Do you need a new bed? You might. Most of us replace our mattresses every 8 to 10 years. Yet, if you've noticed you're not sleeping soundly, if your bed is lumpy, too-hard, too-soft, or just plain uncomfortable, it may be time to buy a new one, regardless of its age.
The first decision to make when buying a bed is size. Beyond the basic bed measurements, be sure to account for the addition of headboards and footboards, which can add 4 to 12 inches to each end. Bed coverings such as blankets and duvets will also add about 3 inches to both sides of the bed.
If necessary, draw your room dimensions on graph paper and sketch in the furniture and various bed sizes to determine what bed size will work best. If possible, allow 24 to 36 inches of clear space all sides of the bed for movement and changing bed linens. To get an idea of which bed size works in your room, lay newspapers, towels, or rugs in the room and walk around the space.
Though sizes can vary somewhat by manufacturer, the standard bed sizes include:
Twin: 38-39 x 75 inches
Extra-Long Twin: 38-39 x 80 inches
Double/Standard/Full Size: 54 x 75 inches
Queen: 60 x 80 inches
King/Eastern King: 76-78 x 80 inches
California/Western King: 72 x 84 inches
How to Test Drive a Mattress
Industry officials and salespeople recommend "test driving" a mattress before making a purchasing decision. If you will share the bed with someone, take him or her along. Wear comfortable clothing and easy-to-remove shoes and leave your dignity behind.
Take your time. Ask the salesman to leave you alone as you try each bed. Then, lie on the bed, move around, bounce a little, and sit on the edge. If you sit in bed to read or work, sit in the position you are likely to use.
SUPPORTIVE TIP #1: Firm does not always mean better; it comes down to personal preference and body shape. The mattress should support your spine and have a bit of give at the pressure points where your body sinks deeper into the mattress. No mattress is right for everyone.
Check Warranty: Some manufacturers and stores offer a "sleep guarantee" or test period. If after buying the mattress, you find it's not the right one for you, they will swap it for a different style. Check on delivery costs: If they charge for each change, it can get costly.
Don't base the useful life of your mattress on the warranty, which is protection against defects and faulty workmanship, not loss of comfort. Test your old mattress twice a year as you would a new one to be sure it is still comfortable and offers adequate support.
SUPPORTIVE TIP #2: As you shop for bed frames, look for adequate slats for supporting the box spring and mattress and determine that the slats fit tightly into the frame. For beds designed to be used without box springs, a solid base provides support and even wear.
Check labels and cutaway samples to see how the mattress is constructed. The most common type of mattress is innerspring, which is made of tempered spring coils covered with layers of padding and upholstery.
Compare the number of coils and their construction, the number of padding layers and their materials, and special features.
The higher the number of coils, the better the bed will wear. A guideline is 300 coils for a double, 375 for a queen, and 450-600 for a king, each side topped with several layers of upholstery, one or more layers of foam, and a quilted pillow top.
Deeper Is Not Always Better: Mattresses used to be a standard 9 inches thick. However, today many manufacturers' beds have "extra deep" mattresses as the norm. These styles, many of which are up to 16 inches thick, may or may not mean more comfort.
Comparison shop before assuming that deeper is better -- and be aware that your choices in bedding may be limited -- contour sheets will need to be deep enough to accommodate a deep mattress or they won't stay in place.
Still not sure what to buy? Try browsing the Better Sleep Council website for more information: http://www.bettersleep.org/