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How to Buy a Mattress

Shop every 8 to 10 years

You may not notice the gradual change, but after a decade, most mattresses are worn thin in spots and can become lumpy, says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine. Rotating and flipping your mattress according to the manufacturer’s instructions will help your mattress have as long a life as possible.

Research different types

Comfort is highly subjective, so get to know different types of soft, firm, foam, and coil mattresses, to really understand what you want. You don’t need to spend a fortune — all but the cheapest models are fine for most people, found a 2007 Consumer Reports investigation — but keep in mind that lower-priced innerspring mattresses tend to be less durable, and you might feel the springs through thinner padding.

Consider your partner too

If you and your sleeping partner have different tastes, look for mattresses with adjustable firmness on each side of the bed. Size matters too. “If you have a small bed, you can’t get away from one another,” says William C. Dement, MD, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and author of The Promise of Sleep. “If they’re restless, kicking you all night, or a loud snorer, that’s awful.”

Give it a 15-minute test

Consumer Reports also found that consumers who spent 15 to 20 minutes testing each mattress at the store were likely to be happy with their purchase. Buyers should kick off their shoes and lie down for five minutes on each side and five minutes on their backs — plus five minutes on their stomach if they sleep that way, the study advises.

Check the return policy

You won’t really know if you’ve met your mattress match until you’ve spent a week or two in bed — and have seen how you feel in the morning. Purchase your mattress from a store with a return policy in case problems arise when you give it the overnight test.

Got allergies?

Once you’ve got your mattress home, it’s important to take care of it — especially if you have indoor allergies. In spite of the fuss over feather pillows, dust and dust mites are far bigger allergy offenders. If you’re a sufferer, the best trick: Seal your pillow, mattress, and box spring in allergen-protective covers. For severe allergies or asthma, experts suggest washing bed linens weekly in 130° water. Some new products are sporting materials like copper, silver, and bamboo to fight bacteria and mold, but frequent washing may be just as effective.