These days, to find the best mattress, you're really looking for the best mattress in a box. Not only can you order them in a few clicks, you can also avoid all the problems that come with brick-and-mortar mattresses stores: high prices, scheduling deliveries, creepy sales people that keep asking increasingly invasive questions about how you sleep, etc.
There’s just one thing: you can’t try it out first! But trust us, after comparing more than 20 mattresses from the internet, we can assure you: the risk is worth the reward. And, to minimize the risk, we’ve put them to the test ourselves.
Over the past few years, we’ve actually built our own mattress emporium exclusively from mattresses in a box. We sent GQ staffers, the sleep-indifferent and sleep-obsessed alike, to put the mattresses through the same tests they would if they were buying them at a store. Everyone's favorite test? Testing the responsiveness and bounce by running across all 20 mattresses. In clean socks, of course.
Obviously, you can’t replace sleeping for months on a mattress with a series of catnaps. But by bringing all the mattresses in the same room, and bringing editors of all different sleeping types and mattress expertise levels, it became a lot easier to articulate differences in the small things, like, “Where is the line between feeling swaddled in memory foam and feeling like you’re drowning in it?” and “Does this mattress sleep hot, or is it just me?” Some people tested the edge support, while others focused on heat or only considered mattresses that had spring coils instead of pure memory foam.
Despite all the differences in preferences, some clear favorites emerged. The best mattresses in a box are comfortable and supportive. That’s it. Two factors. The materials, firmness, thickness, hyper-cooling gel-cushions, whatever—they all combine to offer some combination of comfort and support.
Comfort is easy to conceptualize. How comfortable does it feel to lay on this? How hot does it get? Do I like the cradling of the foam, or the bounce of a coil spring mattress—or a little bit of both, like in a “hybrid” mattress?
The support part is harder. Hammocks and bean bags are comfortable, but let us know how supported your back feels after sleeping in them for a year. Generally, thicker mattresses and denser materials are more supportive. As they get more expensive, mattresses get thicker and heavier, with an increasing amount of layers aimed at providing comfort (the top part) while giving you a solid foundation to support your body as it lays on it 2,000 hours a year (the bottom part).
If you are an average-sized male adult, you already have some options eliminated for you: it is likely a medium-soft or soft mattress won’t provide enough support for your frame; you’ll sink into a medium or medium-firm mattress just like a child or someone closer to 100 pounds might sink into a soft or medium-soft mattress. Side sleepers, whose hips and shoulders dig into the bed and create uneven pressure, might lean toward medium options, though materials and mattress thickness also affect this, as memory foam mattresses can “sink” more and keep the spine aligned and pressure even while broad shoulders are digging into the mattress.
With all that in mind, we’ve created this guide to help take the guesswork out of buying the best mattress in a box online. To make sure we bring you the best and most up-to-date mattress reviews in 2020, we’ll keep testing new ones all year round. When combined with our favorite sheet sets, pillows, and comforters, these mattresses provide what we think is the best possible sleep experience you'll ever get. Without further adieu, here are the best mattresses in a box for every price and every sleeping style.
Helix: The Overall Favorite
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-night trial, 15-year warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
Type: Hybrid (spring coils and foam topper)
At its onset, Helix made fully customized mattresses, which we wrote about four years ago. In those days, every company had a one-size-fits-all solution, so this was a revolution. And as the one-size-fits-all brands became okay-a-few-sizes-fit-all brands, Helix changed too. Helix offers six different versions of mattresses at two price points (a “standard” and a “luxe”), giving a solid option for just about every type of sleeper. In fact, even if you don’t buy a Helix, it’s worth taking their nice mattress quiz just to get a better sense of what type of mattress will work best.
The Helix Midnight Luxe, a hybrid mattress with a coil base and a luxurious memory foam top, was a runaway favorite among GQ staffers. It’s just so damn comfortable ("nice pillow top, but not too soft, and healthy but forgiving spring," noted one enthusiastic tester). Several staff members also praised the mattress' comparative coolness, which can be attributed to a breathable woven stretch knit cover that keeps it from overheating.
If you're someone who has slept on memory foam mattresses for a few years, you might have forgotten the appeal of a coil base, which adds a little bounce and, maybe just as importantly, a little familiarity for those new to the memory foam mattress world. The mattress is medium firmness and perfect for side sleepers: just enough “give” to distribute the pressure on your shoulders and hips, but not so much that you feel like you’re in sinking sand. But we found all types of sleepers enjoyed it. The obvious downside is the price, but if you’re looking for the most comfortable bed, start here.
