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Ask someone how to buy a mattress (and not regret it later), and you’ll get all sorts of conflicting suggestions. One friend will say it’s all about identifying your sleep preferences; another will tell you it comes down to what price point you’re comfortable with; and yet another will insist the key is finding the right brand. The reality is, all these factors play a part, although some more than others. To get to the bottom of it, we chatted with Rosie Osmun, a certified sleep science coach and contributor to EachNight and Amerisleep. Read on for her mattress shopping advice to help you make the best possible investment in your rest.

Ready to swap your old bunk for a new mattress? Domino is digging these picks:

What to Look for in a Mattress

Ultimately, the best mattress addresses all of your sleeping needs and simply feels good. This means that there are no “universally desirable qualities,” Osmun says. Start by checking out our overview of every type of mattress and who they are good for. The Cliffs Notes version: “Softer options are better for side sleepers, while firmer ones are better at supporting back and stomach sleepers,” Osmun explains.

Also, pay attention to appearance and construction. Check that the mattress is clean and doesn’t sag, and that any sort of topstitching is even and intact. The top padding should be comfortable and supportive, and you shouldn’t feel any springs when lying on it. (Mattresses with a tighter coil concentration tend to be of a higher quality, but this also makes for a firmer bed, which may not be the most comfortable option for you.) If you’re purchasing a box spring, it should be stable and completely free of cracks, tears, or any other visible forms of damage.

Is In-Person Shopping Better Than Online? 

Not necessarily, says Osmun. If you’ve already identified your sleeping needs and comfort preferences—more on that later—you can easily find your perfect mattress online. Osmun also points out you can usually find lower prices online and get other perks like free in-home delivery and setup. While in-store shopping allows you to try the product in person, she has a word of caution about these quick trials: “Trying out showroom models can mislead shoppers into thinking that a mattress they find comfortable for a few minutes will feel comfortable all night.”

Which In-Person Mattress Tests Should You Do?

If you still want to sample the goods before settling on your final pick, Osmun recommends mimicking the same position you lie down in at home before you fall asleep. A 5- to 10-minute test allows you to temporarily gauge how the mattress will respond to your body. She also suggests moving around a bit to check out its overall responsiveness.

How Much to Expect to Pay for a Mattress 

Gel: $250–$5,000

Innerspring: $500–$1,200-plus

Memory foam: $800–$2,500

Latex: $1,000–$2,500-plus

Hybrid: $1,000–$3,000-plus

What Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Mattress

Get the details on the store’s or brand’s return, exchange, and refund policy in case you’re unsatisfied. You’ll also want to ask about care instructions, like how to clean your mattress, whether the brand recommends a protector or topper, and how long the mattress takes to fully break in. Keep in mind that the ones you test in the store have been subjected to others sitting or lying on them. A brand-new bed won’t feel the same—it’ll likely seem sturdier than those you tested, but will soften over time.

According to Osmun, you haven’t covered all the bases until you’ve reviewed the mattress’s warranty. “Aside from its length, ask about what damage and defects the warranty covers,” she says. “For example, how deep a permanent impression must be in a mattress to qualify for warranty coverage varies from brand to brand.”

And if you’re not sold after a quick lie-down inspection, request a sleep trial—ideally one that’s “risk-free” so you won’t be held liable for any damages or hidden return fees, Osmun advises. In some instances, retailers will allow you to try out your mattress to see if it holds up as well in your home as it does in the store.

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