woman sitting on a chair deciding which mattress to choose
Buying Guides

How To Choose A Mattress: The Ultimate Guide

  •  Purple Author Icon
    Last Updated
    December 1, 2022
    min read

    Getting a good night's sleep has many benefits for your mental and physical health. If your sleep quality is high and you get enough hours of sleep, you feel more alert and less stressed throughout the day. One item you should invest in for better sleep is a mattress.

    If you're wondering, "What mattress should I buy?",  keep reading this handy guide! We’ll tell you how to choose a mattress for your sleep concerns and usual sleep position, as well as which features will give you gentle pressure relief for a good night's sleep.

    How Do You Choose A Mattress?

    Choosing a mattress can be a complex process because of the sheer number of options from different manufacturers. However, you can narrow down your options by keeping these basic things in mind:

    • Don't skimp. A mattress is an investment in your sleep quality, so look for durable, comfortable, and flexible material to get your money's worth and avoid constant replacement.
    • Consider possible allergies. Some people have sensitive skin and respiratory systems. Avoid certain natural and synthetic materials that may trigger allergic reactions.
    • Look for properties that maximize your comfort. Not all mattresses are breathable or supportive. Some are better at reducing motion transfer, while others provide the soft, sinking feeling of sleeping on a cloud. To determine which mattress features will give you a good night's sleep, check which firmness is best for your sleeping position.

    What Qualities Make A Good Mattress?

    Check out these qualities that every good mattress should have to help you sleep comfortably.

    • Pressure relief: A good mattress should be made with responsive, flexible materials with the right firmness. This will relieve pressure in high-tension areas like your neck and shoulders. It will also improve sleep posture and reduce body pain as you rest.
    • Motion isolation: A mattress that limits motion transfer is best for those who co-sleep with a partner, child, or pet. This keeps you from waking your co-sleeper up if you need to get out of bed while they're resting.
    • Breathability: Mattresses should have enough airflow to prevent heat and sweat from being trapped within. This keeps sleepers from feeling sweaty and uncomfortable at night.
    • Durability: A high-quality mattress will be made of durable materials that can comfortably bear your body's weight night after night. It should withstand that wear and tear so you can get many years of comfortable sleep on it before it needs replacing.

    Step One: Choose a Type of Mattress

    If you're overwhelmed by the wide range of mattress types on the market, fret not! Here's a quick guide to the most common types offered by mattress companies.

    GelFlex Grid

    GelFlex Grid

    A GelFlex Grid mattress has an instantly adapting comfort layer made from stretchy material. It is known for providing softness and support without trapping heat. Purple is the only company that has mattresses that include the GelFlex Grid. 

    Memory Foam

    A memory foam mattress is known for providing a plush, dense layer that conforms to your body shape, giving many sleepers the sensation of being cradled. Memory foam is made out of polyurethane and comes primarily in three different types: traditional, gel-infused, and open cell.

    Traditional Memory Foam

    Traditional memory foam is best known for molding to your body's shape. While it helps preserve your spine's natural curvature, it's also disliked by hot sleepers because of its heat retention.

    Gel Memory Foam

    Gel-infused memory foam is simply memory foam that's been blended with gel microbeads. This material is known for providing a cooler, softer mattress that helps regulate body temperature, especially during warm evenings.

    Open Cell Memory Foam

    Open cell memory foam has pockets inside the foam for improved breathability and increased airflow. This soft mattress is great for wicking sweat and keeping you cool while you rest.


    A hybrid mattress is a multi-layer type of mattress made with a combination of memory foam or latex foam with innerspring steel coils. This creates a supportive, responsive sleeping surface that provides deep pressure relief night after night.

    Hybrid mattresses' coil systems support high-pressure areas like the neck and lower back, easing body pain and promoting restful sleep. Combined with the extra comfort of a memory foam layer, it's a popular option for a variety of sleepers.


    A latex mattress can be made with natural or synthetic latex, and this type is known for having better airflow than traditional memory foam. Plush and soft, this denser foam hugs the body's natural curvature and provides gentle pressure relief.

    Natural latex can be more expensive than synthetic latex or memory foam, but it is a good choice for environment-friendly shoppers looking for a cooling, supportive mattress.


    A traditional innerspring mattress is made with coil construction for its base layer. This coil core is then topped with a layer of memory foam or latex for extra comfort. The coil systems make this mattress type more responsive for a budget-friendly price. However, it’s not recommended for those suffering from back pain.

    Air Mattress

    An air mattress can be inflated or deflated so it reaches your preferred firmness.

    Step 2: Pick a Firmness Level

    Generally, mattress manufacturers rank mattress firmness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as the softest and 10 as the firmest type. When customers ask themselves, "What kind of mattress do I need?", they often think that a softer mattress is better as its plushness will ease body pain.

