Why you should trust us
Since the beginning of 2016, I have spent at least 200 hours researching and directly comparing foam mattresses, keeping tabs on the established players and startups, and, most important, sleeping on a variety of foam mattresses for review and comparison. Since the fall of 2016, I have slept on a new mattress roughly every 30 days. I am one person with particular sleep habits (predominantly side-sleeper, sleeps hot), so I incorporate the input of my spouse (stomach-sleeper, cool), and on-the-spot comparisons by friends, houseguests, and coworkers. Along with hands-on testing, I interviewed:
Additionally, I follow the trends in mattress manufacturing and note readers' questions about the endless stream of new mattresses available. I learned even more about foam mattresses and how they should be supported while researching and writing a guide to platform bed frames under $300.
How we picked and tested
We focused on an increasingly popular subset of mattresses: those that come in one, or a distinct two or three models, arrive within a week in a vacuum-packed roll inside of a box, and come with a free trial of at least 90 days (as well as an offer to take any rejected mattresses away, preferably for free). This is a fast-growing category, and for good reason: The average mattress-buying experience is fairly terrible, with high markups, car-dealer–like showrooms, and a litany of models that are near-replicas but renamed for every store and pricing tier.
To find the mattresses people wanted, we spoke to a number of experts and read a lot about how mattresses are made and sold. Our research included:
- surveying nearly 650 people about the last mattress they bought, whether online or in a mattress showroom
- researching and reading reviews on mattresses that ship directly with at least 90-day trials
- reading dozens of threads and posts on mattress forum The Mattress Underground and review site Sleep Like the Dead
From our initial research, we gathered six queen-size mattresses, including two potential budget picks from Amazon and IKEA, in our Los Angeles office. Then we slept and napped on each of those mattresses over the course of a week, taking notes and confirming how they performed with personal sleep trackers. A night of sleep and a nap or two on each mattress does not constitute a full "test"—doctors and mattress companies recommend at least 30 days to let your body adjust when switching—but our experiments gave us far more hands-on time than most mattress shoppers get.
Our original list of 15 mattresses to consider came from reader surveys, mattress review sites, and our editors' experiences. We dismissed some models because their return policies involved fees or other burdens. Since our in-office testing, we've continued to test by trying a number of mattresses readers have asked about month by month, 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, preventing the kind of "hot" sleep prevalent with a previous generation of memory-foam mattresses
- support at the edges of the mattress while getting into, getting out of, or sleeping near the edge of each bed
- "motion transfer," or if someone on one side of a mattress can feel movement by someone on the other side (this effect was mostly consistent across foam models)
- how well sheets fit on each mattress
- the ease of picking up and rotating the mattress
We weighed our observations against what readers told us in our survey about their own online mattress purchases and what they wanted from their next mattress.
No mattress works for everybody
Here is the core truth of the mattress market: You'll find no 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. The subjective feelings of "firm" or "soft" complicate the matter further. One "perfect" mattress we tested was described as both "too firm" and "way too squishy" by two different people. Most foam mattresses claim to be "medium-firm" (the "medium-rare" of the mattress industry), but our tests and other reviewers have found a huge range within that middle channel.
We sought mattresses that would work best for the primary sleep positions: side, stomach, and back. Most surveys (and our own quick Twitter poll) show that 60 to 70 percent of people primarily sleep in some kind of side position ("fetus," "log," or "yearner"). Side-sleepers put more body weight on their hips and shoulders, and they need to properly maintain the horizontal alignment of their spine; they tend to prefer a "medium" mattress, leaning toward the soft side of "medium." Stomach-sleepers (15 to 18 percent) need enough firmness to keep their head and neck aligned, but not so much as to cause pressure on their knees or the front of their hips; they tend to prefer a medium to medium-firm mattress. Back-sleepers (12 to 15 percent) distribute their weight more evenly and need to support the spine's natural curve; a medium-firm to firm mattress often works best.
