Our bed is so bad we tend to roll together into the trough in the middle.
December 19, 2008 4:01 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I stayed overnight at a hotel a few weekends ago and came to the realization that our bed is truly horrific. Help us buy a new mattress! (details inside)

We've decided that we are now in the market for a completely new bed, starting from the bed frame up. We've never done any mattress/box spring shopping (we're still sleeping on my queen bed from my college years...eww) so we wanted to query the mighty green for as much personal experience and suggestions as possible.

Here's the information that we do know:

We want a king size bed.
We don't want a Tempur-pedic (too expensive, and I understand it can cause people to get overheated while they sleep and I am a naturally prone to overheating-type-person).
We would like a "grown-up" bed. No Ikea/do it yourself creations.

So, what should we get, where should we go, and what should we avoid/ make sure we get?
posted by QUHZK to Shopping (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I stayed at a Westin hotel recently. They have extremely comfortable beds, and they sell them. Likely more than you want to pay, however.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

We love our sleep number bed, because he likes sleeping on marshmallows and I like sleeping on concrete slabs. I recommend evening it out before sex, however.
posted by desjardins at 4:15 PM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've got a bad back, and getting one of those motion-stabilized mattresses really helped with getting a fairly uninterrupted night's sleep-- Mr. F moves and I don't feel it, unless we're sleeping tangled up on each other.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:20 PM on December 19, 2008

Where do you live? In Canada, Sleep Country Canada has a pretty good selection, and a great return policy (which we used. It works). Go to a store that specializes in mattresses, and try them out.
posted by Badmichelle at 4:25 PM on December 19, 2008

If you find a bed you like, see if the floor model is available. You can get a significantly better price on a good bed just because people have been testing them out, and they're just as good (and clean) as new.
posted by katillathehun at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Many hotels have advertising partnerships with their mattress supplier. And if they don't, they'll certainly find out for you when asked.
posted by randomstriker at 4:31 PM on December 19, 2008

There is a lot of information on the web. You can search particular hotels and find out what mattress brand they use.

Example is here: Hotel Beds: How They Stack Up The mostly use Sealy and Serta. That's easy to find.

Plan on spending around 1,000 dollars for a good quality mattress. You can buy a foam topper or a polyfill mattress cover to add to the comfort. I wouldn't buy down because pure down is expensive and aggravates allergies. Affordable down products are usually mixed with feathers with quills and they get everywhere and poke.

The most important thing is a quality mattress. Of course, a good frame and box spring is essential for support. Next in line are good quality pillows and linens. White or ivory always looks best and lends to the hotel look. Look for Egyptian cotton sheets. Buy a down-alternative comforter and cover with a one-hundred percent Egyptian cotton duvet cover in white or ivory. Make sure everything is machine washable (except maybe for a foam topper if you're interested in such a thing). A soft blanket is useful to layer in between comforter and sheets to add to the luxurious feel. Decorative throw pillows are not necessary or practical. Four good quality king-size pillows encased in crisp white cotton cases is all you need. If you go for colorful duvets, keep your sheets white or ivory. There are some beautiful duvet covers out there that are colorful but still say, "luxury hotel". Barbara Barry has some beautiful stuff. It's expensive but can be found on Ebay for less.

It goes without saying but wash your linens often and pull everything taut, tucked, and crisp to give that comfy hotel feel everyday.
posted by Fairchild at 4:41 PM on December 19, 2008 [10 favorites]

I used to work down the street from McCroskey/Airflex. Super-high quality. You spend 1/3 of your life in bed, so it's worth it to put in the time to find something suitable.
posted by coffeefilter at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2008

I'm still on my first grown-up mattress set that I bought 5 years ago. It's a Masterpiece, which at the time was an upbranded Serta (and I don't think they make them anymore), and it's as comfortable as the day it was delivered. Double pillow-top, so it needs to be flipped and rotated every quarter, but it's a small price to pay for an even wear. It's also gone through 4 moves, including 1 cross-country. I love it. I think it cost just under $1k in 2003.

