The ultimate guide to buying a mattress online, according to sleep experts

Danielle Gonzalez
·11 min read
Find the best foam, hybrid and spring mattress for back pain, side sleepers and more. (Photo: Getty)
Find the best foam, hybrid and spring mattress for back pain, side sleepers and more. (Photo: Getty)

Nothing can replace the feeling and benefits of a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of shuteye per night. While that sounds great in theory, many of us have had longer Netflix marathons.

If you spend more time tossing and turning than catching Z’s, there are a few things you can do. First, try sticking to the same sleep schedule to get your body used to a routine. Second, avoid using tech devices too soon before bedtime so the blue light exposure doesn’t throw off your body’s circadian rhythm. Lastly, make sure you’re snoozing on the right mattress for your body and sleep style.

Let's face it: In a world of bouncing wineglass demos and beds that magically appear after being stuffed into small boxes, finding the right mattress is harder than it looks. What exactly makes a good mattress and how do you choose from the plethora of online options? Do you really need to spend a small fortune to replace your bed? And, what to do if you’re a side sleep sleeper but your partner is a back sleeper? These are the types of questions you might be losing sleep over — but don't worry, we've got answers.

So you can spend more time sleeping in and less time researching, we spoke with two sleep and mattress experts, Michael Breus, PhD and Board certified Sleep Specialist and Michael Magnuson Founder of Goodbed.com, to find out what to look for when buying a mattress online.

Is it time to replace your mattress?

While everyone’s body and needs are different, and there’s no hard and fast rule, you probably shouldn’t keep a bed for longer than eight years, according to Breus, who runs The Sleep Doctor blog, which is full of sleep resources, including a mattress guide.

“This idea comes from the fact that while the mattress product itself will not really wear out, your BODY will change significantly and what your back and spine needs for support will almost certainly change during that period of time,” Breus says.

Aside from the eight-year rule of thumb, other signs that it’s time to change your mattress include waking up stiff or in pain, visible sagging, lumps or tears in the mattress and of course issues like bed bugs, dust mites, stains and mold.

Chances are if you’re wondering if it’s time to upgrade your mattress, it probably is.

How much to budget

Here’s How To Buy Mattress Online, According To Experts
Prices on mattresses can range from $100 to $5,000, which is a pretty wide range especially when there are so many cost-varying factors to consider. (Photo: Casper)

Prices on mattresses can range from $100 to $5,000, which is a pretty wide range especially when there are so many cost-varying factors to consider.

So while there’s no “perfect price” to put on mattresses, you can probably find a mattress that meets your needs and has the features that you want in the $1,000 range, according to Magnuson, who runs GoodBed, a site dedicated to helping you find the right mattress.

“It's sort of like shopping for a house or apartment,” Magnuson says. “The more you look, the better you understand your full slate of criteria, and finding one that meets all of your criteria typically costs a bit more.”

Types of mattresses

Purple mattresses use a special gel grid to provide superior support. (Photo: Purple)
Purple mattresses use a special gel grid to provide superior support. (Photo: Purple)

Mattresses have come a long way in terms of materials; spring, foam, hybrid and latex are the most common on the market, according to the American Sleep Association, and while one isn’t necessarily better than the other, they each have their pros and cons.

Spring

The most common type of mattress, spring mattresses are made with one or more layers of metal spring coils that provide support. Spring mattresses are affordable, cooling and bouncy — but not great when it comes to durability, motion, contouring and noisiness.

Foam

Made with multiple layers of solid blocks of dense foam, foam mattresses are body conforming, hypoallergenic, and motion isolating — but tend to be more expensive and not great at regulating body temperature.

Hybrid

A combination of coils, foam, latex and other materials, hybrid mattresses are equally supportive and contouring. They tend to be cool, conforming and motion isolating — but can be more expensive than other options.

Latex

Latex mattresses are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to memory foam. They offer firm support, are hypoallergenic and have a firm and bouncy feel — but, can be expensive and heavy.

Still not sure which material is best for you? Breus recommends staying away from foam, which can be hot, inconsistent and difficult to move around in, and instead getting the best of both worlds with a hybrid model, which contains springs and foam.

“There are also Air beds (Select Comfort and others) as well as more non-traditional bed structures (gel from Purple), which have tremendous benefits depending upon what your sleep issues may be,” Breus says.

Make sure it suits your sleep style

You should seriously consider your sleeping position when picking a mattress. (Photo: Layla)
You should seriously consider your sleeping position when picking a mattress. (Photo: Layla)

Believe it or not, you should seriously consider your sleeping position when picking a mattress. Whether you sleep on your side, stomach or back, you're putting different amounts of pressure on different parts of your body.

According to the American Sleep Association, these are the best mattress styles for the following sleep positions:

Side: Firm + Foam

One of the most common sleeping positions and the best for spinal alignment, side sleepers should look for a firm mattress (one that ranks from 4-6 on the firmness scale, or higher in conjunction with your weight) and one that contours to your body using memory foam, latex foam or hybrid materials.

Stomach: Very Firm + Springs

While stomach sleeping isn’t ideal, according to the experts, sometimes you just can’t help it. In which case you can combat some of the negative side effects associated with stomach sleeping with a very firm, but thin mattress that uses springs.

Back: Firm + Flat

Sleeping on your back is great for keeping the spine aligned and pressure off the neck and shoulders. Opt for a firm mattress with a flat surface and medium thickness comfort layer.

“The most important role of a mattress is to hold your spine in a proper neutral position while you're sleeping,” Magnuson says. “Firmness plays a role here, as does the degree of conformance, cushioning depth, and other factors.”