Many factors can alter your firmness preference, including injury, weight, stress, diet, apnea, your pillow, the warmth or coolness of your room, the sheets you put on your bed, how often you switch positions, and if you sleep with a partner. Or you may just prefer something other than what your sleep style naturally suggests. All of that explains why single-model mattresses you can try out for about 100 days are gaining in market share: Finding your perfect mattress is tricky,1 but making a mistake shouldn't be a 10-year disappointment.
Our pick for the best memory foam mattress: Leesa
The Leesa is our top pick among online-purchase mattresses because in our tests it felt the best overall for side- and stomach-sleepers. 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 gray and white stripes (or in other, limited-edition designs). For the price, it's a real value that will appeal to many people buying a foam mattress online.
In both our initial tests and ongoing mattress comparisons, whenever there's been a mattress we might consider a potential top recommendation, feeling it side by side against the Leesa leaves the Leesa the winner. Compared with other foam beds, it allowed side-sleepers' shoulders and hips to sink in more comfortably but still let them maintain 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 but instead felt like an extension of a favorite pillow. Many other mattresses felt muddy in how they hugged the body, or pushed back enough that they had no hug at all. The Leesa also felt the best to two stomach-sleepers, who noticed the hug but didn't think that they sank in too much.
Our panel's preference matches with outside praise. Of the 20 readers we surveyed who reported buying a Leesa, 13 said the best thing about their Leesa was its "perfect firmness" (and 17 of 20 said they'd buy a Leesa again). Survey respondent Chris told us that after 11 months his Leesa is still "very comfortable and supportive," and that his partner, a back- and occasional side-sleeper, also loves the Leesa. Aaron, another survey-taker, said he and his wife, both side-sleepers, would definitely buy another Leesa: It seems much cooler than their previous mattress, Aaron doesn't feel his wife's tossing and turning, and their 70-pound goldendoodle loves it, too.
Consumer Reports (subscription required) found in early 2016 that the Leesa was "very good at conforming to various shapes" and that it "performed good" in both side-support and back-support tests. A later update to Consumer Reports's mattress ratings clarified that the Leesa was merely "good" for large and tall side- and back-sleepers. The owner of The Mattress Underground, who spoke with the Leesa's designers and tested the mattress, wrote that the Leesa occupies the "'sweet spot' that most people would find comfortable."
The Leesa felt cooler than other mattresses we slept on, particularly more so than the Tuft & Needle and BedInABox mattresses. It may feel cooler due to the egg-crate–style top layer of Avena foam (a type of synthetic latex), combined with a breathable cover. It's not as cool as the column gel top of the Purple mattress, but the Leesa is in the top tier among foam mattresses. It ties, in our opinion, with the newest Casper in heat dissipation. Both Derek Hales at Sleepopolis and Consumer Reports also found the Leesa more breathable than other foam mattresses.
Foam-built mattresses, on the whole, do not provide anything like the edge support of a traditional spring-based mattress. The Leesa has a slightly better edge than most foam mattresses we tested (with the exception of the otherwise uncomfortable IKEA mattress). The Leesa was also excellent at preventing motion transfer from one side of the bed to the other—not quite as good as the Tuft & Needle mattress, but enough so that neither partner should feel bumping or sinking due to movement. Most foam mattresses prevent motion transfer across the mattress.
As far as warranties go, none of the direct-order mattress makers, save BedInABox, have been in business long enough for anyone to run out their products' 10-year warranties. Leesa claims that the custom Avena foam on top of its mattress provides greater durability than standard latex foam. Consumer Reports's simulated eight-year testing of firmness, sag, and damage bears out this claim, as the Leesa "performed excellent, showing no signs of changes in performance." We will watch this mattress as more people come to own it over time, but it shows promise for a long life. Leesa also claims that its mattress supports 800 pounds total. That's slightly less than Tuft & Needle's 1,000-pound limit (Casper's newest mattress claims to not have a weight limit, but a different feel depending on weight).
