How to buy a mattress – expert steps to stress-free slumber

Is it time to make the change? This is how to buy a mattress – the professional way

How to buy a mattress: A close-up of the corner of a mattress
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There is a host of reasons why you might be wondering how to buy a mattress. Whether you want to improve your sleeping habits, find a better posture, or you’ve moved into a different sized bedroom – it’s a question that everybody asks themselves at some point in their lives. 

You spend approximately 33% of your life asleep, so it’s important that you find the best mattress for you. But what do you need to know before you make the investment? 

With a host of shapes, sizes, and softnesses available, it can be hard to know how to shop for a mattress the right way. However, these sleep experts will make turn the process into a dream.


A mattress is one of the most expensive homes purchases you can make, so know what your budget is and stick to it. The frenzy around sales periods like Presidents' Day and Black Friday can make it tempting to go all-in on a mattress that's hugely discounted but outside your budget. Remember that half off doesn't mean much when the discounted price is still a couple thousand dollars. 

You'll start to see diminishing returns once prices go above $3000, so don't go overboard. We've found plenty of great mattresses for $1000 or less, so don't assume that a more expensive mattress is better. 

DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress| was $1,199.00, now $899.00 for Queen, plus $599.00 worth of free gifts at DreamCloud

DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress| was $1,199.00, now $899.00 for Queen, plus $599.00 worth of free gifts at DreamCloud
For example, the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid is #2 in our ranking of the best mattresses, and it's routinely under $1000. This deal is genuine value, as it also comes with nearly $600 worth of pillows, a mattress protector, and a luxury sheet set thrown in for free. 

Our full DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress review has more detail. 

Sleep style

Light plank wood flooring in a bedroom

(Image credit: Chris Everard)

Before you look for a new mattress, it's important to think about the way you sleep. I promise that this isn't just a made-believe marketing gimmick, there's actual physics involved.

For example, if you sleep on your side, you need a slightly softer mattress so the hard points of your shoulders, hips and knees can sink into the bed. Otherwise, they'll be pressing onto firm material that can become uncomfortable. If you've ever had pins and needles in your upper arm as you try to sleep, this is why.

Alex Savy, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and the Founder of Sleeping Ocean, explains that this primarily comes down to your sleeping position. 

‘Side sleepers need more of a hug for the protruding shoulders and hips. That’s why they are usually advised to pick softer mattresses,’ Alex explains. 'Meanwhile, back sleepers need a good balance between support (for the spine) and cushioning (for the hips), so they should opt for medium-firm mattresses. 

‘As for stomach sleepers, they require sturdy support and don’t really need much cushioning. That’s why they are recommended to stick to firm mattresses,’ he says. 

H&G’s former mattress editor Jaclyn Turner agrees. According to Jaclyn, most people find comfort with a medium mattress, but it depends on how you sleep. ‘While a super soft, cloud-like mattress may sound like a dream, it might not be doing you any favors,’ she adds.   

Trial period

As we've just discussed, mattresses are a big investment, and crucial for your day-to-day. If you get it wrong, not only will you have wasted a couple thousand dollars, but you won't get a decent night's sleep. 

Thankfully, lots of mattress brands have introduced 100-night sleep trials, so you can see if your mattress holds up over time and if it's really right for your. However, 100 nights isn't very long. It's only a season, so you might find that the cozy mattress you buy in winter might be unbearably hot in summer. 

If you're at all worried about this, some mattress brands have extended trial periods of up to a year. You can see if the mattress loses its form over time, as well as check how it handles changing temperatures. 

Saatva Classic Mattress | Save 15% off on orders $1,000 + | was $1,996, now $1,696 for Queen at Saatva

Saatva Classic Mattress | Save 15% off on orders $1,000 + | was $1,996, now $1,696 for Queen at Saatva
If you want an extended trial, the Saatva Classic offers a year trial and lifetime warranty. It's also our #1 mattress, with three different firmness options and two heights for a customized fit.

You can read our Saatva Classic Mattress review for more information. 

