How to look for and find the best mattress ... for YOU! ***READ FIRST***

2024-01-20T08:00:00Z Read a enhanced version of the Article here

There are three versions of the tutorial in this article. The first section includes the most detailed and comprehensive version of the 5 steps involved in making the best quality/value choice. For those who want a less detailed and comprehensive version you can scroll down past this section for a simpler and less comprehensive version or you can scroll to the last section for the simplest version of all.

Buying a new mattress is one of the most important purchases you can make and there are few things that will have as big an effect on your overall well being over the next decade or so. Unfortunately … for most people, a mattress is a completely blind purchase and the vast majority of consumers know little to nothing about what really makes a good quality mattress or what to believe about the many claims and confusing and conflicting and even misleading information they will be exposed to. Even worse is that most “typical” salespeople also know very little about the quality of the materials in the mattresses they sell and are trained to sell mattresses using marketing techniques and “stories” they have been taught instead of specific and accurate information that gives consumers a way to make more meaningful comparisons and choices.

If you start to ask for meaningful, factual information from most retailers about the quality of the layers in their mattresses (such as foam densities) … especially if it is a major brand (the ones that you will see advertised) … you will usually see eyes start to roll or glaze over as they realize that you probably know more about mattresses than they do. There are very few major purchases that are as blind as a mattress or where the people who sell them know so little about what really makes a good quality product. An hour or two spent on this site though reading some of the basics can give you more meaningful information than most of the salespeople in the mainstream industry that sell mattresses.

There is a great deal of information in this tutorial (and there is a shorter summary at the end) and the posts and information it links to and I would encourage you to read it like you would a good book rather than “study” it like you would a textbook. Too much technical information that you “study” in too much detail can quickly lead to “information overwhelm” and “paralysis by analysis” and too little information can lead to a blind purchase and buying a mattress that is either low quality for your budget range or poor value. Both can lead to poor choices.

I would start with reading the complete tutorial itself to get a general sense of the steps involved and then going back and reading the linked pages that it also includes. The goal is not to turn you into an “expert” but to provide you with enough basic information that you can recognize when you are dealing with an expert who already knows what you would otherwise need to learn and can provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision and has your long-term best interests at heart. There is little point in learning what they have taken years to learn and already know and are happy to share with you.

The forum search can also be a very useful tool to help you find the information you are looking for or if you come across information or claims that you are unsure about and you need a “fact check”. There is more about searching the forum in the help section. Of course if you can’t find the information you are looking for then questions on the forum are always welcome and I (or another Expert Member of our site) will be happy to answer any questions you have or link you to a post or article that has answered your questions previously.

There are many “needs” and many “preferences” in a mattress purchase and post #4 here outlines the ideal “end result” of a mattress purchase that is “perfect” for you.

A mattress is only as durable as its weakest link and knowing that every layer of your mattress uses good quality materials that are appropriate for your budget and weight/BMI range is one of the most important parts of buying a good quality/value mattress. You can’t “feel” quality or durability because even the lowest quality materials can be very comfortable in the highly managed environment of most mattress showrooms. The quality or durability of a mattress can only be predicted if you know the details about what is in the mattress and have a way to know what these details mean or someone to “translate” them for you. Many foam materials such as memory foam or polyfoam have higher quality/density and more durable versions and lower quality/density and much less durable versions even if the actual type of material and how it feels is the same (see the durability guidelines here)

The good news though is that there are some steps you can take to greatly shift the odds in your favor of finding a high quality mattress that fits your needs and preferences (what I call PPP or Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) and has much better value than what you will find if you only “follow the advertising” or shop for major brands at mass market retailers or chain stores. The “secret” is knowing where to look and what to look for.

We are each unique in our needs and preferences. As one of our members recently wrote in this thread … there really are no shortcuts … only ways that you can eliminate the frustration, confusion, and “information overwhelm” of mattress shopping and perhaps … with the right help … turn it into a pleasure.

