How to Choose a Mattress

The figures will vary as to how much sleep is necessary for optimum health, but the general consensus is that most of us will spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping.  With the average American life spanning somewhere around eighty years this means you will likely spend almost twenty-seven years of your life in a bed.

While we are throwing facts and figures around it is also noteworthy to mention that over one-hundred million Americans suffer from insomnia and other sleeping disorders and around eighty percent of “couples” sharing a bed disagree as to its appropriate size and firmness.  While not all of these disorders  would be attributed to the sleep surface itself, and likely even less disagreements among couples settled by it,  making certain that your bed is right for you can go a long way to narrowing down the source of many potential problems.

The Evolution of the Bed

The basic design of the bed as we know it today was first seen in the 1600’s.  Back then a bed was a frame made of wood with a series of leather straps or ropes tied across.  A large bag filled with straw or wool was then laid across the supports.  For the next two hundred years, aside from changes in the types of materials used to fill the bag or mattress, the bed did not change much.

Spring mattresses were invented in 1835 and along with introduction of box springs in the 1930s this type of construction, though production methods and materials have evolved, has been the norm ever since.

While the spring bed or box spring bed is the most common type of bed, there have been numerous attempts to improve on this design by replacing padding and springs with water filled bladders,  “space age” foams, and even beds with pneumatic controls designed to allow changes in firmness for each side of the bed.  Below you will find some benefits and drawbacks of each bed type in hopes of aiding you in picking the best bed for your needs.

Benefits and Drawbacks of the Spring Bed


  • Cost – while there are some of these that because of individually wrapped coils, specialty padding and other luxuries can be pricey, in general they will cost less than one of the many “TEMPUR” or numbered based adjustable beds.
  • Variety – because the production methods for these beds have been around longer there are more companies that produce them and more retailers that sell them.  From specific thicknesses, firmness preferences, sizes, colors and just about any other preference, you are likely to be able to find a bed like this to “in general” suit your needs.


  • Decay – while myths of these types of mattresses doubling in weight due to dust mites and dead skin are not true, there is evidence to support that they may gain more than 20% of their weight for this reason over the course of ten or so years.
  • Wear and Tear – both on you and on the bed.   Springs wear out and these beds eventually “sag”

The arguments made by the makers of other kinds of beds are true.  Without the addition of a thick topper springs create pressure points that can lead to discomfort.


This type of bed has been used for decades.  As long as this type of bed is kept clean and replaced before it becomes too worn or soiled it will be a suitable for most people.  If you currently have this type of bed, and wake in the morning with stiffness or soreness, or if  you have trouble falling or staying asleep , it may be time to try a new kind of mattress.

Benefits & Drawbacks of the Foam Bed


  • Comfort – though there are numerous companies that produce sleep surfaces out of foam (or memory foam as it is often called), the premium versions of these mattresses have been proven to eliminate pressure points and promise to create a more restful sleep.
  • Consideration – these mattresses do not transfer motion like a spring mattress allowing partners to move without bothering one another. This also prevents “tossing and turning” as there is no bouncing on this type of bed.


  • Cost – in general these mattresses cost more.  The materials and production methods used to produce these are less common and some varieties foams are patented.  This makes the additional cost at least somewhat legitimate.  With many of these starting at around two thousand dollars they are simply not an option for as many consumers.
  • New is Better – some of the reasons to like them are the same reasons for concern.  No spring means…no spring.  If you run and jump on these beds you are likely to hurt yourself.  Many of these foams are also affected by temperature so in a cold climate or a chilly bedroom it may take some time for your foam bed to warm up, soften up, and conform to your shape.


For a person with back problems these beds are likely to provide some additional comfort.  Hopefully your back problems were caused by sitting on a very thick wallet as these can easily cost two to three times more than a spring mattress.  Personal preference and budget are key, but there are reasons to believe that this type of bed (or a spring bed that utilizes a layer of this material) is likely to provide a better, more restful sleep.

Benefits and Drawbacks of an Air Filled Adjustable Bed


  • Adjustments – in addition to often providing an option for the comfort and firmness of more than one sleeper, adjustments can be made as personal preferences change
  • Cost – while more expensive than the most modest spring beds these are generally less expensive than premium memory foam beds.


  • Moving Parts – anything that has moving parts can break.  While there are warranties and protection plans available this does add a potential problem or complication that is not an issue with the other types of beds
  • Power – while this is not an everyday occurrence, again, it is not a complication necessary of consideration with either of the other types


The only reason a bed like this would not be comfortable is because the user did not understand the controls.  Virtually any amount of firmness or softness can be achieved and the benefit of partners not troubling one another with movement (as mentioned in the benefits of the foam beds) is present in this type as well.   The only cause you might have for concern are the outside chances of some kind of breakdown that could cause additional maintenance or downtime while repairs or replacements took place.

The fact is, that you will do well to visit the websites and/or retailers of numerous manufacturers before making your decision.  If you are experience sleep difficulties with your current mattress whether you already have an adjustable, a memory foam, or a spring bed…try something else.  Make sure to get all the details you can about trial periods and warranties so that you do not find yourself regretting a somewhat troublesome and potentially costly decision.

This article is not intended to be an endorsement or advertisement of any kind for any particular brand or manufacturer of sleep surface.    Your physical characteristics, existing conditions, budget and personal preference along with any recommendations from qualified medical professionals may all be necessary considerations when picking your next bed.

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