A recent back injury that had me flat on my back for the past few weeks has prompted me to replace my mattress. Generally, I enjoy shopping, but I found the process of shopping for a new mattress right up there with getting a root canal. It was confusing, time consuming, sometimes painful and expensive.
The mattress is the most important piece of furniture in the bedroom.
I knew I wanted to try an alternative to innerspring mattresses that I’ve bought and slept on for years. I thought this will be easy? So I went to the store thinking I’ll pick something out and have it delivered over the weekend. Believe me, it did not go down like that.
In my first shopping trip I left the store with my head swimming in product names and their accompanying superlatives – Choice, Contoured, Supreme, Prodigy, and on and on. The name usually gave no clue if the mattress was firm or soft. I couldn’t figure out how to compare them. The more questions I asked the more frustrating it became. I couldn’t make sense of it. So I had to regroup and start over again.
Why is buying a mattress so confusing?
I needed a new strategy to demystify the maze of mattresses created and named to keep me from leveling the playing field. I wanted to access quality versus price and achieve a good night’s sleep. My quest took me deeper into product knowledge, specifications and options than I ever wanted to go but I had no other option.
I kept wondering why is it something most people have to do has been made so complicated to understand? My opinion is it must be to the manufacturers and/or retailers advantage for the consumer to not understand. Research has proven how you sleep has an impact on how how your brain functions as well as how you feel.
So I took on the challenge because it was important to me and that’s the kind of girl I am. I understood I was in new territory shopping for a memory foam mattress.
Here are the steps I took to demystify the mattress buying process and find my mattress.
1. Identify what’s most important to you before you go to the store. Everyone is looking for a good night’s sleep but what will it take for you to achieve it? What issues and concerns do you want to address?
My list of absolutes were as follows:
– Support my body to alleviate back pain
– Minimize movement and being awakened when my husband or I get up in the night
– Waking up because of discomfort
– Quiet (if I get anything with a motor)
2. Know how you sleep – Do you sleep on your back, side, front? This will help the salesperson and you evaluate mattresses.
3. Set a realistic budget and watch out for the up sell.
- I decided to look at 3 manufacturers brands and set a budget. Since the price range was very wide understanding the differences that matter to me was important. Those were feel or comfort, temperature issues, and stability. Then I could fairly evaluate price.
- Mattress salespeople may appear helpful and knowledgeable but they are also on commission. In one mattress chain where I visited multiple locations the salesperson always happened to recommended the most expensive memory foam mattress brand no matter what I asked. I’m sure their commission had nothing to do with that coincidence.
- At some stores a sales person’s commissions can be as high as 20% depending on the mattress they sell. If you’re in the market they know eventually you’ll have to buy and they want to close the deal. This gives you some bargaining power, use it well.
4. Do your research – I had to learn the product line up, key features and benefits from visiting the manufacturer websites and doing research. Then, I created a cheat sheet. As I went from store to store every salesperson had a different opinion and sometimes gave conflicting information about the same products.
However, with my trusted cheat sheet I was able to shop with confidence in any store. Finally, I understood what I was laying on and could actually compare brands.
5. Select a mattress type first – Do you want an innerspring, memory foam, adjustable air, or a hybrid? Deciding will help you narrow your focus and eliminate options. One store I went to proudly boasted they had over 200 mattress options on their sales floor for me to consider. Once I selected my type and price range it got a lot easier.
6. Take your time if you can but test, test, test to find your comfort. Especially, if you have a physical ailment like back trouble. The right mattress can help you sleep through the night and wake up without pain.
- I encourage taking an in store nap – Once I narrowed down to a few choices, I spent 15 minutes on each mattress laying on my back, then my side as I would sleeping. This helped me feel the difference in mattresses. It took time, but it helped me make my final choice.
7. Ask questions and understand important store policies before your buy, especially about the warranty and return policy.
- Many major mattress retailers offer a trial period for many mattresses. You buy a mattress and try it for a certain period of time and if you find you hate it you can exchange it for a different one. This lessens the risk, especially for buying an expensive mattress.
- Usually, only the mattress not the box spring or foundation is returnable. Make sure you fully understand the program rules and costs associated with an exchange like restocking and delivery fees when you consider this option.
8. Make your selection and negotiate. It’s amazing what a store might do for you to make the sale. Try to move the price and/or negotiate for some free accessories. Most importantly, buy well and enjoy your purchase.
I spent a lot of time making a selection. Ultimately, I choose an iComfort memory foam mattress. It was expensive but I think it’s worth it since I’ll live with it for awhile and it will have a direct impact on my quality of my sleep. Now that it’s been delivered I’m looking forward to enjoying my sleep.
We should be able to buy a mattress with confidence even when we move from traditional innersprings.
A few final tips:
- If you’re buying an innerspring mattress there’s good and bad news. The good news is there’s a lot of competition so sharpen up your negotiating skills. The bad news is buyer beware – unfortunately it’s easy to not get what you think you’re paying for when mattress shopping largely because it’s “purposely” confusing. Often mattresses are customized for a specific store chain changing the color, padding, quilt pattern, etc. Then each seller can call the mattress by a different name making it difficult to compare from store to store. Also, a higher price does not always equal better quality. Consumer reports mattress ratings are a good resource for buying an innerspring but requires a subscription to access.
- For Memory Foam Mattresses – It’s difficult to understand material specifics because of proprietary design information making a side by side comparison impossible. In this environment price and opinion can go anywhere – that’s why I did my own research. The website www.sleeplikedead.com has a good tool to compare memory foam mattresses.
Today, memory foam and hybrid mattresses are the fasting trending part of the market. So, I hope sharing what I’ve learned will be helpful.
Thanks to time and my doctor’s care my back pain has subsided and I’ve returned normal activities. Next, I hope to return to working out a the gym again soon.