Mattresses 101 (Buying Guide 2021)

Mattresses 101 (Buying Guide 2021)  explores options to consider when purchasing a mattress. Have you been tossing and turning all night or waking up with a sore back or neck in the morning?  Is your mattress so worn that you roll toward the center.  It could be the right time to purchase a new mattress. 

But before you purchase your mattress, you’ll want to consider some options. What type of mattress is the best for your sleeping position? Do you want a mattress on the firmer side, and do you find softer a more comfortable sleep? What is the recommended room size room for a particular size mattress? In reading the Best Mattress Buying Guide 2021, you’ll be exploring some of those options and, in the process, become a more informed consumer.

Mattress Types

With so many types of mattresses to choose from, it can make your head spin. Let’s take a look at some quick descriptions available. 

Adjustable Mattress

An adjustable mattress is one that you use on an adjustable bed frame, which allows for different mattress positions. Common positions are raising the upper body and/or the lower body. This is the perfect type of mattress if you like to watch tv, use your laptop computer, eat in bed, or recovering from surgery.

To use an adjustable mattress for different sleeping positions, you will need a particular base or frame to adjust the mattress for you. If you already have the adjustable base, you will want to be sure your new mattress is compatible with it to ensure the warranty isn’t affected.

Airbed Mattress 

You may have heard airbed mattresses called dial mattresses or perhaps an adjustable air mattress. Instead of coils or a foam core, it uses air as the support mechanism. By using an electric pump to inflate, you can adjust the firmness to your liking. To have the option of adjusting both sides to different levels, look for a dual pump option.

Airbed mattresses don’t have the best support and wouldn’t be one I would use for long-term use. Maybe if you have a guest over and don’t have an extra bed or camping, this could be a good solution.

Innerspring Mattress 

Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021) -  Innerspring

When thinking of mattresses and construction, you might think of the traditional innerspring mattress. This type of mattress contains spring coils.

What is different today than in days gone by is they also have layers made with other materials, such as latex or memory foam. The mixture of materials adds comfort and durability.

A coil mattress provides a lot of bounce, making it easier to get out of bed or changing positions. Also, they have a cooling effect.

The denser the coils usually come with a higher price.

An innerspring mattress’s lifespan is estimated to be ten years but will depend on the care and material quality.

Latex Mattress 

Latex mattresses carry a higher price point than their counterparts. Latex mattresses support the spine and body in their normal alignment and allow for air circulation. Thus, many people find they get a more comfortable sleep than with other types of mattresses.  Also, many users of latex mattresses notice a reduction in pain.  Will you have this benefit – it’s hard to tell; not everyone does.  

Latex is more durable than foam mattresses.  Because of this durability, the lifespan of a latex mattress can be from 10-20 years. 

Memory Foam Mattress 

Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021) -  Foam

Foam mattresses are usually made of polyurethane or latex to create foam layers. The foam will soften as you lie down and will conform to your body.

Due to the support and the foam’s ability to contour to your body, some people with back pain find them helpful, but they are not a cure, so still consult with your physician for medical advice. Also, be aware that some people find it challenging to change positions on a foam mattress, and you may feel warm as memory foam does attract heat. 

Once you get up, the mattress will spring back into its original shape. Foam mattresses retain heat, which is great for colder climates, but some people will find the heat uncomfortable.

The typical life span of a low-density foam mattress is anywhere between 4-6 years. The medium to high-density foam mattress can last 8-10 years. These numbers are averages and do depend on the care of the mattress.

Memory Foam Mattress with Gel

The memory foam mattress with gel works much like a typical memory foam mattress as it conforms to the body. However, unlike the regular memory foam mattress with gel-infused helps draw the heat away from the body.

Still a good choice for back pain and if you suffer from night sweats or just being uncomfortable with a regular foam mattress’s heat. Having coils, you also get a bounce to help with changing positions or getting out of bed.

The life span of a memory foam mattress with gel is estimated to be about 6-10 years. Care, use, and quality of materials used will attribute to the life span.

Hybrid Mattress 

The definition of hybrid in the context of mattresses is having a combination of two or more distinct elements. This means foam and a mixture of other materials such as latex or cotton and an innerspring coil system. The foam layer and the spring coils will allow pressure relief, provide support, and reduce motion transfer. 

Pillow-Top Mattress

A pillow top mattress is much like a typical mattress except for one feature. Pillow top mattresses have an additional layer of padding sewn to the top of the mattress. This extra padding is usually at least 2 inches deep but can be more.

