Mattress Shopping Without Nightmares Part 3

Waterbeds and air mattresses employ interior chambers to capture their respective fillings. Good air and water beds have adjustable firmness levels, allowing sleepers to tailor each side of the bed to their individual support and comfort levels. Look for the same quality of cotton and foam padding found in innerspring beds. And, like innerspring beds, you need to buy a foundation, although it differs from a standard box spring.

Foam mattresses are constructed of either polyurethane or latex foam. Support and cushioning comes from the density of the foam; there's minimal additional padding. They are thin; usually between 4 and 8 inches thick, depending on the density, and don't require a box spring.

So how do you know which sleep set is best for you? It's very difficult to define comfort. The amount of padding that's best is strictly a matter of personal preference. Try a rest test. Find a reputable retailer who carries mattresses from several different makers, and lie down on a bunch of beds. Retailers expect it. Bring your sleeping partner along, too. The set has to be comfortable for both of you, so don't rush it. Try to spend at least 10 or 15 minutes on a bed to see if the degree of firmness and support are right for you. Once you've found the bed that seems to meet your criteria, check with the store to see if it offers a comfort guarantee.

The rest test will help, but the only way to be sure a sleep set is right for you is to take it home and sleep on it for a while. A comfort guarantee allows you to return a mattress after 30 to 60 days, depending on the store's policy, if you find that it's not what you expect. You spend one third of your life in bed, so make sure it's a comfortable third.

While you're testing beds for comfort, consider the size as well as the degree of support. Even a slightly larger bed may mean a great deal more comfort. If you've been sleeping on a full-size mattress (54 x 75 inches), consider moving up to a queen (60x80), the most popular size, or a king (76 x 80 inches). And if you’re an NBA player who really likes to spread out, consider a California king (72 x 84 inches).

  • Once you've chosen a mattress, proper maintenance will ensure that it lasts a long time.
  • Use a washable mattress pad to protect the ticking from soil and stains.
  • Vacuum to remove dust and surface dirt.
  • Clean stains with mild soap and cool water, applied lightly.
  • Never soak a mattress or foundation or use cleaning fluid of any type.
  • To ensure even wear, rotate the mattress periodically. The more you turn the mattress, the longer it will last. When a mattress is new, turn it head to foot every two weeks for the first three months, and flip it over once a month. Continue to rotate and flip the mattress once a month thereafter, and rotate the box spring once every three months. Most people forget about the box spring, but it acts as a giant shock absorber for the mattress; if you rotate it, the springs will wear evenly and the mattress will last longer.

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