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Types of Mattresses: The Ultimate Guide


Types of Mattresses: The Ultimate Guide

Mattresses are one of those items in our lives that most people have, few people think about and everyone has an opinion on. So, whether you’re in the market for a new mattress or just curious about all the different types out there, this guide is for you. We’ll start with a brief history of the mattress, and then discuss the different sizes, comfort levels and types of mattresses. Finally, we’ll give you tips on choosing the perfect mattress for you.

A Brief History of Mattresses

The world’s oldest-known mattress dates back to 77,000 years ago and was found in modern-day South Africa. It was a clever piece of sleep engineering, composed of grasses, sedges and mosquito-repelling stems and leaves from a type of laurel tree. This aromatic plant is known to contain insecticides that kill mosquitoes, making it an ideal material for a mattress in an era long before mosquito nets.

Until more recently, mattresses typically resembled what we might today call cushions or pads. In fact, the word mattress itself is derived from an Arabic word meaning “something thrown down.” Europeans adopted the practice of sleeping on cushions on the floor only after the Crusades brought them back from the Middle East in the 11th century. Stuffed with various natural materials like feathers, straw and even hair (usually horse), these early mattresses were often quite hard and not terribly comfortable. 

Fillings changed in the 18th century to cotton, wool and coconut fiber — they kept the horse hair — but the primary form of the mattress remained the same: a soft, stuffed bag that rested on the floor or a wooden bed frame.

This all changed in the mid-19th century with the introduction of steel coil springs, which allowed for a much more comfortable mattress. But it wasn’t until 1871, when German inventor Heinrich Westphal patented the first innerspring mattress, that the modern mattress as we know it was born.

Now that you know a little bit about the history of mattresses, you’ll be able to appreciate the wide variety of options available today. With so many choices on the market, it can be tough to know which type of mattress is right for you. But don’t worry — we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll continue to introduce you to the different sizes, comfort levels and types of mattresses available so you can find the perfect one for a good night’s sleep.

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common mattress sizes

Mattresses by Size

The size of your mattress is an important consideration, especially if you share your bed with a partner. You’ll want to make sure you have enough room to stretch out and get comfortable, but not so much space that you feel lost in the bed. Here are the most common mattress sizes:

  • Twin: 39" W x 75" L – A great size for kids or smaller, single adults.
  • Twin XL: 39" W x 80" L – Five inches longer than a standard twin, this is a good option for taller kids or single adults.
  • Full: 54" W x 75" L – Also known as a “double,” this size is ideal for single adults or couples who don’t need a queen or can’t fit one into their space. They’re also a great option for guest bedrooms.
  • Full XL: 54" W x 80" L – Five inches longer than a standard full, this size is perfect for taller adults who need more leg room.
  • Queen: 60" W x 80" L – The most popular size, queen mattresses are a good option for couples or single adults who want more space than a full provides.
  • King: 76" W x 80" L – The largest standard size, king mattresses are great for couples who want plenty of room to spread out. They’re also an excellent way to fill a sizable primary bedroom.
  • California King: 72" W x 84" L – Four inches narrower and four inches longer than a standard king, this size is perfect for taller adults who need more leg room.

The size of your bedroom will also play a role in determining the mattress size you need. If you have a smaller room, a twin or full size mattress may be all you can comfortably fit. More oversized bedrooms can accommodate a queen, king or California king mattress.

Mattresses by Comfort Level

The next thing to consider is the comfort level of your mattress. Do you prefer a softer, more cushiony feel? Or do you prefer a firmer, more supportive mattress? Here’s a quick overview of the different comfort levels available.

Firm Mattresses

A firm mattress supports the lower back by keeping it straight instead of allowing parts of your body to sink into the mattress. That’s why spinal alignment is a key component of a firm mattress’s appeal and also why they’re sought after by stomach sleepers, back sleepers and anyone who experiences lower back pain. Firm mattresses are also less likely to cause “roll together” between you and your sleep partner, leading to a more restful night’s sleep. 

Plush Mattresses

A plush mattress is an excellent choice for stomach and side sleepers because it is softer than a firm mattress but not as soft as a pillow top mattress. The quilting sewn under the surface fabric of a plush mattress makes it super comfortable, while the plushness allows the mattress to contour to your body without sinking in too far. In doing so, a plush mattress helps to maintain proper spinal alignment and relieve pressure points.

pillow top mattresses

Pillow Top Mattresses

Pillow top mattresses are ideal for anyone who wants the softest possible sleeping surface, especially side sleepers. As the name suggests, pillow top mattresses have a thick layer of cushioning that resembles a pillow. This extra layer of padding provides additional support and cushioning, which can help to relieve pressure points and improve circulation. 

EuroTop mattresses have a similar design, but the thick cushioning layer is sewn underneath the mattress top for a flush appearance. As a result, both pillow top and EuroTop mattresses contour the body to distribute weight evenly and provide optimum support. 

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Mattresses by Type

Now that you’ve considered size and comfort level, it’s time to choose the type of mattress that’s right for you. This means looking at the construction and material of the mattress to see what will provide the best support and comfort.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses have been around for over a century and are still one of the most popular types of mattresses on the market. They’re made with individually wrapped or pocketed coils to minimize motion transfer between you and your sleep partner. Innerspring mattresses also have a layer of padding on top for additional comfort.

Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses are made with natural latex foam, known for its durability and resilience. Latex mattresses contour the body to provide support and pressure relief and are also effective at minimizing motion transfer. In addition, latex has incredible buoyancy and “pushes back,” possibly making them the best mattress for heavy people

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are made with a type of foam first invented by NASA to provide support and cushioning for astronauts during takeoff and re-entry. Memory foam made its way into our mattresses (and hearts) in the 1990s and has become a mainstay. Memory foam won’t resist weight. Instead, it will contour to your body as no other mattress material can. This provides terrific support and pressure relief for side sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers and everyone in between.

Bed in a Box Mattresses

The term “bed in a box” was first coined by online mattress startups that were able to compress and roll their mattresses into small boxes, making them easy to ship directly to your door. Bed in a box mattresses are typically made of memory foam and layers of comfort foam, delivering a balance of comfort and support.

Hybrid Mattresses

As the name suggests, hybrid mattresses are a mix of different types of mattresses. The most common type of hybrid mattress is an innerspring mattress with a layer of memory foam on top. This combination provides the support of an innerspring mattress with the contouring and pressure relief of memory foam. A hybrid mattress is also good for sleep partners who want different things out of their mattress, like support for a back sleeper and pressure relief for a side sleeper.

Adjustable Friendly Mattresses

If you have an adjustable bed base, you’ll need to choose a compatible adjustable friendly mattress. Adjustable beds allow you to raise and lower the head and foot of the bed and change the angle to find your perfect sleeping position. Many different mattresses can be used with an adjustable bed base, but some are better suited than others. 

For example, memory foam and latex mattresses contour the body, making them a good choice for adjustability. However, innerspring and hybrid mattresses also work well with adjustable beds. Just be sure to check with the manufacturer to ensure the mattress you’re interested in is compatible with your adjustable bed base.

hand touching mattress surface

How to Choose the Perfect Mattress: 8 Easy Steps

Now that you know all the different types of mattresses, it’s time to choose the perfect one. Here are eight easy steps to help you find your perfect mattress match:

1. Consider your sleep habits. 

Do you sleep on your side, back or stomach? Do you move around a lot in your sleep? Do you have any medical conditions that need to be taken into account? Your answers to these questions will help you narrow down the type of mattress that’s right for you. For example, if you sleep on your side, you’ll want a soft mattress that provides pressure relief but is firm enough to support your hips and shoulders.

2. Decide on your budget. 

Deciding how much you're willing to spend is essential when shopping for a new mattress. This will help you narrow down your options and prevent spending more than you can afford. Generally, the higher the price of a mattress, the better the quality and comfort of the materials. Regardless, some great mattresses are available at varying price ranges, so it's important to shop within your budget. And if you find that the best mattress for you is a little outside of your price range, it may be worth saving a little more or inquiring about financing options. After all, investing in your sleep is an investment in your health. So by considering your budget and needs, you can find a quality mattress that will help you get a good night's sleep without overstretching your finances. 

3. Decide on the size of your bed.

Mattresses come in all different sizes, from twin to California king, as we learned. Make sure you know your bed frame’s dimensions before shopping for a mattress. You don’t want to end up with a mattress that’s too big or too small for your bed. And if you’re starting fresh and planning to buy a bed frame and mattress at the same time, make sure you leave enough room in your bedroom for the bed frame you have in mind, and that it can be moved around corners, through doors and up any stairs in your residence.

4. Think about the firmness level you prefer. 

Do you like your mattress to be soft, medium or firm? Again, this is a matter of personal preference and partially dependent on sleep habits as well, so there’s no right or wrong answer. However, it’s essential to choose a mattress that feels comfortable to you.

5. Read online reviews. 

Once you’ve narrowed your options, it’s time to read online reviews. This is a great way to get an unbiased look at the different mattresses you’re considering. Pay attention to both the positive and negative reviews to get a well-rounded picture of each mattress. If the reviews you’re reading use a star system, usually the three- and four-star reviews are the most helpful.

man testing out mattress

6. Test it out in person. 

If possible, test out the mattress in person before you make your final decision. This will give you the opportunity to experience the feel and firmness of the mattress for yourself. Also, many stores offer return policies, so you can always take the mattress home and try it out for a few nights to see if it’s a good fit. Just be sure to get all the return policy details before you make your purchase.

7. Ask about the warranty. 

When you’re ready to make your purchase, don’t forget to ask about the warranty. Most mattresses come with a warranty of at least 10 years. This will protect your investment in case anything goes wrong with the mattress. But like many warranties on various products, it's good to be aware of which unfollowed stipulations could void the warranty. For example, some warranties require that you use a mattress protector, so be sure to ask about this to protect your investment and add one to your purchase.

8. Go with your gut. 

In the end, it’s important to go with your gut feeling. If you’ve done your research and are still unsure which mattress is right for you, trust your instincts. The mattress that feels the best to you is probably the one that’s going to give you the best night’s sleep.

Mattresses: The Final Word

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a mattress, but it’s essential to find one that’s right for you. With so many different types of mattresses on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best for you. But by considering your sleep habits, budget and preferences, you can narrow your options and find the perfect mattress for a good night’s sleep. 


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