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Pick the best mattress

New tests yield 10 top choices for a good night’s sleep

Published: January 2014

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You don’t have to be among the roughly 70 million Americans with chronic sleep problems to dream about a new mattress. Almost three out of four respondents to a recent industry survey believed a new bed would help them sleep better. But choose wisely: Our latest tests of 24 mattresses show huge differences in the spine support that counts most, especially if you spend at least part of the night on your back.

We use dozens of electronic sensors to precisely and repeatedly measure how well each mattress supports the spine by maintaining its natural curve when you’re on your back and keeping it horizontal when you’re on your side. Sleep Number’s foam-and-air Innovation Series i8 bed Pillowtop, $3,000, is currently the only mattress that aced our back-support test, which helped it capture the top spot in our Ratings. (As its name implies, the Sleep Number has adjustable firmness: Punch a number into its remote control to inflate or deflate an air-filled layer beneath its foam top.) But you don’t have to spend that much to get the support you need. Our tests show that Costco’s Novaform Foam Collection Serafina 14-inch Memory, a CR Best Buy at $800, should support back sleepers almost as well for a fraction of the price.

A new low for back support: the Ashley Sleep Ellis Bay 15-inch Pillowtop, $1,200, which earned the first and only Poor in this test and ranks lowest overall.

Still prefer a traditional innerspring mat­tress? Impressive support for both back and side sleeping helped put Serta’s Perfect Day iSeries Applause at the top of this best-selling category. And at just $1,075, the Serta is also a CR Best Buy.

Months of testing with both men and women also confirm that you can spend thousands of dollars and get relatively little for your money, or cheap out and get subpar support. Industry insiders and more than 6,000 Consumer Reports subscribers who shared their shopping experiences in our latest survey also show that picking the right retailer—and using a few smart tactics—can help you avoid some common shopping nightmares. Here are the details:

A big-buck letdown. Duxiana calls its $4,800 Dux 101 innerspring the “perfect introduction to the legendary DUX comfort and support.” But although side support got high marks in our tests, back support was only middling. Lots of bounc­iness could also allow a restless sleeper on one side to wake a sound sleeper on the other. What’s more, that lofty price doesn’t include the interchangeable spring sections that let you fine-tune firmness on this model’s pricier brandmates.

When cheaper means cheap. Roughly 11 percent of subscribers we surveyed were sorry they hadn’t spent more on their mattress. Two low-cost models support that lament. Ikea’s innerspring Sultan Holmsta costs just $580 but proved mediocre for side support and subpar for back sleeping. And although the Spa Sensations 10-inch Memory Foam SPA-1000Q may seem like a steal at only $360, it scored lowest in our durability tests, which use a 308-pound roller to mimic the eight to 10 years of use common for mattresses.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the March 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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