What kind of matress do I want?
October 30, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out what mattress I might want. I really know nothing about mattresses except I think I prefer a minimal set-up. Oh, and I'm on a budget.

I'm 27, and since I left home ten years ago I have slept only on dorm mattresses and the cheapest Ikea futon mattresses. Lately I've started to think that it's time for something new as I think my thin, foam futon mattress is exacerbating some of my upper back pain and is even maybe hurting my hips a little. Plus I keep falling into the crack down the middle of the mattress. It's just not good and I think I need a change.

I currently sleep on a cheap Ikea futon mattress on top of a frame with slats. It might be that the slats are part of the problem, not the mattress. So I'm willing to entertain switching that up as well.

The thing is, I really don't like sleeping on the traditional mattress set-up you find at, say, hotels - the box spring plus big thick mattress. It often feels too squishy and like I'm in a coffin. It's hard to explain, but it's like too much bed, and I have a hard time sleeping on such a combo. I like sleeping lower to the ground and on a relatively firm surface. Like the floor is too hard, but a big mattress stack is too soft.

I'm not super-permanent and I'm not rich, and I'm not sure it's time for a permanent grown-up bed type thing. So I've been kind of thinking about just getting a thicker futon mattress - one of the really thick, more Japanese-style sorts that isn't so foamy and thin. Something still firm that I can either put on my current futon frame or maybe on the floor or even up on some pallets, something that is relatively cheap and still easily moved, something that is basically what I have but more comfortable. Something like this.

Or perhaps I should just get one of those feather-bed tops for my current mattress? Or a new futon mattress + a feather top?

Or do I really want a more traditional mattress and just don't know it?

Do you have experience or thoughts on this predicament? Or specific recommendations?

Thanks so much everyone.
posted by Lutoslawski to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I sleep on an 8-inch futon with springs inside (a lot like the one you linked) on an Ikea platform frame (slats, no boxspring, low to the ground - so we never fold the futon) with a 2-inch textured memory foam topper.

This seems to be the perfect combo for us. The platform (Mandal) is rock-solid. The futon is too hard on its own now (it's got some years on it) but once we added the memory-foam layer, that gives it just the right amount of comfort. What I like about the memory foam as well is that it helps you hold your body still while you sleep - I find I toss and turn much less now. And I don't get back pain anymore.

The bed frame + the mattress + the topper was, all together, the same price as just buying a decent queen mattress. So this is not a super-cheap setup, but it's grown-up for less money for sure.
posted by flex at 2:03 PM on October 30, 2012

Best answer: We sleep on one of these placed directly on the floor. I bought this mattress based on several MeFites' recommendations, and I. Love. It. I cannot tell you how much I love it. I would marry it if I could. It's firm, but supportive. And it's relatively cheap. And it comes from Amazon all squished up in a box so you don't have to figure out how to get it home.

Seriously, I have bought several mattresses in my adult life -- too many, but I kept buying really uncomfortable mattresses, even if they seemed comfortable in the store, even if my friends' similar mattresses seemed comfy during overnight stays, even if we went top-end and spent almost $2K once (on a Simmons Beautyrest that was uncomfortable from night 1), it seemed like I was on a lifelong quest for a comfortable mattress (it got to the point where my husband refused to talk about mattresses any more) but I have finally found the perfect mattress! I have never slept better in my life, and am no longer sore every day.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:10 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you've got an Ikea near you, I would probably just go test out a bunch of their mattresses and futons and see what you like. Their prices are reasonable (much cheaper than a mattress store) and they have a lot of firmer options (and mattresses designed to go without a box spring) which sounds like what you'd prefer.

I slept on this cheap Ikea futon for quite a while (six months or so?) and was surprisingly comfortable. I've got a few back injuries, and it didn't make them act up at all. I now have a nicer Ikea mattress (no idea which one any more) on a slatted wood base and it's great, but the mattress by itself was probably a little more expensive than the whole futon.

One thing to keep an eye out for when selecting a futon or other slatted base is the design of the slats. I've found that the ones with wider slats or slats closer together are much, much more comfortable. The mattress is able to lay flatter and even out the gaps, whereas more widely spaced, narrow slats tend to be more noticeable through the mattress.
posted by duien at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2012

Try some mattresses at your local Sears Outlet. They have amazing prices.

My parents sleep on a standard spring mattress on a flat platform and that works for them.

I've got a Simmons Beauty Rest that the salesman described as "Poured Concrete." I freaking LOVE that thing!

I believe firmer is better. One of the reasons you hate hotel mattresses is that they're usually too soft. I usually end up sleeping on the floor in a hotel.

