Rest easy: Expert advice on choosing a mattress

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Everyone likes to save money, but some purchases it just doesn’t pay to skimp on. If you’re buying an item that affects your well-being – like shoes or a mattress – it’s smart to buy the best you can afford.

Your mattress directly affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, according to experts. Poor sleep has been linked to a host of physical and mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, hypertension, memory loss and appetite changes.

If you’re not resting as well as you know you should and it’s been 10 years or more since you bought a mattress, you may need to take advantage of summer mattress sale season. The summer holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day – and the weeks in between are a great time to find a new deal on a mattress, as retailers tend to ramp up discounts and promotions at this time of year.

“The Better Sleep Council recommends that you replace your mattress every five to seven years,” says Jim Ruehlmann, a mattress expert with mattress-maker Simmons. “If you haven’t gone mattress shopping in a while, you may be surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the variety of choices, advances in technology and plethora of sales you’ll find this summer.”

Ruehlmann offers these tips for making your next mattress purchase:

* When it comes to comparison shopping, patience pays off. Watch the sales fliers that will be arriving in your mailbox or tucked into your local paper. The “red, white and blue” holidays are prime sale time for mattress sellers. If you have an idea of what you want, chances are it will go on sale this summer.

* Play the pricing games to your advantage. Stores near each other rarely carry the exact same make and models of mattresses, so it can be difficult to do a direct price comparison. To get a fair comparison, note the construction of a model you like, including the types of foams, coil count, etc. Then take that information to a competing store and see if they have a bed of similar construction and quality that feels just as good – but for less money.

* Brush up on new technology. If it’s been 10 years or longer since you bought a mattress a lot has changed. For example, if you tried memory foam years ago and didn’t like the hot, quicksand sensation older foam types created, you may be pleasantly surprised at how new technology has eliminated that problem. For example, some mattresses feature memory foam that provides the supportive sleep, contouring comfort and pressure relief of traditional memory foam, but helps dissipate heat and has quick recovery – meaning the foam doesn’t make you feel hot when you lay on it and springs back to shape quickly as you move.

* Coils count. In traditional coil mattresses, those coils are what make a mattress comfortable – or uncomfortable. Quality coil construction equates to better sleep. Coils should provide motion separation, comfort and back support. The top section of the coil, which is tapered, conforms to your shape for comfort and pressure relief. The firmer barrel-shaped bottom section reacts to body weight and sleeping position for individualized back support and alignment. 

* Never settle. You’ll spend more hours in bed than on your couch, so keep searching until you find one that you feel good about. When testing in the store, lay on the bed however you normally sleep and stay that way for a few minutes. Be sure to try the bed with your sleeping partner beside you, so that you can feel the level of motion when one of you moves around.

* Ask about the store’s policies for delivery charges, returns, testing periods and removal of your old mattress. Every store is different, and the policies may affect where you decide to buy.

Finally, says Ruehlmann, “Buy the box spring.”

A mattress and foundation complement each other. Buying just the mattress may reduce its comfort and support – and shorten the bed’s lifespan.

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