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Mattress Guide for College Students

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A great night’s sleep is important for college students, as adequate sleep is needed for a healthy mood, academic performance, mental health, and more. And a good mattress and bedding is an important part of that great night’s sleep for every college student. In the dorms or Greek housing, your mattress comfort may be the luck of the draw, but even if you have no choice in the mattress you sleep on every night, there are things you can do to make your sleep environment more comfortable and healthy — specifically, mattress toppers and great bedding. If you’re lucky enough to be able to choose your own mattress in college, we have great news for you: mattresses and mattress shopping just keep getting better, cheaper, and more convenient for college students. New sleep technology, particularly in online direct to consumer foam mattresses, offers more comfort, choice, convenience, and price options than college students have been able to enjoy before. Often, students are able to get a top quality mattress that will meet their needs at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in a traditional mattress store — and even have it conveniently delivered in a compact box. In this guide, we’ll take a look at mattress needs in a variety of college living situations and how you can make your sleeping environment the best it can be no matter where you’re living during college. You’ll also learn about the leading sources for online mattresses, plus find resources for learning about sleep, sleep disorders, and getting help with sleep or mental health if there’s a problem.

What Are Your Mattress Needs in College?

Your college mattress needs will largely depend on your living situation. Students in dorms, fraternities, and sororities will often have beds and mattresses provided, so all that’s needed is bedding. But students living in off-campus housing will need to purchase a mattress as well as bedding. Students staying home may just stick with what’s already there, or take an opportunity to upgrade their bedding, mattress, or both. Whatever your situation, you should find a mattress, bedding, and accessories that fit your needs and help you get a good night’s sleep to take on the challenges of college life.

Living in On-Campus Housing

Dorms and Greek house rooms usually come with a bed and mattress. However, you’ll be responsible for bringing your own bedding, including sheets and a pillow. You may also want to bring a mattress topper and/or a protective mattress cover for comfort and hygiene.

Choosing a Mattress

If your room doesn’t come with a mattress, you’ll need to bring one for yourself. Typically, dorm beds fit twin XL mattresses, but you should check with your school or organization before making a purchase just to be sure. These range in price from $100 to more than $600.

Choosing Bedding

Even if you have a mattress waiting for you in your room, there’s still a lot you’ll need to bring for bedding. This includes a fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillowcases, comforter, and blanket.

Most often, you’ll need to find bedding that will fit a twin XL mattress. Of course, you should check to confirm the mattress size before you buy sheets and other size-specific items.

When choosing your bedding, look for durable, easy to wash sheets. In a small dorm room or Greek housing, you’ll use your bed for a lot of things, including studying, sitting, and even eating. Consider buying dark colors or prints to better camouflage any small spills.

Living Off Campus in an Apartment or House

Unlike dorm or Greek life, you’re usually on your own for a bed and mattress in an off-campus apartment or house. Rarely, off-campus housing is furnished, but most of the time, students bring in their own furniture, mattress, and bedding. This means you’ll need to buy more, but it also gives you more options for making your space comfortable.

Choosing a Mattress

If you’re moving into off-campus housing, you’re probably starting fresh with an entirely new bed and mattress. That means you can choose the size and type of bed that’s most comfortable for you, ranging from twin or twin XL to king, even California king. Of course, you may be limited on size, as some off-campus housing bedrooms may not be large enough to accommodate queen or king size beds.

Mattress prices can range from $100 or less to thousands of dollars. The price of the mattress you choose will largely depend on the size, brand, and type of mattress. A twin innerspring mattress may cost as little as $100, or you can choose a full memory foam mattress for $4,000 or more.

Take a look at all types of mattresses, including innerspring and memory foam mattresses. Consider firmness and comfort, and especially how you like to sleep at night. Firm mattresses are good for back support, while softer mattresses are better for side sleepers. A memory foam mattress can offer more support and a restful night’s sleep.

Unlike dorm or Greek housing, the mattress you buy for off-campus housing is likely be the one you use throughout your college years — possibly even beyond. While you may be limited on a college student’s budget, it’s a good idea to buy the best quality mattress you can afford. You’ll be sleeping on it for at least four years and it may even be the mattress you take with you to your first post-college apartment or home as well. You should plan to use this mattress for its entire eight year lifespan and buy accordingly.

Choosing Bedding

In addition to a mattress, you’ll need to find bedding including a fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillowcases, comforter, and blanket for your off-campus room. Your mattress size may dictate your choice of bedding, as you may find more variety in twin and full sizes.

In off-campus housing, you’ll have more of an opportunity to coordinate your bedding with your entire room. Often, students start with a comforter or sheet set they like and then plan the rest of the room around that color scheme.

Living at Home

Living at home during college, you probably already have a bed, mattress, and bedding. But transitioning to college is a good time to upgrade, as existing bedding may be several years old and outdated. Getting a fresh start for college can refresh your room and make the move into this new phase of your life more exciting. All new bedding can even prepare you for when it’s time to move out on your own in a few years.

