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Mattress Buying Guide

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MATTRESS BUYING GUIDE
Of all the items you purchase for your home, the mattress is probably the most important.  Most of us spend on the average eight hours a day sleeping.  Doesn’t’ one third of your time deserve a quality product?  We will spend $30,000 plus for a new car that is normally replaced every five years.  But we won’t spend $1000 on a premium mattress that should be replaced every eight to ten years. 

THE COST OF A MATTRESS
When we discuss mattress pricing we all talk in terms of a QUEEN MATTRESS SET.  Mattresses can be divided into several price categories. 

$200 to $400: Budget economy mattresses that are good for young lightweight children or an occasionally used guest room. These are your basic Bonnelle spring mattresses. Coil count from 420 to 480 depending on quality. Normally they have a warranty of one to five years. They are ok if you are on a really tight budget but do not provide much for comfort or support.  

$400 to $600: These range from the basic quality mattress for a guest room to the every night use of an adult. You get an upgrade in Comfort Level (we will cover this later) and maybe coil count and coil quality. They normally have a ten year warranty.  

$600 to $800: This is where you will find your better quality every night use mattress.  You will get better coil systems and  better Comfort Level  products. You will have a ten year warranty. 

$800 TO $1000: This is where you will find your entry level Luxury mattress. The coil systems are stronger and advanced. The Comfort Level is thicker and a better quality product. There may even be a top layer of Memory Foam for the best comfort. You should have a ten year warranty on this product. 

$1000 and up: At this price point you are only paying for additional Comfort Level. It has been my experience that the thicker the Comfort Level is, the more problems that you encounter down the road. All of that thick padding can tend to lump up depending on its construction and quality. If I were paying $1500 to $3000 for a mattress, I would want a 25 year warranty. This does not make much sense because almost all manufactures recommend that the mattress be replaced every eight to ten years.  Why do they recommend replacement so often? Because the mattress becomes contaminated and it is attacking your health. Dust mites and skin exfoliation are just part of life with a mattress. Why then do they offer 15 and 25 year warranties? The answer is MARKETING. If you read the warranty carefully you will see that the majority of what is covered is the spring unit and most have an exclusion of wear and tear on that expensive Comfort Level. That’s what protects them.  Also they will not warranty a stained mattress.

WHAT”S IN A MATTRESS?
What is under all of that beautiful ticking? The ticking is the top part of the mattress that you see and feel. I know of some mattresses that sell from $10,000 to $25,000 per set. They have beautiful Damascus Silk Ticking and everything else that sounds expensive. If you’re paying that much for a mattress you better buy ONE GOOD MATTESS cover to protect it. So what’s the sense?    

The mattress has two parts. The Support Layer and the Comfort Layer or Comfort Level.

SUPPORT LAYER
The Support Layer is generally a steel coil unit. Other types are foam, water beds, and air beds.  We’ll talk about the coil units first because that is 80% of the market. Coil count varies among the different manufactures. The minimum for a queen should be no less than 480 coils for a quality mattress. Coils can be Bonnell, Offset coils, Continuous coil, Individually Pocketed Coils, and maybe a special brand name. The function of the coil unit is to support your back in a positive position. If there is too much sag, it’s like sleeping in a hammock. Back Support is what you want. Just as if you were standing straight up. Another factor that comes into play with the coil unit is body motion. If you have a sleeping partner, when someone moves at night the mattress will rock and roll with that movement.  Also when someone gets out of bed or into bed at night you will feel it. This is what you experience with the lower price mattresses. You simply get what you pay for. Shop with your partner and both of you lie on the mattress and see how it affects you. Another important feature of a good supporting mattress is the Foam Encasement.  There is a layer of foam about 3” wide that surrounds the coil unit. Most of us get in and out of the bed on the edge. When you sit on the bed, hopefully you don’t just jump right in; this puts an excessive amount of weight on the edge. Also if you sit on the bed to remove shoes or slippers, you are sitting on the edge of the mattress during this time. The foam encasement helps hold the coils in place so there is not as much motion and you don’t feel like you are falling off the edge of the bed. In my opinion this is the best mattress technological improvement of the past 20 years.  