Along with sleeping position, it’s also important to factor in your size, weight and body shape when finding a mattress to fit your needs for spinal alignment, then of course there’s your comfort preferences!

A few other things to keep in mind

The Nectar Mattress has more than 28,000 reviews. (Photo: Nectar)
The Nectar Mattress has more than 28,000 reviews. (Photo: Nectar)

Prioritize your needs

Think about your mattress needs, compare them to your bed partner, then come up with the 2 to 3 things you both must have and find beds that cover those areas, Breus says.

“For example, if temperature and low back pain are the two things, then you will want a bed with excellent cooling properties and maybe add an adjustable base, or look for something zoned for better back support,” Breus says. P.S. This is the mattress Breus sleeps on.

Don’t forget the 'three F’s'

GoodBed follows a specific framework for mattress shoppers called The Three F's: Fit, Feel, and Features: The mattress should be the right “fit” in terms of your size, body shape and sleep positions in order to offer proper spinal alignment and pressure relief. It should “feel” right in terms of softness, cushioning, memory and bounce, and lastly it should have the right “features” for your preferences like cooling, motion, adjustable base, edge support, etc.

It’s personal

A mattress that may work for one person, might be entirely wrong for another.

“Thus, the key is to educate yourself about the criteria to consider when choosing a mattress, and then find one that best meets your unique needs, preferences, and priorities,” Magnuson says.

Now that you know what to look for, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular mattresses for every material, sleep style and budget.

Take a look below:

Allswell

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Type: Hybrid

Price: $375 - $1,000 range

Most Popular: The Allswell, the brand's entry-level model, has more than 2,300 reviews and a 4.5-star rating. A queen size retails for just $375, and you can get up to 20 percent off bedding and decor right now. It features individually wrapped coils for limited motion transfer, a cooling graphite and copper gel layer and quilted top panel.

Shop It: The Allswell, $375 for queen, allswellhome.com

Casper

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Types: Foam and Hybrid

Price: $400 - $1,500 range

Most Popular: The Original Mattress has more than 20,000 reviews! A queen size normally retails for $1,095, but you can get up to $100 off when you use code ZZZ50 at checkout. Like all Casper mattresses, it features “zoned support” (more support where the body is heavier, and less where it’s lighter). It also has a perforated layer that draws body heat away to keep you cool and comfy.

Shop It: Casper Original Mattress, $995 for queen with code ZZZ50 (was $1,095), casper.com

Helix

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Types: Foam and Latex

Price: $600 - $2,200 range

Most Popular: The Helix Midnight has individually pocketed coils with zoned lumbar coil support and a gel Visco layer for pressure relief. With more than 2,600 reviews, it's a winner. A queen size normally retails for $999, but you can get up to $100 off and two free pillows when you use code SPRINGSALE100 at checkout.

Shop It: The Helix Midnight, $899 for queen with code SPRINGSALE100 (was $999), helix.com

Layla

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Types: Foam and Hybrid

Price: $500 - $1,300 range

Most Popular: The Layla Memory Foam Mattress features copper—known to be both cooling and antimicrobial. The foam reacts to increased pressure with a firming response, so it's simultaneously soft and supportive. A queen size normally retails for $1,049, but you can get it on sale for just $899 with two free pillows right now.

Shop It: Layla Memory Foam Mattress, $899 for Queen (was $1,049), layla.com

Leesa

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Types: Foam and Hybrid

Price: $700 - $1,600 range

Most Popular: The award-winning Leesa Hybrid Mattress features durable springs topped with a hole-punched top foam layer for bounce and cooling. A queen size normally retails for $1,799, but you can get it on sale for just $1,549 with two free pillows right now.

Shop It: Leesa Hybrid Mattress, $1,549 for queen (was $1,799), leesa.com

Mattress Firm

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Types: Spring, Foam and Hybrid

Price: $100 - $5,000 range

Most Popular: Sleepy’s Basic 8.25" Firm Innerspring Mattress combines springs with multiple layers of supportive and quilted foam for cushioning. A queen size normally retails for $170, but you can grab it for $120 right now.

Shop It: Sleepy’s Basic 8.25" Firm Innerspring Mattress, $120 for queen (was $170), mattressfirm.com

Nectar

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Type: Foam

Price: $500 - $1,200 range

Most Popular: The award-winning Nectar Mattress with quilted memory foam is so popular, it's racked in more than 28,000 reviews! A queen size normally retails for $1,198, but you can get it on sale for just $799 right now.

Shop It: The Nectar Mattress, $799 for queen (was $1,198), nectar.com

Purple

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Type: Foam and Hybrid

Price: $600 - $2,000 range

Most Popular: The award-winning, high-tech Purple Hybrid Premier features a design like no other to perfectly support and adapt to your body and sleep position. It's cooling too, and more than 5,500 reviewers are hooked. A queen size retails for $2,299, and you can get a free set of sheets and pillows with purchase right now.

Shop It: Purple Hybrid Premier, $2,299 for queen, purple.com

Tuft & Needle

Types: Foam and Hybrid available

Price: $695 - $1,600 range

Most Popular: The T&N Original Mattress has an impressive 32,000 reviews and an affordable price tag—a queen size retails for just $695. It features two layers of open-cell foam with added graphite, cooling gel and antimicrobial protection.

Shop It: T&N Original Mattress, $695 for queen, tuftandneedle.com

Zinus

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Types: Foam, Hybrid and Spring

Price: $150 - $900 range

Most Popular: The Green Tea Memory Foam Queen Mattress is a treat. It features green tea and charcoal infused memory foam for a clean, odor-neutralizing sleep.

Shop It: Green Tea Memory Foam Queen Mattress, $205 for queen, zinus.com

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