If you want to drive yourself nuts, go shopping for a new mattress. You’ll hear dozens of theories on coils, fabrics, stuffing, foam density and warranties.

What I know about buying a mattress I’ve learned from the best: Insiders now retired from the sleep product industry.

CONFUSION FACTOR

All of the major brands—Simmons, Serta, Sealy, etc., make decent mattresses but if you’re planning to go from one chain store to the next comparing prices, forget it. The major brands change the names of the same mattress for each of the stores so it is impossible to compare by make and model.

SHOP BY LEVEL

Each company makes “levels” of mattresses: Very cheap, decently cheap, good and best. That’s not what they call them, but you can tell by the pricing within each manufacturer’s line of products. Expect several models in each price level.

PRICE MATTERS

You get what you pay for in a mattress. A very cheap mattress is about 10% materials (foam, steel, padding) and 90% air. A mid-level mattress is about 40% materials and so on. The more material, the better the product and the higher the price. A high-quality mattress will be up to 90% materials, and therefore the heaviest. You can lift a mattress to determine its quality.

WEIGHT MATTERS

The heavier the sleeper the heavier by weight you want the mattress to be. You will do just fine with a lightweight mattress in a guest room that is seldom used, or for your 50-pound child. But for heavy adults, opt for the heaviest mattress you can afford.

TAKE A NAP

Once you’ve narrowed your selection to two or three, take a nap. Spend at least 15 minutes on each of the beds you are considering. Comfort is key here so don’t make a hasty decision.

RETURNABLE

Make sure there is at least a 30-day trial period. This is a deal-breaker and you should absolutely not purchase a bed without this guarantee, no matter what else they are offering. If it’s returnable during the trial period, keep shopping. Most beds require a few weeks of sleep to break-and discover how they will feel long-term. Don’t give up right away on a bed after a few bad nights. Your body has to adjust to the new bed.

What happens returned, used mattresses?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, federal law requires that any mattress containing used stuffing or other materials must bear a tag or label stating this information. If labeling and processing requirements are met, used mattresses can be resold. However, not all states require labels, and the state requirements for used mattresses tend to vary.

Some states allow recovered old mattresses to be sold when they have new ticking or fabric and after they have been sanitized or disinfected. In other states, only the springs can be reused. When purchasing a mattress, make certain that there is a visible tag or label, and read the content information carefully prior to purchase.

TRUST THE CLUBS

Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club carry a limited choice of name-brand mattress sets in all sizes. Typically they’re top of the line at cut-rate prices. But you won’t have a salesman to consult (perhaps that’s a good thing), you won’t be able to take a nap, either. However, I can say from personal experience both Costco and Sam’s make wise choices and they have generous return/refund policies. Trust them and you’ll knock $100s from the cost of your mattress.

CONSIDER ONLINE

There’s a new trend toward low-priced, high-comfort mattresses that you order online and show up on the doorstep rolled up in a box that is lightweight enough to easily maneuver up a narrow staircase. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is the new wave. Thousands and thousands of very happy customers can’t all be wrong.

Companies like Tuft & Needle, Leesa and Casper are getting thousands of rave reviews. All three of these companies have a 100-night guarantee with a free return for full refund, no questions asked. Given the customer feedback plus amazingly low prices, I think it’s worth considering a mattress you can’t test in a store—but only if you have nothing to lose for trying and you will carry through with a no-hassle return if it’s just not right for you.

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