CONSUMER REPORTS: How to pick the best mattress
You don’t have to be among the roughly 70 million Americans with chronic sleep problems to dream about a new mattress, says Consumer Reports. Almost three out of four respondents to a recent industry survey believed a new bed would help them sleep better.
Here’s what to consider as you shop:
— Don’t buy in to firmness claims. About half of the mattresses proved softer than advertised in Consumer Reports’ tests. And a firmer mattress isn’t necessarily better for your back. Instead, use Consumer Reports’ Ratings scores for back and side support as a guide. Then try any mattress you’re considering by lying on it for at least 10 minutes on each side, your back and your stomach, if that’s how you sleep. More than 80 percent of subscribers who did so said they were still satisfied later.
— Check return policies. That’s especially important at Costco and other retailers where you can’t try out a mattress before buying. Costco’s return policy is relatively generous and includes free pickup and return with no repacking needed. Many other major retailers hit you with pickup and restocking fees.
— Look for a label. Some, though not all, states require retailers include one that declares “all-new material,” along with an alert if the mattress itself is used or was returned. Check with authorities in your state. And consider buying only tagged mattresses from trusted sellers.
— Don’t buy solely by brand. Almost 13,000 subscribers in a separate survey found the Tempur-Pedic, Ikea, Original Mattress Factory, Noveform and Sleep Number brands to be the most comfortable, and the Sealy, Serta, Simmons and Stearns & Foster brands less so. But as Consumer Reports’ tests found, different models within the same brands can perform very differently. And though Sleep Number’s $3,000 Innovation Series 18 topped Consumer Reports’ tests, its research shows that its Classic C2 — recently advertised with a limited-time $699 price — differs notably in construction, with a much thinner foam layer.
— Weigh latex concerns. Many mattresses, even innerspring models, include latex-based foam layers that might concern those with latex allergies. Manufacturers often claim that their processing removes the protein allergens that can cause problems for allergy sufferers.
— Keep your old box spring if possible. You could save roughly $150 to $300 by using an old foundation if it isn’t sagging or damaged. But you may need a new one if you’re switching from innerspring to foam. Also be sure the mattress warranty doesn’t require a new box spring, as some do.
— Shop during the holidays, and haggle. Huge markups and profit margins often let retailers lower prices by 50 percent or more, especially during major holidays. That also leaves plenty of room for haggling year-round. Roughly one-third of Consumer Reports’ survey respondents slashed $185 or more off the price by doing just that.
WAYS TO SABOTAGE YOUR SLEEP
Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, suppressed immune function and lower overall life expectancy. If you aren’t getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, check these common culprits:
— Varying your bedtime. Love those late-night Saturdays? Staying up more than an hour later than usual can make it harder to fall asleep on Sunday — and harder to get up on Monday. Try to keep a consistent bedtime schedule, even on weekends.
— Watching the late, late, late show. The bright screens of the TV and e-books can fool your brain into thinking it’s morning. Click both off an hour or so before bed.
— Drinking that extra cup of joe. Coffee or tea too late could keep you up all night. Opt for decaf coffee after 6 p.m., earlier if you’re having trouble sleeping.
— Having one for the sack. Alcohol, which starts out as a mild sedative, becomes a stimulant as it’s metabolized. Have that last cocktail at least 6 hours before bed if you have sleep problems.