3 Practical Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Mattress

Natural nontoxic mattress

Mattress shopping can feel complicated and overwhelming.

It may seem like you need to learn an entirely new language just to keep up with all of the terms, jargon, materials and “special offers." Walking into a mattress showroom can feel like walking onto a used-car lot, while buying a mattress online can be a big gamble: Will it be too firm, too soft, or just right?

Since mattress shopping can feel about as fun as a trip to the dentist, here are three questions you can ask to simplify the process and take back control. 

How Healthy Is This Mattress?

Wait, what? 

You’re shopping for a mattress, not a green smoothie. 

You may not realize it, but your mattress may be harmful to your health. 

Memory-foam mattresses are very popular and often touted as the answer to body aches and pains. But memory-foam materials may be doing your health more harm than good. 

Memory-foam mattresses are made from polyurethane, a petroleum byproduct that is often mixed with toxic compounds like formaldehyde and flame-retardant chemicals. 

These toxic foam mattress materials can offgas into the air of your bedroom, leading to respiratory problems, headaches, and cognitive issues.

Conventional innerspring mattresses are an alternative to memory foam, but not necessarily a healthier one. For starters, they may still contain small amounts of toxic foam for added comfort.

And like their foam counterparts, conventional innerspring mattresses are typically heavily treated with flame-retardant chemicals that experts warn can leach out of products, accumulate in household dust, and be absorbed, ingested, and inhaled by humans.

Consumer Reports has issued a warning to consumers: Avoid these flame retardants.

How do you avoid sleeping on toxic chemicals?

Mattresses made from natural latex are a nontoxic alternative to chemical-foam mattresses.

Natural latex is sourced from the sap of rubber trees. It’s an all-natural, nontoxic mattress material that doesn’t offgas chemicals into the air of your bedroom. 

Mattresses made from natural latex are often made with other all-natural or organic materials, such as organic cotton and wool. These mattresses are typically made without nasty chemicals like harmful fire retardants or formaldehyde. 

Can You Customize This Mattress?

It’s hard to find one perfect mattress that will work for EVERY body. 

Your body is different from anyone else’s. 

You have your own sleeping preferences: side sleeper, back sleeper, stomach sleeper, or maybe your own thing — we’ll call it the flip-flopping octopus. 

Your body and sleeping preferences can even change over time. Pregnancy, weight loss, weight gain, injuries, and even aging can all lead to a difference in the way you sleep and what you need to stay comfortable in bed. 

Does your mattress change with you?

Most mattresses are made one way. They’re plush or firm, maybe with a pillow top, and that’s the level of comfort you get for the life of the mattress.

Some mattresses, however, can change with your body.

Sage Sleep mattresses are one example of a mattress that is easily customized. Unzip the mattress cover and you’ll find layers of natural latex in varying firmness levels. 

Want firmer support? Rearrange the layers, bringing the extra-firm to the top. Need more softness? Rearrange again and bring the soft layer to the top. 

You can even choose different levels of support for each side of the bed, allowing you and your sleeping partner to each get the comfort you desire. 

Mattresses with customizable comfort layers allow you to personalize your sleep experience, providing you with personalized support as your body and sleep preferences change. 

How Long Will This Mattress Last?

How often should you buy a new mattress?

Well, that depends on the mattress.

You may have heard that mattresses should be replaced every 7 to 10 years. That’s a recommendation that applies to conventional innerspring and memory-foam mattresses.

This recommendation is based on the fact that memory foam and conventional mattresses break down over time. If you’ve ever had a mattress start to form a permanent dip where your body lies, you know what that feels like.

That dip isn’t a result of your body weight. It’s caused by friction — as you toss and turn at night — and moisture (i.e., sweat). The more you toss and turn and sweat at night, the faster your mattress breaks down.

Natural latex mattresses have a much longer life cycle than memory foam or innerspring mattresses.

Natural latex mattresses can last for decades: 20, 30 years or longer.

Natural latex won’t break down from friction and moisture the way memory foam does.

If price and value are a big factor when you’re mattress shopping, be sure to take longevity into consideration. A memory-foam mattress that sounds like a good deal may cost you more in the long run.

Before you buy the next mattress on sale, be sure you’re asking the right questions. After all, you spend almost one third of your life sleeping on your mattress. You deserve one that’s nontoxic, comfortable, and built to last for years — and years — of sweet dreams and good nights.