Demystifying Mattresses: A Survival Guide for 2021

By Alesandra Woolley

May 19th, 2021

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We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching mattress companies and their policies. In this consumer help guide, we hold a magnifying glass to the fine print of the mattress purchasing process and make it simple for you to understand.

Sleep Trial Periods and Return Policies

Most mattress companies offer a sleep trial period with their mattresses. During this time, if you decide the mattress you purchased isn’t right for you, you can usually return it for a refund. 

Online bed-in-a-box mattress companies tend to offer around 100-day sleep trial periods to make the process of buying a mattress online without seeing or feeling it less intimidating and more risk-free.

Of course, each brand and retailer has specific fine print details that are important to read so you can understand the details of your purchase. 

Mattress Warranties

A mattress warranty protects your purchase. If you purchase a mattress with manufacturing defects, a mattress warranty is a guarantee that you will receive a refund, replacement, or repair. 

Mattress warranties are hard to understand, There’s a lot of fine print, different types of warranties, varying terms and conditions, and sometimes they are just difficult to locate. We’ve put together a helpful resource to help you decipher mattress warranties.


Mattress Lifespans

While it’s not an exact science, it’s recommended that you change your mattress every 7 to 10 years. By this point, your mattress is probably not giving you the support or comfort that you need to get a good night’s sleep. 

Considering the amount of dead skin cells and sweat you’re shedding into your mattress each night, there’s a good chance that an army of dust mites and bacteria have crept their way into your bed over this period of time, too.

Depending on your particular mattress, use, and body type, it’s possible that you’ll need a new mattress before the 7-year mark is up. If you’re not getting quality sleep, it’s not worth waiting it out. Learn more about when it might be time to call it quits on your current mattress by reading our guide.

Mattress Type Average Lifespan Notes
Innerspring 7-8 years

The metal wire core of these beds tend to sag and lose shape over time, even with proper care.

Foam / Memory Foam Up to 10 years

Generally, foam mattresses are better at holding their shape. With gentle use and proper care, they can last up to 10 years. In extreme temperatures, some foam will change shape more quickly.

Latex Up to 15 years

Latex mattresses are durable and have the best longevity.

Read more: How long does a mattress last?

Locations for Purchase

There are tons of places you can buy mattresses nowadays, ranging from stores like Macy’s and Costco, to online sites like Amazon.

See more: Best mattresses on Amazon

So where should you buy a mattress from? The honest answer is: it’s up to you. You might be contemplating whether you should buy your mattress from a brick and mortar store vs. online. There are pros and cons to each, which you can weigh to help make your decision.

Retail locations offer you a chance to touch and feel (and lie down) on your mattress before making a purchase, but you should also expect some “friendly” pressure from salespeople while you’re shopping, in addition to paying for a number of markup fees like showroom space, sales commission, and shipping in some cases.

Buying a mattress online means you’re not dishing out extra bills for overhead, and you get the mattress shipped directly to you. Most online mattress companies offer generous trial periods and free returns.

Types and Materials

There are countless factors to consider when deciding what type of mattress is best for you. Sleep is personal, and choosing the right mattress should be personal too. You want to consider your body type, your sleeping position, pain points, health conditions, firmness level, size, price and more.

Plus, there’s a ton of mattress lingo to understand when you’re shopping. You’ll see terms like hybrid, innerspring, pocket coils, latex, memory foam, proprietary blends, CertiPUR-US certification, GREENGUARD certification, and more. 

Our mattress buying guide is built to help you understand each part of your mattress buying journey and easily direct you to the best type of mattress for you.

Firmness Scale

Mattress firmness is another one of those things that’s entirely based on personal preference. However, you’ll generally want to stay away from the extremes: mattresses that are super soft or super firm. These likely won’t give you the support you need to get good sleep.

Most mattress brands will post where their mattress falls on a universal firmness scale. This is a scale from 1-10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. The average sleeper tends to prefer a medium-firm mattress (6-7), but factors like your weight, body type, sleeping position, and age can help determine what level of firmness you might find most comfortable.

Read more about the mattress firmness scale.


Choosing the right mattress size comes down to three main factors: space, sleepers, and spending. You’ll want to make sure your mattress can fit in your bedroom (and we don’t just mean through the doorway). 

All the other stuff you need to do in there shouldn’t be impaired by your mattress size. Your mattress size should also account for the people sleeping on it: Are you tall? Large? Need your personal space? Share it with your pets?

And finally, you’ll want to decide on a budget and stick to it. If you think you’re ready for an upgrade to a bigger mattress, you’re not just dishing out the extra cash for the mattress…you’ll also need new sheets, foundation, mattress topper, comforter, and possibly pillows.

Check out our mattress size guide to learn more about choosing the right mattress size.


You may be under the impression that you need to shell out thousands of dollars for a legit mattress, but that’s not actually the case. If you’re purchasing from an online-only retailer, it’s possible to get a quality mattress under $1,000. Of course, if you’re looking for special features with all the bells and whistles, it’s easy to spend more.

The price of your mattress depends primarily on where you buy it from, what it’s made out of, and whether or not there is a holiday sale or special going on.

Check out our guide on some of the best mattresses you can buy under $1,000 and under $2,000.

Breaking In and Adjustment Period

Breaking in your new mattress can take up to 30 days (and in some cases even longer). A brand new mattress needs time to fully take shape and start adjusting to your body, as you adjust to it. If you’re used to sleeping on one type of mattress and switch to a different type, that break-in process might take even longer.

The good news is that many mattress companies offer trial periods of 100+ nights – so you’ll have plenty of time to figure out if your mattress is a keeper. Most mattress companies don’t even allow returns until after you sleep on it for at least 30 nights. So keep calm, and sleep on.

Take a look at our guide to learn more about your mattress break-in period and why it’s so important to be patient.

DTC Alternatives

Online, direct-to-consumer, bed-in-a-box mattresses are much cheaper than traditional mattresses and they are still great quality beds. If you’re experiencing sticker shock at a traditional mattress like Simmons Beautyrest, Sleep Number, and TEMPUR-Pedic, rest assured knowing there are comparable DTC mattresses that cut the cost of the middleman. 

Common Mattress Complaints

When you check out customer reviews, you’re bound to see some negative reviews even for the best mattresses. It’s hard to know which of those are valid and which are just from disgruntled customers. 

We want to be a trusted source to help you figure out the difference. Check out some our articles below that address common mattress complaints for some popular brands to find out if you have anything to worry about with your purchase.

Still have burning questions about your mattress, bedding accessories or sleep? Take a look at our Mattress GuidesMattress Reviews and Sleep Resources pages. You can also compare over 120 different mattress models using our Mattress Comparison Tool or take our Mattress Finder Quiz to help you find your perfect mattress in minutes. 

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