Shop Smart: Sleep better with these mattress-buying tips

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Getting a good night's rest doesn't have to cost a fortune. Consumer Reports' most comprehensive test of mattresses found models that performed well and cost less than $1,000.

Consumer Reports tested 12 models from Ikea, Sealy, Serta, Simmons, Stearns & Foster and Tempur-Pedic, plus Costco's Novaform brand. Simmons' performance varied the most in this test. The manufacturer's Beautyrest Glover Park Firm Pillowtop (sold at Sears), a CR Best Buy at $780, topped the ratings of conventional, innerspring mattresses, while its ComforPedic Loft Crestwood Luxury Plush, $1,920, earned the lowest scores among foam models and overall.

Overall, foam models fared a bit worse than innerspring mattresses in the tests. The recommended Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Simplicity, $1,200, earned the highest scores. But Sleep Innovations Novafoam Memory Foam Collection Serafina (Costco), a CR Best Buy at $900, virtually tied the Tempur-Pedic -- and for $300 less.

Consumer Reports' latest tests confirm that more coils, fancier fabrics and frills found on pricier models don't guarantee a better mattress. And the best mattress isn't always necessarily the firmest, even for those who suffer from back pain.

When it comes to mattress shopping, roughly 40 percent of surveyed subscribers said they had buyer's remorse. But there are ways to make the experience better:

Try before buying. Don't rely on softness or firmness claims -- nearly half the mattresses tested were softer than promised. Gauge comfort by lying on any mattress in consideration. Spend at least 10 minutes on each side, back and stomach -- depending on typical sleep position.

Consider the winter months. Using a temperature-controller chamber, the tests found three innerspring and three memory foam mattresses that were better at retaining body heat, which should help keep users warm when the weather turns cold without feeling clammy when it's hot.

Keep an old box spring if possible. Replacing the box spring that goes beneath a mattress can cost anywhere from $150 to more than $300. For those swapping out an innerspring mattress for a new one, keep the box spring if it is not sagging or damaged. If switching to memory foam, a solid platform may be necessary to provide enough support. However, for both foam and innerspring mattresses, some brands require consumers to purchase their box spring to receive the full warranty.

Don't forget to haggle. Most mattresses have huge markups that allow retailers to run frequent "sales" of up to 50 percent off. But don't wait for a promotion to save -- one-third of Consumer Reports' subscribers who haggled slashed $150 or more off the price.

People typically keep their mattresses roughly 10 years before replacing them. Consumer Reports recommends tossing any mattress that shows sags or lumps. For a mattress that looks serviceable but causes discomfort, try these quick fixes before buying a new one.

Flip or rotate it. Many older, conventional innerspring mattresses can often be flipped and rotated. But models with an obvious top layer can be rotated only, not flipped. And those with different firmness levels for each sleep partner, including some memory foam, can't be flipped or rotated.

Check the pillow. A firmer or softer one may be what it takes to nod off. Evaluate the firmness of pillows by putting them on a flat surface and compressing them to about half of their original thickness; the more pressure needed, the firmer the pillow.

Top it off. A mattress topper can improve a too-hard bed. Consumer Reports' tests have found that paying more for foam- and feather-filled toppers didn't guarantee more comfort.

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Consumer Reports: www.consumerreports.org


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