If you go to a mattress store, don't pay the list price. There isn't as much room as there is in buying a car, but you should get 10-20% off of whatever they're asking.

If you get a big, heavy mattress set, make sure there's enough support in the frame. The warranty card for my set warned that the warranty would be voided if the frame didn't have an additional leg in the center of the mattress. I don't have any other frame advice, I'm lucky enough that my dad built a custom frame for me.

But, when I do have to replace this set, I'm going with one from the Four Seasons hotel shop. Those things are amazing.
posted by hwyengr at 4:52 PM on December 19, 2008

2nding desjardins with the Sleep Number bed. I sleep in 'the pit', she sleeps on the slab, and we're both as happy as can be. Agree totally about leveling it out before sex.
posted by spinturtle at 5:19 PM on December 19, 2008

This older article from Slate is quite informative on consumer choice in mattresses.

The secret to mattress shopping is that the product is basically a commodity. The mattress biz is 99-percent marketing. So just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they're pretty much all the same. And that's all you need to know. But do read on—the world of sleep products is quite fascinating, and I'd like to share it with you.

What's the Best Brand?
Innerspring mattresses, particularly the Big S's (Simmons, Serta, Sealy), dominate the market. But how to choose among Serta and Sealy, Stearns and Foster, and King Koil? Or for that matter, between the Simmons Beautyrest Exceptionale Lenore and the Simmons Beautyrest Do-Not-Disturb Royalty Ultra?

Here's the lowdown: Mattress makers rename identical products for each different retail store. Different labels, exact same guts. Why? Obfuscation. It's hard to shop for the lowest price when you can't compare apples to apples. Lucky for you, they're all subtle variations on the same apple—not only within each brand, but even among different brands.

posted by Rumple at 5:27 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

make sure whatever mattress you get is flippable and rotateable. in other words, no pillowtop. I bought from Costco two years ago and my mattress is already breaking down along the edge where I sit to get in and out of it. I'm considering taking it back, and if I do, I won't get a pillowtop again.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:48 PM on December 19, 2008

This may have be noted already... go to the mattress shop and lay down on every single bed in the showroom for at least a few minutes. Go to another shop and do the same.

I felt the same about tempurpedic when I began looking but ended up finding one used for 1/3 the price. There is was just no comparison and it changed my life (quite a bit).
posted by ezekieldas at 5:51 PM on December 19, 2008

I have a crappy mattress and sleep best in hotels. Because of this, I've developed an odd habit of stripping the bed to see the mattress label. In large business hotels the beds are often some special hotel label. But in smaller places and inns, I've been interested to note that the mattresses I rank the highest before checking the name are always Simmons Beautyrest. That's what I'll be buying when I can.
posted by Miko at 6:10 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

As awkward as it is, your best bet is to visit some mattress stores and try them out. And don't just sit on the edge for a minute. Lay down and linger. See if it's still as comfortable after 5 minutes as it is after 5 seconds. After all, you plan on spending hours on it!

As others have mentioned, mattress retailers will each call the same mattress by a different name just to make it difficult to comparison shop. However, this doesn't mean you can't bargain! Straight out of college I was shopping for a mattress on an extremely limited budget. I hit up a couple of different stores with the goal of finding the cheapest, yet still decent mattress I could. I found one that would suffice for $200 at the first store. At the next store, I found one I liked slightly better, but it was $300. With the salesperson standing right there, I happened to remark to my dad that I liked this one, but that the $200 one was more in my price range. The salesperson perked up and immediately offered to sell me their $300 mattress for $200. Sold.
posted by geeky at 6:52 PM on December 19, 2008

My wife and I discovered how bad our bed was in just about the same manner. We stayed at a friend's vacation house and had some of the best sleep in well, forever, on their huge and very comfortable bed with a separate pillow top under the fitted sheet. As soon as we got back from vacation, we went mattress shopping.

