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How Mattress Shopping Works

More and more mattress companies are becoming online exclusive. While this is great for mattress quality and price (thanks to fewer costs having to be dedicated to physical stores), for many, it’s made the mattress-buying process feel riskier.

This is because where you can test out a mattress in-person in a physical store, you largely have to rely on a company’s word and customer reviews when buying a mattress online. In other words, it can feel like a huge, expensive gamble.

However, armed with the right knowledge, buying a mattress online can actually be just as, if not more, effective than buying a mattress in-store. To help make sure your next online purchase is the right one, and that you get the comfort and support you need for years to come, consider following the six steps below.

Understand Your Sleep Needs

It’s tempting to think that mattresses are universal—that they suit all types of sleepers the same. But in fact, certain mattresses suit different sleeping styles better than others. One mattress might suit side sleepers better than stomach or back sleepers, another might suit those with back pain over neck pain, another might suit those who prefer to sink into their mattress rather than sleep more firmly on top, another might be better for people who want to stay as cool as possible as they sleep.

As these examples suggest, there are four main characteristics you want to understand about your sleep style:

With just these four pieces of information, you can more accurately choose a mattress that you know will suit your sleep needs.

Research the Different Types of Mattresses Available

With a solid understanding of your sleep needs, the next step is to find out what kinds of mattresses serve those needs. While mattress customizability gets better with every year that passes (slowly but surely making mattresses more universally suitable) the fact still stands that certain kinds of mattresses serve specific needs better than others.

There are basically four kinds of mattresses to consider:


Innerspring mattresses are typically firmer in feeling and can be more suitable for people wanting a more traditional “bouncy” feeling to their mattress. They’re also great for people who sleep on their stomachs as they don’t allow much “sinking” in comparison to foam mattresses.


If you need a softer mattress that molds to the shape of your body for pressure-relief reasons, then a foam mattress—especially memory foam—is right up your alley. If you’re worried about sinking into your mattress, you can look at the density and thickness of the foam to get an idea of how deep you’ll sink. Foam mattresses are also great for people who sleep with their partners thanks to their motion-containment properties.

Air Bed

If you don’t want to have to decide between a firm or soft mattress, a safe, in-between option is an adjustable air bed. With an adjustable air bed, you can adjust the firmness and softness in different parts of the mattress with a remote to your liking. The ability to customize adjustable air beds also makes them great for partners with different support needs and safer to purchase before trying them.


One of the newer types of mattress available on the market, hybrids are a combination of two or more support systems in the same mattress—usually a combination of innerspring and memory foam. The memory foam helps make sure that there are no gaps between you and the mattress—which is essential for back support—and the springs ensure that the memory foam doesn’t form to your body too well so you don’t wake up feeling like you’re drowning and sweating in your mattress. Having multiple types of support systems make hybrids the closest thing to a universal mattress, making them a great choice for many different sleep positions, as well as partners with different sleep styles.

Materials can also play a major factor in what benefits a mattress offer. For example, many mattress companies are now offering eco-friendly versions of their mattresses.

Use Any Available On-Site Support

Most online mattresses companies—especially those with a larger mattress selection—offer some sort of guiding service to help you choose the right mattress for your needs.

Oftentimes, this support will take the form of an available team of sleep experts reachable via phone or instant messaging, an extensive blog containing detailed mattress buying guides, or both. In some cases, you’ll find short quizzes that you can take that will automatically pair you with the perfect mattress based on your answers.

Combined with your own understanding of your sleep needs, this professional guidance is extra assurance that you end up with the right mattress.

Verify With 3rd Parties Before Committing

On-site support is great, but it can naturally be very biased. This is why it’s worth considering other, 3rd-party factors before committing to a mattress.


Other than testing out a mattress in person, looking to reviews is the best way to gauge the quality of a mattress. Don’t just trust the testimonials on a company’s website; be sure to check the internet for other reviews. It can also be helpful to ignore highly positive and highly negative reviews and focus on in-between reviews, as these are often the most legitimate and accurate.

Awards and Certifications

Awards are another easy way to gain an accurate idea of the quality of any given mattress or company. When it comes to “Best of”-type awards, prioritize companies that advertise awards from industry-watchdogs and publications you’ve actually heard of. The same goes for sustainability- and safety-related certifications. Some specific certifications to look for include those from CertiPUR-US® and Oeko-Tex, both of which verify that a company uses environment- and human-safe materials.

Test Before Purchasing

Physically lying on a mattress is really the ideal way to decide if it’s comfortable and the right one for you.

The problem with this is that while some online mattress companies offer physical showrooms where you can go to try out mattresses in person, most don’t. This is why it’s important to prioritize mattress companies that offer at-home trials—ideally lasting at least 30 days.

While it can be more of a hassle if you decide you don’t want the mattress, these trials are arguably more useful than trying a mattress in person. Instead of having to decide after just one interaction if a mattress works for you, trials allow you plenty of time—often in the range of months—to try out your mattress in the comfort of your own home.

When opting for an at-home trial, prioritize companies that offer free shipping, returns, and offer a full refund if during your trial you decide you don’t want the mattress.

Familiarize Yourself with Warranties

Depending on the type and size of your mattress, you could be looking at spending upwards of several thousand dollars. The last thing you want to happen is to damage your mattress in a way that you think is covered, only to find out that it’s not.

For example, you might stain your mattress because you didn’t have a mattress protector. While stains might be covered in your warranty, the fact that you didn’t use a mattress protector might void your warranty. This is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with your warranty in fine detail.