The Leesa is easily the best-looking mattress among those we've tested and seen. Its cover is cut from a single piece of polyester-Lycra fabric, akin to the moisture-wicking material you typically find in sports gear. You won't see it after you put your sheets on it, but it has a subtle, pleasurable texture. It's also less likely to develop a tear than the bare fabric covers on the Tuft & Needle and the Casper.
Among foam mattresses reviewed by Consumer Reports (subscription required), the Leesa rates a 68 out of 100, compared with a 79 for the Casper and a 74 for the Tuft & Needle as of this writing. Consumer Reports ranks the Leesa lower for how the bed feels for a "larger/taller" side- or back-sleeper, but the Leesa mostly matches up with those models in other categories. Mattress meta-review site Sleep Like the Dead, weighting 188 reviews, forum posts, and customer interviews from 29 sources, currently lists a 78 percent owner-satisfaction rate among Leesa buyers. That places the Leesa in line with, if slightly behind, the Casper and the Tuft & Needle, which currently have 80 and 79 percent owner-satisfaction rates, respectively, on Sleep Like the Dead.
If you want to lie down on a Leesa without a home trial, you can check out Leesa's "Dream Gallery" showroom in New York City's SoHo neighborhood (112 Wooster Street), which stocks Leesa's mattress, sheets, and pillow. There are also Leesa mattresses displayed in 88 West Elm stores around the US; Leesa's store locator shows the exact locations.
Though only subtly referenced on the company's website and in one blog post, Leesa's Social Impact Program is notable. In particular, for every 10 mattresses sold, the company donates one mattress to charitable causes; it also plants one tree for every mattress sold.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The biggest potential flaw of a Leesa mattress is the youth of the company behind it. Founded in 2014, Leesa has not sold a mattress that has more than a couple of years of real-world wear and tear. Although the mattress comes with a 10-year warranty, there is no long-term data on how Leesa mattresses hold up, and Leesa is not guaranteed to survive the eventual thinning of the crowded online-mattress market—no company is.
Like other foam mattresses we tested, the Leesa has no handles, and its foam construction makes lifting its 71 pounds—alone or with a partner—tricky. Handles would be a nice addition for rotating it every three months or so as the makers recommend.
Another potential drawback to any foam mattress is the potential damper it can place on certain kinds of sexual activity. Sleep Like the Dead and Sleepopolis both have in-depth notes on foam-mattress sex. The short version: These mattresses are quieter and often more comfortable, but they lack the spring-powered bounce that some people want, and sinking into them means that moving and changing positions takes more effort.
Despite the seeming consensus on the Leesa's softness, currently Sleep Like the Dead reports that a weighted 9 percent of customers posting a review or comment online, mostly side-sleepers, say the Leesa is too firm for side-sleeping, and 3 percent of back- or stomach-sleepers say it's too soft.
Runner-up memory foam mattress: Casper
The standard 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 for the majority of side-sleeping adults, but for those who switch a lot, or share a bed with a back-sleeper, it might be a better pick than the Leesa. It's also worth buying if the Leesa is more expensive when you're looking to purchase, or if the Leesa is on backorder. Casper also makes a budget mattress, called the Essential, which we discuss in the Competition section, and a high-end Wave mattress that we've yet to test. If you want a versatile mattress, with perhaps the most well-known name in newer mattresses behind it, we still recommend the middle option.
Casper, widely considered the leader in the box-and-ship mattress field, sold roughly $200 million in mattresses and other bed goods in 2016. That's a drop in the bucket for the $14 billion mattress industry, but it's impressive growth from the $20 million Casper sold in 2014. The company has made notable changes to its single mattress model at least twice, the most recent in May 2017. We tested Casper models released in 2015 and 2016 and the May 2017 redesign.