Choosing a Mattress

If your parents got you a new bed as a child, chances are it’s time to replace it by the time you’ve made it to college. A good night’s sleep has never been more important. This is a good time to get a new mattress that will help you feel refreshed and ready to take on college.

Depending on your room size, you can choose anything from a twin to a king. Of course, you should keep in mind that you’ll probably be moving into your own apartment or house either during college or right after. Your new room may not have as much space as the one at your house right now.

Just as you would in off campus housing, carefully consider all of your mattress options, as there are many available today. Mattresses come in innerspring, memory foam, hybrid, and other models. They also have varying levels of firmness and support depending on your needs. Generally, if you sleep on your back, you’ll benefit from a firmer mattress, while side sleepers do better of soft yet supportive mattresses.

Choosing Bedding

When you upgrade your mattress, it’s only natural to get new sheets and bedding to go along with it. Start out with all new bedding on your college adventure with a fresh set of sheets, comforter, blanket, and pillow.

Bedding Choices for Every College Bedroom

Whether you’re staying on campus, off campus, or living at home, you’ll have lots of options when it comes to sheets, pillows, comforters, and other bedding. They’re available in a variety of sizes, materials, styles, and price ranges to fit the tastes and budget of every college student.

Buying Sheets

Cotton is the most popular choice for sheet sets. This is because it’s durable, comfortable, easy to care for, and often inexpensive. You can find cotton dorm sheets in a range of thread counts (the higher, the better) and cotton types including Egyptian, Supima, and MicroCotton. Many students find shopping online offers the best selection.

Flannel is another popular choice, particularly in winter months for its soft warmth. Polyester sheets are often found in dorm mattress sizes and at inexpensive prices, however, they tend to be stiff and scratchy. Bamboo dorm sheets are environmentally friendly and soft, but may be more expensive.

There are also a variety of blends of each fabric type, often combining cotton and polyester or cotton and bamboo. These fabrics are often a good choice, as they are inexpensive, comfortable, and durable.

Thread count matters, of course, but don’t assume that the higher, the better. Usually, a thread count between 200 and 800 is ideal. A thread count higher than 800 may sound better, but the difference is minimal. Most students find that sheets around 300 or 400 thread count are comfortable and durable.

You should also pay attention to the fabric weave, as this changes the finish and feel of your sheets. Combed cotton sheets are strong and soft, while Percale is crisp and durable. Sateen is very soft, but may be less durable.

Sheets are typically chemically treated to avoid wrinkles and shrinking, but some students prefer sheets with little or no chemicals due to allergies or sensitivities. Organic sheets will be untreated. You can also look for pure finish sheets that either don’t use chemicals or have either removed all chemicals from the sheets.

Buying A Pillow

In addition to sheets, you’ll need to bring your own pillow along. You can choose from foam, memory foam, latex, wool, cotton, down, and feather pillows. Foam, memory foam, latex, cotton, and wool pillows tend to be firm and adjustable and may even be hypoallergenic or resistant to mold and dust mites. Down and feather pillows are softer and easy to adjust while remaining firm, but may cause allergy problems.

Most students choose to purchase pillowcases that coordinate with their sheets. Some pillowcases come in sheet sets, while others will be a separate purchase. You may also want to consider a study pillow or decorative pillow to add to your bed.

Buying Blankets and Comforters

Just like sheets and pillows, there are many choices for blankets and comforters. Like pillowcases, some sheet sets will include a comforter, particularly bed in a bag products. Or, you can purchase a separate comforter.

Consider fill type, power, weight, and thread count when choosing your dorm comforter. Down filled comforters will be soft and warm while down alternatives eliminate allergens. Comforters with a higher fill power will have greater loft, adding thickness and warmth, so a higher fill power is better for staying warm. Fill weight indicates a comforter’s heaviness. A comforter with a high fill weight and low fill power is good for warm climates where you may want the weight, but not warmth, of a heavy comforter. And as with sheets, the higher the thread count on your comforter, the better.

Even with a comforter, it’s best to add a light blanket to your bed. This will allow you to switch to a lighter cover if you’re too hot under your comforter, or add extra warmth if you feel too cold.

Consider the climate of your school when choosing your comforter and blanket. If you’re going to school in a chilly location, you’ll want to invest in covers that are heavier and will keep you warm even if your bedroom is drafty.

Buying Mattress Toppers

Dorm and Greek house mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable, so many college students find that a mattress topper offers more comfort as well as hygiene. Mattress toppers come in a variety of materials and prices, ranging from expensive latex to inexpensive egg crate foam. Even if you’re buying your own mattress for off-campus housing or

Latex mattress toppers are firm, supportive, and comfortable, but can be expensive and retain heat. Memory foam mattress toppers are less expensive while still offering comfort and support, though they also retain heat. Wool is soft and comfortable with good temperature regulation, but less cushioning. Feather and down mattress toppers are soft and luxurious, though they may need fluffing to keep their shape. Cotton mattress toppers offer a range of price, softness, and materials, however they often compress faster and are not as durable. The most inexpensive, egg crate foam mattress toppers are light weight and transportable, but are less durable and may retain heat.

