How we picked and tested
We focused on an increasingly popular subset of mattresses: those that come in only one model, cost less than $1,000, arrive within a week in a vacuum-packed roll inside a box, and come with a free trial of at least 100 days.
To find the mattresses people wanted, we spoke to a number of experts, surveyed nearly 650 people about the last mattress they bought, and read a lot about how mattresses are made and sold. We sought mattresses that would work best for the primary sleep positions: side, stomach, and back, based on results from multiple surveys and our own quick Twitter poll, and eventually settled on six mattresses to test. We then spent a week sleeping on each model, and took notes on their performance. Since our first test, we've continued to test month by month by trying a number of mattresses readers have asked about, sleeping on each for a minimum of 30 days.
How you feel sleeping on each mattress is obviously the key feature, but we considered other points of comparison. Those factors, in order of importance:
- How each mattress breathes as you sink into it
- Support at the edges of the mattress
- "Motion transfer," or if someone on one side of a mattress can feel movement by someone on the other side
- How well sheets fit
- The ease of picking up and rotating the mattress
No mattress works for everybody
Here is the core truth of the mattress market: You won't find one mattress that works for everybody. The best any mattress can do, our experts told us, is work great for a small group of people, feel pretty good for some, and do okay for a majority of people. This might explain why single-model mattresses you can try out for about 100 days are gaining in market share: Finding the perfect mattress is tricky, but making a mistake shouldn't be a 10-year disappointment.
Our pick: Leesa
The Leesa is our top pick among online-purchase mattresses because for side- and stomach-sleepers in our tests, it feels the best overall. It breathes better than all but one of the mattresses we tested, allowing for a cooler sleep. The Leesa also handles better at its edges than most other picks, providing acceptable support for entering, exiting, or rolling over on the bed. Consumer Reports's simulated wear-and-tear testing (subscription required) found the Leesa to be excellent. It has a surface that feels good under thin sheets, and it looks good in its gray and white stripes.
Compared with other foam beds, the Leesa allowed side-sleepers' shoulders and hips to sink in more comfortably, but still maintains a proper spinal curve. The Leesa's "hug"—the way it envelops your body as you lower into the memory-foam layer—did not create heat or a "muddy" feeling. Instead, the Leesa felt cooler than other mattresses we've slept on, possibly due to the egg-crate-style top layer of Avena foam (a type of synthetic latex), combined with a breathable cover.
The newest mattress from Casper, released in mid-2017, feels softer for side-sleeping than previous versions, and yet has more support around the hips and head to make back-sleeping feel better than before. It's not quite as ideal as the Leesa for the majority of side-sleeping adults, and it felt a bit more warm to our testers. But for those who switch a lot, or share a bed with a back-sleeper, it might be a better pick than the Leesa.
Casper's mattress is made of four layers of foam consisting of 1½ inches of "open-cell" foam, 1½ inches of memory foam, 1½ inches of proprietary "transition" foam, and 5 inches of support foam. The result, according to Casper's head of product, Jeff Chapin, should be a mattress that's essentially medium-firm across most of your body but more supportive where your shoulders, butt, and other pressure points sink in.
Also great: Tuft & Needle
The Tuft & Needle mattress is firm, about as firm as foam can get before it becomes uncomfortable. For back-sleepers, or for people who prefer floating on a firm mattress instead of sinking into a soft mattress, the Tuft & Needle works fine. It isn't ideal for most side-sleepers or stomach-sleepers, though some of our side-sleeping survey respondents loved it. The two-layer Tuft & Needle mattress' stated weight limit is also the most of any mattress we tested, at 1,000 pounds for couples.
The Tuft & Needle has some other drawbacks beyond its particular firmness. For example, we noticed that this mattress offers notably less edge support than the Leesa or the newest Casper, so some fitted sheets might slip off the corners.
Budget pick: Zinus 12 Inch Green Tea
Although it's around a third of the price—or less—of our other picks, we found the Zinus Memory Foam Green Tea Mattress (12-inch version) was far more comfortable than expected. It has a softer memory-foam-type feel on top, and it's quite firm as you sink into it. In its smaller twin, twin XL, and full sizes, the price makes it a good bed for a growing child, for anyone on a tight budget, or for a guest bedroom.
The Green Tea Mattress doesn't breathe as easily as our other picks, and it's not as supportive as the Casper or Leesa (though it's far more giving than the Tuft & Needle). That said, a handful of testers (including four Wirecutter writers) have told us that they or their child sleep well on this mattress. "More than I expected for the price" sums up the comments we received from staff and on social network posts.
This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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