So for those who want the best possible quality and value and want to find and work with “experts” that have the experience, knowledge, service, and integrity to give you good information and help you find your “perfect” mattress … these steps are for you. The time you spend reading them, the confidence they will give you, and the time and money they will end up saving you will help you more than anything else you could do when you are first starting out with your mattress research.

STEP 1: Gather some basic information about mattress materials and construction which can help you ask better questions and help you to identify the people who know what they are talking about. Scanning (not studying) the overviews in the mattresses section will help with this. For those who wish more detailed information, the additional pages in each section may also be of interest along with questions on the forum may be helpful but they may be more complex than you need and this is not really necessary if you connect with people who already know what you would otherwise need to learn. An hour spent reading the overviews will give you more knowledge about mattress materials and construction than many of the salespeople who sell mattresses at mainstream outlets and will give you the knowledge to ask more meaningful questions.

STEP 2: Know how to eliminate the worst choices so you can focus on the better ones. I would start with this overview of the industry which along with this article should help you bypass many of the retailers or major manufacturers that are really not worth your time and effort or the frustration and confusion they will cause trying to track down meaningful information that you need to make an informed decision … especially the chain stores and mass market or mainstream retailers. It’s also a good idea at this stage to decide on the mid range of your budget (see this article). This is the price you would prefer to stay under for a mattress purchase but would go slightly over if there was a particularly compelling reason to do so (based on the quality/value of a mattress or because it was so much better in some way than anything else available to you). Keep in mind that a mattress is not primarily a luxury item but something that is necessary to help you sleep as well and deeply as possible and “luxury” has little to do with how well you sleep or what your body feels. I would also decide at this stage about the general types of mattresses and materials that you are most interested in testing (see this article).

STEP 3: Do some initial research into the local manufacturers and better sleep shops within reasonable driving distance. This article (or the fact that they are a member of this site or comments on the forum) will help you identify them (if you buy from one of the Trusted Members of our site make sure you let them know you are a consumer member of the forum so you can receive your discount or bonus). For those who don’t know of any better options or possibilities in their area … a forum search on the nearest major city will often provide you with some “listings” of options that have been discussed in particular geographical areas, which we will occasionally update. We have decided to discontinue the provision of listings of potential retailers in various geographic regions (unless they are already approved site members), because of the difficulty in maintaining such lists in a retail landscape that is constantly changing, and most importantly the confusion it was creating with the consumer members who incorrectly assumed that these businesses had indeed gone through the strict qualification process and were approved as members of The Mattress Underground. Such an assumption is unfair to both the consumers seeking assistance, as well as the very businesses and manufacturers who meet the criteria to become Trusted Members of The Mattress Underground.

Who you buy from and their knowledge and ability to help you make the most suitable and high quality/value choices that best match your needs and preferences can also be one of the most important parts of a successful mattress purchase. I would always phone and talk with any retailer or manufacturer you plan to visit before you actually visit them so you have a reasonable idea of the level of knowledge and service you can expect when you go there. The information you will need about any mattress you are seriously considering is in this article (you can print this out and take it with you).

STEP 4: Connect with the “experts” at the better stores near you who are completely transparent about their mattresses and can help you identify the types of materials, components, and layering that best fits your needs and preferences and that will match all the most important parts your “personal value equation” (see post #46 here) and that have the best value within your budget range. When you can’t test a mattress in person then the most reliable source of guidance is always a more detailed phone conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced retailer or manufacturer that has your best interests at heart and who can help “talk you through” the specifics of their mattresses and the properties and “feel” of the materials they are using . When choosing something online, it’s important to deal with experienced, educated and helpful manufacturers who have the knowledge to guide you through the process and find something that they honestly think will fit your specific sleeping positions, somatotype, BMI and individual needs. Post #2 here and this topic have more about the pros and cons of a local vs an online purchase. Make sure you also check for the various policies or benefits of dealing with the merchant which may provide additional value with your purchase (including any return or exchange policies). Use their help and guidance to help you test for PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences).