Tuft & Needle: The Best $600 Mattress
$595.00, Tuft & Needle
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-day trial, 10-year warranty
Firmness Level: Medium-firm
At $595, Tuft & Needle’s Original Mattress is a great value. Sure, there are only two layers of foam, but a comfort layer of softer foam and a base layer of more dense foam is really all you need. Basically, it takes all the bells and whistles out and gives you a luxurious bed at a comfortable price. One of our side-sleeping testers who has suffered from shoulder pain in the past found the Tuft & Needle to be the ideal combination of give and support. The mattress' foam contains a cooling gel to keep things from overheating, and the cover itself helps dissipate things too. At this price point, you should consider the Tuft & Needle and the Casper Essential (more on that below)—and, since Tuft & Needle’s offerings are available at some Lowe's stores, this might be the one you can easily go out and try if those 100-day trials sound kind of annoying.
Leesa Original: The Best $1000 Mattress
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-day trial, 10-year warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
At $1000, you have a lot of different options for mattresses. And the Leesa Original is our favorite. It’s composed of three layers of foam, but doesn’t feel anything like the cheaper bricks of memory quicksand. It provides the best parts of the material—solid support, a really comfortable give—while staying cool and keeping just a little bit of bounce. Unlike our other favorite in the $1000 range, the Casper, this one feels a little closer to true medium firmness. It’s plush and supportive and my brain tried to fall asleep the second we laid on it.
Allswell: The Best Mattress for the Budget-Savvy and Mattress-Indifferent
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-night trial, 10-year limited mattress warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
It’s easy to forget that your current mattress is just fine—or that it was just fine before it got a little old and lumpy. It might feel like your only options are to stay with what you’ve got or upgrade to something that’s close to $1000. But there are very good cheaper options, too. If you don’t have a lot to spend, we’d suggest the Allswell mattress. At $345, it’s the best bang-for-your-buck out there. Allswell, a new-ish brand run by Walmart, is a hybrid mattress (like the Helix Midnight Luxe) consisting of an innerspring base and a memory foam top. It’s thinner and less supportive, but, shockingly, it’s still pretty comfortable. Nearly all our testers were shocked when they discovered how affordable this mattress was. "This is the kind of bed you'd be excited to jump on if you were a kid," said one editor who visited our mattress showroom. That a $345 mattress comes with a limited 10-year warranty and a 100-night risk-free trial, is well, crazy.
Casper: The Best Supportive Mattress
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-night trial, 10-year limited warranty
Firmness Level: Firm to Medium-Firm
Casper is the mattress brand that sparked the online mattress revolution. But what began as a “one size fits all” mattress has evolved into an entire line of sleep solutions offered at a lot of different price points. In early 2020 Casper expanded its line of mattresses to include five different base models that you can get in a total of eight different configurations. The cheapest in the line is the brand new Snug, a thin, all-foam mattress. The Element, previously known as the Essential, is a double-layered and slightly thicker foam mattress. Casper's other three mattresses come in both foam and hybrid versions. The new Nova is meant to be soft and plush. The Original, previously only sold in its all-foam configuration, is less plush, but potentially more supportive. The Wave, previously only sold as a hybrid, is the firmest of the bunch. Pretty confusing right? We are busy testing all these new mattresses now, but our evaluations of the previously existing versions—the Element, the foam Original, and the Hybrid Wave—are unchanged (even if Casper's naming and marketing have been slightly adjusted). And among those three, our favorite mattress is the Hybrid Wave.
The Wave is a medium-firm mattress that’s extremely supportive. One of our testers slept on one for a few months, and, while the additional firmness was initially a little jolting, they adjusted quickly and, reportedly, "slept like a king." For side-sleepers, the Wave, like many of the higher-end mattresses, will do a much better job cushioning your shoulders and hips, without making you feel like you're sinking.
Sure, it costs a lot and probably makes the most sense for those with support issues or an extreme dissatisfaction with their previous $1000 mattress. It's important to remember that at $2,600, you’re not buying a mattress because it’s twice as good as a $1000 one; you’re spending $2,600 because even marginal improvements in support and sleep are worth the extra $160 a year over its 10-year warranty. Which brings up another point: Casper has been around since 2014, which is eons compared to most mattresses in a box. It’s nice to have confidence that they’ll be around in 10 years to service that warranty.
Awara Hybrid Mattress: A Supportive Alternative
Warranty/Guarantee: 365 night trial period, Lifetime warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
Awara’s Hybrid mattress offers a lot of the same advantages of the Caper Wave. Like the Wave, the Awara contains a bottom layer of thick innersprings, which gives it a bit of bounce and makes it feel a lot more supportive. But the top layers are a lot different. The Wave employs a lot more tech, like a layer of gel memory foam, to make the mattress feel a bit cooler to the touch and help with pressure relief and back pain. The Awara mattress is a lot simpler—there is a thick layer of latex foam on top of the springs and a cover made with wool and cotton on top of that. That's it.
This composition makes the Awara feel less supportive, true, but it also makes it feel much more cloud-like than a conventional hybrid mattress. Our tester called it “soft, yet sturdy.” That might be the perfect trade-off if you’re a combination side and black sleeper, who wants to be cradled to sleep by your mattress.