Casper's mattress is made of four layers of foam—one more than the prior version—consisting of 1½ inches of "open-cell" (high-airflow polyurethane) 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. The newest version of the Casper mattress seems to improve this sink/support mix and feels better on all sides than previous versions. Comparing the 2017 Casper with the Leesa, five other testers (some of them houseguests sleeping on either mattress for two nights) and I found that, for side-sleeping, the Leesa still offered better sink and support, but the Casper was by no means bad for side-sleeping, just a bit less comfortable.
Sleeping on the Casper felt a bit more warm than on the Leesa, although it was a very humid period when testing the 2017 Casper. The Casper's pocketed cover can snag more easily than the Leesa's, too.
To clarify: We (still) think the Leesa works best for side- and stomach-sleepers, and we have a pick (just below) for dedicated back-sleepers and those who prefer a firmer mattress. But the signature Casper improves on support for back- and stomach-sleepers. It's not more "firm" overall, but it does have more support at key pressure points along the length of the bed. Those who do not stick to their sides may be quite happy on a Casper. It's a versatile mattress.
Also great: Tuft & Needle Poly-foam Mattress
The Tuft & Needle mattress is firm. It's 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. But it isn't ideal for most side-sleepers, and (to a lesser extent) stomach-sleepers. But at its lower price—$100 to $200 less at queen size—it might make sense as a guest-room mattress.
Our testers confirmed the findings of Sleep Like the Dead and Sleepopolis: The Tuft & Needle feels too firm for most side-sleepers or for stomach-sleepers who prefer a softer mattress. For example, I bought a Tuft & Needle for my bedroom, months before conducting research for this guide. I found myself waking up in the night when my shoulders or elbow were deep into the mattress, or one arm was asleep. My wife, who mostly sleeps on her stomach and occasionally on her side, liked the Tuft & Needle a bit more, though not as much as the Leesa. As with most mattresses, you don't feel a huge difference lying on a mattress for a minute or two, but spending hours atop a two-layer mattress (3 inches of polyfoam, 7 inches of support) can put pressure on the points that sink deep during side-sleeping.
As with all mattresses and all sleeping people, you'll find disagreements and outliers regarding this model. Some survey respondents who sleep on their side told us that they didn't just find their Tuft & Needle comfortable—they loved it. We think a side-sleeper is more likely to find a Leesa or a Casper comfortable, but if you sleep on your side and you know that you sleep best on a firm mattress, the Tuft & Needle may work for you. Its stated weight limit is also the most of any mattress we tested, at 1,000 pounds for couples.
The Tuft & Needle has a few drawbacks beyond its particular firmness. For one thing, this mattress offers notably less edge support than the Leesa or the newest Casper. One result is that some fitted sheets will slip up and over the corners of the mattress, as a survey respondent and I both found. Also, Tuft & Needle is the oldest of the newer breed of direct/online mattress companies, having started in 2012, but it's still young enough that we don't have any five- or 10-year-old mattresses to compare.
At its discounted price, and considering its easy ordering and delivery, the Tuft & Needle is fine for guest beds. As Nick Robinson of Sleep Like the Dead told us, "Just about any mattress is at least adequate for temporary or occasional use."
Budget pick: Zinus Green Tea Memory Foam (12-Inch)
Although it's around a third of the price of our other picks (or less), the Zinus Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress (12-inch version) is far more comfortable than such a fractional cost suggests. We tested it, disbelieving, but in the end we found it more comfortable than we expected, and we have heard from other people that it works for them, too. It has a softer memory-foam-type feel on top, it's quite firm as you sink into it, and it may feel hotter than all of our other picks, especially to heavier people. 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 top 3 inches of the 12-inch Green Tea mattress is memory foam, and it feels like it. The foam gives way as you push against it, holds your imprint, and feels warm after just a little while. It doesn't breathe as easily as the Leesa, Casper, or Tuft & Needle. People who sink into the bed more (those close to or over 200 pounds, especially while sleeping on their side) may feel warm. I experienced this effect myself and heard from two heavier people about occasional warm nights, but none of it was unmanageable with lighter sheets or a nudge of the air-conditioner dial.
