Buying a new mattress is challenging. It feels a bit weird to lie on all of the mattresses you are interested in, but that's the only way to really compare mattresses. Understanding how a mattress is constructed, what materials are used, and what warranty is given with each mattress is one way of comparing mattresses, but lying on them -- really taking your time -- is the best way to determine if you like the feel of a mattress.
If you ever go shopping to compare mattresses, then you know how hard it really is. First, you can't find the same mattress in two different stores, so you cannot compare prices. Then, you find that every mattress has its own set of special features, so there are no others to which you can compare it. How are you supposed to compare mattresses?
The dirty secret of the mattress industry is that makers and retailers make it as hard as possible for shoppers to compare mattresses. Mattress makers ship the same mattresses to different stores with different names on the labels. They add meaningless features like "non-rip handles" to try to make themselves look different. Who is going to deliberately install anything but a non-rip handle? Then, the inside of a mattress, where the really critical parts are, is usually invisible to the consumer. You can't see what's under the hood when you compare mattresses. The best you can do is take some sales rep's word for it.
When shopping for a coil spring mattress (the most popular kind with 80 per cent of the market), it is tempting to equate more springs with higher quality. But the truth is, consumers trying to compare mattresses can't tell the difference in comfort when spring counts exceed 350 in a full size mattress or 480 in a queen size mattress. Higher springs counts alone are just overkill, an unnecessary expense. Yet some queen size mattresses boast more than 1,700 springs!
What matters more than spring count is how the springs are formed. Hourglass-shaped springs are the cheapest and least durable. They tend to compress and become too firm over time. Keep this in mind when you compare mattresses because you won't feel the difference immediately in the show room. Continuous coil springs are built up side by side from one continuous piece of wire, and tied together at top and bottom. Continuous coil springs feel different right from the start, since one spring tends to pull its neighbors down when it is compressed. Individually pocketed coil springs are free-standing springs that are sewn into cloth pockets inside the mattress. They can move up and down independently.
When you compare mattresses, it is important to know what goes over and around the springs, too. Mattress makers also try to confuse consumers here. They pad their springs with horse hair, latex foam, visco-elastic memory foam, cotton fiber, and a host of other materials. The main thing to know when you compare mattresses is how thick the padding is between springs and the top cover of the mattress. That is the area that will wear out before any other.
Alternatives to coil springs include waterbeds, inflatable mattresses like the Select Number Bed, latex foam and visco-elastic memory foam. Each type of mattress has its fans and foes. Generally, these alternative beds will cost more than a comparable coil spring bed simply because fewer are sold.
The only effective way to compare mattresses is to go out to show rooms and lie down on some. And lie on them for more than a few minutes to really get a good sense of whether you like them. Ask for details about construction, but remember that it's how a mattress feels to you that determines whether it's a good buy. And make sure you have a good warranty so you can return the mattress if you don't like it.