Avocado Green Mattress: The Best Eco-Friendly Mattress
Warranty/Guarantee: One year trial period, 25 year-warranty
Firmness Level: Medium Firm
Type: Foam hybrid
The standard mattress from Avocado is a relatively simple hybrid mattress in design. It is made with foam and contains coils arranged in 5 distinct zones. The effect of these zones (the contouring!) wasn’t felt as strongly by reviewers as some of the engineered support layers of mattresses like the Casper Wave or the Leesa Legend. The result is something on the firmer side. It doesn’t exactly cradle your body, but will provide enough density for back sleepers to rest comfortably.
You can get this from a lot of cheaper mattresses, including the Allswell mattress and the Leesa Original. But neither of those companies are as specific about the sourcing of their materials. The latex foam in an Avocado mattress is organically certified, as is the wool and cotton that covers the foam. For you, that might be worth paying a premium.
Birch Natural Mattress: An Eco-Friendly Alternative
Warranty/Guarantee: 100 night trial period, 25 year-warranty
Firmness Level: Soft
The Birch mattress is actually made and designed by the same team that makes our all-around favorite mattress, Helix. Unlike the Helix mattress, the Birch comes in a fixed firmness that is not endlessly customizable. That firmness isn’t really firm at all. Our tester described it as “very plush.” That might make the mattress less than for any back and side sleepers, but it might not be a deal breaker for stomach sleepers or someone who wants something with an extra coziness factor. Like the Avocado mattress, the Birch is also made from certified organic latex and wool. We think more people will find the more supportive Avocado mattress to be a better choice over time, but if you value softness in your bed-in-abox, the Birch is a good option.
Purple: The Best Weird Mattress
Warranty/Guarantee: 100 Night Trial, 10-year-warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
Type: Polymer hybrid
The Purple mattress was the most polarizing mattress tested. It's made out of a proprietary polymer and designed, basically, like an egg crate. A big, purple egg crate. It’s a weird mattress, but if you’ve always been dissatisfied by your traditional mattress options, it’s certainly worth checking out. As one staffer noted, "it's comfortable, but might be better suited for a space shuttle."
It’s a medium-firm mattress, but it feels softer, probably because its so unlike the memory foam and spring mattresses we've experienced . It distributs pressure extremely evenly while feeling nice and cushioned—like memory foam, but a little more responsive. One of our testers said laying in it made him feel "like I’d just fallen into one of those trapeze nets." Other staffers thought it slept hot and did feel like you were sinking into it. If you’ve got the time and the curiosity, a 100-night trial makes trying out something new like this much, much easier.
Brooklyn Bedding: The Best Super-Firm Mattress
$999.00, Brooklyn Bedding
Warranty/Guarantee: 120-night trial, 10-year warranty
Firmness Level: Firm+
Brooklyn Bedding’s The Plank is for someone who wants the firmest bed possible short of laying on concrete. While most internet options are either medium or medium-firm, Brooklyn Bedding offers plenty of decidedly firm options, and the Plank is its firmest. And you actually have two options, a .75” top layer or, when flipped over, a slightly-less-firm 1.5” top layer. It’s not for everyone, but you’ll know immediately if it’s for you.
Novosbed: A Super-Firm Alternative
Warranty/Guarantee: 120 night trial period, 15 year warranty
Firmness Level: Firm
The Novosbed is a unique bed with an adjustable hardness. You order the bed in soft, medium, or firm. If you find that firmness not to your liking, the company will send you a firmness adjustment kit that allows you to change the density of the top layers. Our tester, who prefers a firmer mattress, found that the comforter did a really good job of dissipating her body heat. But she also thought that the high-density foam in the “firm” setting wasn’t quite firm enough, probably because she felt like she was sinking into its all-foam construction. But if you prefer the feeling of a memory foam bed to an innerspring mattress, you’ll really appreciate the ability to adjust the hardness of your mattress.
AmazonBasics: The Best Mattress for the Guy Who Wants to Spend as Little as Possible
Warranty/Guarantee: 1-year warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
Say you want to go even cheaper than the Allswell. Like in all things buyable, there’s an AmazonBasics offering at a price that will drop your jaw. There are dozens of mattress brands that sell essentially the same mattresses (from the same factories) on Amazon, but the AmazonBasics stands out among them for several reasons. You have an 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch options, all made of three layers of memory foam. It’s not the most comfortable mattress in the world, but it’s still made of nice-enough memory foam. The 8-inch might be a little thin in support for an adult male, so we went with the 10-inch. The memory foam feels fairly standard, and the cover, combined with the middle section of foam, seems to do an adequate job preventing the mattress from getting hot. The memory foam might not stay as responsive for years and years, but out of the gate, it’d be hard to tell the difference unless you were able to test nicer mattresses immediately after. You get a 30-day return policy and a 1-year warranty, which doesn’t quite match up to the other offerings listed here. But do the other offerings even come close to this price? If you want to spend as little as possible, this is the mattress is a box for you.
Originally Appeared on GQ