How to Buy a Mattress

Or how to say goodbye to sleepless nights.

How to Buy a Mattress
Nov 24, 2021

There are some big purchases in life: a house, international plane tickets, a puppy. Something you might not consider adding to that list (but really should) is a mattress. Given it'll last you many years (hopefully), buying a new mattress is an investment - and an important one to boot.

Maximise your zzzz's with the best mattress for you. How do you find this mythical mattress? Start here. We'll run you through your buying options plus mattress types to help you decide on your next bed. Sweet dreams!

Where to buy a mattress

You've got 2 options when it comes to mattress shopping: online or offline (in a store). Have a look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide which works best for you.

Online mattress shopping

With a few scrolls and button clicks, you should be able to buy a quality mattress as easily as if you were ordering a pizza. Sounds great, right? Let's look into it.

The pros

  • You can shop from the comfort of your home / in your PJs or on the go. Wherever you've got an internet connection, you've got access to an online mattress store. This makes it convenient, quick and easy.
  • No more pushy salespeople hovering over or rushing you. You can browse and consider your options, stress-free.
  • Cuts out the middleman. When you buy a mattress online, you're buying direct from the manufacturer. This means stock availability is normally better and it's more affordable, as they're not having to pay to be in showrooms.
  • Complementary products. As most online bed stores only stock 1 brand of mattress, you can normally stock up on a whole range of complementary products. Think bed frames, bedroom furniture, pillows or bedlinen. This makes it a 1-stop bed shop.
  • Your mattress gets delivered in a box! If you get flashbacks to your parents struggling to fit a plastic-covered mattress through their front door and up the stairs, you can banish them for good. Mattresses in a box, although normally heavy, are easier to move around.

The cons

  • The biggest one - you can't try before you buy. In store, you can cuddle up on a bed to see how it feels. You can't do this when buying a mattress online. But (and it's a big but) you do get a free trial period. This allows you to actually sleep on a mattress over multiple nights - usually at least 30. Which is much better than simply lying on a bed in a showroom for a few minutes.
  • Lack of choice. Most online bed stores only stock 1 brand of mattress so you have to visit multiple websites to research the best mattress for you.
  • Returns can be a hassle. Yes, you'll get a free trial with a mattress in a box but before your buying finger gets to work, make sure you understand the full terms and conditions. This is important when it comes to what condition the mattress needs to be returned in. Most online retailers ask you to always use a mattress protector.

It's also important you understand how the mattress is picked up, how long this takes and when you can expect your refund. Finally, check out what happens to your unwanted mattress. Hopefully it's donated to charity and not dumped in landfill.

In-store mattress shopping

Tempted to hit the bed shop on your next free weekend? Here's the good and not-so-good bits about that plan.

The pros

  • The choice. Bed shops stock a huge variety of mattresses, including mattress brands, mattress types (think foam, latex, hybrid or inner spring), plus different mattress sizes, mattress materials, and firmness, from extra soft through to super firm. Whereas if you shop online for a mattress, you'll normally only get access to 1 brand and 1 mattress type per online store.
  • Try before you buy. When you're offline shopping, you can actually see and feel what you're buying. This means there should be no surprises when your mattress is delivered.
  • In-person support. Sure, an online bed store might have live chat if you're lucky but if you're stuck you'll probably find yourself down an internet rabbit hole quicker than you can say 'help!'. Pop in store and you'll have people on hand to help, if needed. A great bed salesperson should be able to listen to your requirements (type, budget, room size, etc.) and give you a list of suitable options.

The cons

  • Delivery time. Order online and it tells you upfront how many days until delivery. Most of the time you'll receive a tracking link and text updates to let you know when it's coming. Offline shopping? Not so much. The wait time for mattresses can be really long, especially if they don't hold stock and need to order it from the manufacturer.
  • Can be more expensive. Renting (or owning) showrooms, not to mention paying staff and the bills to run them, is an expensive business. These costs are usually factored into the price of the mattress, making shop-bought mattresses typically more expensive than online ones.
  • Pushy salespeople. Pretending to sleep on a mattress in a public space is embarrassing enough without having a pushy salesperson leaning over you trying to upsell you a 'better' (read: more expensive) mattress.

How to choose the right mattress for you

So, you've decided to head online or pop in-store to find your new mattress. What now? Now's the fun part - deciding which mattress type suits you best. Are you after a firm mattress or a soft mattress? Are you a stomach sleeper or a side sleeper? Here we breakdown the 4 most common mattress types to help you choose.

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam is the same material astronauts are snuggled in to keep them safe during space flight. So you know you're going to be in for a plush, comfortable treat. Memory foam is best described as 'sinkable' - press your body into it and it rises to meet you, giving you a soft hug. If you're thinking that sounds a little hot, you'd be right.

  • The feel: soft, sinkable, snug.
  • Sleeper type: memory foam is known for being good at relieving pressure on shoulders, hips and the lower back. This means adults with joint pain might find some relief. Memory foam mattresses also suit co-sleepers (partners or pets) as they minimise partner (or pet) disturbance. Oh and they're also quiet because they don't contain springs. One of the most expensive mattress types, memory foam makes a great master bedroom mattress and a less great kids or guest bedroom one. (Unless you really, really love them.)
  • Sleeper style: side sleepers will enjoy the softer feel of a memory foam mattress.

Hybrid mattresses

A hybrid mattress means it combines 2 or more mattress types into 1. Normally, it's a layer of springs for a firm, supportive base topped with a layer of foam for comfort.

  • The feel: supportive, pressure-relieving, soft.
  • Sleeper type: hybrid mattresses are great for co-sleepers or people who sleep hot, as they tend to be cooler and more breathable than memory foam. They also suit co-sleepers well because the mattress firmness can normally be customised, including on different sides of the mattress. You won't get quite the level of partner disturbance minimisation as you will with memory foam. If you share your bed with a shift worker, you might want to consider this. But if you're a solo sleeper, this might not matter as much.
  • Sleeper style: no matter your favourite sleeping position, everyone can enjoy a hybrid mattress, although back sleepers are particularly well suited.

Latex mattresses

Thought to be a more eco-conscious choice, latex is a natural, biodegradable material - as long as you don't opt for synthetic latex, that is. Similar in feel to memory foam, latex bounces back quicker so you avoid that sinking sensation. Normally, a latex mattress feels firmer than memory foam one too.

  • The feel: bouncy, springy, firm.
  • Sleeper type: hot sleepers will do well with a latex mattress as will sleepers who move around a lot - they'll appreciate the bouncy responsiveness of latex. As latex mattresses are expensive, they're best suited to the master bedroom.
  • Sleeper style: any - as long as you don't have a latex allergy.

Inner spring mattress

Inner spring mattresses are the most traditional mattress. Although there's different tech available inside them, innerspring mattresses all contain rows of coils and springs to meet different firmness preferences. As they age, you can expect them to get quite noisy.

  • Sleeper type: As normally the most affordable mattress type, innerspring mattresses are good for kids, children and guests. They suit occasional use well as they don't typically last as long as other mattresses. The affordability and wide range of firmness options mean they work for co-sleepers too.
  • Sleeper style: back and stomach sleepers and heavier sleepers can all do well with an innerspring mattress because it offers a lot of support.