You need to go shopping together, and you need to lay on every single mattress you're interested in, together. One of my wife's nicknames for me is Taz, because she says some nights I spin around on my side of the bed like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil. So in the mattress store, I laid next to her on the mattress and rolled around, much to the amusement of the mattress store employees and the other customers. It might have looked funny, but doing that helped us eliminate quite a few of the mattresses in the store. That is how we found out that we didn't want one of those Tempurpedic mattresses, for example.

In the end, we got a Sterns and Foster RoseSunset Queen set, for around $1400 total. We then went and bought a Pacific Coast Feather Company Feather Bed to go on top of the new mattress. Combine that with some 500 thread count sheets, and this is by far the best bed either of us has ever slept in.
posted by ralan at 6:54 PM on December 19, 2008

I answered a very similar question someplace else. Copied and pasted my answer for your viewing pleasure.

I was a manager at a furniture store for three years. I am not anymore, nor do I have any love for the industry. Here are my thoughts, take it or leave it.

1. If you buy a name brand bed such as Sealy, Serta, Simmons, Restonic or the like, they are all equally well made. Cousin Bob's used mattresses, not so much. They will all be pretty similar in the different price points. Of the previously listed brands, Simmons will have a different feel then the rest. There is something to the "individually pocket coils" that you either like or don't like.

2. You really do get what you pay for in beds. More money means better materials and usually more of it in the case of mattresses. Cheap mattresses will tend to sag and the material will lose it's resilience much quicker then a more expensive one. A friend once told me he would spend as much money as he could on beds and shoes the rest of his life. He said that if you weren't in one you were probably in the other. I liked that advice.

3. You normally (at least when I quit the furniture industry) can't find a model that you like and then look around for the same model at the same price someplace else. The different mattress companies will use different covers and different names so that you stores can show the same beds with different names. So don't spend too much time looking around for the same bed.

4. Hard =/= firm! People used to come in and thing they needed the hardest bed possible for a bad back. Good support is what is necessary. Any of the previously mentioned beds will have a good support system. Padding is just an option, depending on personal preference. If hard is what you want, sleep on the floor and blow your money on a new computer.

5. LAY ON THE BEDS. This doesn't mean sit on the edge and bounce. It doesn't mean half lay down. If you think you have a bed that you might want, lay down on it like you would to sleep and spend a more then a few minutes there. Take your wife with so you can feel what it is going to be like when one of you toss and turn. If you don't listen to anything else, take this advice.

6. Get a good mattress pad or Scotchguard on the mattress. I know that a lot of times add ons are rip offs, but if you stain your mattress at all the warranty is void. That might not seem like a big deal now, but children happen. Or sex does. I bought a brand new bed and spilled Mountain Dew on it the first week. I would have been screwed. (Speaking of warranty, they won't normally give you a mattress warranty unless you buy a boxspring too.)

7. If you get a queen or king size bed, the warranty normally requires some sort of center support. Keep that in mind if you need a frame.
posted by Silvertree at 7:30 PM on December 19, 2008 [5 favorites]

May I suggest you look into a mattress made with a layer of natural latex? I just bought one, after spending a couple of hours playing Goldilocks at the store. The first time I tried one out I thought I'd died and gone to Sleep Heaven! The manufacturer is Berkeley Ergonomics.


1. They never develop those "pits" that regular mattresses get. Manufacturers call it "conforming to your body," but I call it a drag.

2. The bed won't shake every time your partner moves. (Mr. Shifafa is like a flopping trout-out-of-water sometimes.)

3. Mattresses are "dual-sided," which means you each choose the mattress/firmness you like best and a custom mattress is made for you.

4. Most come with nice cotton/wool blend outer layer + cover that dissipate moisture and heat.

5. The mattress I bought is all natural, all organic, no poly stuffing, no outgassing nasty things like formaldehyde, no carcinogenic fire retardants. The latex comes from rubber trees (make sure you don't get "synthetic latex.")

