There is no rest for the weary mattress shopper. Next to used car shopping and getting your fingers stuck in a sausage maker, it’s the kind of brutal and fruitless ordeal we’d rather bypass altogether and go straight to drinking. Whether in a big department store or an awkward mattress shop (where you’re the lone shopper and the salesman is pressuring you into buying a mattress with a sales pitch tantamount to a high school dare), the experience typically sucks.
Plus, you do enough research on the not-so-sexy “mattress forums”, and you realize that buying a new mattress is essentially a crapshoot of huge proportions. The big brands wantonly use different mattress names for the same kinds of mattresses — so if you try a “Dream Cloud” at one store, it has a totally different name at another (this is to avoid price matching — “It’s not the same name, it’s not the same mattress!”). And then there’s the attempt at pretending that two minutes on a department store mattress while you’re fully dressed in street clothes (and fully awake) somehow magically simulates six hours in bed. But hope is out there, and it’s closer than you think. The new breed of mattresses is here and waiting for your tired eyes, back and body. Online shopping, excellent craftsmanship, great prices, free shipping/returns, long and hassle-free trials and stellar customer service are the name of the game for these newcomers — and the big names should be shaking in their individually wrapped coil springs. The jig for the big box is up; these four new mattress companies offer up a new — and superior — shopping and sleeping experience.
Anyone who’s taken up a regular yoga practice has likely had one of those change-your-life moments when you lie on your back in savasana (or “corpse pose”), muscles soft and brain quiet, surrounded by beautiful women in spandex, and feel completely at peace in your own body as the instructor reminds you to “hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”
That must be what the founders of Yogabed ($599+) had in mind when they named their 10-inch gel and memory foam mattress, because sleeping on it provides a similar, revelatory feeling of comfort and relaxation. Designed to hit a universal sweet spot between soft and firm, Yogabed’s “Yoga Comfort System” consists of one inch of Instant Response Foam (“a highly reactionary foam”), two inches of Yogagel (for cushion, impact dispersion and keeping you cool), six inches of breathable foam (support and air flow) and one inch of a support base (for structure and continuity across the mattress), all wrapped up in a removable and washable cover.
At $799 for a Queen mattress, Yogabed is a direct competitor with Casper, which we’ve reviewed at length, and offers similar benefits, like a 10-year warranty, free shipping and returns and a 101-day trial (one day longer than Casper), plus some added bonuses like two free pillows with purchase. These relaxed, customer-service-driven policies and a straightforward website make the process of selecting and shipping a mattress a breeze compared to going to a mattress store that more closely approximates a car dealership (sheisty negotiations included).
Ultimately, what matters is how the bed sleeps, and we found the experience of sleeping on Yogabed to be better than or equivalent to any mattress we’ve ever slept on, luxury hotel beds included. It cradles without swallowing you up; it breathes when the weather is hot and humid; and with another person in bed, you barely notice when she gets up for a glass of water. Yogabed may not promise a roomful of beautiful women in spandex or encourage you to surrender to God, but if you’ve been sleeping on a lesser mattress, it’ll definitely offer a change-your-life moment when you lie on your back in corpse pose for the first time.
Tuft & Needle
What happens when two Silicon Valley programmers decide to start their own business? Naturally, they decide to make mattresses. Daehee Park and JT Marino, like any good software guys, had the objective of basing a business on problem solving, and their own personal frustration with the mattress industry seemed like a great place to start. JT had even gone so far as to dissect a $3,000 mattress he had purchased (and hated) just to see what mysteries lay within. The pair painfully discovered that a $3K mattress from a big-name manufacturer is worth about $300 in materials. And then they came across the problem of what they refer to as the “Taco Bell” mentality: Several of the same ingredients used by the same mattress manufacturers mixed and matched to create myriad mattresses to further stupefy the consumer.
They knew they could do better, and started with the intention of turning the mattress industry on its head. So Tuft & Needle kicked off in 2012 with a colossal $6,000 raised between the two friends. The lab rats consisted of family and friends, and since they also wanted complete control of the company in order to fulfill their original objectives, they didn’t seek venture capital funding and instead decided to go the bootstrap route. The first T & N mattress is their 5-inch model. Known for its supreme value and firmness, it is made from polyurethane foam from California (not memory or latex foam; and it wasn’t imported like the big guys’). The support foam layer is made from a “high-density poly-foam” that undergirds the “comfort foam layer”, which is much cooler than both latex and memory foam. There are also no internal coils to speak of. The newer mattress, the 10-inch model, also makes use of the Tuft & Needle premium foam with two layers. While not as firm as the 5-inch, it still provides a level of firmness most men tend to prefer while accommodating side sleepers extremely well. The 10-inch’s high-density support foam is 7 inches thick, and Tuft & Needle also adds a soft “ticking” surface made of rayon and polyester that feels great to the touch. No box spring is required, so you can throw it on a platform bed or purchase a low-profile box spring for breathability — it’s not required for support. Both mattresses exhibit excellence in cooling, weight distribution and value, with prices that would make a mattress salesman eat his teal necktie.