    In reality, a firmer mattress may give their body better support and relieve pressure. Here's a quick breakdown of different mattress firmness levels, and which level is best suited for your sleeping position.

    Firmness Rating

    Ideal For

    Extra soft (2)

    Side sleepers

    Soft (3)

    Side sleepers 

    Medium soft (4)

    Back and stomach sleepers; side sleepers

    Medium (5)

    Back, side, and stomach sleepers 

    Medium firm (6)

    Back and stomach sleepers

    Firm (7)

    Back and stomach sleepers

    Extra firm (8 to 9)

    Back and stomach sleepers


    Soft mattresses rank 3 to 4 on the mattress firmness scale. While there are some mattresses ranked below 3, these extra-soft mattresses are rare because they offer little body support and can be very uncomfortable for most sleepers.

    This mattress firmness typically has comfort layers for extra sinkage and plushness, giving sleepers a feeling of sleeping "in" the mattress as opposed to "on" its surface.


    Medium mattresses rank 4 to 6 on the mattress firmness scale. Medium firmness mattresses are less prone to sinkage compared to soft mattresses. They're known for having just the right amount of "give" that provides a flexible, supportive surface.


    Medium-firm mattresses rank 6 to 7 on the mattress firmness scale. This is the most popular firmness with a variety of sleepers because of its balance of comfort and support. A medium-firm mattress helps keep the spine in proper alignment and allows just enough sinkage to align the feet with the rest of the body.


    Firm mattresses are ranked 7 to 8 in mattress firmness. Their surfaces are more rigid and provide less of a contouring feel compared to plusher mattresses. This firmness is best for those whose preferred sleeping position requires minimized sinkage, such as stomach sleeping or back sleeping.

    Still not sure what mattress firmness to get? Read our mattress firmness guide 

    Step 3: Consider Your Sleep Position

    Sleeping position

    Recommended firmness level

    Why is this firmness best?

    Side sleepers

    Soft (3) to medium firm (6)

    This range plushly conforms to the body, but doesn’t sink too deeply in so your spine stays in proper alignment.

    Back sleepers

    Medium soft (4) to firm (7)

    This firmness range provides sufficient cushioning for cozy sleep and plenty of support to relieve high-tension points

    Stomach sleepers

    Medium (5) to extra firm (8)

    A firmer mattress promotes better spine alignment and keeps you from sinking too far into the mattress.

    Combination sleepers

    Medium soft (4) to medium firm (6)

    This mattress firmness provides a balance between cradling softness and firm support – perfect for supporting all of your shifting sleep positions.

    Your sleep position can provide clues for what type of mattress best addresses your sleep needs. Here's a description of each position and what kind of mattress can help people who like them rest cozily.

    Side Sleepers

    Side sleepers rest on the left or right side of their body while sleeping. This sleeping position is known for having health benefits like reduced acid reflux and snoring. However, it also puts pressure on the hips and shoulders.

    A good mattress for side sleepers will help keep the head, shoulders, and back aligned in one smooth line. Side sleepers may find a mattress with a medium firmness to be the most comfortable for their position.

    Back Sleepers

    Back sleepers are those who sleep primarily on their back. This sleeping position is considered one of the best for spinal alignment and good sleep posture. Back sleepers need mattresses that are supportive and flexible, so they typically sleep more comfortably on a firm mattress. 

    Stomach Sleepers

    A stomach sleeper is someone who rests on their chest and stomach, so their entire body weight sinks deeply into the mattress. This position is prone to back arching and poor spine alignment.

    If you sleep on your stomach, you need a mattress that is medium to firm to keep your body from sagging into the mattress. This firmness range also supports your body and gives gentle pressure relief.

    Combination Sleepers

    Some people may switch positions as they sleep or continually toss and turn. Known as combination sleepers, this sleeper type needs a responsive mattress with plenty of space to keep the spine in proper alignment and relieve body pain.

    Sleep Concerns

    Apart from your sleeping position, localized pain and preferred sleeping temperature can affect your sleep quality. Here's a quick breakdown of three common sleep concerns.

    Hot Sleepers

    Some people are more prone than others to sweating at night and will prefer a cooler mattress for restful sleep – these are known as hot sleepers. This sleep concern is best managed by finding mattresses with good airflow and sweat-wicking bedding.

    Be sure to know your ideal sleeping temperature.

    Cold Sleepers

    Cold sleepers tend to feel chilly even on a warm evening. People who have this sleep concern are most comfortable on mattresses that absorb and retain body heat, such as traditional memory foam.

    Back Pain

    Some people suffer from back pain for various reasons like poor posture or medical conditions. Mattresses that contour around the body's natural shape can help with non-specific back pain issues and cradle your pressure points.

    Step 4: Select a Mattress Size

    Note that the larger the mattress, the more expensive it gets. Here's a description of standard mattress sizes and to whom each size is best suited.

