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The Best of the New Breed of Mattresses

Are you in need of a mattress upgrade?


Until fairly recently, shopping for a new mattress was a pain in the ass. You went to the store, found one you liked, bought it, then were tasked with getting it home, up the stairs and through the doorway. That, or you paid extra for someone to do the chore for you. The arrival of mail-order mattress companies changed that. Over the past couple of years, direct-to-consumer startups have jumped on the mail-order bandwagon, offering premium mattresses at an affordable price by tossing the brick-and-mortar store model. These mattresses come rolled up, packaged in a compact vertical box, and shipped directly to your home. The hardest part now is deciphering what makes each of these companies’ mattresses unique.

So for three months — the average trial period for most mail-order mattress companies — we tasked members of our editorial staff with finding the nuances of today’s best mail-order mattresses, and we compiled their experiences into this handy survey. If you’re in the market for a mattress (which, if you haven’t bought one in the past seven years, you are) and scratching your head over which is right for you, start here.

Leesa Sleep

Most Universal Mattress: Leesa appeals to people who don’t want to think too much about their sleeping habits. Apart from sizes, the brand offers just one mattress option, but a good one: the mattress is 10 inches thick and consists of three layers, encased with a polyester-blended fabric that can be washed and replaced. At the bottom, a dense, six-inch-thick support layer prevents the dreaded sinking-in sensation, while sandwiched between these two layers is two inches of memory foam that contours to the body. It’s not too soft, not too firm, and after three months, I haven’t had an issue with the temperature. To put it simply, it feels just right. And that’s enough to keep me sleeping happy. — Jack Seemer

Primary Material(s): Memory foam
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: For every 10 mattresses sold, Leesa donates one to a shelter in need.

Buy Now: $890 (Queen)

Brentwood Home Coronado

Most Health-Conscious Mattress: Free of harmful chemicals (such as fire retardants, phthalates and heavy metals), the handmade Coronado mattress by Brentwood Home has all the elements of understated luxury. The outward appearance is neutral, featuring tweed sides and a Eurotop cushion, but inside, the lining of the mattress incorporates a layer of New Zealand wool, a moisture-wicking natural fire barrier. The quilted top is made from a Belgian knit that offers four-way stretch, offering your body less resistance when you relax into the bed at night.

The mattress has a three-layer design: a six-inch therapeutic base foam is topped with three inches of Airlux ventilation foam (keeping your mattress cool) and three inches of gel memory foam. The multi-layer design offered relief from back pain I frequently experienced with other mattresses, and though the bed is billed as “medium feel” it offers a high amount of support. The bed doesn’t absorb ambient heat on warm nights in New York City, and it offers just enough of a plush touch to feel luxurious without feeling like you’re enveloped in a pillow. — John Zientek

Primary Material(s): Gel memory foam
Return Policy: 120-night trial period
Stray Observation: Brentwood Home embodies West Coast values. It’s a family-run business making beds in Los Angeles from healthy, non-toxic products.

Buy Now: $995 (Queen)

Helix Sleep

Best Custom Mattress: Helix blows out the custom mattress process. Height, age, weight, physique, average sleep position, preferred mattress firmness and “Do you get hot at night?” all are on the questionnaire. And that’s just if you sleep alone. If you have a significant other, you have to declare their side of the bed and answer similar questions. Taking all that in to account, Helix then adjusts the amount of specific material and where each layer appears throughout the mattress. After going through the whole process and getting some of the best nights’ sleep I’ve had in years, it’s hard to understand what other mattress companies are charging you for — and why custom isn’t standard. — Bryan Campbell

Primary Material(s): Dunlop latex, polyfoam and steel-forged microcoils (amount varies depending on questionarre results)
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: Filling out the customization form can feel like you’re taking a standardized test, but it’s totally worth it.

Buy Now: $900 (Queen)


Best for NYC and L.A. Residents: Similar to the Leesa, Casper is topped with a foam that doesn’t trap heat and provides a little spring — in Casper’s case, it’s latex — with memory and support foam underneath. You’ll immediately notice the firmness (it combats that sinking feeling symptomatic of old memory foam mattresses), and your back will thank you. Most notably, residents of NYC and L.A. have a chance to go to brick-and-mortar showrooms in order to try the mattress before they buy it, which gives a happy medium to the online retail savings and showroom convenience. — J. Travis Smith

Primary Material(s): Springy latex foam and supportive memory foam
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: For those completely new to the mattress game, Casper sells its own brand of sheets and pillows, and even makes suggestions for bed frames.

Buy Now: $850 (Queen)

Bear Mattress

Best for Active Lifestyles: I have a baseline amount of shoulder/back tension because of (a) anxiety, and (b) life with a standing desk. Similarly, my girlfriend waits tables. We’re not an ultramarathoner couple like Bear’s ideal demo, but we’re city-dweller active. So, Bear’s fitness-focused tech proved virtue in excess. Whereas I used to spend my mornings in a full-body clench, six to eight hours a night on Bear’s Graphite-Gel Infused Memory Foam regularly smoothes out nigh every wrinkle in my musculature. Likewise, whereas I used to sleep with one leg exposed more often than not, the Thermo-reactive Celiant fiber has kept us comfy, even easing us through a three-week stint without an air conditioner — in June. I feel good enough to half-seriously consider marathon training. — Nick Milanes

Primary Material(s): Graphite gel-infused memory foam and thermo-reactive celiant fiber
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: I slept with a decade-old Tempur-Pedic pillow for the first week and doubling down on firmness wasn’t great for my neck. Depending on your preference you’ll either want something contoured or ultra-thin. (We went for the former, and it’s treated us nicely.)

Buy Now: $850 (Queen)


Best No-Frills Mattress: To be honest, I’m not picky about my mattress. I sleep comfortably on almost anything from rock hard to pillowy soft. The Eve mattress sits on the firmer side of the spectrum, but only barely. The biggest complaint that I hear about foam mattresses is overheating in the summer, but the Eve had no such problems. The Eve has cooling memory foam that helps to regulate temperature, and while I didn’t sleep any cooler in comparison to my regular mattress, I didn’t sleep any hotter either. In other words, it works, and the straightforward convenience becomes the selling point. — AJ Powell

Primary Material(s): Memory foam
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: It’s aesthetically pleasing, which is more than you can say for most mattresses.

Buy Now: $899 (Queen)

Cocoon by Sealy

Best Soft Mattress for Side Sleepers: Cocoon is available in soft (“in-the-bed”) or firm (“on-the-bed”) varieties. It’s good to have options, and though both mattresses of course feature typical memory foam give, there is a distinct difference between the two. I chose soft, which I found had a more luxurious, cloud-like feel. Though still quite firm, the “softness” is most discernible at the edges, where my body sinks in as I sit upright, and still I only sink a few inches. Still, it’s helpful: I’m a side sleeper, and the extra give over a firmer mattress is very conducive to a good night’s rest. There are two kinds of foam in each mattress: essential support foam that provides a foundation of support, and “perfect fit” memory foam that adapts to your body and cradles you while you sleep. The foam mattress is covered with a breathable knit material that looks and feels upscale. — Nick Caruso

Primary Material(s): Memory foam
Return Policy: 100-day trial period
Stray Observation: If during the 100-day trial period you decide to straight-up return a mattress, it is donated rather than disposed of.

Buy Now: $849 (Queen)

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