The Tuft & Needle crew, consisting of 20 employees, prides themselves on some of the best customer service anywhere and maintains an organic environment that leans more on reputation and word of mouth than marketing. They let their Amazon reviews speak for themselves. If you decide to buy, and you think the mattress will be unwieldy, fear not: It arrives shrink wrapped and easily transportable up or down stairs. The mattress has minimal initial foam odor — it dissipates in a matter of hours, and the mattress expands to its full size in about the same time. Tuft & Needle will send you your new mattress free of charge, give you 30 nights to sleep, jump or conduct nocturnal activities on it (they advertise great “bounce”) and will allow you to return the mattress free of charge if you’re not satisfied. Oh, there’s also an impressive 10-year warranty against defects — and unlike the big boys, it’s not a prorated warranty. You get the full money back. T & N works hard to make sure you’re fully satisfied, and in the mattress industry, that was virtually unheard of.
Buy Now: $250+ (5-inch) | $350+ (10-inch)
We’ve already put the Casper Mattress to the test, and it came out as one of our best products of 2014. Another American startup much like Tuft & Needle, Casper doesn’t sell exclusively online. Their NYC headquarters is lean and mean, focusing on low overhead and customer-centric practices that make mattress showrooms look like bloated sweatshops.
The core of the 10-inch Casper mattresses is a base layer of memory foam, capped off with premium latex foam. Memory foam tends to cater to those who want less firmness, but it has a Hades-like reputation for being uncomfortably hot. Not so with Casper, since it only makes up the core, and the top latex layer breathes better, thereby retaining less heat. The latex foam comfort layer also provides for ample bounce, which lends to one of Casper’s goals — to appeal to the younger demographic, who tend to care about amorous gymnastics as much as a good night’s rest. So, the Casper adeptly covers two nocturnal realms: the inactive unconscious and the overactive conscious.
Casper will send your your mattress within five days if you’re stateside and within the same day if you live in New York. And they’ll let you test it for a ridiculous 100-day free trial, more than enough time to put it through the slumber wringer. If you decide it’s not the mattress for you, Casper will pick it up free of charge, sans evil eye for changing your ever-fickle mind. The 10-year warranty is long enough that you’ll have to jog your brain just to remember where you bought it. And though there is no storefront, you can swing by the Casper Mattress HQ in Manhattan to test one out, if even the crazy-good free trial still frightens you.
Leesa boasts similar stories and setups to both Tuft & Needle and Casper Mattress. They only sell online, they eliminate the shopping/testing hassle, and they drop the overblown prices to which we’ve all become accustomed (but not comfortable with). But Leesa’s angle on that small bandwagon of manufacturers is to create a mattress that’s intended to find universal comfortability — meaning most if not all consumers would take to it like a hibernating bear.
Leesa pride themselves on their top layer of foam, known as Avena — the sound of which relaxes like a quick pop of melatonin. Avena is a specialized foam that’s softer than latex but retains a high bounce factor, so you don’t feel like you’re being sucked down helplessly. It’s also very breathable and does a great job keeping you temperate at night, even if you have a tendency to sleep on your stomach. The Leesa sits at 10 inches thick, with a 4-inch top layer (2 inches of Avena, 2 inches of medium-density memory foam) and a 6-inch support foam layer underneath. The fact that Leesa has sandwiched the memory foam between the layers is brilliant; you get the cush factor without the “sinking in hell” feeling that’s found even in high-end memory foam retail mattresses. Support is ample without being overly firm, and pressure distributes evenly without a lot of lateral change during movement (your significant other will thank you). Overall, the Leesa resides on the side of medium-firm, which means it’s great for just about everyone without satisfying the utterly picky. Those who want very firm will do better with a Tuft & Needle. Those who want super soft should steer clear. And fear not: Leesa gives you 100 days to try it out, along with free delivery and free returns. They do recommend you try the bed for a full month before you decide, since it takes time to make the adjustment and know what works or doesn’t work for you.
Even though Saatva mattresses are the most expensive in this group of newcomers, it’s still thousands more affordable than the big commercial brands. They get their price advantage over the big brands because they eliminate the middle man and sell only online, eradicating the headache and overhead of a brick-and-mortar store.
Their Luxury Firm mattress, their most popular version, occupies the sweet spot between their Plush Soft and Firm models. Construction is spectacular, besting the best high end mattresses we’ve seen in stores — and the mattress itself is as thick as the Hulk’s calves. Saatva’s construction is different from the first three in that they utilize a steel coil base support system with individually wrapped pocket coils on top. The middle layer is memory foam for support, and the top layer is a pillow top that resides under the outer cover to keep it from shifting. The middle layer of memory foam provides plenty of comfort without mushiness, since it’s only 3/8 of an inch. It’s enough to keep things pliable but not hot. Saatva also strives to keep their mattresses environmentally conscious, using organic cotton for the cover, recycled steel springs and bio-based foam (made with oil extracted from biological products like corn or castor beans) with zero toxicity.
Saatva gives you 45 days to try out the mattress and will take it back free of charge if you decide it’s not for you. It’s not 100 days, but they do give you a 15-year warranty if there are any defects with the mattress under normal usage. They’ll even take it back if body impressions stick deeper than 1.5 inches. If you do decide to keep it, just make sure you buy sheets that fit around this 14.5-inch triple-decker club sandwich of a mattress.