Most people take a lot of care when they’re selecting a new mattress. After all, we spend a third of our lives in bed! So buying a mattress online might seem crazy, especially considering you don’t have any hands-on experience with it before it arrives in your home. However, since most online mattress sellers offer generous return policies, the truth of the matter is you actually get more time and experience with the mattress than you would if you tested it out in a showroom. We went through the full process ourselves with 10 different mattresses, and even sleep-tested each at a minimum of three days to a week, so we can provide some insight and guidance about ordering a mattress online.
Online Mattresses: How We Tested
We ordered a mattress from each of 10 online mattress companies. We chose medium-firm mattresses across the board, although a handful of companies offer different support and comfort options. Medium-firm mattresses provide comfort and support for all types of sleepers such as back, side and stomach sleepers.
We unboxed each mattress in our Purch Labs testing facility, then we measured each one and performed our sink tests, in which we measured how far each mattress sinks from the surface as we stood, sat and lay on the bed. We performed this test with both me and a much heavier and taller coworker. We also put each mattress through an actual sleep test, where I took each mattress home for a week at a time and recorded my experience sleeping on each one.
For context, I am a 5'9" male and weigh roughly 160 pounds. I tend to sleep mostly on my stomach, which means I need a mattress that offers decent lower back support. Keep in mind that comfort and support is entirely subjective, and what is comfortable to me might not suit your needs. However, my sleep trials are also designed to address common questions you may have about a mattress, and these insights will prove useful as you decide which online mattress best fits your individual needs.
Finally, we returned all of the mattresses to determine if there were any unexpected fees, loopholes or stipulations in the return process.
Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers put a lot of weight on specific pressure points of their body, mainly the hips, knees and shoulders. Pressure relief is more important for side sleepers than stomach and back sleepers. Medium to softer mattresses, especially memory foam mattresses that contour to the body, will help relieve pressure points. Of the mattresses we tested, the one with the most contouring and softest feel was the Leesa mattress. Side sleepers will appreciate the hugging feel of the Leesa.
Side Sleepers: Leesa
The Leesa Mattress is composed of three layers of foam. The top 2 inches of Avena foam give the mattress breathability, while 2 inches of memory foam below that add contouring, softness and pressure-point relief. The 6-inches base layer of foam provides overall support, and the whole thing is covered by a great-looking gray mattress cover with four white stripes across the bottom-third of the mattress. The simple but quality look of the mattress is indicative of the overall quality of the bed.
Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
Back sleepers, by nature, keep their spine in alignment as they sleep, so finding a comfortable yet supportive mattress is important. The good news is that good support can be found in anything from soft or medium to medium-firm mattresses and in a variety of different types (foam, latex, spring, etc.). The Saatva Luxury Firm mattress does a good job with both comfort and support, since it has a plush pillow top and foam-encased coils for support.
Back Sleepers: Saatva
The Saatva online mattress company delivers traditional spring mattresses to your home. These mattresses have a pillow-top layer followed by a layer of memory foam for lumbar support and pressure relief. Next are individually wrapped coils that contour to your body shape. A steel coil base support system consisting of high-profile coils and foam make up the bottom of the mattress. Saatva offers three levels of softness: plush, luxury firm and firm. We ordered the Luxury Firm model, and I slept on it for a week.
Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers
Stomach sleepers are the rarest form of sleepers and generally are more prone to sleep-related problems. Since they sleep with all their weight on their chest, breathing can be an issue. Lower back support is also a concern. Stomach sleepers tend to arch their lower back inwards, causing it to fall out of alignment, which contributes to lower back problems. Firmer and supportive mattresses are usually the best solution for stomach sleepers. The Purple mattress is a great example of a mattress that provides excellent support especially for back pain sufferers.
