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Five mattress myths sprung

We separate fact from fiction to reveal which myths you should ignore when shopping for a new mattress.

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Last updated: 14 November 2019

Buying a new mattress can be a minefield. Prices (and discounts) vary widely and different brands promise an astonishing range of features that all promise to send you happily off to the land of snooze. 

But which claims should you pay attention to: will you really get a more comfortable mattress if you pay more or do more springs equal a better night's sleep? Make sure you know the truth about these mattress myths so you don't get hoodwinked.

Myth 1. Cost = comfort

You don't need to spend a fortune to have a good night's sleep. 

In our tests, a $500 bed-in-a-box mattress from Clark Rubber outperforms a $4400 Sealy spring mattress. It also gets exactly the same overall score as another spring mattress that costs nearly five times more.

In fact, mattresses from bricks-and-mortar retailers cost on average 50% more, but score 10% lower, than bed-in-a-box mattresses in our tests.

We score each mattress on comfort, both when brand-new and after a simulated eight years' use. But don't get as hung up on those initial comfort scores – one person's bed of roses is another's bed of nails. You're better off checking the variation after eight years' use.

In our tests, a $500 bed-in-a-box mattress outperforms a $4400 spring mattress

"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 1 sprung! Cash doesn't always equal comfort.

Myth 2. Advertised firmness = actual firmness

You might think that a mattress labelled as 'firm' would be better for your back, but take these claims with a grain of salt.

Our tests show that only one mattress marketed as 'firm' actually met the test standard for firmness. Most of the other mattresses were actually medium, soft and even very soft.

Find out which mattresses live up to their firmness claims in our mattress review.

CHOICE verdict: Myth 2 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.

Our top-performing mattress had half as many springs per square metre as a $6000 hybrid mattress, but still scores better in terms of comfort. 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 3 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 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 (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 queen-sized sponges.

CHOICE verdict: Myth 4 (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 investigation into mattress pricing found that bricks-and-mortar retailers add mark-ups as high as 200%, and rebrand 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 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 5 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.

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