After reading what only seemed to be positive reviews for every mattress I researched on various web sites, I finally asked myself "Are all these reviews real? And even if they are, are they so 'cherry picked' that they just aren't giving a real idea of how well people really liked this mattress?"
It didn't help that different stores called the same exact mattress by different names. It made comparing mattresses almost impossible.
After spending a lot of time scouring the web, I did finally come across some review information that seemed credible. And after looking at all sort of reviews, I came up with a process that I found helpful for sorting though all the different types and makes of mattress to narrow it down to ones I really felt might work best for me.
Using this process really helped me step back from all marketing hype that permeates the mattress world that I found sort of overwhelming and confusing. It allowed me to step back and look at the forest level, rather than the confusing tree level, to first see which general types of mattresses might offer the most comfort and best fit for my needs. And then once I had a handle on this, I could plunge in to the tree level and begin sorting through the specific mattresses of this general type.
Here is the process that I came up with, and I hope it will help you break through all the confusion and hype to find the mattress that would be the best match for you and what you find comfortable.
First, I found that getting a general lay of the land gave me a much better feel of which types of mattresses get rated the highest in terms of reviews. This looking at the "forest" level got me away from specific reviews that I didn't necessarily think were real, and instead, allowed me to take a step back and see which general types of mattresses I might want to explore more deeply.
One site that stood out was Sleep Like The Dead. Even though they take advertising from different mattress retailers, they don't have any specific sponsor -- their advertising comes from a wide variety of mattress retailers carrying all sorts of types of mattresses. So they don't have a reason to fudge the general review comparisons that they show.
Also, they offer a page which details the owner satisfaction of different types of mattresses. The site says their data is based on responses from over 15,226 actual owners. I didn't come across any other site that had this sort of broad basis for its research.
What did they find in their research? What was striking was that the types of mattresses which I am drawn to for their feel (memory foam, latex mattresses, and air beds) all had much higher overall satisfaction ratings than innerspring mattresses. The actual results were: Innerspring -- owner satisfaction 61%, Latex (I'm guessing this combines synthetic and natural latex) -- owner satisfaction 78%, Air -- owner satisfaction 79%, and Memory Foam -- owner satisfaction 81%.
I thought this was striking. While Latex, Memory Foam and Air Beds were very closely rated, Innersprings were rated over 20% lower than any of these.
It also reinforced what I felt from trying out mattresses in stores. This "new generation" of mattresses just offers more comfort than springs. Even the manufacturers of innersprings seem to agree -- they now routinely incorporate memory foam or latex to try to capture some of the comfort that these alternatives offer. This layering on comfort layers is the reason that innerspring mattresses have grown from the 6" thick ones of my childhood to ones routinely 13"+ that feel like you need some rope and pitons to be able to climb into at night.
So looking broadly at the vast variety of mattress types out there, the lay of the land seemed pretty clear to me. Based both on what I felt as well as the consensus of mattress owners of all types -- this new generation of mattresses, Memory Foam, Latex and Air Beds, offered more comfort than sleeping on a bed that had hard steel as its core.
Now for getting to the "tree" level of inspection -- how to find help sorting through these different options. And this is where I found it got pretty hit and miss -- mostly miss.
One thing I love about the internet is that I can find independent reviews that really help me understand how a product or service really works. The best are reviews that aren't edited heavily, have a lot of detail, and truly seem to represent all sides of the question in a matter-of-fact way.
Amazon is my favorite for this, and often the first place I do research on generic-type products widely available on the web. The problem with mattresses is that they aren't generic -- they come from all sorts large and small mattress retailers, and the reviews on Amazon don't cover most of these and ignore many of the larger brands. For example, Tempur-Pedic TM isn't covered at all on Amazon, despite it being the leading brand for memory foam and the 4th largest mattress manufacturer in the U.S.
So here's what I did. I did a basic Google search for each of these mattress types, and looked over the first few top listings for each.
What I found was generally disappointing. Although most of the dealers had reviews, they were all too often just "cherry picked" ones. They weren't like the Amazon reviews which provide a large database of unbiased and largely unedited reviews with stats on the reviews in general (What % liked and would recommend the mattress? How many overall stars did it earn? etc.), along with complete access to all the reviews - even the not-so-good ones.
A very few did offer these sorts of detailed, unbiased reviews, though. And I found these to be really helpful in getting a feel for how a particular mattress actually worked for real people sleeping on it at home -- and not just how it felt for a few minutes lying down in a store.
Two examples of dealers providing these sorts of Amazon style reviews are our sponsors -- and this is one of the reasons I feel so comfortable referring people to them. You will find more information about them, Healthy Foundations and Habitat Furnishings, on our specific buying guides for the different types of mattresses.
So ... my advice, based on my experience researching mattresses, is first: figure out at the "forest level" which of those owner-preferred mattresses -- Memory Foam, Latex, and Air Beds -- may be the best fit for you. To help you with this part of the process, I have put together our buying guides. My hope is that by reading through these guides, you will get a good sense of the benefits that these different types of mattresses have to offer and which might be a good fit for you.
The next step of the process is at the "tree level". You will now need to investigate in more detail any of the mattress types that appeal to you. Regardless of who you buy from, the detail their customers put in their reviews will really help you get a good idea of what people like, and don't like, about Memory Foam and All Natural Latex. Then, after reading through 6 - 12 of these reviews, I think you will get a very good idea of whether the type of feel and comfort these mattresses provide might be the type of feel that you are looking for.
As for the other sites which only offer a list of selected reviews, you will have to judge for yourself if they really represent an unbiased sample or just a "cherry picked" bunch meant to give a good impression of the mattress. One thing I consider when looking at these is the return policy of the retailer. If they don't offer one, or just a store credit, then they have no incentive to provide accurate overall reviews.
But a retailer offering a good and real money back trial has every reason not to overly pump up their products. Because if they do oversell, they would just be shooting themselves in the foot since they would have to incur the expense of taking back a bunch of mattresses from dissatisfied customers.
So, again, forgetting whether you might ultimately purchase from the companies whose banner ads are visible on our site, the information in the articles is a treasure trove of great detail for you as a researcher into how these particular types of mattresses, Hybrids, Coil, Digital Air Beds, Memory Foam or Latex, work for a broad cross section of ordinary mattress users.
But before you skip to this step (at the "tree level"), I really hope you will take a few minutes to look over my buying guides to help you navigate your way through the "forest". They should give you a good orientation to these specialty type mattresses, and from there you can go on to do the more detailed research on specific mattresses. Here, again, are the buying guides I've put together: