Mattresses that are too firm, too soft, sagging or smelly are not the most inviting place to sleep. But what if you don’t have budget to buy a new one? Learning how to make a mattress more comfortable, supportive and hygienic could buy you a little more time until you’re ready to buy a new one.
Most of the tips we’ll cover here won’t cost you money, while a few are cheap ways to quickly boost the comfort and support of your mattress.
Sleep is important to our overall wellness, so investing in the best mattress for your body is a smart move in the long run (and with the 4th of July mattress sales coming up, there are some good cheap mattresses around right now). Until then, here’s how to make your mattress more comfortable, clean and inviting.
1. Warm up your mattress before getting into bed
If your memory foam mattress isn’t as soft as you’d like it to be, warming it up in the evenings will quickly soften the foam so that it contours better to your body and feels more comfortable. You could use an electric blanket to do this if your mattress is compatible with these, or you could use flannel sheets to trap more warmth between you and your mattress.
Obviously avoid these if you’re a hot sleeper and instead check out the mattress topper option further into this article for making your mattress softer.
2. Rotate it to spread out wear and tear
How often should you rotate your mattress? On average, every three to six months to keep the mattress surface even and more comfortable to sleep on. Most modern mattresses are built in layers and have a durable foundation, so there’s a distinct top and bottom. This usually means the mattress can’t be flipped.
If you have a mattress with zoned support then you might not be able to rotate it either, as you’ll have the firmest part of the mattress in the wrong place for your body. Check the care guidelines for your particular mattress before you get to work.
3. Reduce any mattress sagging
If your mattress is starting to sag, act fast as a mattress with pronounced dips will throw your posture out and cause problems such as backache and neck strain.
As we explain in our feature on how to fix a saggy mattress, the only way to properly fix sagging is to send the mattress back to the manufacturer for repairs if your bed is still warranted against a certain level of sag (brands measure it in inches).
No warranty option for you? Then try this temporary fix: place pillows under the parts of your body – such as your hips and legs – that are affected by the sagging. Our top tip is to choose memory foam pillows as these keep their shape better for longer and don’t require fluffing each morning.
4. Tighten your bed frame for a firmer feel
Most mattress manufacturers recommend placing a mattress on a stable surface, as even premium mattresses won’t dish out the maximum support they’re capable of if placed on an unstable bed frame. So if your mattress is too soft and you want to make it firmer, start with your bed frame.
Check for loose slats and wobbly legs, tightening them up to give your mattress the solid foundation it deserves. Also ensure that bed frame slats are placed no more than 2.75 inches apart, as slats spaced wider than that can cause sagging - especially if you own a memory foam mattress as the foam can spill through the gaps.
Learn more about how to make a mattress firmer if it’s too soft for your back.
5. Use a full body pillow
This is a quick hack to gain immediate physical comfort on a mattress that’s causing you pain. Body pillows come in different designs, including rectangular, C-shaped and U-shaped. Although super-popular for use during pregnancy, body pillows are also ideal for reducing hip and lower back pain by keeping your hips in better alignment during sleep.
Our top tip is to go with a U-shaped body pillow if you have space in your bed, as then you won’t have to keep taking the pillow with you when you switch sides - it will be positioned around you.
Upgrading your main pillow can make a mattress more comfortable too, as your head and neck will be better supported, leading to less neck and back pain. See our best pillows guide for this year’s top options.
6. Make a mattress softer with a plush bed topper
A mattress that’s too firm for your body and sleep position will quickly cause aches and pains. If you’re outside of your trial period and can’t return the mattress for a softer version, then your other option is to buy a bed topper designed to add extra plushness to firm mattresses.
These types of toppers are often made with feathers or memory foam. Natural materials, like feathers, are more expensive, but you can buy cheap foam mattress toppers for as little as $30. They’re basically slabs of foam that contour to your body, creating a cradling effect that offsets firm mattresses. Our best mattress toppers guide has some great budget picks.
7. Clean and air your mattress regularly
Keeping your mattress clean, aired and protected is essential for helping it to last longer and to be more comfortable to sleep on. Tackle spillages straight away to reduce bacteria and dust mites at bay, as they love nothing more than snacking on spills, dead skin cells, body oils and bacteria. This will degrade your mattress faster, affecting its hygiene and comfort levels. Using one of the best mattress protectors can reduce this.
Placing your mattress in direct sunlight for short periods kills dust mites and is a good way to reduce allergy flare-ups during sleep in the summer months. If you can’t take your mattress outside, place it near a bright window for a few hours. Our how to clean a mattress guide has plenty more tips for you.
What to do if your mattress can’t be salvaged
If you’ve tried all of the above but your mattress is no more comfortable or cleaner than when you started, then it’s time for a new mattress.
Not only will this be better for your sleep (you’ll sleep deeper because you’ll be more comfortable), but you’ll be able to take advantage of newer features that might have been missing on older mattresses. This could include cooling mattress technology, dedicated lumbar support, or better pressure relief for easing aches and pains.
Getting a new mattress doesn’t have to be expensive, either, especially if you opt for a mattress in a box as these are much cheaper than traditional models sold in store. The only exception is organic mattresses as these are made with natural and certified organic materials that cost more.
Here are three affordable options to kick-start your research:
1. Zinus Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress: from $229 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This is the number one best-selling mattress on Amazon, and right now it’s on sale with a queen size priced $313 (was $369). As we explain in our Zinus Green Tea Memory Foam mattress review, it’s made using antioxidant-rich green tea for a fresh feel, along with ActivCharocal microparticles that block moisture and odors. We rated it well for side sleeping.
2. Brooklyn Chill Memory Foam mattress: from $274 at Brooklyn Bedding (opens in new tab)
If you love the feel of memory foam but sleep hot, this cheap cooling mattress is worth a look. The Brooklyn Chill uses open-cell gel memory foam to promote airflow and reduce pressure points, and comes in a range of mattress depths from 6” to 14”. The Chill is frequently on sale too, with a queen size normally costing from $419 (was $524).
3. Linenspa 12” Hybrid Mattress: from $299 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Linenspa’s 12-inch hybrid mattress is well-rated by users looking for a touch of luxury on a tight budget. The layers and plush memory foam top should deliver plenty of comfort for most sleepers, including lighter weight sleepers - we’d recommend it as a good mattress for side sleepers too. Coil layers mean it will sleep cooler than an all-foam mattress too.