Mattress Know-How

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

It's a pricey investment and you want to get the most out of it, but a mattress only lives so long. The average life expectancy is ten years for a mattress, but those with pillow tops die sooner. One chiropractor suggests a maximum life of seven years for pillow topped luxury. Since the pillow top is more expensive than a regular mattress, it hardly seems to warrant its cost. Yet, when is the right time to replace your mattress, and which one should you buy?


Choosing the Right Mattress

Mattresses are evaluated based on coil count and padding thickness. Opinions agree that coil count isn't the measure of the mattress as much as the padding. The sagging that typically sends people to the mattress store is caused by wear of the padding rather than the springs. The low end of the full mattresses count 312 coils; high end full mattresses have 400, though you could purchase a high coil count mattress made of thinner gauge wire. Mattresses aren't all that different, so choose the one that you like the best and take it home. Brand names and sales gimmicks are meaningless; comfort is key.

Comparison shopping for mattresses is nearly impossible. Companies rename their mattresses based on the stores that sell the products, making price matching impossible. Try to find the exact same mattress at two different stores; it's impossible. A common practice in the mattress sales industry is price reduction. The price on the mattress is rarely the price at which the store expects to sell the mattress; it expects to negotiate. The common mission is to sell the mattress with its counterpart, the box spring. While the two are designed to work as a set, if the box spring is not broken, there is no reason to replace it. In many countries it is common to skip the box spring altogether. You never hear your chiropractor telling you to replace your box spring; it's the mattress that he's worried about. Think about bunk beds, captain beds, and other designs. They use bunkle boards and a mattress, right? The box spring is your choice, but it's basically a wooden box to support your mattress and add height.


Giving It Longevity

Common sense makes mattresses last longer. Turning, horizontally and vertically, and flipping the mattress regularly helps to gain even wear on the mattress. Likewise, keeping bouncing children and pouncing dogs off the mattress allows it to reach a ripe old age.

Aids such as mattress covers and good sheets that are washed regularly allows the materials to age gracefully. Remember, the padding of the mattress is what wears the easiest, so the better care it receives the longer it will last. Consider using a pillow top cover rather than a pillow top mattress. This will provide the comfort and when the pillow top wears it can be replaced for significantly less.

If your mattress starts to sag but your wallet sags heaviest, the tried and true fix of putting a board under the mattress will provide a valid solution to your problem. Be wary, however. This is a temporary fix at best. The minute the board slips under the mattress the mattress budgeting must begin.


When to Replace

One is bound to wonder if the seven to ten year lifespan of a mattress is the industry's way of guaranteeing constant sales. As long as consumers are alert to the one signal of mattress decline, the lifespan of a mattress can vary greatly. If you're waking up stiff or suffering from sudden back pain, it's time to get a new mattress. Your mattress should be comfortable and supportive of your spine.

A visual inspection of the mattress will show when it's time to replace it. If the mattress looks old, then it is old. However, it could be white and clean but suffer from inner turmoil. Sit on the edge of your bed. Does it sag or does it hold relatively firm as you sit? If it sags, then it has lost its vital support. What about the middle of the bed? Is there a dip? Do you roll towards your partner when you sleep? These are all signs of a failing mattress.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at

January 24, 20110 found this helpful

My sister gave me a memory foam mattress; it is made completely and totally different from most mattresses; I had chronic pain, and had purchased the top of the line pillow type mattress in the 80's I think for about $1000.00; it did not help me in any manner at all! When she kept telling me they had tried the sleep # bed etc, and it wasn't near as good as the memory foam ones; and to get a memory foam one and my pain would go away, I flat out did not believe her at all. She actually gave one to me; and 3 days later I had to call her and tell her that chronic hip pain was gone;

These are made of extremely dense foam of some kind; you can google it and find out; but I am telling you Costco carries them; they are in a box; it's takes a full day for them to unfold; they do not have springs, etc; made completely differently. A queen size one at Costco is $499 or was; they do not carry anything smaller than the queen there; or didn't; haven't been there or looked; you can find them on line; not sure where else; but folks I am letting you know right up front: they are unlike anything you ever used; and they are quite simply unbeatable.