Mattress type

bed with upholstered headboard and blue wall panels with shelf

(Image credit: Future / Paul Massey)

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mattresses, suggests Logan Foley, a Sleep Science Coach & Managing Editor of Sleep Foundation. However, you shouldn’t always follow the most popular bedroom ideas of the moment.  

‘People may hear that Tempurpedic mattresses are the best in the business, but then it comes, and they don’t like how memory foam feels, and it traps too much heat for them,’ Logan says. 

If you’re looking for ways to sleep better, Jaclyn suggests researching the different mattress characteristics available to find the one that works best for you. ‘It comes down to how you want your mattress to feel: bouncy, responsive, contouring, or a mix, which will lead you to choose among hybrid, foam, and latex options,’ she says. 

Aches and pains

Pink bedroom

(Image credit: Lincrusta)

If you have any health conditions, Alex suggests consulting your physician before making the investment. ‘In some cases, memory foam would be the best choice (for example, tender joints, back pain, or ulcers),’ he explains. 

However, in some other cases, your doctor may suggest a different organic mattress or a hybrid bed that is better for dealing with mobility issues. 

Leesa Original Mattress| was $1199, now $934.15 at Amazon

Leesa Original Mattress| was $1199, now $934.15 at Amazon
We mentioned it earlier in this guide, but our tester found that the Leesa Original all-foam mattress helped relieve her back pain a little. However, we cannot stress enough that this might not work for everyone, and you should always consult your doctor about back pain.

There's more detail in our full Leesa Original Mattress review, as well as a rare seal of approval from our editor-in-chief. 

Keeping cool

Bedroom with green, botanical wallpaper, blue bed with blue duvet cover, orange bedside table with table lamp

(Image credit: Polly Wreford)

Another similar but nonetheless important factor to think about is your bedroom’s temperature. South-facing bedrooms will inevitably be hotter, and those with poor ventilation or no AC will be warm. What's more, some of us just run hot, and get sweaty in the night. 

Thankfully, the type of mattress you choose will also have a direct impact on your slumber. Lots of the best mattresses are designed with cooling in mind

‘People who tend to overheat during sleep should consider mattresses that use cooling components (such as gel infusion),’ Alex says. 

‘Breathable models like hybrids and spring mattresses should work too. Another option is mattresses that have convoluted layers. Such models can achieve improved breathability that aids temperature regulation during the night.’

Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress | was $3,395, now $2,885.75 for Queen at Casper

Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress | was $3,395, now $2,885.75 for Queen at Casper
The Wave Hybrid with Snow technology is scientifically designed for you to sleep cooler, and it's our pick for the best mattress for sleeping cool. If you sign up for Casper's email alerts, you can grab 15% off. 


Panelling ideas for walls with upholstered bed and wall panels

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

Alex further warns that some mattresses aren't made with this highest-quality materials. Shoppers should look for such seals of approval as Certi-PUR, GreenGuard, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), or Organic Content Standard. 

If your mattress is missing any certification, you may want to rethink your choice. Alex explains that these ‘signify that the mattress does not contain potentially harmful chemicals or materials.’ 

Avocado Green Mattress | was $1,999.00, now $1,799.10 for Queen with code SAVE10 at Avocado

Avocado Green Mattress | was $1,999.00, now $1,799.10 for Queen with code SAVE10 at Avocado
Avocado's Green Mattress has all the right credientials. Our pick for the best organic mattress, the eco-friendly Green mattress is made of 100% GOTS and GOLS-certified organic latex, wool, and cotton. 

There's more detail in our full Avocado Green Mattress review.

Final thoughts

It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how often this happens: make sure you select the right size before you buy your bed. Most major mattress brands stock all the standard sizes: Twin; Twin XL; Full; Queen; King; and California King. 

If you're seeing the terms 'Single' or 'Double', then you've probably ended up on a British mattress brand's website. Be sure to double-check your dimensions against the table in our expert guide to US vs UK beds.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.

With contributions from