Remember when you are testing that comfort (pressure relief and subjective “feel”) is mostly what you feel when you go to bed at night, support (spinal alignment) is mostly what you feel when you wake up in the morning (either with or without back pain and discomfort), and quality/durability (the type and quality of each layer and component in the mattress) is all about how your mattress will feel and perform in a year or two (or hopefully much longer) down the road. There is more about primary support, secondary support, and pressure relief and how they are related to each other in post #4 here.

As you can read in post #174 here … warranties only cover manufacturing defects and won’t tell you anything about the quality, durability, or useful life of your purchase and are mostly about marketing. Post #2 here goes into more depth about all the important parts of a “successful” mattress purchase.

Some suggestions for testing for pressure relief are in this article and for testing for alignment (which is a little more difficult) are in this article and in post #11 here. There are also some great suggestions in Post #1 here. I would also remember that testing for more subjective perceptions of “comfort” alone has less than a 50/50 chance of making the most suitable choice (see this study) so more careful and objective testing is one of the most important parts of a successful mattress purchase.

Keep in mind as well that other people’s experiences on a mattress may have little to no bearing on your own and a mattress that is suitable for one person may be completely unsuitable for someone else. This means that your own testing or experience is the most reliable way to find a suitable mattress regardless of how well it may work for someone else. Post #2 here about making comfort choices along with post #13 here about mattress reviews would also be well worth reading.

Again … I would always make sure that a mattress you are considering uses good quality materials and there are no lower quality materials or weak links relative to your weight/BMI range in any mattress you are seriously considering that could compromise the durability and useful life of the mattress (using the durability guidelines here) no matter how it may feel in a showroom and then you will be in a good position to choose your “finalist” at each manufacturer or retailer you are working with.

There is also more about the most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase in post #13 here that can help you make more meaningful comparisons between mattresses.

STEP 5: Narrow down the list of “finalists” at each retailer or manufacturer based on all the factors and tradeoffs that are most important to you based on the suitability of a mattress in terms of comfort, firmness, and PPP, the durability of the materials in the mattress, and all the other parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you. At this stage all your choices will likely be good ones (and better than anything that most consumers end up purchasing or that you would have found with a major brand or at a mass market outlet). While narrowing them down to one can be difficult … in the end you may need to just close your eyes, grit your teeth … and pull the trigger based on smaller differences that are important to you. At this point it’s much more likely that any of your choices would be suitable and the one you choose may just have some fine detail that tips the balance. There is more about making a final choice in post #2 here.

OPTIONAL: In those areas of the country where there are no better quality and/or value choices available … then I would look online and use the experience and expertise of our Expert Members of the site or of any of the the members listed in post #21 here who are all very experienced and knowledgeable and specialize in providing the type of help and guidance on the phone that can help you make good choices. There are a wide range of latex and memory foam and other options included in the choices there and I believe that all of them compete well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, service, and transparency.

Their detailed knowledge of their mattresses and how they fit with different body types and sleeping positions along with your feedback from local testing, a customer base of many people that they can use as reference points, and any exchange, return, or any options they have available to customize a mattress after a purchase can help lower the risk of an online purchase. These online retailers or manufacturers can also be a good “value reference” for local purchases to make sure that if you are paying a “premium” for a local purchase (in exchange for the kind of “in person” guidance, service, and value that comes with dealing with a local retailer that can help you make more “accurate” choices that you have tested in person) is not too high.

Post #2 here and this topic have more about the pros and cons of a local vs an online purchase.

In addition to the online members of the site listed in the previous membership link … post #12 here has some of the better online memory foam options for those who are looking for a memory foam mattress.

For those that have a more restricted budget then post #4 here and the posts it links to also include many of the better lower budget online options I’m aware of as well.

