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Debunking Mattress Myths

Written By Certified Sleep Science Coach
Mattress Resources
Read Time: 7 minutes

From blanket statements to scare tactics, many mattress myths can be found online and in showrooms. Some of these are based on outdated information, while others are advertised to promote specific brands. Separate fact from fiction as we uncover and debunk common mattress myths.

Mattress Myths & Reality

When buying a mattress, the more you know the better equipped you are to make a wise decision and come away satisfied. Don’t get sold on or scared by these mattress myths!

1. All memory foam mattresses sleep hot.

Have you heard you’ll be pouring buckets of sweat if you buy a memory foam mattress? According to the analysis of hundreds of reviews, SleepLikeTheDead.com (SLTD) says that only about 8% of people experience overheating on a memory foam mattress. While this is higher than spring beds (5%), the numbers are still pretty low overall.

Other sources have actually found a few memory foam brands that have similar or fewer mentions of heat than spring beds. How hot a memory foam mattress will feel depends on a few things though, so if heat is a concern for you look for open-celled memory foam, medium or low density, and foams with temperature-neutral properties. These can establish some of the best cooling mattresses.

2. Latex mattresses are all-natural.

Although latex mattresses are often classified as more eco-friendly and healthier alternatives to traditional beds, all latex is not equal. Synthetic latex, or styrene-butadiene rubber, is made from petroleum-based ingredients and other chemicals that do not offer the same benefits associated with natural latex. The majority of latex on the market is a blend of synthetic and natural latex.

Latex mattresses can still have chemical flame retardants and other unnatural materials. While many latex beds are some of the best mattresses without fiberglass and other unwanted flame barriers, it’s still smart to do your full research into a bed’s construction.

Companies can also classify latex as “natural” even when it contains as little as 30% natural materials. If the natural or environmental benefits are important to you, make sure the mattress is using 100% natural latex and that other materials are also natural. When it comes to natural vs organic mattresses, organic tends to be backed up by a number of certifications.

3. Coil count is the best measure of support.

Coil counts of innerspring beds are often considered a prime selling feature, but their importance may be overinflated. Brands offering high coil counts, sometimes in excess of 1000, often tend to charge considerably higher prices as well.

However, SLTD finds that coil counts aren’t necessarily predictive of comfort or durability. The type of coil and comfort layers are perhaps more important to overall durability and satisfaction.

4. Waterbeds lack support and are bad for your back.

The idea that waterbeds are bad for your back may have had some truth when hard-side waterbeds first entered the market, however, modern waterbeds can actually be quite supportive. The range of waveless and ultra-waveless models use fiber layers to limit water movement and the firmer waveless models also prevent hammocking.

Still, waterbeds aren’t for everyone and there are quite a number of mattress types to consider.

5. You don’t need to rotate your mattress if the dealer says so.

Some brands tout their beds as no-flip and no-rotate, but it may not be in your best interest. While it is true that most one-sided mattresses should no longer be flipped over, all mattresses (except perhaps waterbeds) should be rotated every few months for even wear.

If you do not rotate, your bed will soften where you sleep quicker, and softening and slight impressions usually aren’t covered by warranties.

6. If you have latex allergies, you can’t sleep on a latex mattress.

Latex allergies are a real concern for millions of people who have contact allergies to latex proteins. Since the latex foam typically remains covered by fabric, most people will not be in direct contact with the foam. Additionally, the washing process typically means that nearly all of the allergy-causing proteins are eliminated.

Latex mattresses have been on the market for several decades, and government agencies have no document reports of people experiencing allergic reactions from a latex bed. You can also use a waterproof mattress protector for extra protection, or order samples of foam to test with your allergist before buying.

7. A mattress topper can add years to your mattress.

Sometimes retailers promote mattress toppers as a fix-all solution to an uncomfortable bed, but the truth is that toppers can only do so much. They primarily add cushioning and pressure point relief, so they are ideal if your bed is too firm or rigid.

However, if the underlying mattress is no longer supportive or is too soft, a mattress topper might not help. Sometimes it’s not possible to fix a sagging mattress and it’s best to buy a new one.

8. Gel memory foam is dramatically cooler.

Gel-infused foams have been making waves the past few years, bolstered by manufacturer claims that foams with gel sleep cooler than foams without gel. However, there is little to no proof that gel foams actually contribute to cooler sleep than other modern memory foams.

9. A firm mattress is best for a bad back.

Conventional wisdom has touted firm mattresses as ideal for back support, but modern studies say medium to medium-firm might actually be better. A bed that is too firm can force your hips and shoulders up and leave your lower back unsupported.

The best mattress for you is one that is both firm enough to provide full-body support and soft enough to accept your curves and prevent pressure points. If you have a too-firm mattress, you can typically soften it up with a topper.

10. Name brand mattresses are higher quality.

While many of the industry giants have established brands and reputations, they don’t necessarily produce beds of higher quality than smaller manufacturers. They are often less than transparent when it comes to mattress specifications, primarily because it helps boost profits when consumers can’t comparison shop effectively. Rather than relying on brand reputation, check real reviews to see what people are saying.

