It’s important to note that these firmness descriptions are completely subjective. Someone weighing less than 130 pounds may find a firm or extra-firm mattress most comfortable, while a heavyweight back or stomach sleeper may prefer softer beds. Testing out beds with different firmness levels is the best way to find the most comfortable mattress.
Mattress support refers to how well the bed keeps the sleeper’s body on an even plane. Support is somewhat tied to firmness. Softer mattresses often have thicker comfort layers and lack strong support systems. As a result, these beds provide optimal body-conforming and pressure relief for lighter individuals, but they tend to sag too much for heavyweight sleepers.
Firmer mattresses, on the other hand, usually have thicker and denser support layers to prevent sleepers from sinking deeply beneath the surface. These models provide extra reinforcement for larger sleepers, but lighter individuals may not experience adequate body-conforming or pressure relief.
In addition to firmness level, a bed’s material construction can also affect support. Models with coil systems tend to offer the best support. Most mattress coils are made from steel and fairly thick, which keeps the mattress stable and prevents sleepers from sagging. Latex layers also offer decent support because they withstand sagging well. Models with polyfoam support layers typically provide the weakest support, as this material can sag over time.
Responsiveness refers to how quickly the mattress reacts, or responds to the sleeper’s body. Mattresses with thick memory foam layers usually respond the slowest. The foam – which is temperature-reactive – gradually contours to the sleeper as it softens from their body heat. Polyfoam is a bit more responsive than memory foam but sleepers still experience a gradual body hug as the material adapts to their figure. All-foam beds are the best option for sleepers who like slowly responding mattresses.
The most responsive mattresses are usually hybrids and innersprings, both of which are equipped with coil systems that make the surface feel noticeably springy. Beds with latex can also feel responsive, as the material is naturally bouncy. People who prefer more responsiveness from their bed should consider one of these mattress types. Many couples prefer more responsive mattresses for sex, as well.
Many people naturally run hot, and this can cause them to sleep excessively warm at night. For this reason, some mattresses are designed to sleep cooler and more temperature-neutral. Materials and features that promote temperature neutrality include:
- Cooling Covers: Fabrics known for breathability, such as cotton and Tencel lyocell, can help a mattress cover sleep cool. Some beds also feature covers with phase-change material, which is designed to retain body heat until the surface of the mattress reaches an optimal temperature.
- Ventilated Comfort Layers: Comfort layer foam and/or latex may be ventilated with tiny holes to promote airflow to the bed’s surface.
- Coil Systems: Hybrids and innersprings with coil layers promote strong airflow throughout the interior of the mattress, and this can help the entire bed maintain a comfortable temperature.
This list is not exhaustive. Other components that improve temperature neutrality may include comfort foams infused with cooling gel or copper, wool layers that wick away moisture from sleeper’s bodies, and beds with firmer feels that promote strong surface airflow compared to those that conform closely around the body.
Selecting a Comfortable Mattress Online
In order to find the most comfortable bed online, we encourage all shoppers to do the following:
- Comparison Shop: With so many mattresses sold online, shoppers can quickly become overwhelmed with the wide range of options. For this reason, buyers should focus on the mattress qualities they find most comfortable. Those who prefer close body-conforming and pressure relief should primarily look at all-foam mattresses, while those who would rather sleep on a more responsive and supportive bed may want to consider hybrids and innersprings instead. Be sure to compare prices, as well, since costs vary sharply by brand.
- Read Product Reviews: Customer reviews can be tricky for mattress models, as some brands do not list negative reviews on their website – or at least make them difficult to access. We recommend web forums and discussion boards, as well as the reviews found on third-party retailer sites like Amazon.com. These ratings tend to be more objective and less biased toward certain brands.
- Discuss Comfort Preferences with a Sleep Partner: Many co-sleepers have differing preferences when it comes to firmness, support, and other mattress factors. Determining the best firmness level for both parties is crucial. In some cases, a model with dual-firmness – different firmness levels on each side – might be the best option.
- Visit a Mattress Store: We don’t recommend buying a mattress in a brick-and-mortar store because models tend to have higher price-points due to more overhead costs. However, visiting a store to lie down on different mattresses can be a very helpful experience for shoppers who don’t know their ideal mattress firmness or support levels. Onsite salespeople can be very informative, as well.
- Take Advantage of Sleep Trials: Virtually every major online mattress brand offers a sleep trial for customers to test out their mattress. Most sleep trials last at least 90 nights, and some last up to one year or longer. Sleep trials are beneficial because customers can determine whether or not the mattress will work for them in the long-term. Many brands offer free mattress returns (including full refunds), and some also offer mattress exchanges during the trial period.