With its top layers of memory and comfort foam, the Zinus mattress is not as supportive as the Casper or Leesa (and far more giving than the Tuft & Needle), so people who sleep on their side may feel the stiffer comfort foam or support foam beneath pushing back on them. In other words, it may feel like the mattress equivalent of a Twix bar. I'm a 195-pound side-sleeper, and while I've slept fine on this mattress, it doesn't relieve as much pressure at my shoulders and hips as the Leesa and Casper. That said, a handful of people (including four Wirecutter writers) have told me that they sleep well on this mattress, or that their child is sleeping well. "More than I expected for the price" sums up the comments I received from staff and on social network posts.
The Zinus Green Tea had a plasticlike odor for longer than most mattresses I've tested, noticeable for three or four days in a room with the windows open. The mattress is CertiPUR-US certified, so the odor is not anything harmful. This mattress also seemed to take longer to reach its full shape than other box-packed mattresses, more like two days than a few hours. The mattress doesn't smell like green tea, or anything else; the green-tea infusion in the foam is supposed to resist bacterial growth and odor, but there's no proof of that claim that I can find. The cover is not removable and washable, as with other mattresses, so a good protector for this mattress is a smart investment.
Zinus offers a 10-year limited warranty on the Green Tea mattress, and a 30-day return policy, whether you buy through Zinus or Amazon. That's no small thing—packing up a foam mattress, especially one 12 inches thick, is not fun. This mattress seems like a better bet for anyone looking to stock a guest room or a growing kid's bed, or for someone who isn't sure about their long-term living situation. For the price, it provides better sleep than a lot of people might expect.
Also great: Sleep on Latex Pure Green 9"
Compared with the polyurethane foam mattresses we recommend, the Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress is more buoyant and sleeps cooler. It sells for a competitive price compared with most all-latex mattresses, it comes with the same 10-year warranty and 100-day trial period as our other foam picks, and it receives good user reviews. We think this is a better choice for people who know they don't like memory foam. But given that it's very heavy (140 pounds for a queen in the shipping box) it's not going to be the right mattress for everyone.
This mattress comes in multiple thickness and firmness levels to suit different sleep preferences. We tried the 9-inch mattress in medium firmness, which we found very comfortable for back- and stomach-sleeping. For side-sleeping it wasn't quite as comfortable as the Leesa or Casper mattresses we recommend. (Sleep on Latex recommends the soft firmness for side-sleepers.)
Because the Pure Green's latex doesn't hug the body like polyurethane foam, it tends to sleep cooler. During a month of testing, we didn't experience any overheating from this mattress. However, if you tend to sleep hot, you still might want to avoid foam all together.
The 9-inch Pure Green is made with a 6-inch latex "base" layer, a softer 2-inch latex "support" layer, and a 1-inch quilted wool topper. We found this combination allowed for shoulders, hips, and other pressure points to comfortably sink into the mattress while still feeling supported. Meanwhile, that comfort layer perfectly contoured less heavy parts of the body (like the lumbar region for a back sleeper). This kind of lift and support feels different than on a typical polyurethane mattress with memory foam near the top, in which your body weight creates a wider depression into the bed.
The only negatives for this mattress are its higher price and weight. The queen size weighs more than 140 pounds in the shipping box. I have moved nearly a dozen mattresses up the 90-degree-turning stairs of my two-story home, but the Pure Green defeated me. You'll definitely need a friend to get a larger Pure Green up stairs.
The foam in the Pure Green mattress is made entirely of natural Dunlop latex. While the latex in a mattress has been heavily washed and treated, such that allergens should be minimal or non-existent, anyone with a natural latex allergy should consult their doctor or specialist about purchasing this mattress. Sleep on Latex has a 100-day total refund policy for mattress returns.
What to look forward to
We could lie on only so many mattresses during our first round of testing. Here are a few brands we plan to assess during our continued testing, as we try out one new mattress a month.
The maker of our top pick, Leesa, has created a new mattress line called Sapira, which contains internal springs. Like the Leesa mattress, the Sapira mattress is still shipped vacuum-sealed and inside a box. It's meant to be a more luxurious mattress offering.
Novosbed and Brooklyn Bedding each offer three levels of firmness; we felt this introduced too many variables for our first round of testing, but we're looking into ways to effectively test these brands. Brooklyn Bedding does have a slightly more onerous return/trial policy than others.
Sleep Number is one of the first big traditional mattress brands to enter the bed-in-a-box game. It won't be the last. The It Bed by Sleep Number distinguishes itself from the crowd by adding app-based "sleep-tracking technology" to the mattress. Sealy's Cocoon is another big-brand entry in the bed-in-a-box category.
Brentwood Home offers a huge variety of mattresses, shipped to your home. So far the models we've seen have had higher price tags and less of a risk-free trial than our picks. But they do offer some intriguing eco-minded variants.
Luxi offers a flippable mattress for people who are sensitive to any kind of valleys or depressions that develop in mattresses over long-term use. In contrast, most foam mattresses are one-side-only; the underside is usually just support foam. The Luxi design also means you get another side to flip over to in the event of a sizable stain.
The cheaper ($500 and below) mattresses from IKEA feel as if you're sleeping on a pile of Scandinavian rocks, but the retailer also has higher-priced mattresses with more softness options, which might be competitive alternatives.
There are also a few mattresses that we considered for our first round and did not call in, but may reconsider in the future:
The Saatva mattress, from the same makers as the Loom & Leaf, is a popular brand with a queen mattress at $1,000. We're eager to test this mattress soon.
Yogabed was a lesser-known brand when we started research for our initial testing, but it is now in competition with our picks in both its price and features.
Nest Bedding is a reputable mattress brand that didn't quite make the cut for our first round of testing. Nest positions itself as slightly more eco-conscious than other brands and offers a few "natural" and "vegan" latex options with organic cotton.
Mattress Firm is a straightforward mattress brand with many retail stores. It didn't quite make the cut the first go-round, but its online boxed offerings are an interesting option to consider.
The Eve mattress claims to eliminate the sinking feeling that can come with a foam mattress, saying that they layer memory foam with a "unique comfort layer."
We didn't find anything to particularly recommend the Eve Mattress to side-sleepers over the Leesa, or to stomach- or back-sleepers over the Casper or Tuft & Needle. The makers of the Eve aim to set it apart from the mid-priced competition by adding a separate "cooling layer" between the top memory foam and lower supportive polyfoam. The mattress did sleep relatively cool, though we've found most newer mattresses sleep cooler as a whole, and the Eve doesn't feel dramatically different. It's firmer than what most would consider a medium or medium-firm mattress. Eve seems to push coupons and starts at a lower price ($650 for queen), with quick three-to-five-day shipping.
Although we didn't like it as much as the signature Casper, the Casper Essential costs about $400 less. After sleeping on it for more than five weeks, the Essential left almost no impression on me. It was a bit firm, didn't provide as much pressure-relieving sink at the elbows as the signature Casper, the Tuft & Needle, or other mattresses at or just above the Essential's price. And, although it's Casper's lowest-priced model, it didn't beat our budget pick (which is a third the price) for comfort. We're not sure how this mattress will fare in durability over a longer period, too; while that's somewhat true for any newer bed-in-a-box mattress, there's a bit less foam to this one. The Essential offers the same return policy and delivery as all of Casper's mattresses.
