In this report
Mattress myths
Anatomy of a mattress
Healthy sleep tips

10 mattress myths

Last reviewed: August 2009

Although our reporter encountered fewer pitches than when he shopped for our 1997 mattress report, salespeople still disparaged certain products and tried to persuade him to buy a pricier mattress. In our online poll, 19 percent of innerspring-mattress owners complained about pressure to trade up to a costlier bed, and 15 percent said that the salesperson used a hard-sell approach. Below, the myths you may hear-—as sales pitches or common wisdom—and the truth behind them.

1. Firmer is better

The best bed is the one that’s most comfortable to you. Medical experts we interviewed say there have been no well-controlled studies to indicate the best firmness overall.

2. Coil count is critical

Any number above 390 in a queen-size mattress should be plenty. Our consultants concluded that coils in all but the cheapest mattresses—less than about $800 list price for a queen-size—are “overdesigned for their function” and ought to provide years of service for most people.

3. Silk, cashmere, and wool make a bed more comfortable

The small amounts usually used in the upper padding only make a bed more expensive. When you cover your mattress with a pad and sheets, you can’t directly feel the surface anyway.

4. A higher price guarantees a better bed

Anything but the cheapest mattresses can be a fine choice.

5. If you move in your sleep, the bed is to blame

Turning is normal; it’s a problem only if it disrupts your sleep. The mattress may or may not be at fault.

6. A mattress should be used until it sags

Changes in the human body tend to make a mattress less comfortable long before it wears out.

7. You must include a box spring, to save the warranty

Despite sales pressure to buy both mattress and foundation, it’s not always required. Check with the store or company. You may be able to keep your old box spring, if it’s in good shape.

8. Warranties cover a sagging mattress

Manufacturers say a mattress can compress by as much as 1 1/2 inches before it’s considered defective.

9. Stores sell the same mattress under different names

Retailers often claim that their mattress A is comparable to a competitor’s mattress B. Though you may find beds that are truly alike, most “comparables” we bought had little in common.

10. Salespeople are always objective

Manufacturers dangle financial incentives known as SPIFs (for “sales person incentive funds”) to push various brands and models. Commissions can amount to about $100 a bed.