Mattress shopping can be overwhelming. There are air beds, water beds, futons, pillow tops, and then inner spring, smart gel, and memory foam mattresses, to name a few. And there’s just as much variety in price.
A quick scroll through Amazon.ca reveals a number of spartan-looking pads selling for less than $200. At the high end of the spectrum, though, the sky is the limit. If only a bespoke, luxury mattress hand-crafted and signed by a devoted artisan will do, get ready for price tags in the tens if not hundreds of thousands.
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But how much do you need to spend to buy your way to some quality Zs?
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How mattresses affect your sleep
There’s little question that where you sleep affects your slumber. A mattress that feels too hard may restrict the flow of blood to whatever part of the body you’re resting on. This will cause you to change position so you can relieve the pressure, but that tossing and turning will probably disrupt your sleep.
A mattress that feels too soft, on the other hand, may cause you to wake up with a sore neck or back.
The trouble is, though, there there is no science to determine what’s too hard or too soft for most people.
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When it comes to how mattresses affect sleep, “we know nothing,” said Charles Samuels, medical director of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.
There are no clinically valuable studies showing what constitutes a good mattress or what kinds of mattresses suit certain types of people, he added.
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Whatever research is available has been commissioned by companies “for the sole purpose of selling mattresses,” Samuels told Global News.
When patients ask what kind of mattress they should buy, he tells them it’s entirely a personal choice.
“You can’t advise people in general terms about how to pick a mattress,” he said. “Some people can sleep on the floor.”
That said, though, there is no question that finding the mattress that’s right for you is important, Samuels said.
Foam mattresses, for example, tend to retain heat. If you run hot at night, “they can be very uncomfortable,” he added.
It’s also well-known that inner spring mattresses tend to transmit more vibration across the mattress. If you’re sharing your bed with a partner who tosses and turns or wakes up much earlier that you, you might want to opt for a different kind of pad.
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Are more expensive mattresses better?
While doctors remain agnostic about mattresses, U.S.-based Consumer Reports (CR) has conducted its own independent testing — and ranking — for hundreds of them.
CR has come up with its own methodology, which involves measuring things like whether a mattress maintains the natural curvature of the subjects’ spine and whether it provides even pressure on both sides of the body for back sleepers. The durability test involves a medieval-torture style treatment, whereby a machine pushes and pulls a 308-pound wood roller across the mattress 30,000 times. A good mattress, CR says, will show no sign of damage, sagging or change in support even after that kind of maltreatment.
CR ranks the mattresses based on those specific traits rather than overall quality and comfort, which it says are entirely subjective and affected by factors such as body type and sleeping position.
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Still, how do mattresses with price tags well into the thousands of dollars stand up to the testing compared to those that cost just a few hundred bucks?
According to Haniya Rae, associate content manager at CR, there’s little correlation between price and quality.
“Some of the best-ranking mattresses in our ratings cost around [U.S.] $1,500 [C$2,014]. Some of the worst-ranking mattresses also cost around $1,500.” she told Global News via email.
And most mattresses in CR’s durability testing hold up to 8-10 years of simulated usage, regardless of price, she added.
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Tips for buying a mattress
Try it out
Since your own comfort is the only metric that matters when buying a mattress, make sure you put your new pad to the test.
“We recommend that consumers try out a mattress in store for at least 15 minutes before deciding,” Rae said.
In general, she added, the longer you’re able to try a mattress, the lower the chance you’ll regret your purchase. CR also advises changing positions while you’re lying down because, even if you always fall asleep one way, you’re likely to move during the night.
If you’re buying a mattress from an online direct-to-consumer company like Canada’s Endy Sleep or New York-based Casper, you usually get a generous trial period of around 100 nights. The mattress is shipped to your doorstep in a box, but if you don’t like what you feel, both companies say they’ll send someone to pick it up for free and provide a full refund.
Still, you should make sure to hang on to your old mattress until you’ve made up your mind, Rae advised.
“Some bed-in-a-box companies might specify that you have to keep the mattress at least a month, but return it before [the trial period] is up, making it hard for some to keep their original mattress around long enough to decide if they like the new one or not,” she added.
Both Endy and Casper, though, told Global News that their customers are free to return their mattresses at any point during the 100 days.
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Read the fine print
In general, it’s a good idea to read the fine print on returns and refunds — whether you’re buying in store or online.
Look for whether the retailer or manufacturer is going to pick up and haul away your old mattress and whether you’ll get a full refund for returns or will be charged a re-delivery or restocking fee, she said.
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Understand your warranty
Most mattresses have warranties that range from 10 to 25 years and cover only manufacturing defects, according to CR. And watch out for warranties that don’t offer full coverage unless you also buy a box spring of the same brand.
Also, if you decide to remove your mattress tag, make sure to keep it, as the information on it will serve to identify your pad if you have a warranty claim, according to the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
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Check your new mattress
On delivery day, make sure to inspect your mattress from top to bottom. You may want to take photos and call customer service immediately if you notice dirt, strains or other damage, CR advises.