Stomach Sleepers: Purple
The online mattress company Purple has made a name for itself with quirky ads, viral videos and a mattress that is made and feels unlike any other. Instead of being topped with any form of foam or pillow-top, the top layer of Purple is 2 inches of hyper-elastic polymer – basically rubber – followed by 3.5 inches of polyurethane foam and 4 inches of base layer foam. The hyper-elastic polymer is responsive and adds support, comfort and a feel that is unlike any other mattress.
Online Mattress Companies: How It Works
If you have ever done any online shopping, the process of buying a mattress will feel very familiar. For example, on the Leesa website, you pick the size you want, input your shipping address and billing information, and viola, a mattress is shipped to your home. All the companies we ordered from (with exception of Saatva) shipped the mattress for free.
Most mattresses arrive in a 15 x 15 x 45-inch box (some are slightly bigger or smaller). The box is small enough for one person to carry or drag, but we recommend you have two people on hand to lift the box, especially if it doesn’t have handles. A heavy box without handles can be awkward to carry. The weight of the box will vary depending on the company, but you can expect it to weigh anywhere from 70 to 100 pounds.
When you get the box into the bedroom (or wherever you want the mattress to end up) and open it up, the mattress is inside, rolled up like a cinnamon roll. As you pull it out of the box and start to unwrap the various layers of plastic wrap, you’ll start to hear what sounds like air leaking from a tire – this is the mattress beginning to expand. It only takes about two or three minutes to completely unbox the mattress and for it to take shape. Although the mattresses are essentially sleep-ready right out of the box, most need at least 12 to 24 hours before they have fully expanded.
All of the online mattress companies we ordered from offer at least a 100-day trial period. If you are unsatisfied with the mattress within this time period, you should be able to return them to the manufacturer or to a donation or recycling center and have your money refunded.
Materials That Make the Mattress
There are many types of mattresses made from different materials, and all of them offer a different type of support. You’ve heard of memory foam mattresses, spring air mattresses, latex mattresses, organic latex mattresses, and the list goes on and on. Below we break down some of the most popular types, including how they feel and how the material reacts to your body as you lie on the mattress.
Memory Foam Mattresses: Casper
Memory foam mattresses have been around since the early 1990s. Memory foam is essentially polyurethane foam with certain chemicals added that give it “memory.” When you lie down on memory foam, it contours to the shape of your body; when you move, it goes back to its original form. The contouring provides support for the points that are getting the most pressure, such as your hips or shoulders if you are a side sleeper. It also creates even weight distribution for complete support from head to toe.
Memory foam mattresses are popular for many reasons – and the lack of motion transfer is a big one. If your partner moves around a lot during sleep and it keeps you awake at night, memory foam is a great choice.
One prominent issue with memory foam is that it “sleeps hot.” As the memory foam hugs your body, it often doesn’t provide airflow, which can make you feel hot during the night. If you need a cooler environment to fall sleep, memory foam might not be the best choice.
The Casper mattress is an example of a bed with a memory foam layer for body contouring.
Latex Mattresses: Brooklyn Bedding
Latex foam is made from processed tree sap. Latex doesn’t have body contouring properties like memory foam – it is often more rigid – but it offers great support. This makes a latex mattress appealing for those who suffer from back pain. That’s not to say that latex mattresses are necessarily firm. They are customizable to your sleep preferences, making them even more widely appealing. There are different types of latex foam, and so there are several types of latex mattresses available. A handful of mattresses we tested, including Brooklyn Bedding and Ghost Bed, are made using some combination of latex foam.
Natural Latex Foam
Natural latex mattresses are often referred to as organic latex mattresses, and they’re known as a “green” mattress since there are no chemicals or non-organic processes used to create the foam. This makes the mattress eco-friendly, since it’s easier to recycle and reproduce. Natural latex foam is made from all organic materials, so it’s a hypoallergenic and a healthy choice for those who suffer from allergies.
Synthetic Latex Foam
A synthetic latex foam mattress isn’t considered as healthy as a natural latex mattress, but it has many of the same qualities, making it equally good for sleepers with back problems. Synthetic latex is created from manmade materials, excluding it from the organic category. They are generally less expensive compared to organic but offer the same support.