Loom & Leaf
We think most people will get a better value out of our main picks, but if you're willing to spend $1,100-plus on a queen, you might want to consider the Loom & Leaf mattress. It's supportive, cool to sleep on, made from quality materials, and it even has handles, that rarest of foam mattress conveniences. The Loom & Leaf is particularly good at re-creating the springlike (or perhaps spring-lite) feel and better cooling of a higher-priced foam mattress, like a Tempur-Pedic. More than most memory foam mattresses we've tested, you feel more like you're sleeping on the mattress rather than sinking into it, though there's still pressure-relieving give to the foam. We tested the Loom & Leaf "relaxed firm" model, which would work better for heavier (180-pounds-plus) side- and stomach-sleepers; presumably the "firm" model is better for back-sleepers. The company offers a 120-day trial (though they keep a $100 delivery fee if you return the mattress), and purchasers report attentive customer service in reviews and forum posts. The mattress is shipped by a slower freight method (nine to 18 days) instead of the typical UPS or FedEx shipping.
The GhostBed mattress is very, very firm for a foam mattress, and firmer than we think even most back-sleepers would like. In our testing, and in online reviews, we found that people under 150 pounds felt like the GhostBed was too firm, and side- or stomach-sleepers up to 200 pounds felt like the mattress wasn't giving way to their pressure points. That said, the GhostBed shipped quickly, looks good, and didn't overheat us during a warm month. If you know you're one of those people who can't find a mattress firm enough, and you want the convenience of direct shipping and a 101-night trial, the GhostBed could be a good option.
Costco Novaform Serafina Pearl Memory Foam Mattress<
Though we can't recommend it for most people, Costco's exclusive 14-inch-thick Novaform Serafina Pearl Memory Foam Mattress is another good pick for back-sleepers or anyone who prefers a firmer mattress. The "pearls" of gel infused in the top memory-foam layer, along with the firmer feel, make it a cooler sleep than most memory-foam mattresses. The other gel-foam mattress we tested had a "muddy" feel, but the Novaform did not. At its occasional sale price of $650, with free shipping and no extra fees for customers without a Costco membership, it could be a good option if you live near a Costco and can try it out in the store or return it if you don't like it (under Costco's generous standard for "reasonable" time). But it's too big to ship back; most people buying online should stick to a mattress that's much easier to return.
The heavily advertised Purple mattress purports to be a different type of rolled-up foam mattress. Its top layer—a cubelike grid made of Purple's patented, stretchy material—collapses as you sink in, but pushes back more than foam as you hit the layer's bottom. Overall, our testers didn't like this mattress. One said he felt himself "floating on top," rather than the gentle sinking of our traditional foam picks. Another, a back-sleeper, felt his hips were held too high. One stomach-sleeper liked the Purple's gentle uplift, but not the feel of the cells underneath (detectable through sheets and a thick mattress protector). The Purple took 17 days (11 business days) to arrive, and the company emailed vague updates about its status. The mattress is about 30 pounds heavier than our main pick—so more difficult to move—and also costs $50 to $400 more. Additionally, we think the company makes some outlandish and unsubstantiated claims.
After our first round of testing, we tried the Helix, as the first in a rolling update to this guide. You customize the Helix's layers by taking a sleep quiz, providing your body measurements and sleep style. Couples can get a mattress "blended" between their preferences, or each get a customized side for $150. As with most online-order mattresses, the Helix offers a no-cost 100-night sleep trial, free shipping, and relatively speedy doorstep delivery (four business days in our case). We ordered a couple's split mattress, slightly altered from Helix's recommendations, and ended up with a model that disappointed both of our testers. One side, intended to be softer, felt more firm than our pick and not any cooler, and the other side was too soft. You might get a better result from your customized Helix than we did, and the company provides mattress toppers to address comfort issues. But we can't recommend the Helix for most people, given the higher cost (about $1,000 for a queen, and $150 more for a split model) and variable results.
