(This story originally appeared in the June 2005 issue of Consumer Reports.)
Many of the estimated 70 million Americans who complain of sleeplessness have turned their backs on conventional innerspring beds and bought alternatives such as Duxiana (springs galore, in layers), Select Comfort (air-filled, with adjustable firmness for each partner), and Tempur-Pedic (polyurethane “memory foam”). The ads are gushing: Sportscaster Pat Summerall calls the Duxiana “the bed your back has been aching for”; Lindsay Wagner, TV’s former Bionic Woman, lauds the Select Comfort Sleep Number bed as “the key to a perfect night’s sleep”; and Tempur-Pedic’s Web site is loaded with testimonials, including one from an owner who says the bed helped him kick pain pills.
To assess these beds, which cost $1,500 and up--way up-in queen size, we asked four couples to spend a month using each at home. The beds come in several versions; testers slept on one. They scored overall comfort, sleep quality, and how likely they were to buy the bed if price weren’t a factor. Another 59 staff members lay down for about 15 minutes on each bed (we hid brand names) in one of our labs, the way you should try mattresses in a store. Finally, we asked visitors to ConsumerReports.org about recent mattress-buying experiences. Results are below. Mattresses are in alphabetical order. Prices are what we paid, before tax, for the set we tested.
Does $1,500+ buy a good night’s sleep?
Our experiment showed that spending more for a specialty mattress doesn’t guarantee a happy sleeper. Panelists’ opinions were all over the place: One person’s “supportive and cushiony” was another’s “feels like sleeping on wet or hard sand.” Every pick or pan came with exceptions. Seven of eight panelists gave the Duxiana high marks for comfort, but none thought it worth the $4,150 nonnegotiable price. Six of eight said they wouldn’t buy the basic version of the Select Comfort Sleep Number 5000 on which they slept, but when they tried a pillowtop version, most liked it better.
Often, opinions formed after the first night on a bed held up over time. But even here, there were exceptions. Half of our sleepers liked the Tempur-Pedic less the longer they slept on it. (After we asked five other people who had liked that mattress in our lab to sleep on it for a month, however, four still liked it enough to consider buying it.)
Our informal online poll indicated that specialty mattresses may be worth a try: Only half of the 500 or so people who owned conventional innerspring mattresses were very or completely satisfied with them; one-third of innerspring owners found their beds less comfortable after they slept on them regularly. Owners of specialty mattresses seemed far happier. By contrast, more than two-thirds of the 231 Select Comfort owners and more than three-fourths of the 154 Tempur-Pedic owners were very or completely satisfied with their purchase. (Few respondents owned the Duxiana.)
Experiences of staff members who tried the beds briefly in our lab largely mirrored those of long-term panelists, with one exception: The short-term testers were more critical of the Duxiana.
The bottom line: For each of these beds, our panelists’ opinions ran the gamut from aah to ick, which just reinforces the need for an in-store tryout.
Duxiana 1001 with Pascal system
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The bed: An innerspring foundation with two layers totaling 1,728 coils (in queen size)--roughly 1,000 more than in a conventional mattress. Upper-layer coils are more flexible than lower. There’s also a top pad, which comes in different configurations. The pad we chose included foam and “Pascal” inserts, extra coils for support at torso, shoulders, and legs. (The current Pascal System is slightly different.) There’s no box spring, so the bed is low (you can buy taller legs). It’s made in Sweden. European labor costs, shipping, and furniture-quality wood help explain the price. So does the fact that the bed is sold only through boutique showrooms (33 across the U.S.). The price is nonnegotiable, and you can’t return the bed if it’s uncomfortable. Twenty-year limited warranty.
The claim: “No gimmicks, no tricks; an unbelievably supportive, comfortable and long-lasting bed, advanced by the most recent technology.”
The comments: Panelists noted no “gimmicks” or “tricks,” and some did praise its support and comfort. “Very comfortable and easy to get in and out of,” one said. “Aches and stiffness got significantly better,” another said. Others disagreed. “Soft, bouncy, squeaky; like a camp or dormitory mattress,” one said.
The bottom line: On the whole, long-term testers liked it but thought it wasn’t worth the price. Buy it only if your budget allows.
Select Comfort Sleep Number Bed
The bed: A two-chamber inflatable mattress, plus rigid platform, that lets users adjust firmness via a remote-controlled air pump. The remote’s settings go from 5 to 100; higher numbers indicate a firmer surface. This basic version we tried in past tests, which resembled a version now called the 3000, consisted of foam edging and two air bags inside a zippered cover. There was only quilted ticking above the air chambers. You can test-drive a Select Comfort bed for 30 days. If dissatisfied, you can pay to return it yourself or have the company handle the return for $199. Twenty-year limited warranty.
The claim: “Uniquely designed air chambers to provide a gentle cushion of support which can be easily adjusted to your preference for comfort and firmness. Allows couples to individually adjust each side of the bed to the precise comfort level each partner prefers.”
The comments: Some praised its support, but many criticized the basic model they tried. “Difficult to find a good comfort setting,” one said, and another noted that different comfort settings could make it feel “as if you’re rolling up- or downhill to get from one side to another.”
The bottom line: Six of eight long-term panelists said they probably wouldn’t buy the basicmodel under any circumstances, but most users who tried the plusher pillowtop version, called the 5000 (now $1800), called it comfortable.
Tempur-pedic Classic Swedish Sleep System
The bed: Eight-inch-thick memory foam paired with a box spring. Panelists noted that the mattress had a strong odor, possibly because the foam was packaged too quickly after manufacture, the company says. The odor lessened, but it lingered throughout the four-week trial. A company spokesman called the odor “a normal condition of the product” and said that it would dissipate. He added that Tempur-Pedic will replace the mattress if the odor remains bothersome. Buy directly from Tempur-Pedic and you’ll get a 90- to 120-day trial, but you will pay $159 to send the mattress back if it’s uncomfortable. If you buy elsewhere, the store’s comfort guarantee applies. Twenty-year limited warranty.
The claim: “The material seeks to know exactly how far to let you sink in so that every point on the contour of your body is supported.”
The comments: One of our first set of long-term testers called it “supportive and cushiony,” but most used different language: “not enough cushioning,” “feels like sleeping on wet or hard sand,” “pressure on hips and back.” Most members of a second set of panelists who had liked the bed in our lab still liked it after a month.
The bottom line: It elicited stronger opinions, pro and con, than the other beds