How to Test Mattresses

Happy united family testing mattress in store

There are a number of things you’ll want to check when you’re testing a bed. This article will assume you’ve only got a very small amount of time to test a bed in a showroom. While it’s not the ideal way to test a bed compared to actually sleeping in it every night for weeks and months on end (which you can do with most mattresses-in-boxes), you still want to make the most of what little time you have. So this article will cover what you need to cover.

If you’ve got a mattress in a box, you’ll probably have the luxury of having much more time to test it by sleeping on it as you usually would. You’ll most likely notice any problems over the course of a few months anyway, but this article can still be helpful for you to know what things to be intentional in looking out for.

If you share a bed with someone, make sure you try them out together. You need to find a bed that will suit both of you. If you sleep alone, it will still help to bring a friend with you, particularly with some of these tests. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of testing beds out – I promise it’s easy!

Spinal Alignment and Firmness

One thing your bed needs to do is support your spine so that it stays straight. You don’t want to wake up stiff. This test will check to make sure the bed you’re testing keeps your back straight.

Lie down on your back. Spend some time. Kick your shoes off and get comfortable. You should be spending at least 10 minutes here. Do you feel like you’re wedge shaped, or like your hips are sagging down? If the bed doesn’t pass this test, move on to the next bed.

Now, assuming the bed passed that test, roll over onto your side. Your elbow should not be under your body, but slightly bent in front of you. Your head should be on a pillow and your legs slightly bent at the knees. Your shoulders and hips should be perpendicular to the ground. Ask yourself if the bed is too hard when you’re lying down like this, and if there’s pressure on your hip or shoulder. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you’ll end up sleeping in a twisted position, so that’s a bed to avoid.

Here’s another test you can do while you’re on your side. Your friend will come in handy here. As you will most likely be clothed, have your friend place 5-7 stickers straight down at intervals along your spine (while you’re standing straight) to make it easier for your friend to be the judge. If there are dips or curves in your spine, that’s not good. If the stickers line up, the bed passes the test. This is a vital test to do, particularly if you’re a side sleeper.

Take your time. You should be spending at least 15 minutes on each mattress to truly get a feel for it, and if you have a sleeping partner, test the bed together to make sure it’s comfortable when you both lie down together. Some beds can feel comfortable when there’s just one occupant, but then not so much when you add a second. These tests are the most important. If the bed fails any of these tests for spinal alignment, firmness or comfort, veto it.

Stomach Sleepers

You’re not as easy to test for compared to back sleepers or side sleepers, but still do the above tests seeing as people often switch between sleeping positions throughout the night. Do make sure you spend a solid amount of time seeing how the mattress feels when you’re lying on your stomach though. Are you comfortable? Do your shoulders hunch or tense up? Does the mattress sag away under your hips? The answers should be yes, no, and no. Make sure the bed feels firm enough as you’ll need more support as a stomach sleeper.

Testing Edge Support

Here’s a simple test. Sit on the edge of the bed. Do you feel like you’re going to slide off, or that you’ll be spilled onto the floor? Does the bed sag down as you sit on the edge? Now lie down at the edge of the mattress. Compare how it feels to when you’re lying in the centre of the mattress. Does it feel the same?

Edge support is important because it means that you can sleep right to the edge of the bed and use up all the sleeping space. This is probably more important for couples than individuals. But if you spend a fair bit of time sitting on the edge of your bed, or have any mobility problems, this is still important for individual sleepers. It’s much easier to get up out of a bed that has great edge support, than one that collapses away from under you before you’ve gotten your feet firm on the floor.

If the bed doesn’t have great edge support, please don’t actually fall onto the showroom floor. Simply stand up, and walk to the next bed you want to try.

Movement Transfer

This really doesn’t matter much if you sleep alone, but if you’re a couple, don’t overlook movement transfer. You’ve seen the ads. There’s a half filled wine glass sitting on one side of the bed, then someone runs and dives onto the other side of the bed. I’d suggest steering away from reenacting this simply because you don’t want to clean up any stains in the event that the mattress doesn’t pass the test. There’s a less messy way to do this.

Each of you lay down on one side of the bed. Start moving. Take it in turns to get out of bed while the other stays lying down. Divebomb onto the bed, dance a jig, do some cartwheels. I’m kidding, but really, move around! This will give you both an idea of how much your sleep will be disturbed when your partner tosses and turns, or gets up for a glass of water.

Final Thoughts

Take your time. I cannot underscore this enough. Don’t feel pressured to come to a decision quickly. Come back another day if you have to. Just take your time. Ignore the hovering salesperson (except to ask them questions about the bed of course), and take your time. That salesperson isn’t going to sleep on that bed with you, so if they’re saying a bed is comfortable while your back is saying no, go with your back.

This is a long term investment for a solid amount of money. If you’re looking at beds in a showroom, once you walk out the door with a bed, there’s usually no return. Remember, the best bed for you is the best mattress “system” for your body within your budget. So take the time to be 100% sure that when you leave, the bed you leave with is that mattress system.

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