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Buying A Mattress - And The Survey Says:

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October's Consumer Reports features a review on something most people find frustrating, and almost everyone asks me about: buying a mattress.I've written about this chore numerous times, and offered lots of tips
to making it as painless and inexpensive as possible (though my jaw still drops at the fact some retailers can sell a mattress for
tens of thousands of dollars; as you're about to find out, price doesn't always matter).

Unfortunately, many people put off replacing
their old, dirty, dust-mite-laden mattress for as long as they can because, well, the thought of shopping for a mattress just doesn't sound like fun. There are other ways we'd rather spend a weekend. And though
our backs would disagree, mattresses often don't break beyond use.

Which is why I love to read research and reports like the one Consumer Reports just put together based on more than 17,000 online subscribers who bought a mattress in the past few years and dished about their experience. Here are the highlights:

  • Which brands won out? Tempur-Pedic, Original Mattress Factory brand, and Select Comfort (then Denver Mattress, Simmons, Kingsdown, Serta, and Sealy).

  • Which brands got a so-so response from owners? Spring Air and Stearns & Foster, coming in at 9 and 10 respectively on the list.

  • Does price matter? Not really: 78% of those who spent more than $4,000 said they were highly satisfied with their purchase. But 66% of those who spent less than $1,000 were also highly satisfied. Go figure.

  • Which brands are best for problem sleepers? Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort.

  • Are test-runs necessary? It appears so, as 72% of those who invested at least 10 minutes (for instance, lying down on each side, back, and stomach) were highly satisfied with their mattress purchase compared with 62% who didn't.

  • Which retailers got high fives? The Original Mattress Factory was noted as the top-ranked seller for both service and selection. Costco was also highly rated, but it got a few dings (with its competitor Sam's Club) for less-than-perfect service and selection.

  • Would they buy the same brand again? Maybe. Less than 50% said they would definitely buy the same brand again. And that number was still less than 60% when reported by buyers of the highest scoring brands.
  • How's that for an idea of what to look for during your next mattress-buying adventure? The one caveat that even Consumer Reports can't remedy, though, is price. You'll always find a sale somewhere on mattresses, and trying to make sense of the "suggested retail price" among different manufacturers can make your head spin.

    So shop with your wallet and your back in mind. Oh, and one more myth to bust that Consumer Reports highlights: The best bed is the one that's most comfortable to you.

    Older backs don't necessary need firmer beds. There have been no
    well-controlled studies to indicate the best firmness overall.
    A few of my own tips to add to the mix:

    • Take your own pillow with you. Use it when you test drive a mattress.

  • Remember to lay on each of the mattresses you try for at least 10 minutes on you back, your side and even your stomach, if you are a stomach sleeper.

  • While you've got that pillow with you, check it out as well. Might be time for an upgrade there, too.
  • If you fall into heaven when you test out a new mattress that's just shy of $1,000, grab it. On the other hand, if your back seems to only like expensive tastes, well then. Consider it a worthy investment.

    Sweet Dreams,

    Michael J. Breus, PhD

    The Sleep Doctor™

    This article on buying a mattress is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.