How to Choose a Mattress

Susan Newcome / Associate Editor
Last updated on Aug 22, 2019.

Getting a new mattress can be a stressful and dizzying experience. If you're buying your first mattress, you probably have a lot of questions about the different types of mattresses available, and how to go about beginning your search. If you've already bought a mattress in the past, you've probably got some idea of the type of mattress you're looking for.

To begin with, we need to make the first major decision, and that is:

Are you going to buy the mattress online, or in a local store?

Rewind about 7 or 8 years and you'll remember that the vast majority of mattress purchases were done in person. Typically, a retail storefront, in your city, with a sales person showing different models on display. There are advantages and disadvantages to this model, and we'll get into them below.

In Store Purchase Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Local availability enables you to try the mattress out before you buy it.
  • PRO: Easy access to financing. Most mattress stores also have financing abilities that can provide payment assistance before you even leave the store.
  • PRO: Local delivery. Most mattress stores will deliver their mattresses for you, and many will even set them up on your foundation. These things can be heavy and awkward to move, so this is a nice option for older folks, or those who simply don't want to deal with it.
  • CON: Generally limited to the mattresses available in the store.
  • CON: Murky information available. Many mattresses carried by stores are re-branded and whitelabled and it can make it difficult to determine exactly what you're getting and how other people who have purchased it feel about it.
  • CON: Sometimes salespeople use high pressure sales tactics, such as "soon expiring" sales, and mail in rebates that can be difficult to claim.
  • CON: Bulk. Many in store mattresses need to be delivered, which adds additional fees and costs to purchasing a mattress.

Online Purchase Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Wide selection. The internet is a place of wonderful abundance and there's no shortage of mattress options.
  • PRO: More reviews than you can shake a stick at. Consumers run the show online, and every mattress that's worth looking at probably has thousands of reviews from people who have purchased and tested it.
  • PRO: Aggressive sales and discounts. Online mattress companies compete in a very competitive and aggressive space, so they're often willing to cut significant coupons and discounts on premium mattresses that would cost multiples of the sales price if purchased in store.
  • PRO: Free trials. Most major mattress companies online offer generous 100+ night trials and free returns. This is something that is rarely offered by in-store brands.
  • CON: No ability to try before you buy. The internet has brought us a great many things, but we're still waiting on the ability to synthesize matter.
  • CON: Confusing shopping experience. It's tough to wade through all of the potential stores to shop at, and all of their potential product offerings. That's where MojoSleep comes in, and why we've created this site.

The next major question is:

What type of mattress are you looking for?

Are you simply trying to replace an aging mattress with something similar? Are you looking for an affordable option? Are you looking for a new mattress because your family has expanded (if so, congratulations!)?

Answering these questions can help us understand what the mattress is going to be used for. A great mattress for a dorm room is very different than a great mattress for a couple that cosleeps with a baby!

Aside from how you intend to use the mattress, you should also acquaint yourself with the different types of mattresses available. In a nutshell, there are:

  • All Foam Mattresses. These mattresses are made entirely out of different types of foam. Memory foam, cooling foam, support foam, air infused foam... there is no shortage of foam types out there, and these mattresses are numerous. This is probably the most popular type of mattress that you'll find online because they're easy and quick to manufacture, they can be sold affordably, and they can be rolled up, compressed, and shipped directly to your door via UPS or Fedex.
  • Hybrid Mattresses. These mattresses are made out of at least 2 different types of materials. Often that is springs and foam, or gel and foam, or air and foam. Typically these are a little more spendy than their all foam counterparts, but they're often shipped directly to your door (bed in a box) and, due to the magic of the internet, priced way below in-store sales prices.

Contrary to popular belief, the construction of the mattress doesn't always tell us a whole lot about the properties of the mattress. We typically evaluate mattresses based on these characteristics:

  1. Firmness. Mattresses are typically rated on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being super soft, and 10 being super hard. Said another way, there are soft, medium-soft, medium, medium-firm, and firm mattresses.
  2. Cooling. One of the most common things that people complain about is that their new mattress sleeps hot. Manufacturers have taken note and there are a wide variety of newly developed materials and construction methods that enable cooler sleep, ranging from gels, to air infused foams that help wick away heat and moisture during your rest.
  3. Durability. Simply put, some mattresses last longer than others. Looking at the warranty offered by the manufacturer often gives us a pretty good indication of the relative durability and life expectancy of a particular mattress.
  4. Value. Some mattresses are overpriced. For example, as a general rule, most all foam mattresses are significantly cheaper to manufacture than hybrid mattresses and should be priced accordingly. Nobody should pay luxury top shelf prices for an entry level mattress!

One of the largest decisions you'll have to make is deciding what firmness level you want. Primarily, we recommend that you choose based on your sleep position. Are you a side sleeper? Well, then, typically you'll want a softer mattress to allow the shoulders, hips, and knees to sink in, yet remain supported to keep the spine in alignment.

Back sleeper? You'll need something more firm, to ensure that you don't end up bending and contorting while sleeping.

Now that's a lot to think about! I hope that this article has at least got you thinking about the types of decisions that go into choosing a mattress. It's a tough thing to do, but it's really not all that complex once you really begin to break it down and understand the nuts and bolts. Afterall, it's just sleep!