Posts #1 and #2 in this topic also includes more information about the new "breed’ of “simplified choice” mattresses (aka “one choice fits all” or “universal comfort” or “bed in a box” or “disruptor” or “millennial” mattresses) that are available online as well that are typically in a budget range of between $600 and $1000 (queen size).

There is also a list of online mattress sources for Canadians in post #21 here.

There is also more about the different ways of choosing a suitable mattress and how to identify and lower the risks that may be involved in each of them in post #2 here.

Hopefully this will help you bypass most of the misleading information, confusion, and frustration of mattress shopping, connect with people who put your long term interests above their own, and of course … you are always free to post on the forum if you have any questions along the way.

One step at a time (and not skipping any of the steps) is the most effective way to find “your perfect mattress” and has by far the highest chances of success :slight_smile:

2024-01-20T08:00:00Z Read a enhanced version of the Condensed Mattress Tutorial here

For those who want a SIMPLER VERSION of the 5 steps in this tutorial …

Step 1: Gather some basic working knowledge about mattresses and materials by spending an hour or two doing some preliminary reading of this tutorial and the information it links to. Read it like you would a good book and don’t “study” it like you would a textbook for a course.

Step 2: Decide on your budget range and the materials and types of mattresses you are most interested in testing, learn the most important things to look for and avoid (see the guidelines here).

Step 3: Use your new found basic knowledge to identify the most knowledgeable and experienced retailers or manufacturers that are within reasonable driving distance and who can help “educate” you and “inform you” about their mattresses and will provide you with the information you need about what is inside their mattresses rather than those that are only interested in “selling you” whatever they can convince you to buy. The “best” manufacturers and retailers will be completely transparent about the materials and components inside their mattresses and will already know what you would otherwise need to learn. Who you choose to deal with can be one of the most important parts of a successful purchase. You are always free to ask on the forum about any of the better options or “possibilities” in your area.

Step 4: Test the mattresses at the stores you decide to visit using the testing guidelines in this tutorial (the links to the testing guidelines are in step 4 above) to decide on the different types of mattresses and materials that you prefer and narrow the choice down to 1 at each manufacturer or retailer based on which one is the best match for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences). Only you can feel what you feel on a mattress and people with different body types, sleeping positions, or preferences can make very different choices from each other (see post #2 here). Be very cautious about using reviews about how a mattress feels or other people’s experience on a mattress as a reliable source of guidance because each person is unique (see post #13 here). What is “way to firm” for one person can be “way to soft” for the next. The most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase are in post #13 here which can help you make more meaningful comparisons between mattresses.

Step 5: At this point you should be down to your finalists and be making a final choice between mattresses that are all a good match for you in terms of PPP, have no weak links in their materials or design, and are all choices between “good and good” that would likely work well for you.

Optional Step: If you are comfortable with an online purchase … talk with any of the online retailers or manufacturers that sell the types of mattresses your testing or local research indicates you are most interested in and include them in your finalists or use them as a “value reference point” for a local purchase. The optional online step includes links to several lists of the better online options I’m aware of. There is also more about the different ways to choose a mattress (either locally or online) in post #2 here that can help you identify and minimize the risks involved with each of them.

2024-01-20T08:00:00Z Read a enhanced version of the Mattress Tutorial Summarized here


For those who want the SIMPLEST VERSION OF ALL …

Choosing the “best possible” mattress for any particular person really comes down to FIRST finding a few knowledgeable and transparent retailers and/or manufacturers that sell the types of mattresses (see this article) that you are most interested in (either locally or online) and that can provide you with all the information you need to know to make an informed choice and make meaningful comparisons between mattresses and then …

1. Careful testing (hopefully using the testing guidelines in this tutorial) to make sure that a mattress is a good match for you in terms of “comfort”, firmness, and PPP … and/or that you are comfortable with the options you have available to return, exchange, or “fine tune” the mattress and any costs involved if you can’t test a mattress in person or aren’t confident that your mattress is a suitable choice.