Side and back sleepers do well with a pillow top mattress; however, stomach sleepers don’t get enough support with a pillowtop.

The estimated lifespan of a pillow-top mattress is 5-8 years.

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Features To Consider


Mattresses are made from different materials.  If you suffer from allergies, you certainly don’t want your mattress to contribute to them.  There are hypoallergenic mattresses and even organic if you like that as well.

Life Span

How long will the mattress last?  The lifespan of mattresses can vary greatly.  Numbers from 5 – 20 years and not unheard of.  Usually, the more durable a mattress, the longer the lifespan.  Also, care and use of the mattress affects longevity.  

Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021) -   Sleep Positions

Sleeping Position Considerations

You may not have even thought of this, but some mattresses are better for some sleep positions than others.

  • Back-sleepers need to have enough support to have the spine aligned in a neutral position but also enough give to have the shoulders, hips, and lower back in a comfortable position.
  • Side sleepers need a mattress to relieve pressure on hips and shoulders. Though a firm mattress will not be the most comfortable, the mattress shouldn’t be too soft that it strains the spine. Because of this, a medium-soft to medium firmness will probably be the most comfortable.
  • Stomach-sleepers need support for the midsection while keeping the spine aligned. Too-soft of a mattresses may cause back pain as the stomach sinks down, thus causing lower back strain. Stomach sleepers will probably do best with a medium-firm mattress.

Edge Support

Having edge support plays a crucial role in keeping your mattress from sagging. Edge support also makes it harder to roll out of bed, gives extra support while sitting on the side of the bed, and makes getting out of bed easier.


Like anything, the budget should come into play as well. Though a top-of-the-line mattress might be the luxury you long for, you don’t want o go into endless debt for it. Look at your budget and know how much you can spend and compare that to the mattress type you want. Look at the highest priorities first and then list below what would be nice but can live without.


Does the particular mattress you’re considering allow for a trial. A trial period can be a great added feature if you’re unsure if the mattress is the right one for you. How this usually works is you purchase a mattress, have it delivered, and the manufacturers allow you to sleep on it for a certain amount of days. If you’re not happy with the mattress for things like too firm, too soft, not comfortable, they will allow a refund. Because all companies have different return and refund policies, it’s essential to read and understand the trial conditions to know ahead of time what to expect.

Return Policy

It’s a good idea to find out the return policy.  You are making an investment in your sleep; it’s important to know if returns are available if you find the mattress uncomfortable to sleep on or if it doesn’t meet your expectations also if buying online, who pays for return shipping.


Does the mattress you’re looking at include any guarantee or warranty?  Warranties can range from 5 to a lifetime but usually only covers manufacturing defects such as broken coils or sagging.  It’s common for coverage to be prorated based on the age of the mattress. 

If you feel like you might be ready to purchase a mattress or want to look at some options, see my post 4 Best Mattresses For Seniors (2021 Comparison Guide).

Mattress Care

Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021) -   - Vacuum Care

To get the best lifespan from your mattress is to take care of it. You should rotate most mattresses every six months(foot becomes head and head becomes foot). Rotating the mattress will help sagging and lumps from developing.

If you have the type of mattress that can be flipped (the top of the mattress becomes the bottom/underneath and vice versa), you should do so every six months to a year. However, check with the manufacturer as many no longer recommended flipping.

Using a mattress protector will protect your mattress from stains, whether from spills or accidents, and also will lessen the amount of dust and debris making their way to your mattress.

Mattress Size/Room Size

You want to consider what size mattress you want. Typical sizes are Twin, Twin xl, Full, Queen, King, CA King.

Room Size

Don’t forget your new bed/mattress has to be a good fit for the room it’s going in.  To have a king-size bed in a 10 x10 bed might be a tight squeeze considering other furniture in the room. When considering what size will best fit the intended room, consider how much walking room you desire in the room. Below is a table with recommended mattress/bed size for room size.

Mattress MeasurementRecommended Room Size
Twin39″ x 75″7’ x 10’ or 10’ x 10’
Twin XL39″ x 80″7’ x 10’
Full54″ x 75″10’ x 12’
Queen60″ x 80″10’ x 10’ or 10’ x 14’ 
King76″ x 80″10’ x 12’ or 13’ x 13’
CA King72″ x 84″ 12’ x 12’ or 14’ x 12’
Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021) - Mattress Size


In reading Mattresses 101 (Buying guide 2021), I hope you have gained some knowledge about what to look for when purchasing a mattress.

If you have any additional tips or experience in buying a mattress, please comment below.

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