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So…here’s the deal. I’ve always had a bad lower back, and finding a mattress that I could comfortably and consistently sleep on has been about as hard as finding a wife. (Maybe now that I’ve found one I’ll find the other?) Like most people with lower back pain, I’ve always preferred a firmer mattress. When my parents moved to a new house, my dad went all-out with $3,000+ latex mattresses that were supposed to be God’s gift to humanity. The whole family loved them, but when I went home for Christmas, my back felt differently. Soft, plush, cozy…and guaranteed to deliver excruciating back pain to me by morning. As embarrassed I am to admit it, I longed for my super-cheap innerspring twin bed, and ended up giving up the plush bed for a much firmer chaise lounge in my brother’s bedroom.

When I moved to my new place about a year ago, I decided it was time to upgrade to a full king-sized mattress. I was intrigued by all of the up-and-coming “bed in a box” mattress companies like Casper, Tuft & Needle, and the like, who shipped direct-to-customer at surprisingly reasonable prices. Luxury king mattresses easily cost $3,000+ in store and your “trial” period consists of 15 minutes, laying on your side, awkwardly trying to assess the situation while people pretend to not be looking at you. (Never mind the uncomfortable fact that hundreds of other people have also laid on that bed before you…).

So yeah. I’m all about 1) getting the coolest new thing, 2) saving time, 3) saving money, and 4) not sleeping in mattress stores. All of these online-only mattress companies offer 100-day+ risk-free trials, so what did I have to lose?

Over the next six months, I purchased SEVEN (yes, seven) of these mattresses in a quest to find my nocturnal soul mate. I’m sure my roommate thought I was crazy. At one point I had four king-sized mattresses in the apartment—three in my room (two against the wall and one on my bed frame) and one that I made from scratch (yup.) hiding in the laundry room.

I’m also sure the FedEx guy wanted to strangle me. Thankfully, all deliveries were made while I was at work…

Just as I was about to resign to a life of sleepless nights and sore awakenings, I found it. A mattress that was comfy, didn’t hurt my back, and was priced right. It was a Christmas miracle. 

Now, mind you, every body is different. Every mattress I purchased had glowing reviews from purchasers. The catch is, no two bodies, backs, hips, etc. are alike. What may feel like clouds of cotton candy to one person could be hell for another. Hence, I’m writing about what finally worked for me. Your mileage may vary, so if my recommendation doesn’t suit you, try another! (or another seven…)

The mattresses I tried:

(Note: most prices have gone up since my experiment. I bought a King, but I’m putting the prices for Queen-sized mattresses since they’re a little more universal. Also, some of these are affiliate links because, why not?)

I’ll cut right to the chase: The #BestMattressEver by Brooklyn Bedding was the [surprising] winner. I’ll go into my thoughts on each of the mattresses in a minute, but by the time the ads for the #BestMattressEver came up on my screen, I had basically accepted the fact that I was never going to find a great fit. I’d gone through SIX beds already and had even tried making my own (a topic for another day). While I honestly didn’t think it’d be any different that the rest, I hit the “buy now” button. When it arrived about a week later, I rolled it onto my bed frame, let it air out, and hit the hay later that evening. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning with virtually no back pain!

After a few weeks, I was sold. I had finally found a bed that worked (well enough, anyway) for me. My back pain isn’t 100% gone (latest suspicion is that I need to do more core exercises and stretching), but it’s far less than when I was sleeping on the other six mattresses. AND the mattress is not a brick (I ordered the medium firmness), so my future wife is at least more likely to appreciate it as much as I do.

As icing on the cake, I ordered it during a sale (which appears to be an evergreen sale because it’s still live) of 5% off + two free pillows and a free bamboo sheet set. (Update: the deal now shows $50 off, two free pillows, and microfiber sheets instead). Props to Brooklyn Bedding—those pillows and sheets are nice! I fully expected cheap-o items but I can honestly say the shredded foam pillows are the nicest I’ve ever owned. They retain their shape surprisingly well, and re-fluff more easily and more consistently than any other. The sheets are luxurious—soft, stretchy, cool, and a nice dark-grey color.have started to notice some pilling in certain areas, so I’ll keep a closer eye on them there, but I honestly couldn’t be happier with them. Smart move on Brooklyn Bedding’s part,  because I’ve found that having the right pillows and sheets can make or break your mattress experience.

All-in-all, the #BestMattressEver is the mattress I recommend everyone start off with. The prices are extremely competitive, the build quality is above average, and the add-ons really sweeten the deal. If, after 120 days of sleeping on it, it just doesn’t suit your fancy, you can return it for a 100% refund. Awesome.

Important Update: I wrote this draft several months ago, and now that I’m posting it, it appears Brooklyn Bedding has changed the top layers from latex to a new “TitanFlex” foam. They claim that it sleeps 5x cooler and is “infinitely more durable” than latex. This obviously changes things (too soon to tell if it’s for better or for worse?) but the reviews appear to be solid. Even still, my recommendation stands. Again—no risk in trying!

So what about all of the others?

Here are my quick thoughts.

For reference, I’m a 6′, 165 lb. male with a fairly average build (broader shoulders than hips), and a lifetime side sleeper.

Tuft & Needle – $675 (Queen)

This was my first mattress, and I wanted to love it. It was the lest expensive at the time, and had a very cool, comfortable feel. The T&N keeps things simple with a base foam layer and one top layer of proprietary foam (while others have anywhere from 3-7 layers). The cover was simple yet attractive and the bed slept remarkably cool. It still hurt my back so I ended up donating it, but the T&N remains my second-place recommendation—if you don’t like or decide not to try to the #BestMattressEver, give the T&N a try.

