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The Lowdown on Mattress Costs

In the mattress market, where price tags can range from $200 to $20,000 (or more!), it’s hard to know how much you really need to spend to get a quality product.

One thing that’s certain, though: a good mattress is crucial to getting a great night’s sleep. “Sleep is a performance activity, just like running,” says Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “You can run a race in flip-flops, but you’d make much better time if you had on high-tech sneakers. Same with sleep—if you have the right equipment, like a good mattress, you will sleep better.”

How much should I spend on a mattress?

With mattresses, as with most other purchases, you get what you pay for. The more expensive a mattress—up to a point—the better the materials and the longer you can expect it to last. That said, the correlation between quality and price ends once you get beyond a few thousand dollars. “There’s no research that shows you get a better sleep on a $20,000 mattress than on a $3,000 mattress,” Breus says. In general, he says, you can find high-quality options in the $1,000 to $3,500 range.

Within that range, the price depends on materials, construction, and any extra features, like special foams or gels. As a rule, memory foam and innerspring mattresses tend to cost roughly the same amount, while latex costs a bit more. On the upside, a good latex mattress can last longer than other types; 20 years is not uncommon.

How to assess mattress value

Once you’ve settled on your mattress price range, how can you make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck? The considerations vary depending on the type of mattress you’re looking to buy. The following tips will help you separate the best from the rest.

If you’re shopping for a memory foam mattress, consider:

  • Foam density: Denser foams are generally more expensive than lighter foams. Typically, high-quality foam mattresses are made up of layers of varying densities. Ideally, you want a density of four or five pounds per cubic foot, which is higher quality and will last longer than foam with a density of three pounds per cubic foot.
  • Foam type: Memory foam—technically viscoelastic polyurethane foam—can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Depending on how the foam is produced, those VOCs can cause odors when you get the mattress home, a process known as “offgassing.” Eco-friendly foams made from plant-based compounds cost more, but reduce offgassing and other irritants.
  • Special features: Other features that can factor into the cost of a foam mattress include layers of cooling gel, which minimizes foam’s natural tendency to trap body heat, and the use of organic or hypoallergenic materials in the padding and covers.

If you’re shopping for an innerspring mattress, consider:

  • Coil count and type: The number of coils in a mattress is no longer the indicator of quality that it once was. Most premium innersprings have between 600 and 1,000 coils. More important is thickness of the coil, known in the trade as the gauge. The thicker the coil, the more durable and supportive the mattress. (Coil gauge typically ranges from 12 to 15, with lower numbers indicating thicker wire.) When you’re talking coils, though, the biggest impact on cost comes from the way the coils are constructed. Individually pocketed coils, a feature of higher-end innersprings, can move independently, which means they contour better than so-called “open” coils and minimize motion transfer when one person in the bed tosses and turns at night.
  • Edge support: The best-quality innerspring mattresses have a layer of foam along the perimeter. That edge support extends the sleep surface, prevents sagging, and makes it easier to sit or lie on the edge of the bed.
  • Number and type of layers: All good innerspring mattresses will have multiple layers of material between the core of support coils and the top of the mattress. Those layers can be made of foam, gel, padding, and even additional springs. Each layer should have a specific function, such as support, comfort, pressure relief, or cooling.

If you’re shopping for a latex mattress, consider:

  • Synthetic vs natural: Natural latex is more costly, but it offers the advantages that latex mattresses are known for: eco-friendliness and durability. Within the natural latex category there are two types, Dunlop and Talalay, which differ in the way they are produced. The Talalay process yields a latex that is softer, cooler, and more responsive than Dunlop latex, which is denser and firmer feeling. Since Talalay latex is more labor-intensive to produce, it typically has a higher price tag.
  • Warranty: Latex has a well-deserved reputation for durability, with most quality products carrying a warranty of 20 years.

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