How to choose a new mattress?

After a weekend of sleeping on a pillowtop mattress with no back pain, I went back to my thick futon mattress.

And my old friend, lower back pain, returned.

This has convinced me that I need a new mattress. However, since I’ve never bought a mattress, I have no idea what kind to purchase.

I know I want a Queen-sized, probably without a box spring. I have a narrow staircase to the bedroom, and I don’t know if a box spring would fit.

What should I be looking for? What should I watch out for?


Unfortunately, many mattress manufacturers have moved to a non-flippable design. It saves them money because they only pad one side, but the lifespan of the mattress decreases because you can’t flip it. If possible, look for a company that still sells flippable mattresses.

Other than that it’s really a matter of your personal comfort and tastes.

I’ve heard they make split foundations (box springs) to address the issues with stairs and narrow hallways; that’s something to look for when you do go mattress-shopping.

Where were you, that you slept on the comfy mattress? If it was a hotel, you could phone them and find out what brand etc. they use. Similarly if it was a friend’s house.

I’m going to get the name of the comfy mattress. I’ve tried two of them, and liked them both.

But I was wondering about independent reviews of different materials, these inflatable (Sleep Number) mattresses, etc.

A place that might sell differing kinds where I can test out several brands?

The Sleep Number beds are sold only at their stores, as far as I know (well, you can order them online also). We have one. I like it OK though if I were to replace it right now, I might think of another option - Typo Knig has had a lot of trouble getting a setting he likes and now it’s soooo squashy that the whole bed is getting, well, a tad lopsided. On the plus side - it’s very light weight, and if you move, it disassembles quite easily. No problems with getting it around corners!

We used to have a soft-side waterbed. LOVED it. However, I think the quality has really declined in recent years; when we had to replace the liner for the 3rd time in 5 years (after the first one lasted 5-6 years on its own) we got fed up… hence the sleep number bed. It’s delightful on a cold winter day though - they come with heaters that can make the bed lovely and warm.

As far as pillowtop mattresses: supposedly the pillowtops can get flattened and lose their comfort. This is just what I’ve read - no direct experience with it. Presumably this could be sorted out with a memory-foam topper?

Most mattress stores have a variety of options to try. One near us has the Tempur-pedic (memory foam) mattress in addition to numerous traditional ones. Consumer Reports suggests (IIRC) a 15-minute test. Lie on the mattress for 15 minutes a the store. They said that very few people changed their minds about a mattress (as in, if they liked it after 15 minutes, they generally still liked it after several nights’ sleep).

Personally, I hated the Tempurpedic when we tried it in a store. I know people who LOVE theirs though.

I stayed at a hotel for a week that had Tempurpedic mattresses. Strangely, I loved it the first night or two (though it takes some adjustment getting used to a ‘you sized crater’ when you roll over) but hated it after the third night.

Apparently the “foam on futon” (no box spring) mattresses like Ikea sells are becoming all the rage.

The stairway in our new house is such that a queen box spring wouldn’t fit up the stairs. I think it’s generally more of an issue of whether the stairs change direction at a landing, as ours do, than the width of the staircase itself. We got a split queen box spring- ask around at the local mattress stores to find one that sells them. You’ll probably have to buy it separately from the mattress.

The stairs are a significant problem. They’re 30" wide, have a dogleg landing in the middle, and have a max height of 6’.

I didn’t know they made split box springs. I’ll ask.

Ikea is just down the street from my work. I’ll pop in and do a nap test tomorrow at lunch. :wink:



They may have to special-order a split queen box spring, or they might have one in stock. AFAIK which box spring you get doesn’t matter nearly as much as which mattress you get.

From what I heard when we were looking for a split queen box spring, this is a good time of year to look, particularly if you live in a college town (as we do). College students are moving into on- and off-campus housing (new faculty members like Mr. Neville are also moving in around this time of year), so there is lots of demand for mattresses and box springs of various sizes, so the mattress stores have a lot of them in stock now.

If you’re having trouble finding a store that sells split queen box springs, you might want to look in a section of town where most of the houses are older. I suspect that narrow stairways with landings are more common in older houses than in newer ones. Our house, while it is a new house to us, was built in the 1920s.

If you’re not sure your mattress or box spring will make it up the stairs, you might want to inquire about the store’s return policies before you buy. You might also want to go with a place that will deliver the mattress or box springs for you- the guys who do that for a living probably know more than you do about getting a mattress or box springs up a tricky flight of stairs. IMO, Ikea’s not so great about delivering stuff- I haven’t forgiven them for not taking the plastic wrap off my sleeper sofa, and forcing me to do it myself, and I definitely got a “that’s your problem, not ours” vibe from their delivery guys. That may just have been that particular Ikea at that particular time, though…