    Understand which size mattress is ideal for you.



    Fits coziest for


    38" X 75"

    A single sleeper

    Twin XL

    38" X 80"

    A tall single sleeper


    54" X 75"

    Single sleepers or couples that like to snuggle up


    60" X 80"

    Single sleepers who prefer lots of wiggle room, or co-sleep with a pet or small child; couples


    76" X 80"

    Two co-sleepers who want extra space, with room for a small child or a pet

    California king

    72" X 84"

    Two tall co-sleepers


    Measuring 38 inches in width by 75 inches in length, a twin-size mattress is a great transitional bed for children and teenagers. Because of their compact size, they are also commonly used for bunk beds. However, their limited size means they may not be comfortable for adults to sleep in. 

    Twin XL-Size

    A twin XL mattress measures 38 inches in width and 80 inches in length. It's recommended for tall single sleepers because of the extra leg room. It also doesn't occupy a lot of space and is cheaper than queen-size beds, making it a popular mattress size for guest rooms and dorm rooms.


    Also known as a double bed, a standard full-size mattress measures 54 inches in width by 75 inches in length. It's not suitable for couples that need extra room, but it's a comfy fit for single sleepers. Because it doesn't take up a lot of floor space, it’s often used for spare beds and placed in guest rooms.


    The standard measurement for the luxurious queen mattress is 60 inches in width by 80 inches in length. A queen-size mattress is popular with couples and single sleepers who want extra room. This common mattress size fits into most master bedrooms, as it needs only a minimum of 10 feet by 10 feet to fit comfortably in a room.

    Understand queen vs twin xl differences.


    A traditional king size mattress a.k.a. an Eastern king measures 76 inches in width and 80 inches in length. The luxurious space can comfortably accommodate partners who want to co-sleep with their child or pet. There's plenty of room to sprawl and move around as you sleep without bumping into your partner.

    California King

    A California king size mattress measures 72 inches in width and 84 inches in length. The California king is best for tall people who shift sleeping positions throughout the night. The additional length means taller sleepers can rest without having their feet dangle uncomfortably off the mattress, while the generous width allows them to co-sleep without feeling cramped.


    Some mattress models are more expensive because they use premium materials, have high-quality construction, or are simply larger in size. Before choosing a mattress, set a maximum budget that will accommodate your desired mattress firmness and type.

    The price for a queen mattress can vary from very inexpensive to extremely expensive – in some cases, people pay over $100,000 for a mattress. But, not accounting for extremes, how much can you expect to spend on a mattress? For the most part, mattresses generally cost between $600 and $9,000. 

    If you are looking at a mattress closer to $600, expect basic materials and construction. If you’re looking into the $4,500 price-range, you can expect a more plush mattress with higher quality support and comfort.

    But, beware higher price doesn't always mean higher quality.

    Still not sure? See how much you should spend on a mattress.

    Selecting The Right Mattress For You

    When choosing the perfect bed size, you’ll want to keep the following factors in mind:

    • Your height
    • The recommended room size
    • Whether you share a bed with a partner, child, or pet
    • Your ideal sleep position
    • Preferred mattress firmness
    • Your budget
    • Your existing bed foundation, if any

    Try A Purple Mattress

    Try a Purple mattress to get support for a wide range of sleep needs. A Purple mattress can help you enjoy a good night's sleep thanks to the pressure relief and comfort provided by its responsive GelFlex layers.

    The patented GelFlex grids are also cooling and breathable. Because they don't trap your body heat, you won't have to suffer sweaty sleep night after night. 

    Talk to one of our Sleep Specialists to find out which Purple mattress is best for your preferred sleeping position. They'll help you choose the right firmness level and size for a comfortable night's sleep!

    Choosing A Mattress FAQs

    Is it better to sleep on a hard mattress or soft?

    It's better to sleep on a soft mattress if you're a side sleeper or combination sleeper. However, a stomach sleeper or back sleeper will find a harder, firmer mattress more comfortable and supportive for their body at night.

    What questions should you ask when buying a mattress?

    You should ask these questions when you're mattress shopping. These will help you choose the perfect mattress for your sleeping position, special sleeping concerns, and budget.

    • What materials is this mattress made of?
    • Is this mattress breathable, or does it trap body heat?
    • What is this mattress model's firmness?
    • What sizes does this mattress model come in?
    • Does this mattress come with a warranty or sleep trials?
    • How much is this mattress model?

    Can a side sleeper sleep on a firm mattress?

    Yes, a side sleeper can sleep on a firm mattress. However, it may not be the comfiest surface depending on your body weight. Lightweight and average-weight side sleepers may sleep more comfortably on a mattress with a medium-soft to medium-firm feel for gentle pressure relief


    About the authors

    Purple Staff
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