2. Checking to make sure that there are no lower quality materials or weak links in a mattress you are considering relative to your weight/BMI range that could compromise the durability and useful life of the mattress (see the durability guidelines here)

3. Comparing your finalists for “value” based on #1 and #2 and all the other parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you.


1 Like


I am new to this forum but have been reading a bit and you seem to be a good place to start. We have been sleeping on a McCroskey box spring and mattress combination for almost 15 years and have been very happy up until the last few. Now in our early sixties we are looking for something “softer” I think; we have been sleeping on their firmest bed combination. Both of us sleep primarily on our side (wife sometimes on her stomach) and have lower back issues. Our current problem is to maintain good support but get something with less of a pressure point problem. I also get sciatica when I sleep on my left side and that is new.

In our search we came across Berkeley Ergonomics at European Sleepworks and in principle like the system they have. So i have a series of questions. Any facts or opinions would be welcome.

One choice is to buy a latex topper from BE just to see if that will do the trick. That would also be the cheapest solution.

Another option, again sticking with the McCroskey line, is to buy a new softer mattress in their line (keep our current box spring) and use the topper (because they don’t have mattresses with comfort toppers) to provide the pressure point relief. This is appealing because I think they have a quality product and good service but there is not much customization available here, either side to side or just different levels of softness, etc.

Finally, we could move to the whole BE system and start all over.

Price is not a big factor because the BE and the McCroskey would be similar in cost (unless the topper works by itself - I am thinking unlikely). I am of the opinion that it is difficult to tell for sure until you sleep on it for several weeks at least, so I sort of favor the BE stuff because the store will customize more and in the event it just does not work we can return altogether - not cheap but not a complete loss. McCroskey will not take the mattress back.

So here are some questions:

We live in Menlo Park - I can’t seem to find any place that lists where I can buy BE (including their website) and European SW is a long way away. Any ideas on the best place to buy BE? or the best sales expert to help us?

Does it make sense to try the topper first? or is the mattress old or our situation changed so much that it is unlikely to work.

Is is really practical to figure out in advance which system is best for us or do we need to assume we will have to try several or find something that is adjustable (like the BE system).

thanks much for anything you can offer.


Hi gianos,

McRoskey makes some very high quality mattresses and have a loyal following but they are nowhere near the same price or value range as BE or other choices you may have in the area. Their mattresses require a box spring as part of the sleeping system (with the possible exception of the McRoskey by design which can be used on a platform bed) and in anything close to an apples to apples comparison they are significantly more than BE and many other options similar options. In queen size … the basic set which uses synthetic fibers is $3400, the Classic is $4460 and the McRoskey by design (which may be the closest comparison to a BE) is $4000 mattress only. As you mentioned … they also don’t have the same ability to customize or alter after a purchase.

Natural fibers including wool tend to compress and become firmer over time so if the only problem is that your current mattress is too firm and needs some extra pressure relief and the surface is even and supportive then a topper could be a good choice yes. If it has impressions that are affecting alignment then a topper will still follow the dips.

This is a possibility but it would be the least attractive one to me in terms of flexibility and value. You would need a mattress, possibly a new box spring (depending on the condition of your current box spring and if it has any soft spots or dips), and a topper as well … and all of this together would easily be much more than a BE or other options you have.

This would certainly be better value and have more flexibility than the previous option IMO.

Again … unless I am somehow misreading the McRoskey website … the difference in price in anything close to an apples to apples comparison (based on the components you would need) is significant.

BE is only available in a very limited number of stores across the country. The closest to you that I’m aware of is in Soquel about 35 miles away.

It would make sense if your current mattress was still firm and relatively even and the only issue was pressure relief (not alignment and lower back issues that are not “in you” can be caused or aggrabated by a mattress that doesnpt provide good alignment in all your sleeping positions). At 15 years old though … it may be worthwhile to consider a new mattress anyway that not only provides better pressure relief but may work better for your changing needs and provide better alignment in all your sleeping positions.

