In the grand scheme of shopping experiences that elicit zero delight points, mattress shopping ranks up there with toilet paper, oil changes and air filters. In my mind, a mattress is basically a multi-thousand-dollar air filter. They're not a fun thing or a glamorous thing. They're a necessary thing. A very expensive, necessary thing. Frankly, I just don't enjoy it. (Or at least I didn't...)
It is here we find the root of a complex tale of procrastination.
Like many people, I bought my previous mattress the old-fashioned way. Wander into mattress store --> immediate overwhelm --> get accosted by aggressive salesperson --> commence introvert panic --> awkwardly lay down on a few showroom mattresses as said salesperson looms over me smiling creepily --> panic and purchase big-name mattress to avoid having to repeat this process again for at least the next decade.
Spoiler alert: Not how it panned out, ultimately.
Don't get me wrong. The mattress felt great in the store. At least from what we could tell by laying on it for 30 seconds. Within a couple years, a rapid decline was underway. I'd wake in the night to discover my body involuntarily clinging to my side of the bed, desperately trying to resist the gravitational pull of the vortex that had developed at the center of the mattress. I'm still not quite sure how to explain what was going on. I just know that it led to a lot of tossing and turning, and even more morning aches and pains.
Which begs the question, why did we live like this for another year before doing something about it?
Before you cast your stones of judgment, let me say this: buying a mattress is freaking complicated. It's basically the home furnishing version of digging through the worst and unhappiest parts of Yelp. You log on, thinking you'll do a little sleuthing, and before you know it you've gone down a dark rabbit hole of opinions and snark fueled by sleepless nights and spousal rage.
Initially, it seemed everyone hated everything. I quickly came to understand that our fate was sealed. We would spend at least $3500 on something moderately tolerable that would ultimately disappoint and fail us, possibly while clenching our bodies in an inescapable, balmy foam embrace. The years that followed would result in mental, emotional and physical suffering, until we reached a point at which we'd chuck the mattress and begin the cycle again.
At some point, I came across this site. It is a treasure trove of unbiased (and more importantly, unsponsored) mattress information. A lot of information. So much information I could be convinced that there is a valid need for the mattress industry to start training their equivalent of sommeliers. I won't even attempt to recap all the things you need to know (Go to the site. Read all the things!), but I will share a few of the top takeaways:
- Material matters. All foams are not created equal. From density to layering to type (memory vs. latex), everything makes a huge difference in the feel, support and durability of the end product. Different materials work better for different types of bodies and sleepers.
- How you sleep impacts what you should sleep on. Whether you're a side, back or stomach sleeper impacts the type of mattress material and support you should look for. As do things like height, sleep temperature (whether you run hot or cool), pain points and BMI. Not all mattresses are equipped to handle all sleepers. But most manufacturers won't tell you that.
- There is some nasty sh*t in many mattresses. As a result, there an emerging trend toward more natural (and even some organic) materials. You know, the kinds of things that won't off-gas and slowly poison you every night for the next decade.
- More isn't better. Some of the most expensive mattresses on the market have the lowest consumer satisfaction ratings. It seems people end up paying for the name. Which leads me to...
- Big names aren't the best. This was one of the most surprising realizations. Many (most) of the brand names we tend to recognize -- and find displayed on mattress showroom floors -- have fairly dismal consumer ratings. If they were in high school, the best of the "popular kids" pack would be averaging straight C's. Marketing is a powerful tool that has afforded these brands decades of profitability, but all that is starting to change...
- There's a whole new world of mattresses out there. Startup mattresses, if you will. From Loom & Leaf to Casper to Tuft & Needle to Bed-in-a-Box, these "little" guys are cutting out middle man, selling directly to consumers and winning big.
And it's that last point I want to talk about. A few things to know about these newer mattress brands:
- You won't find their mattresses in stores. They keep costs low by working directly with consumers and selling online. This rocks the mattress-purchasing norm a bit, and means you need to get comfortable with the idea of buying a mattress sight unseen/unfelt.
- In order to calm those concerns, they have really generous return policies. Most online mattress brands will give you 75-150 nights to try the mattress out. Don't like it? Zero-hassle returns...for free. In many instances, if you decide to return the mattress, the company will donate your unwanted, gently-used mattress to a local shelter in need.
- Their prices tend to be significantly lower and their consumer ratings tend to be significantly higher than the most recognized names in the mattress biz. Click around. Read the reviews. Not only are many of these brands producing a superior product, they're also providing an exceptional customer experience. And sleep-seeking consumers are loving it.
SO WHAT DID WE END UP WITH?
Originally, Casper was our frontrunner. The Casper name seems to be popping up everywhere, including as a sponsor of my favorite podcast, Awesome Etiquette, and via word-of-mouth from friends. After a lot of reading, researching and reviewing, however, we ended up going with Loom & Leaf. Our decision was based on a variety of factors, including: the firmness level of the mattress, their focus on creating a cool sleep (via gel), their use of plant-based materials and organic cottons, and the fact that their mattresses are delivered by way of "white glove delivery," rather than being bound up in a box for us to deal with. In addition, I literally could not find a single bad review about their customer experience, even amongst those who tried their mattress and ultimately decided it wasn't for them.
We take delivery next week. Check back soon for a follow-up post!