11. Higher prices mean a better bed.

Logic might lead you to believe that the more expensive a mattress is, the better it will be. But, again, this is simply a myth and you can find excellent mattresses under $1000. Some brands are arbitrarily expensive, charging top dollar while using cheaper materials.

Likewise, a brand’s top-of-the-line luxury mattress may not be the best fit for you. When shopping beds, look at what’s inside and consider comfort rather than prestige.

12. A showroom test tells you everything you need to know.

This myth has been around for a while, and at face value, it makes sense. After all, how will you know if you like a bed unless you try it! However, the showroom experience doesn’t tell you how a mattress will feel after a full night of sleep, or how it will feel after a month of sleep.

Showrooms can make it difficult to pick the right mattress because the selection is limited, salespeople may steer you towards a poor fit, and it can be hard to get comfortable lying down in the middle of a busy store. Because beds are often broken in, how it feels in the store may not be how it feels at home.

Whether you buy in a store or choose an online mattress, the most important thing is that you have the ability to return or exchange if needed.

13. You always need the matching foundation.

Mattress stores often like to sell you the whole “set” when you buy a mattress to boost the value of the sale. But, you don’t always need the box spring or foundation. If your current one is in decent condition and compatible with your new mattress, save your money.

When using memory foam and latex on a platform or adjustable bed, you also do not need the foundation component. A few brands require matching foundations in order to maintain warranty coverage but most do not so check the terms.

14. You should replace your mattress every 8 years.

The bedding industry recommends replacing your mattress every 8 years. However, like most blanket statements, this won’t always be true. Some beds can last years longer while others may lose support after only a few years.

You don’t need to replace a mattress that’s still comfortable and supportive at 8 years on the dot. Yet, even the highest quality beds are typically on their last legs by 12-15 years or so, though some latex mattresses last longer.

If your mattress is causing you pain, has deep impressions, or is no longer comfortable to sleep on, it’s time to replace it no matter how old it is. Understanding how long a mattress should last can give you an idea of a bed’s worth when shopping.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

The best firmness level for you depends on your preferred sleeping position. Side sleepers need the hug-like cushion of softer mattresses to relieve tension in the shoulders and hips. Meanwhile, stomach and back sleepers benefit from firmer surfaces to keep the spine buoyed and in a neutral position.

How long does a mattress last?

How long you can expect to use your mattress depends on the type of bed you have and their material quality. Traditional innerspring mattresses can lose support within a few years, especially if the coils are low-quality. Hybrid mattresses tend to last longer, but high-quality memory foam and latex mattresses still tend to outstrip a hybrid’s expected lifespan.

Why do mattresses sag?

Mattresses tend to sag as they age and lose support. Sagging can also be a sign of defective materials, and if that’s the case you should reach out to the manufacturer about your warranty’s protection.

However, a mattress can also sag prematurely if it’s kept on an improper bed base, which also voids the warranty. This is why we recommend strong, thick slats that aren’t spaced too far apart.

Can I put my mattress on the floor?

While you can put a mattress on the floor temporarily while you shop for a foundation, we don’t recommend it as a permanent spot for the bed. Keeping a mattress on the floor puts it at greater risk of damage from mold and mildew and increases the chance of pests infiltrating the mattress.

It’s more difficult for air to flow through and whisk away heat and moisture, which lets mold spores flourish and tends to cause nightly discomfort.

How often should a mattress be replaced?

It’s difficult to give a set number of years for replacing a mattress as some bed types tend to need replacing sooner than others. Spring mattresses can sag within a handful of years as the coils wear out. Foam beds, particularly latex mattresses, tend to resist body impressions better but can still lose support after years and years of use.

The rule of thumb is 8 years, but it’s better to look at the mattress’s condition than its age. Some comfortable mattresses still supportive even as they reach the 10-year mark.

Fight Mattress Myths & Get A Good Bed

Understanding the differences between myths and facts is essential when choosing a new mattress. Don’t be influenced by unbacked sales claims or advertising gimmicks.

Learning about the mattress types can help you know how to distinguish a quality mattress from a lemon. Pay attention to what your body finds comfortable, as the best mattress for you can depend on your personal preferences.

If you’ve heard of other crazy mattress myths, feel free to share below!

Meg Riley Certified Sleep Science Coach

Meg Riley is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a full-time writer focused on sleep and mattresses. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Junkie.

Meg started to focus on the sleep industry in 2018. Since then, she has written over 70+ articles on sleep hygiene, product reviews, and the newest trends in the mattress and bedding industry.

A non-exhaustive list of some of the topics she has written on: the effectiveness of alarm clocks, how to prevent jet lag, the NREM & REM Sleep Cycle, and causes and treatments of Restless Legs Syndrome.

Meg Riley has her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University where she studied Advertising and Public Relations and wrote articles on the student experience for College Magazine.

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