Dunlop & Talalay Foam
Two of the main types of latex foam that you’ll find within mattresses are Dunlop foam and Talalay foam. The difference between these two types of foam is more in the process rather than overall comfort or quality. Talalay tends to have more immediate responsiveness to it, while Dunlop tends to be more dense, but most people don’t notice any immediate difference between the two. Brookyln Bedding uses both types of foam in their mattress.
Spring Mattresses: Saatva
Spring (or spring air) mattresses and pillow-top mattresses are often initially comfortable, but they are much less durable and have a shorter lifespan than foam mattresses. The springs or coils within the mattress eventually wear out and the mattress will begin to sink and ultimately lose support. That said, spring mattresses are usually easy to find and relatively cheap. Plus, there are a wide variety of comfort levels, and they sleep much cooler than foam mattresses. Since spring mattresses push back against your body as opposed to hugging or contouring to your body, a spring mattress can be harder on your main pressure points. The Saatva mattress is one of the few spring mattresses we ordered and tested that provides a soft pillow top with an overall bouncy feel.
The Saatva Luxury Firm is a spring mattress with a cushioned pillow top. It gave me the “lying on a cloud” feeling when I first settled into it. The pillow top is soft to the touch and really comfortable.
How Does the Mattress Feel?
There isn’t a standard measurement of mattresses firmness. Support, comfort and firmness are entirely subjective. What might feel like a firm mattress to one person could essentially feel medium to another. Gender, body type, age, weight and more all play a role in the support and firmness each individual sleeper needs or prefers. Below are some common terms used by manufacturers to describe the mattress feel, and they are a great place to start in terms of assessing the softness or firmness of the mattress you’re looking at.
A plush mattress is one that immediately feels soft the first time you lie on it. Plush mattresses allow you to sink and hug your body, and they don’t necessarily have springiness (a lot of push back) to them. Pillow-top and many memory foam mattresses can have a plush feel to them.
You might be thinking, why wouldn’t I want a soft mattress? Who wants to sleep on a firm mattress? It’s important to remember that soft doesn’t necessarily equal comfort or support. Mattresses that are too soft might not offer the support that your body needs to keep your spine in alignment as you sleep, especially if you are a stomach sleeper. When a mattress is too soft, it can lead to back problems and sleeplessness. Side sleepers are usually the ones who benefit the most from a soft mattress because it offers pressure-point relief and keeps the spine in line when you’re on your side.
Medium: Nest Bedding
Medium mattresses are the most commonly preferred type. These mattresses are soft enough to give you the “sleeping on a cloud” feeling, but they’re also rigid enough that you won’t sink in feeling as though you are stuck in your mattress. The majority of the mattresses featured in this article are considered medium mattresses. A great example of this is the Nest Bedding mattress. It contours and hugs your body, but it also provides enough support that you can roll around the bed without feeling stuck or hot.
Firm mattresses offer minimal sinkage. These mattresses don’t give you the feeling of body contouring or hugging; in fact, they don’t give in much at all. Firm mattresses push up against the body. Stomach sleepers often prefer medium to firm mattresses because they help keep the lower back in line with the rest of the spine. A softer mattress would allow the lower back to sink, often causing lower back pain.
Helix allows you to customize the mattress to your preference. We elected to go with a medium to firm feel on all of the mattresses we ordered, but Helix has a firmer feel comparatively. This could be due to the combination of foam and micro-coils that make up the mattress.
Importance of Sleep
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Sleep affects your health, your mood, your cognitive functionality and your overall quality of life. The period when you sleep is your body’s time to recover and re-energize for the next day. Lack of sleep has been linked to a myriad of health concerns, including weight and heart problems, as well as mental health issues.
As counter-intuitive as it might sound, getting on the right track to good health starts with a good night’s sleep. Finding a mattress that will enable you to do that will not only benefit you at night, but throughout the day as well.