Updated: June 8, 2015
Mattress Reviews:A mattress for your bed or futon could be the single most important item you buy for your personal health in your entire life. The majority of us spend 6 to 9 hours each day lying on a bed mattress - some watch tv, read, or hopefully sleep. Buying a cheap mattress is probably not the way to go, especially as you age. When you are in your 20's you may not notice the difference that a good mattress can give you versus a bad one. The long term effects of bad back and neck support is something that you don't want to experience. Not everyone wants or needs the same things from a mattress, so you need to be aware of the different features and styles of mattresses when you go shopping. A mattress should last about 7-10 years with average use, certainly don't go much longer than a decade on a mattress or else it will lose it's ability to support your body properly. The 2 key factors you should be looking for in any mattress are support and comfort. We mentioned the idea of support (above) but comfort is just as important. There are lots of new varieties of mattress firmness available these days with pillow top, memory foam, and extra firm. The best way to know if a mattress feels right is to go to your local mattress store and lay down on a few. Compare how soft they feel, are you getting the right amount of support on your neck and back, are they adjustable? Keep in mind that there is no single mattress that works for everyone meaning you need to find the one that fits you best.
Buying Guide - Some mattresses like the Sealy Posturepedic are better suited for heavier individuals than say the Simmons Beautyrest World Class. The Sealy offers continuous coils versus the pocketed coils found on the Simmons mattress. The continuous steel coils will support a person that is heavier than 250 pounds more than the pocketed coils design. Experts also say that certain mattresses will perform better for individuals compared to those sharing a bed (couples). The hardest part of buying a mattress could be that your spouse wants a firmer mattress while you are content with a foam mattress. The Select Comfort Sleep Number 5000 Pillowtop ($2100) is one innovative mattress that allows a couple to set their own comfort # on the bed. The air chambers in the mattress can be inflated or deflated on just your side of the bed for personal preferences. The price tag on this mattress is pretty high given that even these mattresses aren't foolproof for those wanting a good nights sleep. An innerspring mattress is still probably the most popular type found in homes across America. This style includes steel coils surrounded by cushioning and upholstery. My wife and I bought the pillow top mattress which has an innerspring design to it. The pillow top definitely adds a feeling of comfort when you first lay down on the bed and we like the support that the coils give. The big drawback to us is that the pillow top mattress can't be turned over like some mattresses to prolong it's longevity. My side has become a little sunken in over the years so we just tried turning the mattress around (not over) to see how that would go. Now we are sleeping on the end where our feet used to go and things are better than before. I have a feeling that the overall lifespan of a pillow top mattress isn't the same as a traditional mattress that you can turn over periodically. Orthopedic mattresses tend to be innerspring and work great for people who like to sleep on their stomachs or backs. Foam mattresses are another design style which are usually made with a solid core of foam. The layering of foam will determine the amount of comfort and support. You may see ads on TV or in magazines for the "memory foam" mattresses which are also commonly referred to as visco-elastic foam. The Tempur-Pedic Classic ($1900) is an example of a memory foam mattress. Some owners say these types of mattresses are a "lifesaver" for those with back pains and neck problems, but there is no conclusive evidence that they perform better than the innerspring mattresses. The big knock against the memory foam mattresses is that they become react to temperature changes and in colder weather they get to firm and in warmer conditions they are too soft. A waterbed mattress is one that is filled with water and gives you a completely different feel from a traditional mattress. I have slept on waterbeds (it's been years), but I remember "floating" around the bed as the waves under the mattress gentle moved me around. I found it not firm enough and a little irritating to get rest. Adjustable bed mattresses are another option for those that may need to sleep with their head above their feet or stomach. They resemble a hospital bed with the ability to raise up the top or bottom of the bed to your required levels. They can be expensive and certainly aren't for everyone. Futon mattresses are perhaps the most flexible of the bunch and also the cheapest to buy. A futon bed by design can be layed flat or put into a sitting position as well with a simple adjustment so having a mattress that is flexible is key. Firmness - the rating a manufacturer gives a mattress usually ranges from firm, extra firm, medium firm, plush, ultra plush, or plush pillow top. Lie down on a mattress to see what the firmness feels like to you. All mattresses lose some of their "firmness" over time so that is why should rotate the mattress to even out the indentions your body makes over time. Memory foam, as discussed above, is not like other mattresses and has it's own level of firmness depending on the manufacturer and layers of foam at the core. Coils are a big predicter of how firm a mattress will be, the higher the count the firmer the mattress and they usually range from 300 to 800 coils in a queen size mattress. In terms of mattress sizes, you can get them for all bed types - crib, cot, single, twin, twin xl, double, queen, king, and California king. Take measurements of your bed size to determine which mattress will fit the best. Prices for mattresses vary by brand, size, and type. We have given prices in this article and they are all based on a queen sized mattress (most common). An innerspring mattress will run between $350 and $5000. How can the prices be so varied - coil type and comfort materials make all the difference in prices. An innerspring mattress designed with open coil are the cheapest at $350 to $1200 and those with pocket/independent coils and memory foam are between $1600 and $3800, and innersprings from Stearns & Foster can go as high as $5000. Foam mattresses are roughly $400 to $2000 - price depends on thickness of memory foam (1 to 6 inches) and foam core (about 5 inches). The more memory foam the higher the price. A waterbed mattress will typically run between $700 and $1500 and futons are about $150 to $400. The top brand names for bed mattresses are Serta, Heritage, Aero, Spring Air, Sealy, Simmons, and Stearns & Foster. You can buy mattresses from regular department stores like JC Penney or go to stores that only sell mattresses like Mattress Discounters (located in California, Massachusetts, DC, etc). In Oregon, we have SleepCountry USA stores which always carries a nice selection of mattresses. For reviews, you can find some online forums that discuss mattresses like Gardenweb.com, Amazon.com, Consumer Reports, and Mattresszine.com.