To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Your Guide to How to Buy a Mattress

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Your Guide to How to Buy a Mattress

I love waking up feeling worse than when I went to sleep, said no one, ever. The time you spend sleeping should restore your health and body, not wreak havoc on it.

If you have a bad or old mattress, you know that struggle all too well. But given the price of a good mattress these days, it can feel like sucking up the discomfort is worth it.

Does it make sense to be uncomfortable for a third of your entire life? No, but that’s the amount of time you spend sleeping.

Learn how to buy a mattress that’s the right size and material below.

How to Buy a Mattress: The Main Features

When you’re looking for a mattress, you want it to feel good. But you’re not going to buy a twin size mattress for two people, just because it’s soft.

The first thing you need to consider is size.

Mattress Size Guide

Most people know the four mattress sizes. You have the twin, the full, the queen and the king.

But what are the actual difference between all of those?

The Twin Mattress

A twin mattress is thirty-nine inches wide by 74 inches long. They’re most often used for children’s rooms or to create space in small rooms that only need to hold one adult.

This is the smallest size of mattress, other than children’s mattress sizes (toddler beds, crib mattresses)

Twin XL

The twin XL is slightly longer than the twin, but only by six inches. It’s 39 inches wide as well, by 80 inches long (instead of 74). You find twin XL beds in college dormitories more often than not.

They’re a good way for colleges to “offer more” but not spend the money.

The Full Mattress

Sometimes called a double, the full bed is what you’ll find in most single American bedrooms. It’s the same height as the twin, but it’s fifty-four inches wide instead of thirty-nine.

Those extra twenty inches or so are enough to fit two people, but only those who are small or sleep peacefully (compact).

This is not the choice for two people who like to starfish while they sleep.

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A Queen Sized Mattress

If you’d like a little more wiggle room than a full bed but can’t fit/afford a king, go for the queen size.

It’s sixty inches by eighty inches, giving you about six extra inches in both width and height. It doesn’t sound like much more space, but you get about another functional foot of sleeping room.

Since they’re similar in size, queen sized sheets can fit on full mattresses, but not the other way around.

A King Bed

The king was, for a while, the biggest mattress size. It’s since been de-crowned by the California and Wyoming kings, which we’ll touch on later.

A King bed gives you sixteen more inches in width than the queen, but the height (80 inches) is the same.

A couple can happily fit in a king sized bed, with room to spare. Many people with king sized beds find they have room to co-sleep a small child (or two!) if that’s the choice they make for their family.

A California King

In recent years, the expansion into the suburbs and into the sky (tall apartment buildings) has made it possible to have an even larger bed. They call this one the California King, but we don’t know why.

It gives you less width than a regular king bed (four inches less) but it’s longer, by four inches. The California king is a popular choice with athletes and the famously tall, due to that extra leg room.

The Wyoming King

Even larger than the California king is the rarer, impressive Wyoming king. It’s the same height as the Californian but it’s 84 inches wide as well as long.

This bed looks squatter and squarer than other kings, but it is bigger.

The Alaskan King

Finally, if you need to fit a family of five into one bed, you can find an Alaskan king.

They’re rare and expensive, but they a whopping 108 inches by 108 inches. That’s about nine feet by nine feet if you were wondering.

Now that you know what size mattress you need, let’s talk features.

Mattress Feature/Material Guide

Mattresses have changed in construction a lot in the last hundred years, almost as much as they’ve changed in size.

Innerspring Mattresses

Years ago, the most popular form of the mattress was what’s called the inner spring.

You know spring mattresses as squeaky and bouncy, the kind you had fun bouncing on as a kid.

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They’re less popular now because they’re not very comfortable or supportive, especially over time.

Memory Foam

Memory foam beds became popular in the early 2000s and late nineties. You know the most famous brand as the Tempurpedic mattress. Some people refer to this as space foam.

It’s very soft, and it forms to the shape of your body. It’s great for people with chronic pain or those who have a very active sleeping partner (because the mattress doesn’t move as much, disturbing your sleep).

Latex Foam

Similar to memory foam, latex foam mattresses are also made of man-made materials and are a recent arrival on the popular mattress scene.

They’re less conforming to your body than memory foam mattresses, which makes them better with people with back pain issues.

They’re also cooler in temperature than memory foam because heat doesn’t gather from sinking in so deep.

Adjustable Mattresses

Finally, we have adjustable mattresses, which is less of a material different than a structural one. Adjustable mattresses are like hospital beds in the head (and sometimes the foot of the bed) move up and down.

They’re great for people with snoring issues, medical issues or even those who are bedridden.

Other types

There are too many mattress types to list comprehensively, but you can find ones that are hypoallergenic and even eco-friendly. Read more here if you’re interested in that.

Your Next Mattress

Now that you know the size and material of mattress you want, let’s briefly discuss price.

The bigger the bed and the more modern the material (foam, adjustable), the higher the price. It’s worth it to go down in size and go up in quality if you have that choice.

Now that you know how to buy a mattress, you can find one you like and start saving. While you’re saving, drift off to sleep reading one of our other articles, like this intriguing piece.

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