Assuming the mattress is suitable for a topper though … it could put off the decision for a few more years and give you the pressure relief you need even though if there are any alignment issues caused or aggravated by the mattress it isn’t likely to solve these.

No. Personal testing … especially with the help of someone who has the knowledge and experience to help you know what would work best for your needs and preferences … will always be more accurate than a theory (such as those we are discussing). there are too many variables in both people and sleeping systems for theory to be anything more than just a starting point for testing.

You also have some other good options in the area besides just McRoskey and BE and they are listed in the San Jose thread in post #2 here (with a few others but mostly overlap in the San Francisco thread in post #2 here.

If I was in your shoes … I would either go with a latex topper that was soft enough to provide the pressure relief you need (assuming no alignment issues and that your mattress is suitable and would evenly support a topper and you were looking to delay the mattress replacement for a while) or start over again with either BE or one of the higher quality and value options available within reasonable driving distance. A trip to Santa Cruz to test both the BE and Bay Bed would be well worthwhile IMO and there are other options that are quite close to you that I would also include in your research.


What options would I have for local manufacturers in the KC,MO area? We are currently trying beds from Mattress Firm, mainly b/c of their exchange policy (now on our 2nd mattress, soon to exchange for 3rd). So far this has been frustrating and I just happened to stumble on this website while trying to get product reviews for the next bed we are interested in.

So far, both myself (165 lbs) and my wife (115 lbs) are back/side sleepers who have been experiencing lateral lumbar and side muscle pain on waking for the past few years and have finally attributed it to our 5 yr old innerspring mattress with euro pillowtop from Sealy. We have assumed it to be too soft, so we started with more firm mattresses. First a Tempurpedic Contour Signature, and then an iComfort Insight, but both are way too firm leaving us with increased lumbar pain and poor sleep. Next we were planning on either a Tempurpedic Rhapsody or iComfort Prodigy and would be interested on your thoughts or alternatives to these, especially since the Temp’s price is substantial.

We would be fine with looking at other manufacturers that you might recommend, but we are very new to this process. Also, given our stats and problems, is there a different type of mattress you would recommend over what we are looking at?

Hi BrentinKC,

You are probably lucky to get 5 years for a euro pillowtop from any major brand before the lower quality foams in the pillowtop softened to a point where you lost good support and alignment. Your lighter weights probably helped it to last a little longer.

Since you’re posting in this thread I’m hoping that you’ve read the various links in the first post about avoiding chain stores and major brands so I wouldn’t recommend either the Tempurpedic (generally better quality but poor value compared to other similar memory foam mattresses) or the iComfort line (lower quality and also poor value). You can see my thoughts about the Tempurpedic line in post #10 here and the iComfort line in post #11 here.

Many smaller or local independent manufacturers sold factory direct or through better sleep shops would make high quality memory foam mattresses that were similar quality but significantly better value. Personal testing along with buying from a retailer that disclosed the type and quality of the layers in their mattress would lead to a much better choice.

Some of the better options and possibilities I’m aware of in the Kansas City area are in post #2 here.

Most of the rest of your questions (such as alternative types of mattresses, ideas about the type of layering that would be suitable for your weight and sleeping positions, and what to look for and what to avoid) would be answered in the links included in the first post of this thread which is probably the best place to start before you begin to look for or start testing mattresses.


Do you have a link to the Pure Latex Bliss bed specifications. I can’t tell from their website. That looks like a possible good option for us.

Hi BrentinKC,

Pure latex Bliss has three different lines. the “natural line” (which is made from blended Talalay latex), The “all natural line” (which is made from 100% natural Talalay latex), and the Hybrid 3.0 line (which has various combinations of their new slow and fast response Talalay latex on top and uses a polyfoam base layer).