Don't think of "foam" like an egg crate thing; it was designed by Nasa; and it is incredible!

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January 25, 20110 found this helpful

I have foam mattresses on all my beds, and everyone who sleeps on them remarks on the comfort. I don't have the fancy memory foam either, just a good quality foam mattress. There are no coils poking you ever, and no hard spots. They are generally less expensive than coil spring mattresses, and the one I am sleeping on is 10 years old, and doesn't yet need replacing.

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January 27, 20110 found this helpful

Our pillow-top mattress was not top of the line 6 years ago when we bought but it was certainly an upgrade from our previous hand me down. Recently, my wife and I have not been sleeping as well and I was noticing the pillow-top was not as comfy as I had remembered it being. We knew we would be getting a new mattress soon but our son's old futon was a higher priority to replace.

A friend had recently purchased a memory foam mattress topper for her daughter and she loved it. We felt our son need a whole new mattress though so we went shopping intending to buy him one. The price tags at some of the mattress stores were more then we were wanting to spend. So we went to Costco to see how much their mattresses were. We noticed the same memory foam mattress toppers were only $119 for a full and $139 for a queen so we decided to give them a try. We were able to one for us and one for him for less then the cost of buying him a new mattress.

We have slept on it for 3 nights now and I can honestly say I am sleeping deeper and more soundly than I was before. This morning my son kept sneaking back in his room to lay down when he was supposed to be getting ready for school. Laying on his bed with a sneaky smile he said "Every time I go in my room I just lose all my energy and have to lay down." I think it was a good purchase!

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May 12, 20120 found this helpful

Years ago, I had a horse-back riding mishap, and as a result I have osteoarthritis in my back. For years, I woke up almost every morning and through the night with back pain. When we needed a new mattress, we bought a memory foam mattress: Tempurpedic Cloud.

How perfectly named: Like laying on a cloud.

From the first night I slept on it, I haven't woken up with a sore back. I just can't say ENOUGH GOOD! about them. Expensive? oh yes, but FAR MORE than worth the cost for feeling great.


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April 4, 20140 found this helpful

With different names for mattress's at the stores it can be hard to shop price but I solved that problem. First pick out a brand that's right for you. Write down the name & number of it and then go home and call the manufacturer and ask for the names of this mattress in several stores that it's sold in. Works like a charm. My fear is that mattresses are very overpriced and a lot of people have been taken advantage of by the stores.

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April 5, 20140 found this helpful

The best mattress I ever had was a latex foam mattress. It was a king so in my downsizing I needed a full size. I bought a brand name mattress, but bought the least expensive version. The clerk told me the mattresses were all the same except for the padding on top. She suggested I buy a memory foam topper, which I did. It was a bit too soft, so I put a wool fleece mattress pad on top of it. At this point it was perfect. I have been sleeping on it for 15 years and it is still perfect. The mattress which I turn ever couple months shows no wear at all. Every summer I wash the fleece pad and hang it out in the sun. I certainly have gotten my moneys worth from this mattress.

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April 6, 20140 found this helpful

Oh, sweetie...there are other, better choices these days. My husband and I bought a king foam mattress...12 inches thick. We love it. We were having back pain until we bought this one and after we slept on it we were much better and got a lot deeper sleep. I love mine so much that I bought a twin size for a guest room.

Plus, you'd think a king size mattress would be heavy. Think again. I can move this foam around by myself without help from my husband. It's been over a year and there is no sign of sagging or wear. I turn mine around about once a month, just in case. But I was doing the same thing on our old spring mattress that I couldn't budge without the help of my husband. Talk about wear and tear on the old back.

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