Deciding what mattress to buy is enough to keep you up nights. The model names, while enticing, can be confusing and make it nearly impossible to compare a mattress sold at Macy’s, for example, to one sold at Mattress Firm. Throw in the aggressive sales tactics you run into at many mattress stores as well as the differing definitions of firmness and it’s enough to make you want to lie down and take a nap.

Lineup Addition
CR finds the new adjustable air bed falls short of its brandmates.

We feel your pain. So we've revamped our mattress ratings to make it easier to find one that works for you, whether you sleep alone or with someone else. In our tests of dozens of mattresses, we determined which are best for small, average, and large people, whether you sleep on your side—like most folks—or on your back. We also test for firmness and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 so you don’t have to take the manufacturer’s word for it. Here’s what to consider when choosing your next bed.

What Type of Mattress Do You Want?
Consumer Reports tests queen-size innerspring, foam, and adjustable air mattresses. Despite all the buzz about foam beds-in-a-box that arrive on your doorstep after you order them online, innerspring mattresses are still the most popular type. These mattresses typically combine layers of springs and foam topped with padded fabric. But foam mattresses aren’t just a solid block. Mattress makers have been experimenting with layers of foam and gels to improve sleeping comfort. The third type in our tests is adjustable air mattresses, in which you can inflate air bladders to the firmness you desire, which works well for couples.

How Firm Do You Like It?
Manufacturers may describe a mattress as soft, medium, firm, or extra firm. But in our tests we found that their descriptions don’t always line up with our measurements. To better help you compare one bed to another, we rate firmness on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most firm. In our ratings, no mattress scored a 10 for firmness, but one scored 9, and two earned an 8. Many more scored on the softer side of the scale with 2s, 3s, and 4s.  

What’s Your Sleeping Style?
Most people sleep on their sides, but there are still those who prefer to splay out on their backs. To satisfy both types of snoozers, we test support for both side and back sleepers. The best mattress for side sleepers maintains the horizontal alignment of the spine while lying on your side. For back sleepers, the mattress that provides the best support maintains the natural curve of the spine while you’re on your back.

Become Size-Wise
To further refine your choices, we now rate mattresses for petite, average, and large/tall side sleepers and petite, average, and large/tall back sleepers. (The average is, of course, the average of petite and large/tall.) As you can see from our ratings, the best mattresses for smaller folks aren’t always the most comfortable for larger people, so choose accordingly. For more information, read Best Mattresses for Couples.

Putting It All Together
If you sleep alone, your choices are easy. Just pick the type of mattress you want, your favorite firmness, and match the mattress to your size and sleeping style. For couples, it’s more complicated because what’s the best choice for one partner may not be best pick for the other. By using our ratings, you can drill down and make a comfortable compromise. And if you share your bed, also consider our stabilization score, which tells you how easy it is to change positions without bothering your mate.

If you haven’t shopped for a mattress in some time, check our mattresses buying guide and ratings of 90-plus innerspring, foam, and adjustable-air beds.

Highlights From CR's Mattress Tests

Here are the top innerspring, foam, and adjustable air mattresses from our tests. For more choices see our full mattress ratings and recommendations.

Innerspring Mattresses

Foam Mattresses

  • Sleep on Latex Pure Green, $1,200
    Firmness: 7
    Side sleepers: Very good for all sizes
    Back sleepers: Excellent for all sizes

  • Casper The Casper, $950
    Firmness: 4
    Side sleepers: Very good for all sizes
    Back sleepers: Very good for all sizes

  • Novaform 14" Serafina Pearl Gel (Costco)
    Firmness: 5
    Side sleepers: Very good for all sizes
    Back sleepers: Very good for all sizes

Adjustable Air Mattresses

  • Sleep Number i8, $3,000
    Firmness: 3
    Side sleepers: Very good for all sizes
    Back sleepers: Very good for all sizes

  • Sleep Number c2, $800
    Firmness: 9
    Side sleepers: Very good for all sizes
    Back sleepers: Excellent for petite and average, very good for tall