6. These mattresses are made for platform beds, which can be much less expensive than buying a frame made for beds with box springs.

They are expensive - mine was about $1400 without the flexible slats. But, as noted above, you spend 1/3 of your life in bed. I consider it an investment in my health and well-being.

Good luck and good sleep.
posted by shifafa at 9:20 PM on December 19, 2008

Costco has a really nice memory foam mattress for like $500ish.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:03 PM on December 19, 2008

I too just passed through the gauntlet of purchasing my first grownup bed, the most involved consumer experience of my life thus far. I went to Sleepy's and spent about two hours taking mini-naps on a whole bunch of beds. Make sure your sleep simulations are as realistic as possible--side-sleepers and back-sleepers have different needs, for example, so don't lay on your back at Sleepy's if you're really a side-sleeper. Spend at least 10 minutes on any mattress you're seriously interested in. Read consumer testimonials on the web. I averted disaster this way, discovering that the manufacturer of the mattress I purchased at Sleepy's that night was notoriously bad about honoring their warranties, that their mattresses had a tendency to break down, and they had filed bankruptcy this summer. When I called Sleepy's to cancel my order, they bent over backwards to make me happy, eventually shipping me a fancy, twice as expensive Tempurpedic at the same cost. People ain't spendin much money these days, so this is a good time to haggle.
posted by flotson at 11:03 PM on December 19, 2008

I just read a big test of mattresses from the Norwegian equivalent to Consumer Reports (link which is probably totally useless for you here). Their conclusion was that price was absolutely no indication of suitability. Longevity did not factor in. The Tempur was ranked as the worst, both regarding the breathing mentioned up-thread and the fact that it tended to hold the body in the same position all night - appearantly not conductive to good sleep.
posted by Harald74 at 5:02 AM on December 20, 2008

I'll nth the Sleep Number beds.
posted by bigmusic at 9:11 AM on December 20, 2008

I went through this a few months ago after sleeping in a Westin for two days and actually sleeping instead of tossing and turning. I originally wanted the Westin Heavenly Bed because it was just so great, but after some digging I found that it's the same as the Simmons Exceptionale Beautyrest, which is less expensive because it doesn't have the Westin label on it. That's one thing that is difficult about mattress shopping: the names can change depending on the retailer.

Basically, you have to test the mattresses and find which one you like. People's recommendations might help you figure out which beds to test, but you really do have to go lie down on them for at least ten minutes to see if you really like them. That's what I did when we purchased our mattress and it worked out very well. We ended up with a great mattress that was within our price range that, while it wasn't the "Heavenly bed" or the "Exceptionale" was (and still is!) still pretty freaking awesome.

I do have to recommend that you buy nice pillows as well. The Pacific Down Company has great pillows (and I think the brand can be purchased at some Bed Bath & Beyond stores). They're a little expensive, but they really are worth it. You don't want to throw a bunch of money at a mattress to still have a sore neck every morning, right? They have good customer service and if you are willing to hunt around online you can usually get a 15% off coupon and/or free shipping.

I also want to second the recommendation for a mattress cover. I really thought too much about this (even posting a question here about it) and have no complaints, and it was required for our warranty. Also, with regards to the warranty on the mattress being void if you do not buy a boxspring, that might not be true -- if you have a reason for not needing a boxspring (like we did, because we have a platform bed with slats) they will still give you the warranty. Just make that clear before you buy.
posted by k8lin at 9:43 AM on December 20, 2008

I'm going to second shifafa, and say natural latex. We replaced our Tempurpedic with latex, after a flood, and the difference was extraordinary: no hummock, no heat issues (both problems with memory foam) and no pressure points or bounce. Mr Itoku, a very poor sleeper, has started sleeping the entire night through. It's funny how simply having a good night's sleep can make you an instant mattress evangelist.

Con: awfully expensive.
posted by media_itoku at 6:19 PM on December 20, 2008

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