We tested the BedInABox PacBed Original due to the company's relatively long history (founded in 2004) and best-in-class company reviews on Sleep Like the Dead. The PacBed Original puts 3 inches of gel-infused memory foam on top of 6 inches of core/support foam. The pitch is that gel foam breathes and stays cool (although Consumer Reports finds such claims questionable) and "snaps back" more quickly than traditional memory foam, a characteristic that might appeal to people who move around often in their sleep. Our back- and stomach-sleepers told us that this bed sank in too much, saying it was "too huggy" and had a "muddy feel." A side-sleeper who prefers a very soft feel may like this mattress, but the Leesa and the Casper generally felt good for our side-sleepers and were better able to accommodate couples and rotating sleepers. The PacBed is well-packaged and solidly built, and the company's reputation is sound, but in our tests its peculiar feel didn't accommodate any style of sleeping better than our picks did.
Hoping to find a discount foam mattress, we tested IKEA's Matrand. The medium-firm version is a 7-inch mattress, with 2 inches of memory foam on top of 5 inches of support. The medium-firm version was harder than anything we had tested or maybe ever slept on; the idea of a more "firm" version boggles the mind. One Wirecutter tester, who said he could "sleep on the floor," still found the Matrand uncomfortable. The transition from other foam mattresses to this kind of foam was jarring; I woke up in the middle of the night while sleeping on it, feeling confused as to if I was still in a bed. A survey respondent noted that their Tuft & Needle, still a fairly firm mattress, felt "miles better" than their "cheap version" IKEA mattress. The IKEA model's cotton-blend cover caught and wrinkled sheets, and though the mattress didn't sink and create heat, the cover felt warm to sleep against when humidity was present. At $400 as of this writing, this mattress is not any better than a cheaper foam or hybrid spring/foam mattress that you can buy online.
The Signature Sleep Contour 8 Mattress is a $200 (in queen size) foam-topped spring mattress. It's the top seller on Amazon, with free Prime shipping. Encasing the Contour's 7 inches of coils is a total of 1 inch of memory foam on the top and bottom. Sleep on your side, and you feel those springs pushing against your body weight in a way that can put your arm to sleep. It's a slightly better experience on your back or stomach, but one tester woke up with a cramped feeling in his neck from the contrast between the soft pillows and the buoyant sleep surface. With only a one-year warranty (and a 30-day Amazon return policy), this mattress seems best suited for occasional use, for people who primarily sleep on their stomach or back, and for people who weigh 200 pounds or less (so as not to tax the coils).
Care and maintenance
The most important thing to do to maintain your mattress' comfort and support is to put it on a stable foundation. If you have an old box spring and basic bracket bed frame from your last bed, you're probably in need of an upgrade. We have a guide to the best platform bed frames under $300, written with foam mattresses in mind. All of our suggested frames (minus one California king suggestion) provide the kind of slat spacing suggested (and sometimes required under warranty) by the makers of our mattress picks. Casper provided us with helpful research in understanding foundations and slat support, and makes its own foundation and basic frame that provide ample support for any mattress, too. You can technically put a foam mattress on the floor, but mattress makers suggest you raise up and air out the mattress about twice a week to ensure there is no mold growth, which is more pain than most people want from their mattress.
If you're buying a new mattress, you might also consider a new pillow. How a pillow supports your head can affect how your body aligns with, and adapts to, your mattress. Your best bet is to bring your favorite pillow along when you try out a mattress. Because doing so is tricky with a direct-order mattress, consider some summarized advice from our guide to the best pillow: Side-sleepers need the most support (4 to 6 inches), back-sleepers less so, and stomach-sleepers need the least, because the mattress already supports them. As with mattresses, choosing a pillow involves accounting for body size and softness preference, so try sizes and buy with an eye toward return policies.
For all of our mattress picks, be sure not to flip them over—their support and memory foam are at the top. But you should rotate them every three to six months, especially if you sleep alone on one side of the bed or if partners have a notable weight difference.
Our mattress picks each come with a zippered cover, but you should not remove it for cleaning except for serious bedwide stains. None of our pick manufacturers openly sells a replacement cover, but you should contact the maker if a cover rips or pulls under normal use.
This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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