Buying Guide: Mattress Reviews (PHOTOS)

The mattress is probably among the most important and personal home items you own. We all know we're supposed to get seven hours of sleep (at least) each day--and a bad mattress will definitely prevent that from happening.

What it comes down to with a mattress is your own personal comfort and how it can support your body specifically. While the comfort level of a mattress varies from person to person and the construction of mattresses can be broken down to a science, one thing is certain when you're looking to purchase one: It's a big investment and you better make sure it works for you.

Thus, we took note of some of the general things to keep in mind if you're in the market for a mattress, whether it's a memory foam or a regular spring mattress.

Know the types. For the most part there are three main mattress types: inner spring, latex and memory foam. There are, of course, also air mattresses and ones made up of latex foam, but mattresses at most stores generally stick to the above three. Our pick: Latex (Find out why below)

Ask about inner springs. Without going too much into the intricacies of construction, inner spring coil mattresses are the most common and cost-effective, and they tend to be firm. Ask about the type of support wire coils in a spring mattress. There are four types: open (hourglass shape), offset (square top), pocket (individually fabric wrapped cylinders) or continuous (S-shaped). Out of the the four, open coil support wears out most easily and continuous coils provide the best evenly distributed support. Our Pick: Continuous coils

Going latex. Made from all-natural latex rubber, this mattress option is hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant. Not too firm and not too plush, latex is a good choice for people who might be suffering from back pains, and it also retains heat well. Many go for 9"-12" thick latex mattresses, which has more layers of latex rubber inside, and don't go below 6", but this is highly dependent on your specific comfort level. We've found the 7"-10" range to be a good fit for us.

The memory-foam. The most well known body-molding, memory-foam mattress is by Tempurpedic. What's important to know about memory-foam is that it heats up much more than other mattresses as it isn't as breathable as latex or spring mattresses. However, its firmness has been said to provide much better cushioning than innerspring mattresses, but memory-foam usually comes with a much high price tag.

Be firm with firmness. Contrary to popular opinion, a firm mattress is not always best. An extremely firm mattress can actually provide uneven support and end up putting stress on body parts like the hips and shoulders. Likewise for a mattress that is too soft, making you sink and thus causing body aches. However, one tried and true tip is to go with a medium-firm (or cushion-firm) mattress, like a latex foam one, if you suffer from lower back pains -- it gives better support to the spine's curve. Our pick: Medium-firmness

Don't buy online. This goes without saying, but you'd be surprised at how many people succumb to the convenience of purchasing a mattress over the internet these days. You should check out mattresses in person and definitely lie down on one to test it out in the store to make sure it's comfortable for you. Not to mention, shipping costs can be high, which would make an already expensive purchase even more costly.

Price points. There are mattresses that go for under $1,000 but most people tend to invest that amount into one. Some mattresses can cost thousands of dollars (even tens of thousands of dollars), but in general, we find that one that costs anywhere from $500-$1200 with the right support is satisfactory and easy to find at chains like Sleepy's and department stores such as Macy's.

If you're shopping around for a mattress now or thinking about getting one in the near future, here are a few options to get you started, and don't forget to check out the shopping video also. And let us know in comments below what other factors are important to you in a mattress.

Front page Flickr photo by Flashy Soup Can