7 mistakes people make when buying a mattress – and how to avoid them

A couple use a yellow tape measure to measure a mattress to ensure it's the right size for them
(Image credit: Getty)

Good sleep is vital to your overall health and wellbeing, and sleeping on the best mattress for your body is a sure-fire way to get the restful slumber you deserve. But not everyone gets it right – in fact, here we round-up seven common mistakes people make when buying a new mattress, and how you can avoid them.

We’re sharing these for anyone shopping the Presidents' Day mattress sales so that you can more easily make the right choice for you. So whether you’re after a comfy and cradling memory foam mattress or an innovative mattress in a box, read on now to learn the common pitfalls of mattress shopping and what to do instead.

1. Going straight for the cheapest mattress

We love a great deal, but when it comes to mattresses, cheap doesn’t always equal better. Very cheap mattresses tend to be made of a single piece of foam, which offers very little support and is unlikely to give you a proper night’s sleep. These beds aren’t built to last either, making them a false economy as they’ll need replacing far more often.

What to do instead
There are plenty of top-rated sleep brands making affordable mattresses, and these don’t cost that much more – a few hundred dollars/pounds will easily get you a more supportive and comfortable new bed. 

In addition, there are plenty of mattress sales throughout the year – and not just Black Friday – so you can usually find discounts on a range of popular beds. Here are some of the most impressive offers right now… 

Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: save up to 45% Nectar (opens in new tab)

Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: save up to 45% Nectar (opens in new tab)
From $499 / £312.95
- If you want one of the comfiest mattresses for all sleeping positions, the Nectar should be high on your list. As we say in our Nectar Memory Foam Mattress review, its fantastic value for money, with US shoppers getting $100 off plus up to $399 of free gifts when buying this one. In the UK, you can save 45% (opens in new tab).

Emma Original mattress: save up to 45% at Emma (opens in new tab)

Emma Original mattress: save up to 45% at Emma (opens in new tab)
From $389 / £275
- The Emma is one of our of top mattress picks because it suits all sleepers and budgets, and is ridiculously good value for money. The Nectar is more breathable, so better for hot sleepers, but if you want a comfy bed for way less, look here.

Saatva Classic mattress: save $250 at Saatva (opens in new tab)

Saatva Classic mattress: save $250 at Saatva (opens in new tab)
From $887 -
Hotel luxury at home begins with the Saatva Classic, an award-winning innerspring hybrid that comes in a range of heights and firmness levels. That makes it the ideal choice for all bodies and sleep styles, and with our exclusive $250 discount you can get a queen size for $1,345 (was $1,595). As we explain our Saatva Classic mattress review, this is a superb investment for your sleep.

2. Buying without a mattress trial

Buying a mattress that doesn’t come on a trial period is a big no-no and, in today’s bed market it’s unnecessary too. Why are trial periods important? Because it’s impossible to know whether a mattress will suit your body until you’ve slept on it for at least three weeks (that's how long it takes your body to get used to a new bed). 

What to do instead
Most sleep brands now offer a risk-free trial period (these range from 100 to 365 nights) where you can test out your new mattress at home. So if you change your mind during the trial, you can return it for a refund. 

You’ll need to keep it in pristine condition though, so we recommend using one of the best mattress protectors for this.

3. Ignoring advice about sleeping positions

We all move about in bed to some degree, but most of us usually have one or two sleeping positions that we feel comfiest in. The most common sleeping positions are stomach, back and side, with combination sleepers switching between all three. 

A common mattress shopping mistake is to buy a bed that isn’t suited to your dominant sleep position.

What to do instead
Back sleepers usually snooze better on a medium firm mattress to keep their spine in alignment, and hybrid models are ideal here. Stomach sleepers should choose an innerspring or hybrid with tall coils that offer firm support to keep the shoulders and hips aligned. 

A man in a blue t-shirt sleeps on a white pillow

(Image credit: Getty)

Side sleepers put a lot of pressure on their joints, so a softer memory foam mattress will provide snug comfort and much-needed pressure relief. One of the best mattress toppers for contouring and pressure relief will help here too.

Combination sleepers are a little more challenging, needing a mattress that’s soft enough to provide pressure relief to the shoulders, but firm enough to support the hips. A medium firm latex or hybrid should fit the bill.

4. Forgetting about firmness levels

Whilst firmness is subjective, there are some general rules that should be followed when it comes to your body weight and choosing a mattress. without sinking into them too far. 

Ignore these and you may end up with a bed that’s too soft to support your body properly, or so firm that you wake up in pain each morning (and unable to sleep through the night).

What to do instead
If you weigh under 150lbs, you could try a softer mattress or a medium to medium-firm model as long as it has a thick comfort layer and pillow top. For sleepers who weigh between 150-200lbs, medium firm beds should offer great support for your entire body. 

If you weigh over 200lbs, look for a firmer mattress with coils and springs combined with thick layers of foam and a decent pillow top. This will keep you supported.

5. Not knowing the main mattress types

Another common mistake is not having a basic overview of the different types of mattress before you start shopping. There are four main types that you’re likely to come across, but if you don’t know how each might suit you, then you may not pick the right one for your sleep.

What to do instead
Memory foam beds offer a comforting, cradling effect, all-over pressure relief and good motion isolation. They are often cheaper than hybrid models and therefore suit all budgets and types of sleeper, including couples.

A young family of four lie on a king size mattress together

(Image credit: Getty)

Traditional innerspring beds combine coils with soft padding and are normally cheaper still, though they don’t last as long. Latex mattresses are naturally cooling, bouncy and durable, but they can be a bit hit and miss on motion isolation. Latex models are often found among the best organic mattresses, as well as those designed to last much longer than average.

Lastly, hybrids combine pocket springs with a variety of materials, including memory foam, latex and gel, to deliver high levels of support and pressure relief. They’re also very breathable, meaning they’re good for hot sleepers.

6. Skimming the small print

Even when buying from a trusted brand, it’s still important to check the small print before parting with your money. For example, some manufacturers offer free shipping but charge for returns. 

Warranties should be fully checked too so that you are clear on what will and won’t be covered once the trial period has ended. For more advice, read our guide answering how do mattress warranties work

What to do instead
Make sure that you fully understand how the mattress will be shipped to you, whether the company will charge for a return if you change your mind during the trial, and what the conditions of warranty are. 

We’d also recommend checking the conditions of return fully, as nearly all sleep brands state that the mattress must be in pristine condition before they’ll accept a return. Others won’t accept the mattress back but will instead donate it to a charity and refund your money.

7. Skipping over user reviews

Reading useful user reviews, alongside expert mattress reviews, can give you a general insight into what the bed is like to sleep on. Not only that, you can get an idea of the customer service on offer, what really happens during the returns process, and how you can expect to be treated as a customer. 

What to do instead
Not all user reviews should be taken as gospel, so we’d recommend keeping an open mind when reading through them. That said, they can give you some handy insight into the brand as well as on the mattress you’re thinking of buying. 

Expert reviews often include a summary of user reviews, as well as their professional opinion of the mattress in question. Here are some of ours to get you started:

Jo Plumridge

Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is."