The old specs of the most common lineup (the “natural” lineup) are in post #1 here. These are being replaced by a new lineup which uses their new “active fusion” fast response Talalay in the top layer. The note at the bottom of the post describes the changes in the layering between the old and new models. Some stores may currently have the old lineup and some may have the new.

Since ILD’s are a measure of firmness rather than quality, any changes in ILD with the new models probably won’t be important unless you have a frame of reference and are very familiar with how different ILD’s feel in different combinations and have some specific numbers in mind. Testing for pressure relief and alignment with personal testing in the store is much more accurate than going by “comfort specs” anyway (and they are only really necessary if you are using a local mattress as a guideline for an online order). In terms of quality/durability … they are all Talalay latex which is a very high quality and durable material.

The PLB at “regular” prices are generally better value than most mainstream mattresses but not in the same value range as many smaller manufacturers. If a local retailer is looking to clear out the old models in preparation for carrying the new ones then they could be good value as well.


thanks Phoenix
I get all that you suggest. I will head to Santa Cruz in the near future and check out SC41 and Baybed. I have to say i am still skeptical that we will get it right on the first try but we will give it a try. If you have a name of someone down there we should talk to in order to get it right that would also be helpful.
in the meantime, thanks for all your help.

Hi gianos,

At Baybeds the owners name is Dan and he is great to work with.

I don’t know any of the people at SC41.



one more quick question

i think we can easily assess comfort in the store (hard, soft, middle, etc). is there an independent/logical way to assess alignment separately. also since my wife and i do not weigh the same, how to people account for that (i assume weight affects alignment if you assume the same level of support in both cases).


Hi gianos,

Yes … but it is a little more difficult and because most people focus more on comfort (pressure relief) than support (spinal alignment) it is easily forgotten or not tested. Many people will also not have a clear sense of what they are testing for and will either go by more subjective “overall” perceptions or will not spend long enough on a mattress to really get a clear sense of how it may feel and perform in “real life”.

First of all … it’s important when you are testing for pressure relief or alignment to make sure you lie on a mattress for long enough that your mind and muscles are fully relaxed. A mattress can feel very different when you are fully relaxed than it does when you are tense. For most people this means spending at least 15 minutes on a mattress that you are seriously considering and focus on the relaxed feeling that you have when you are going to sleep.

The second key is to focus specifically on testing for alignment and its symptoms rather than comfort in all your sleeping positions. There are several things here that can help.

  • Try to sense whether your muscles are able to completely “let go” and allow the mattress to support your natural alignment rather than using muscle tension to keep you in alignment. This means that you can sense your body and muscles fully relaxing without a tendency for any area to be tense.

  • Next is to pay particular attention to any tension or discomfort (or even pain) in the areas where poor alignment tends to produce symptoms for you. This can be different for different people but is usually in the lower back or lumbar curve, and the upper back and neck where the spine also curves. Test in all your sleeping positions making sure to move slowly when you change position and stay relaxed. Bear in mind that minor discomfort when you are testing can be amplified when you are sleeping for longer periods of time.

  • Next is to make sure that all the inner curves of the spine are filled in so that there are no “gaps” in between your body and the mattress. It should be fairly difficult to slide you hand under the lower back or waist (if the mattress is too firm then this area will not be filled in well enough and sliding a hand under it will not have enough resistance and will be too easy).

  • Finally you can use the help of someone who can see you on the mattress to make sure there are no obvious issues of alignment such as those that are in this diagram. If you stand up with “good posture” then your “helper” will be able to get a sense of your natural curves from the side and back and this can help them see if your posture is close to what it is when you are standing up and whether any part of your body is sinking in a little too far (usually the hips/ pelvis) or not enough (usually the upper body and shoulders). They can also make sure that your head and neck is also in good alignment when you are testing because this can affect how a mattress feels in the upper body area.

On your side … your spine should be relatively straight (like it is when you look at someone from behind) and your body profile along the side of your body should be similar to your standing position (shoulders and hips in roughly the same relative position). On your back … the spine and body profile should be similar to the side view when you are standing with no obvious areas where parts of you are sagging or sinking in too far or not enough (within reason).