Tips for Purchasing Bedding

  • Get a mattress cover: You probably don’t want to think about it, but in a dorm or Greek housing, plenty of other students have slept on the mattress you’ll be using, leaving sweat, bacteria, and who knows what else — maybe even bed bugs. Use a mattress cover or mattress encasement to create a barrier between you, your sheets, and the dorm mattress.
  • Invest in a good mattress topper: Make an uncomfortable mattress bearable with a good mattress topper that can make a difference between tossing and turning all night and getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Buy two sheet sets: It’s best to buy two sets of sheets and pillowcases, as you may not have time to wash them often at school.
  • Choose durability and quality: Cheap sheet sets for college students are easy to find, but unless you want to change up your style every year, it’s best to invest in a quality set that will last all four years or longer. A good sheet set will be more comfortable, too.
  • Get extra space with bed risers: Take a look at the bed you’ll use in your dorm or fraternity/sorority bedroom and consider whether you can prop it up with bed risers. These will allow you to use the space under your bed for storage, which is perfect for extra sheets, blankets, and out of season clothes.
  • Consider a duvet instead of comforter: If you’re worried about fitting an entire comforter into your dorm’s washing machine, get a duvet. With a duvet, you’ll be able to simply remove the covering and wash it rather than putting the entire duvet in the washer and dryer.
 

Buying a Mattress Online

If your college housing comes with a mattress, you’re set. But if you need to buy a mattress, you may be overwhelmed with options. While mattresses were once only sold by mattress and furniture stores, mattress manufacturers are increasingly selling direct to consumers, usually online. Online mattress businesses including Casper, Leesa, and Tuft & Needle have become popular in recent years for their affordability, quality, and convenience. We’ve gathered the most comprehensive set of consumer experiences on all of the direct to consumer mattress companies available online, so if you do need to spring for a new mattress at college, these are all of the options available to you.

 

More Online Mattress Resources

While online direct to consumer mattress companies have become a popular choice for college students, they’re not the only option out there. Top e-commerce stores sell mattresses online — sometimes at better prices than you can find elsewhere. These are some of the best places to buy mattresses online if you’re not going direct.

  • Amazon.com: Amazon sells practically everything, mattresses included. Buyers love Amazon for its available free shipping excellent return policies, and overall superior customer service. Selection can be overwhelming, so be sure to use search modifiers like size, price, type, and brand to narrow down to the mattress you really want.
  • Mattress.com: The leading name in online mattress sales, Mattress.com has top brands available that you’d expect to see at most mattress stores. They offer free delivery for most orders and offer competitive pricing for most brands.
  • Costco.com: Costco is a popular place to shop for bulk groceries, but it’s also a mattress outlet. Buyers often find above average consumer satisfaction and service, an excellent return policy, and often, the ability to see a few models in store if you feel like you really need to try them out first. Of course, you’ll need a membership to purchase from Costco, even online.
  • Walmart.com: Walmart.com has a wide variety of brands, types, and sizes in mattresses online, with plenty of selection and often, excellent prices and specials. Walmart.com is a particularly good source for inexpensive mattresses and bedding. Walmart accepts mattress returns within 30 days, but you’ll have to ship it back instead of returning it to a local store.
  • Overstock.com: Overstock.com is a popular outlet for buying home goods at a discount, and mattresses are no exception. Carrying popular brands, buyers like the variety of mattresses available on Overstock as well as their prices. Overstock even has a mattress finder tool to walk you through finding the best mattress for your needs.
  • Wayfair.com: Another hot online outlet for furniture and decor, Wayfair.com has an extensive mattress selection at good prices. The e-commerce website is known for its excellent customer service and money back guarantee, and Wayfair offers a perk not often found online: same day delivery. Through a partnership with Mattress Firm, Wayfair.com customers can purchase a mattress online and receive premium same day delivery in most markets.
 

Additional Sleep Resources for College Students

A great mattress and bedding is the foundation of good sleep, but there’s more to it than what you’re sleeping on. These sleep resources explain good sleep habits, how to create a routine, can help you identify sleep disorders, and more.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Disorders

Sleep Facts and Studies

Creating a Sleep Routine

Stress Relief Resources

Mental Health Resources

  • ULifeline: ULifeline is an online resource specifically focusing on mental health for college students. Get facts, take a self evaluation, and learn how you can get help for yourself or for a friend.
  • Active Minds: Student Resources: Get connected with mental health resources for students and young adults as well as multicultural organizations and resources on Active Minds.
  • National Institute of Mental Health: Help for Mental Illness: The National Institute for Mental Health shares resources for getting help with mental illness.
  • MentalHealth.gov: Visit MentalHealth.gov to learn the basics of mental health, what to look for, how to get help, and find opportunities to talk about mental health.
 
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