On the Lambda

Programming, Technology, and Systems Administration

On the Lambda

Mattress Shopping

April 8th, 2013 · No Comments · non-computer, Uncategorized

Something non-computer-related today.

My wife and I recently decided to spend some windfall money replacing our 30-year-old top mattress. Yeah. I wanted to record some of the things I found in shopping for the replacement. We settled pretty early on a memory foam mattress. These have amazing satisfaction ratings relative to the price. However, these mattresses also have a few drawbacks.

First of all, I need to give props to www.sleeplikethedead.com. It had a lot of good information, and it made the process easier for us. However, there were some things I learned that were not available there.

One drawback of memory foam mattresses is packaging. These mattresses generally ship compressed. A small but significant percentage of people reported that their new mattress did not fully decompress on unpacking. Reading a lot of reviews, I was able to discover that you can greatly reduce the chance of this by unpacking it as soon as it arrives. The longer it stays compressed, the greater the likelihood of a problem. Another issue is that the mattress is very heavy. A lot of people strongly recommend unpacking the new mattress directly in place, as it will be awkward to move later.

Another drawback is odor. A small but significant percentage of people complained of something called off-gassing, which is an initial chemical odor. This fades over time, almost always within a day or two. A number people expressed good results by unpacking the mattress in a garage or sunroom and allowing it to air out. This advise is at odds with that in the previous paragraph. Weighing the two, I recommend unpacking directly on the bed, but have a good fan (for ventilation) and some Febreeze handy, and expect to spend the first night, maybe even two or three, on the couch.

A third issue is firmness. It seems that different people often report different firmness levels, even for the same model mattress from the same manufacturing lot. After reading a lot of reviews, I have a theory for what is going on here. You won’t see this anywhere else (yet), but I think that memory foam reacts to heat. Different people put off different amounts of body heat when sleeping. Put off too much heat, and the memory foam layer will get too soft, compress completely, and you’ll end up sleeping almost directly on the support foam layer. Depending on the support foam and your body weight, this could result in a too-soft or too-firm sleep. Put off too little heat the memory foam may be too firm all by itself.

It used to be that memory foam mattresses also resulted in complaints of sleeping hot. This can still happen, but it looks like most mattresses made in the last couple years are able to account for this. It’s still worth bringing up, though, especially in light of the prior issue. You might still need a second sheet to help dissipate heat.

I also need to bring up durability. My research indicated most adults will need a 9 or 10 inch memory foam mattress. More is wasteful (unless you’re seriously overweight to the tune of 300lbs plus), and less is likely to result in early sagging, greatly reducing the life of the mattress. You really want about 3 inches of memory foam and about 6 inches of support foam. Even with this level of support, don’t expect your mattress to last like a traditional inner spring. You just won’t see 30 year-old memory foam mattresses out there. We were able to get a queen 10 inch mattress with a 20 year warranty for about $350, but I’m skeptical how much good the warranty will do us. What I’ve read is that the actual useful life of a memory foam mattress is much closer to 7 years. At $350, that means it works out to $50/yr, or just less than $5/mo for this thing, before buying new sheets. Cheaper mattresses will significantly reduce durability. Do check for your manufacturer on www.sleeplikethedead.com. This site has good information on the actual reported longevity from different manufacturers.

One other (minor) concern is sheets. You can’t walk into any old store and find sheets for a 10 inch thick mattress. We had to replace all of ours. Amazon has them for around $30, and we had budgeted for this, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

I would advise anyone else looking to make a similar purchase to be careful reading reviews online. Look for reviews from people who have owned the mattress for at least six months. Discount low-score reviews complaining about odor or firmness entirely. These are people who were surprised because they did not do their homework, or in some cases obviously have their mattress upside down (it makes a huge difference).

In conclusion,  I am very satisfied with our new mattress. It’s a huge improvement over the old one. In spite of this, after reflection I already have buyer’s remorse. If I had it to do again I’d do it differently, and I advise others to go this route as well. What I would do is find the absolute cheapest inner spring mattress that I could. Firmness doesn’t matter, because you won’t be sleeping on it directly. The purpose of this mattress is to act as a more durable support-foam layer. Then buy a nice memory foam topper. You’ll spend a little more initially, but you’ll make it back after a few years when you only need to replace the topper. You’ll end up with something that lasts a lot longer, and that is much easier to find sheets for.


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