The slatted bedframe is a misery upon the body. If nothing else, put the mattress on the floor until you can get a proper bed or platform.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:31 PM on October 30, 2012

I bought a natural latex foam topper (about 3 inches thick?) of "hard" foam from the clearance section of FoamOrder.com (their website looks stupid but their products are legit). A queen topper runs $300-500 depending on thickness. I chose to get natural latex instead of MemoryFoam because I was a little bit concerned about harsh chemicals and off-gassing in the more industrial mattresses. I also prefer a relatively "hard" sleeping surface, and I think it's good for your back as long as the supportive material you do have is up to snuff. I've slept with my foam topper in a couple of ways over the past 3 years and been comfortable:

1) Just the topper on top of tatami mats - the mats didn't do much, just were a solid hard surface a little bit off the floor. This was very pleasant, but I eventually got rid of the tatami mats because I wanted a bed further off the floor.

2) Just the topper on a slatted bed that I made (instructions here, very easy and cheap) I made the slats on the bed pretty close together - I think 1/2 an inch - so that my thin foam mattress would be adequately supported. I've been having it like this for a year now and no problems.

3) The foam topper on top of a cheap Ikea futon (which was my previous mattress). I did this when my (ex)boyfriend complained that my bed was uncomfortable. This was the softest option, but the foam was still good and firm for me.

I don't know what your budget is, but every mattress is expensive in its own way. If you like a hard surface, try out a mattress topper (maybe on the floor or a slatted bed with more narrowly spaced slats) as they're much cheaper than a whole mattress.
posted by permiechickie at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2012

We use a memory foam mattress that we bought at Costco (Novaform) on top of a platform bed (you could use the same slats from IKEA that you are currently using for this). I love it, it's firm and supportive at the same time, and my back pain disappeared when I switched from a spring mattress to memory foam.
posted by echo0720 at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2012

Boyfriend and self recently made the switch to a Real Adult Bed. We got a hopen with basic pine slats and put an original mattress factory classic on it without a box spring, so the top of the mattress is flush with the sort of shelf that runs around the edge. It's very attractive (IMO) and quite comfortable and sturdy and we've both slept crazy luxuriously on it. Total cost was like... $500.
posted by kavasa at 4:10 PM on October 30, 2012

If you are getting back pain my recommendation would be to get a half decent pocket spring mattress on a slatted base. There is a trend for these to be getting thicker (8 - 10") but if you look around you can still find some that are around 5" deep.

It may lack the bohemian appeal of a futon but if it cures your back pain thats got to be a change worth making.

Adjusting to a new mattress can take time, up to 3 or 4 weeks, your body gets used to the change and also the mattress will slowly adjust to your body shape and become more comfortable.
posted by Lanark at 4:32 PM on October 30, 2012

I have used two IKEA bed frames with slats and "regular" mattresses from other stores on top. It works great as I'm not up too high, yet I get better support than with IKEA's mattresses.

Stay away from most "bed" stores. From my experiences in a couple of different cities, the bed-only stores consistently had the highest prices anywhere and the most overbearing sales people. Appropriately, one of these bad bad places rhymes with Creepies.

There are stores with great prices out there, so don't overpay. I bought my favorite mattress, a super-firm Stearns and Foster at a bed store outlet (where they send their odds and ends) on a grad school income. Amongst traditional mattress brands, Sterns and Foster generally have the firmest line. If you don't use a box spring, it comes pretty close to the feel of a futon, but won't get lumpy. Downside is that it can be hard to find a Stearns and Foster cheaply.

My other mattress, a somewhat softer Simmons, is from Nebraska Furniture Mart. Best bet at a store like that is to (1) pick out the mattress you really like, (2) talk to a sales person, (3) complain that it costs way too much but that you like it, (4) give them your number, and (5) leave. They'll call when the price drops. Do this even if there's a sale going on when you first visit. There's always a flipping sale going on at these places. This worked for me and I saved some big bucks that way. The starting price wasn't outrageous, but this tactic really dropped the price into my range. Being polite to the salesperson increases your chance for success with this one.
posted by eelgrassman at 8:18 PM on October 30, 2012

Get a more high end foam Ikea mattress ($350 vs $150), put it on the floor. Make sure you get something nice and firm.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:39 AM on October 31, 2012

I have always liked a fairly hard bed, too, but in my early 30s found I was waking up on my futon feeling kind of bruised. What I have is a firm mattress with a pillow top. It's awesome. I don't feel like I'm falling into the mattress, there's support there, just a cushion for my old bones.

I don't have a box spring, I have an Ikea frame with those wooden slats, and it's totally comfortable. Mine is raised because I have baskets under the bed, but you could absolutely use a frame that kept you close to the ground. I don't think any of the Ikea bedframes assume a box spring.

Before I got my fantastic new mattress, I used a foam topper on a really cruddy 30 year old hand-me-down mattress someone gave me, and it helped a bit. That's what made me realize I wanted something pillow-topped.

To choose one, I just spent weeks and weeks going to stores and lying on beds. I ended up buying it on sale for super cheap at Sears.
posted by looli at 7:47 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, I went back and forth. And I narrowed it down to either the Sleep Innovations mattress rabbitrabbit recommended or a Rock Soft futon mattress. For a variety of reasons, I ended up going with the Rock Soft - I loved the way it felt, it was the right amount of firm, I got sold on the stores small business awesomeness and the fact that they'll restuff it for $25 for life. I am loving it so far. Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2012

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