Online Mattress Shopping Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard — And Here’s Why

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Recently, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal where the columnist talked about her disdain (perhaps, hatred even) for the online mattress shopping world. Kris Frieswick walked readers through her tumultuous, yet very entertaining journey of finding the right bed for her and her husband. Spoiler alert: She ultimately slept best on a mattress that I imagine to be similar to sleeping on concrete with how firm she described it to be. The column was witty, captivating, and relatable.

But here’s the thing, I noticed — and also completely empathized with – some of the issues she came across while trying to find the perfect bed. As someone who reviews mattresses on a weekly basis, I wanted to give my two cents on the matter and where I think she may have gone wrong, along with what I’d advise Frieswick and other shoppers to do in similar situations. 

With a nod to Frieswick’s column, I want to kick things off by acknowledging and respecting our collective love for sleep. That’s the way it should be. I swear quality sleep is the closest thing to a superpower humans can achieve. It charges us, perks us up, and motivates us. I would argue the right amount of Zzzs can make us all better people. And when it comes to the game of obtaining high-quality sleep, a mattress is a major player — think shortstop or quarterback. 

Mattress shopping can be extremely overwhelming. I will not deny that. As Frieswick notes, there are a ton of factors that go into it: endless brand names, marketed materials, company policies, firmness levels – the list goes on. She said she and her husband went to a store and laid on several beds for half a minute each…. Eventually deciding on the one that seemed the best through its looks and price tag. 

I do want to mention mattress companies usually suggest giving your body 30 days to adjust to a new bed, so 30 seconds won’t quite do the trick. Although, it could surely give you a taste and I’m not saying you shouldn’t go in person if you want to, but it’s a good tidbit to keep in mind. I’m personally a big fan of online shopping in all aspects of life and the thought of climbing onto mattresses on a showroom floor in front of strangers deeply horrifies me. So I try to make it so shoppers can get the information they need to be fully equipped on our site. (Our mattress buying guide is a good place to start.)

Basically, I want people to have some background knowledge before stepping foot in any store. It’s important to know going into what Frieswick called the Mattress Industrial Complex, or MIC, what kind of sleeper you are and what that means for your future mattress needs. Everyone is different with their body type and sleep style, and because of that, we all need different qualities out of a mattress. 

Do you sleep on your side, back, stomach, or maybe a combination of the two? Do you suffer from pain? Are you lighter or heavier in weight? Do you sleep hot? Do you wake up easily from a tossing and turning partner? What is your budget? And how do all your answers compare to your partner’s? 

Although it may seem like I just threw a myriad of questions at you — they are important. For example, if you’re a strict side sleeper, you’ll typically want a softer mattress. If one of you sleeps on your back while the other partner sleeps on their stomach, you’ll do better with a medium to firm mattress. If your partner’s movements in the night are constant unwanted alarm clocks, then you’ll like a bed with strong motion isolation. And if you tend to sleep hot (like me), a bed with springs, Phase Change Material, or various foam infusions could help.

Rather than starting with the mattresses and finding one you can adapt to, I suggest identifying your sleep characteristics and then finding a mattress that fits them. 

Here are some of our favorite picks for the following: 

Also, try not to be distracted by mattress brand names, buzz words, or price tags. Those aren’t always synonymous with high quality. However, what does matter is the shipping, returns, trial period, and warranty information. Some companies give you a few months to try out your new bed, while others will give you a year. Some make the returns process tedious, while others make it painless. As much as I groan having to read the fine print at times, it can make a major difference and can also show the company’s confidence in their product.

After enduring both figurative and literal pain in her hunt for a new mattress, Frieswick’s column had a happy ending. She found her solution while traveling in Egypt with her husband and seemed to discover a love for a very firm bed — later suggesting we may all be able to reach snooze paradise with the simple combination of a blanket, a pillow, and the floor. Although I imagine a five-day trip up the Nile River, like Frieswick took, is life changing in more ways than one — I personally will never give up my love and need for a soft mattress. I am a side sleeper, after all.

Bridget Chapman

Bridget is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and the former senior commerce editor at Sleepopolis, where she did everything from test out mattresses to writing about how to fall asleep fast. You can also find her in videos on our YouTube channel. Bridget graduated magna cum laude from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. Before joining the Sleepopolis team, she was a TV news reporter and worked in cities across the country. She loves spending time outdoors, checking out new restaurants, snuggling with her pets, and of course, getting some quality Zzz’s.

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