If you test more objectively and specifically for alignment using these suggestions and the more subtle cues from your body in conjunction with some help then you should be much closer to your ideal than if you only test for more subjective ideas of “comfort”.

I should also mention that there are certain layering and material combinations that can be suitable for two people with different body types and sleeping positions even though they may be very different. In other cases … a side by side split layering can also be helpful to accommodate different body types and sleeping positions. In other words, I wouldn’t make assumptions about what may be best ahead of time and use the “evidence” of your testing to determine what is best for each and both of you more than “theory” which can sometimes be misleading or counter intuitive.

Hope this helps


thanks that is really helpful

I was roaming around the internet and I stumbled onto your site, very helpful so far. I recently joined the civilian world after serving 10 years in the US Army which included tours in South Korea, Germany and Iraq. While in Iraq I sustained injuries that have permanantly injured my lower back. It seems to be the consensus that for lower back problems I should be shopping for a firm mattress. I came accross the Saatva website and was impressed but after getting some imput from this forum, I am worried that they might not be the best fit for me. Can you advise some particular brands that I should be looking at? Also, money is not an object (to a certain degree) when getting a good nights sleep. Thank you for your time.

Hi bshantzer,

Welcome home first of all :slight_smile:

A mattress is only as good as the combination of materials that are in it and “brand shopping” is one of the worst ways to find a good quality and value mattress

The first post in this thread has a step by step process along with some links to information that will greatly improve your odds find finding the best quality and value mattress and just as importantly fits what you both need and prefer and can provide the best possible support for your injured back. Having good support layers doesn’t mean that you can’t also have good pressure relieving layers in a mattress because all mattresses are a combination of firmer support (in the deeper support layers) and good pressure relief (primarily from the upper comfort layers) and the balance between these that best fits your body type, sleeping positions, circumstances, and preferences is the “best” mattress for you.

Once you know what to eliminate, have some basic information about mattress materials and construction (and know the types of questions to ask), and have identified the better local manufacturers or retailers in your area … then you can start testing mattresses and connect and work with people that have the experience and knowledge to help you make good choices without breaking the bank.

If you let me know the city or zip where you live I’d be happy to let you know of any of the better possibilities in your area that I’m aware of.

Just in case you haven’t seen it (or for others that are reading this post) … my thoughts about Saatva are in this thread.


Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, I live in Ewing, NJ 08628.

Hi bschantzer,

The better options or possibilities I’m aware of in your general area (and towards Philadelphia) are listed in post #4 here.

Post #7 here includes some further options in the general NYC area (some of which are duplicates).


Hi Phoenix,

First of all, thank you for this great site! It has a lot (and I mean A LOT) of useful information. Thanks!

Now, my question. Can you recommend any good store outlet/manufacturer in or around Montreal, Canada. I’m doing my initial research, but I would like to talk to professionals at some point.
I see only 3 Canadian companies in the membership list, and all 3 of them are on the other side of the country :frowning:

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Hi tanyaden,

You are fortunate because there are many factory direct manufacturers within about 100 K of Montreal. While none of them are members of the site … there is some very good quality/value in the area (more than almost any city in North America). They are listed in post #276 here.

You may also find this thread helpful (with some feedback from one of our forum members).

Hope this helps.


Thanks a lot Phoenix!

I just started my research, but it looks like it won’t be long and painful process - thanks to your website.

I’m happy to know that here in Montreal we have some choice. Usually I order whatever I need from the States, but it would be hard to do with mattress.

Thanks again,


Phoenix, I just found this site and loved all the great information it has! My wife and I were going to buy a Tempurpedic or a Serta icomfort today. But it seems that we may get better “value” from a matress outlet near us. Do you know of any good outlet stores near zip 48195 (Southgate, MI). It is near Detroit, MI.

Thank you for all the great info I have read thus far.