The best motion separation or motion isolation is with the Individually Pocketed Coil mattress.  With a Bonnell coil and all others each and every coil is tied together in some manner. Pressure at one point on the mattress will cause the other points of the mattress to tighten up. It’s just simple physics and can not be avoided. With the Individually Pocketed Coil system each and every coil reacts on its own. It is designed to flex with the weight on it. The other coils do not affect it. Just think about the bowling ball TV commercial and the Champaign glass.

Memory Foam mattresses and other foam mattresses have foundations made of some type of heavy foam. One characteristic of foam is that it compresses over time. Ten years from now will a foam foundation still offer good Back Support? Probably not! Replacement every eight to ten years.  

I won’t say much about water beds; but if you have ever had one it will spring a leak, it’s just a matter of when.

Air beds seem to be in vogue if you watch the commercials. But if the mattress is contaminated after eight to ten years, you’ll probably want to replace it. At a cost of $2500 to $5000 is it worth it?  If you really want an air bed find a motel that uses them and spend the $80 for a test night.  Then you will know.  

COMFORT LEVEL OR COMFORT LAYER
In a mattress you really want a good Back Supporting system and a Comfort Level that allows you to really rest at night.  R.E.M. SLEEP is the only restful sleep that allows you to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and full of energy. Things that interrupt R.E.M. sleep are poor body contour in the bed; a lumpy or sagging mattress; and a really hard mattress. If the mattress is too hard, it will not support your body evenly and your extremities will go to sleep and you will wake up with a tingle in your arms or legs. This is from poor circulation where the mattress has cut off the blood flow. Also, it can put undue pressure on the hips and joints where not supported properly. The best mattress will support the spine at all points allowing it to maintain its natural curve. I always recommend a firm mattress with the least amount of Comfort Level that you need to rest peacefully. Every individual is different. Some really sleep better on a hard mattress while others prefer some soft plush feel. A lot depends on your sleep patterns whether it is on the side; on the stomach; on your back, or a combination of these during the night. This is why it is so important that you test drive a mattress at a store for at least 15 minutes. You wouldn’t buy a dress, a suit, or a pair of shoes without trying them on to determine comfort and fit. You wouldn’t buy a car without at least driving it around the block.    

PLEASE do the 15 minute test on the mattress in the store before you make a purchase. You should be able to lie in one position comfortably, without moving around for at least 5 minutes.  If you can do that you have found the right mattress for you.    

A word of caution about memory foam. The complaints that I have heard over the years are:  through the night your body sinks down into the mattress. This is the way it is designed to work.  If you toss and turn and roll over at night it is difficult to move out of that ditch your body has created.  If you stay in one position through the night you might be OK. Memory foam mattresses SLEEP HOT. You can upgrade from the $2000 basic model to a gel infused memory foam that will sleep cooler.  Now you are at the $3000 to $3500 price point.  And remember, from dust mites and skin exfoliation you just might want to replace that mattress every ten years.  

COMFORT GUARANTEE
Does your mattress store offer a COMFORT GUARANTEE?  If you purchase the mattress and you end up with a backache every morning;  you have just made a big mistake.  Ask about returning the mattress and what the cost and time limits are. 

MATTRESS SIZES

• TWIN    3/3   3 feet 3 inches wide - 72inches long
• FULL    4/6   4 feet 6 inches wide - 74 inches long
• QUEEN  5/0   5 feet wide - 80 inches long
• KING     6/6   6 feet 6 inches wide - 80 inches long
• CAL KING    6/2   6 feet 2 inches wide - 84 inches long.


Always, Always buy a quality mattress cover. This will protect the mattress from; dust mites; body fluids; and skin exfoliation. You will want a mattress cover that is antiallergenic; waterproof, and able to breath.