. Lie on a mattress for 15 minutes in one position and notice sweating, suffocation, and how quickly the sweat dries (in case it makes you that sweaty).
For more information, read our section on mattress material guide to get an idea about the cooling ability of different mattress materials.
5. How Well It Cushions and Comforts You?
You’ll notice the comfort level in the top layer of the mattress as soon as you crawl into bed. The comfort layer will cradle your pressure points and give you ease as soon as you lie down.
Each individual experiences comfort on a mattress differently. To test the comfort of a mattress, you have to try and feel it. For some people, a firmer bed will feel just right, while others will experience greater comfort with a softer mattress. Only you can accurately gauge what’s comfortable to you.
A mattress with suitable comfort and cushioning will eliminate pressure points while you sleep, leading to less tossing and turning, fewer aches and pains upon waking, and overall better-quality rest.
If you sleep on your back, you’re more likely to develop pressure points around areas like your shoulders, tailbone, and heels. Whereas, if you sleep on your side, your hip, knee, and shoulder, are more at risk. (This is true if your mattress is too firm).
Stomach sleepers run the risk of pressure points on their ribcage, thighs, and knees, especially if the mattress they’re sleeping on is too soft.
Also, with age, your comfort preferences may change. As people grow older, they often need a softer feeling mattress to help address pain issues. So, it totally depends on your personal liking.
6. Motion Transfer: Does the Mattress Move when Your Partner Moves On It?
If you’re going to share your bed, it’d be wise to visit the mattress store with your partner and test different mattresses together. Besides other factors, doing this will also help you assess how effectively a mattress minimizes motion transfer when sleeping with your partner.
A mattress that jiggles each time your partner moves on it can disturb your sleep. You run the risk of being woken up by your partner’s changing positions because the mattress transfers too much of that motion to your side of the bed.
Lie down on the bed together and have your partner switch positions while you rest on the other side of the bed. Notice how much motion you feel.
7. Edge Support in a Mattress
You’ll appreciate strong edge support in a mattress if you sleep with a partner who tends to hog most of the bed. Or if you have kids who might share the bed, or perhaps you need a little extra push to get you in and out of bed. Sitting and lying on the mattress edge will give you an idea if the support is enough for you.
Most innerspring mattresses use the upgraded foam encasement around the edge, but some very cheap beds simply use a steel rod on the sides.
Foam encasement is better. Memory foam mattresses don’t often have edge reinforcements. Because of the nature of the foam, it sinks under your weight as you sit on the mattress edge.