Leesa – $840 (Queen) ($100 off w/this link)

The Leesa mattress came highly recommended from a coworker and hundreds of reviewers online raved about how soft and plush it was. Oddly enough, my experience was that the Leesa mattress was significantly less comfortable than the Tuft & Needle. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but the Leesa felt a little “stiffer” to me, whereas the T&N felt more like I was suspended or floating. The T&N felt like it had a light and airy top layer, where the Leesa felt like fabric and standard foam. Tough to describe, but that’s the best I’ve got. I didn’t last more than a few nights on the Leesa before going back to the T&N.

Helix – $995 (Queen)

THIS had me excited. Helix is unique in that they build a custom mattress for you, based on a whole slew of questions regarding your body type and sleeping preference. The building and checkout experience was pretty slick, but I was honestly disappointed when I saw the finished product. The Helix came in shorter than the other mattresses (despite still saying it was 10″) and was clearly inferior when it came to build quality. It just seemed…unrefined. All the others felt full-bodied and well-built, but the Helix was underwhelming. Largely for this reason, Helix is last on my recommended list.

Purple – $999 (Queen)

Several co-workers recommended the Purple mattress to me (Purple is a local company, which was cool), so it seemed like a great buy. The mattress was heavy and more expensive than all but one on this list, and clearly unique. They are the only ones using a unique gel “grid” system on the top layer that relieves pressure points to the point that you could (theoretically) sit on an egg without it cracking.

I ended up donating the Purple because it simply let my hips sink too far in (without allowing my shoulders to do the same). I had the most excruciating back pain of all 7 with this bed, so it wasn’t for me. And yet, as I mentioned, at least 3 different co-workers sleep like they’re dead on this, so again—your mileage may vary.

Love & Sleep Mattress (Formerly “LoveBed”) – $599 (Queen)

Nest (the company that makes this mattress) has clearly positioned this mattress as one particularly suitable for…um…”amorous activities.” It claims to provide more springiness and bounce than your average foam mattress—something that otherwise suffers compared to innersprings. (Why they decided to change the name to “Love and Sleep Mattress” is beyond me—were people really thinking the mattress was only for making love??)

Naming aside, the bed was actually quite nice. I was immediately impressed with the look and build of the bed—it was solid, well-put-together, and felt like a high-quality piece. (Update: it looks like they’ve since changed the outer cover and stitching to a much more basic, removable/washable cover, though it still looks quite nice).

Sleep on it was plenty “average,” in my mind, but the back pain persisted so I moved on. Still, not a bad option in my opinion.

Saatva – $999 +$99 delivery (Queen)

The Saatva is unique among the others on this list in two ways: first, it’s an innerspring (at this point I was wondering if the foam mattresses were the problem) and second, it was the most “luxury” of the bunch. Both of these led to an increase in price and a $99 shipping fee. Not too happy about that, but I was desperate.

The mattress certainly held up to my luxury expectations—it was beautiful, plush, and very well made. Not a bad option at all, especially if you decide you want an innerspring. As far as “bounce” is concerned, this (obviously) knocks it out of the park, because it’s an innerspring. I found that nice for hopping out of bed (never feeling like I had “sunk in,” and it would obviously be preferred for those “amorous activities” we talked about earlier. An additional benefit of the Saatva is that, like most innersprings, it has a thin metal band around the edges to provide significantly more support edge-to-edge than any of the other foam options. On foam mattresses, there’s a critical point near the edge of the where the support gives out and dumps you to the floor. It’s quite comical if you’re expecting it. It’s quite annoying if it happens during the middle of the night. A minor issue in my opinion, but worth mentioning.

#BestMattressEver – $750 w/promo on their site (Queen + 2 pillows + sheet set)

Thank you, Brooklyn Bedding. Why do I love the #BestMattressEver? The build (cover, stitching, foam, etc.) is solid. The use of 4″ of latex on their top layer (at least, prior to their transition over to TitanFlex foam) was quite unique, especially at their price point. Sleeping temperature is fairly average (the only mattress I remember being significantly cooler was the Tuft & Needle), though I suspect their new foam will probably put the two on par. It has decent bounce and good support yet feels very plush—much more-so than the Leesa. Still, to this day, I smile when I hop into bed. It’s just flat-out comfortable.

The other major plus to this is in the add-ons: 2 free shredded-foam pillows and a free sheet set. This may seem like no big deal, but as I mentioned in the intro to this post, they really upped the experience of sleeping on the new bed.

Parting Thoughts

So there you have it. Michael’s crazy search for the magical mattress summed up in one overtly long blog post. Take it for what it’s worth. If nothing else, you can now feel completely comfortable trying and returning as many mattresses as you want (up to seven, anyway…) knowing that you’re at least not as crazy as me. 😉

Have you tried any of these mattresses? Any others? If so, what’s been your experience?

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2 Comments

  1. Alyse April 3, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Thank you this was very helpful! I came to the site in search of info about your book and stumbled into mattresses. It’s refreshing to get honest tried and true advice… so tired of people just re-blogging other peoples reviews and giving advice about something they’ve never even tried so thanks for sensible (and well written) information

    Reply
    1. Michael S. Sorensen April 3, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Alyse, so happy to hear that! Thank you for the kind words. If you’re in the market, I’ll be curious to hear what you end up with. Happy hunting!

      Reply

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