Time for a new mattress? You’ll know it when:

1. You awaken stiff, achy, tired, or in pain.
2. You have circles under your eyes, and it isn’t because you stayed out late.
3. Your mattress is getting on in years; it is saggy or droopy, or perhaps the fabric is falling apart.
4. You bought your mattress in a previous decade.

Mattresses have lifetimes just like people do. After 5 years, an innerspring mattress just isn’t as supportive and clean as it used to be. You’ll notice it begins to sag, and it will become a haven for bacteria and dust mites as time goes by (gross!).

Luckily, shopping for your brand new mattress is rarely a painful process. With the right knowledge and shopping smarts, it doesn’t even have to be overwhelming. Read on to gather all the information you need to help you breezily find a mattress that will bring you restful sleep.

The first question you need to ask is: which mattress is best for you?

Sometimes selecting a great mattress can be a truly daunting and confusing process, what with all the distinct mattress types available. The following guide will help you select the perfect type of mattress.

memory foam mattresses: Made from NASA technology, these allergy-resistant beds conform to your body’s shape.

Pros: These memory foam mattresses are totally hypoallergenic, due to their dense molecular structure, and they conform to every curve of your body for unparalleled orthopedic support. These beds alleviate pressure from crucial pressure points on your body, like your neck, back, and hips. They also have an extra long lifetime and are very durable: the average memory foam mattress will last about 20 years.
Cons: Generally speaking, memory foam mattresses tend to be warmer than other mattress types as their dense structure retains more body heat. Sometimes, these mattresses have a mild chemical odor, depending on the factory and country of origin and the quality control regulations they were manufactured under.

Innerspring mattresses: these are your “classic” mattresses, the traditional ones that support your body on a bed of wire coils.

Pros: Dependable and the most popular style, the innerspring mattress is time-tested.
Cons: Innerspring mattresses cannot evenly distribute weight. Their hollow nature makes them an ideal breeding ground for dust mites, bacteria, and bedbugs.

Air Mattresses: Inexpensive and portable, air mattresses can be filled with a pump and deflated as desired.
Pros: Lightweight and storable, air mattresses are great for campers and singletons. They sometimes come with small, electronically controlled air pockets, giving you improved dynamic control over your bed’s firmness.
Cons: Don’t let your cat near this bed, as it easily punctures. Additionally, these beds do not give you even support while you sleep.

Water Mattresses: these artifacts from an earlier time are full of water and as such are particularly soft.
Pros: Soft for those who like it that way, newer models are more stable than their 1970s counterparts.
Cons: unfortunately, these beds weigh a ton, and they can get very cold; they should be avoided by persons who suffer from motion sickness or chronic back pain. If your partner tosses and turns in his sleep, it’s “surf’s up dude!”

The second question you need to ask is: how do I get comfortable?

If you get enough sleep, you’ll spend a third of your life in bed – so you’ll need a comfortable, supportive mattress. Every mattress offers something different in terms of layers and firmness, and out of the wide variety of mattresses available today, most all of them will feel different.

The ideal mattress will keep your spine in the same alignment as a standing person with good posture. Choosing the wrong mattress or practicing improper sleeping posture will likely lead to back pain, particularly in your lumbar region. Mattresses that are far too soft, for example, will not give your back proper support, while mattresses that are far too firm will put too much pressure on your joints. You may have heard that a firm mattress is best for your back, but the truth is that firmness is less important than even support. The trick of it is this: so long as your mattress allows for an even distribution of weight and pressure, it can be at any firmness level you want.

For best results, test out some floor model mattresses at your local warehouse or hotel and find the perfect soft/firm ratio for you. Then get online and shop around for the best deals. Online shopping has a much wider selection than brick and mortar stores. Consider purchasing a bed with removable layers if you can’t make up your mind.

The third question you need to ask is: what’s my size?

A variety of mattress sizes suit a variety of needs.

Standard twin, also known as single, mattresses are great for children, bunk beds, dorm rooms, and guest bedrooms. Twin beds usually measure approximately 39” in width by 75” in height; needless to say, this simply won’t do if you’re taller than average or plan on sharing a bed.

You might also consider the twin “extra long” mattress, which retains the same regular twin width but adds 5” to the bed’s total length. These are the beds commonly found in college dorms. Sheets may be a little more difficult to find, but should be readily available online.

Double or “full” mattresses allow significantly more room for moving, rolling, and stretching out. They measure 54” wide by 75” long, which may be short for some teens and adults. But for singles who find twin beds too crowded or uncomfortable, these are perfect fits.

Do you plan on sharing your bed with a partner? If so, you really shouldn’t consider anything smaller than a queen sized bed. These large beds measure about 60” in width by 80” in height, easily accommodating taller persons and couples who like to snuggle.

A king mattress may be the most expensive, but it allows the most room for anyone who really likes their space. When purchasing a king bed, you’ll need to consider whether you prefer length or width in bed. Essentially, king beds come in two distinct flavors:

The standard king, or eastern king, mattress is 76” wide by 80” long, making it 4” wider than its counterpart.

The western king, or California king, mattress is 72” wide by 84” long, making it 4” longer than its counterpart.

Fourth: shop smart.

So, you’re going to test out a new memory foam mattress. First, you’ll need to wear some comfortable clothing. Lie in the position in which you normally sleep for several minutes. Note how the heavier parts of your body feel. Are your hips, shoulders, and lower back supported? See how well the bed absorbs your movement.

Keep the following questions in mind as you shop for a mattress:
1. Where’s it manufactured? Who makes it?
2. Will the mattress aggravate any of your existing allergies or chronic joint pains?
3. Is this mattress cost-effective, and can I afford it?
4. Am I confident that I’ll be able to comfortably sleep on it for years to come?
5. Does the mattress give me good, full support?
6. Is there a warranty, and if so, how good or sound is the policy?
7. Am I hoping to share this bed?
8. Just how much space will I need to fully accommodate my dimensions, movements, and needs?

Remember, any sales person you talk to should be friendly, knowledgeable, and competent. If the person helping you can’t answer your questions, find someone else who can.

The fifth question you need to ask is: how can I further enhance the quality of my sleep?

In addition to sleeping on a supportive memory foam mattress, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep:

1. Drink some soothing chamomile (or other decaf) tea before going to bed.
2. Try to get some exercise in about four hours before you go to bed, but do not exercise within two hours of going to bed.
3. Create and practice a regular sleep ritual. This may include reading, listening to soothing music, stretching, or breathing deeply. This will signify to your body that it’s time to sleep soon.
4. Consider eating a very light snack before going to bed to avoid mid-slumber hunger pangs. Dairy products contain tryptophan, which induces sleep.
5. Go to sleep in a cool (NOT cold) room on a room-temperature mattress, and be sure to wear as many blankets as you need to keep warm. If you have a memory foam mattress, consider using fewer blankets or sleeping in a cooler room.
6. Keep a nightstand near your bed where you can place books, water, or perhaps a music player; anything you may need to access easily before drifting off to sleep. This will keep you from getting up and feeling active.
7. If you do feel the need to get up late at night, use a nightlight rather than the standard room lights so your body doesn’t set itself to “daytime” mode.
8. Take a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime. The drop in body temperature you experience afterwards will make you sleepy.
9. Some people find that writing down their thoughts and feelings in a journal before going to bed is a great way to calm your mind and relieve stress.
10. Breathe deeply and slowly while counting your breaths.

With these considerations in mind, you will surely find the perfect mattress for you!

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