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Buying a new bed? We debunk 5 mattress myths

We cut through the sales spin to help you shop (and sleep) better.

person using hand to test firmness of mattress
Last updated: 11 May 2021

Buying a new mattress can be a minefield. Prices and discounts vary widely and different brands offer an astonishing range of features that all promise the best night's sleep. 

But which claims stand true and which ones ring false? Does an expensive bed always guarantee a superior sleep? Do more springs equal more comfort? 

To find the answers, our lab experts scientifically test and review dozens of mattresses a year from popular brands including Sealy, SleepMaker, Koala, Ikea, A.H.Beard, Tempur and plenty more (see our mattress reviews). 

We asked them to sort the facts from the fiction when it comes to the common mattress myths you hear when shopping. We hope you can rest easier now. 

Myth 1. Cost = comfort

We have great news – you don't need to spend a fortune to get a good night's sleep. In fact, our testers regularly find cheaper mattresses that rate as good as or better for comfort than ones that cost thousands of dollars. 

The bad news? They've also found very pricey mattresses that rate poorly too – one even costs over $4000.

Testers regularly find cheaper mattresses that rate as good as or better than ones that cost thousands

To bust this expensive myth, our lab tests assess comfort extensively in multiple ways. First, using lasers, experts conduct body support tests for both male and female body types in back and side sleeping positions. 

mattress lab image

Our tests use lasers to assess comfort levels.

Then, to see how comfort changes over time, they evaluate each mattress as new and after a simulated eight years' use, using a huge roller machine which passes over it 30,000 times! 

Our experts also test separately for sagging and stabilisation, too. CHOICE members can check and compare individual scores for each of these tests in our reviews

"If you like the mattress now and its comfort and sagging scores don't decrease much in the eight-year score, then you can rest easy knowing that you'll likely be comfortable in eight years' time," says CHOICE's mattress master, Peter Zaluzny.

CHOICE verdict: Myth sprung! Cash doesn't always equal comfort.

Myth 2. Advertised firmness = actual firmness

You'd think this would be pretty straight-forward. A bed marketed as 'firm' should be... er... firm, right?  

Except our testing continually shows this isn't the case. Instead, we've discovered 'firm' mattresses that are actually 'soft' and 'medium' ones that rate 'hard' – it's a mislabelling mess out there! 

That's why we run our own firmness lab tests to let you know what you're actually going to be laying on, night in, night out. Find out which mattresses live up to their firmness claims in our mattress review.

CHOICE verdict: Myth sprung! Don't rely on mattress retailers' claims about mattress firmness – try them out for yourself.

Myth 3. More springs = a better night's sleep

There's no correlation between spring count and comfort. It's as simple as that.

One of our top-performing mattresses had half as many springs per square metre as a $5000+ hybrid mattress, but still scores better for comfort in our tests – by a lot. And many mattresses without springs also perform well.

"You can ignore salespeople's claims that a mattress with more springs will be more comfortable – our testing shows that this isn't the case at all," says Peter.

CHOICE verdict: Myth sprung! Don't get duped into paying more for a mattress with more springs. It doesn't mean it's more comfortable.

How we test mattresses

Myth 4. 'Cool' mattresses = a cooler night's sleep

Many mattress manufacturers talk up their special 'cooling technology' that supposedly helps keep you cool at night. But of all the mattresses and temperatures we tested, only one actually felt cool on contact. The rest were warm or medium-warm.

If you're a particularly sweaty sleeper or live in a hotter climate, you're probably better off looking for a mattress with a higher sweat repellent score in our test (this assesses a mattresses' permeability and water intake).

Of all the mattresses we tested, only one felt cool on contact – the rest were warm or medium-warm

Humans are generally pretty grubby animals: when we sleep, we release sweat, bodily fluids, dead skin cells and other delightful substances. The more permeable a mattress, the less it retains this gunk, which means less damage to the mattress (and less sleeping on gross stuff). 

Spring mattresses tend to come out ahead in this area, as they have plenty of space to let the gloop through – unlike foam mattresses, which are basically giant sponges.

CHOICE verdict: Myth (partially) sprung! Mattress manufacturers' cooling claims tend to be full of hot air. Sweaty sleepers and people in the tropics are better off with a more permeable mattress. 

Look for models with a high sweat repellent score in our mattress reviews to find which are the most permeable.

Myth 5. Discounted mattresses = a good deal

Our 2017 investigation into mattress pricing found that bricks-and-mortar retailers can add mark-ups as high as 200%, and rename mattresses so that you can't easily compare one mattress with the same model from a different retailer. This disadvantages us by taking away our bargaining power.

Yet we were still able to negotiate discounts of 43% on average, illustrating just how much traditional retailers pad their profit margins.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers can add mark-ups as high as 200%

While a 43% discount might seem like a good deal, you're really only paying as much as the mattress is worth, once the excessive mark-up is accounted for.

And the effort you need to put in to negotiate a traditional retailer down to online retailer prices may not be worth the effort, considering that bed-in-a-box mattresses perform as well as traditional mattresses in our test.

"With so little difference in performance between mattresses from online and traditional retailers, you'd be mad to pay the full RRP for a mattress from a traditional retailer," says Peter.

If you have your heart set on a mattress from a traditional retailer, then always push for a lower price.

CHOICE verdict: Myth sprung! Deep discounts from mattress retailers don't necessarily represent good value. 

Don't pay full RRP for a mattress from a traditional retailer. Unless you have specific needs, you may be better off opting for a great deal on a high-scoring mattress. Take a look at our detailed mattress reviews to find out how to get more bang for your buck.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE