As much as I adore the warmth and bliss of summer, the crisp air of fall has always held a certain magic for me. It makes the world seem fresh and clean again, the muggy air suddenly erased by the fragrance of Russian Tea and a wood-burning stove.
I also gravitate toward cooler months because I’m an unapologetic lover of my bed. As such, I revere fall as the perfect weather-appropriate time to reassess my sleep comfort. After all, restful sleep is a vital component of good health. At first glance, the seemingly endless options for mattresses, toppers and sheets can be overwhelming, but with a little help your path will become clear!
We’ve seen the mattress commercials—and secretly dreamed of being the person who sleeps without a hair out of place or embarrassing drool!—but how do you actually shop for a mattress?
Where to buy
Grab your pillow and head to the store! No, seriously. Experts recommend taking your favorite pillow and laying on a potential mattress for 10 to 15 minutes in your preferred sleep position, simulating slumber. Also, keep your wallet top of mind. Many stores will price match their competitors. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, take advantage of online retailers. With reviews, reviews, and more reviews at your fingertips, it’s easier these days to make decisions to buy things online. The most important two words to remember are: return policy. Before you shell out the big bucks, make sure you can get them back if you don’t love your new bedding.
What to consider
The best mattress will give your spine a nice curvature and properly align your buttocks, heels, shoulders and head. If a mattress is too firm, it will push on pressure points, causing pain; similarly, if the mattress is too soft, it won’t effectively support those points, leading to an achy morning.
So now you know where you’re going and what you need, but what are your choices?
Innerspring: The most widely sold and affordable option, innerspring mattresses contain metal coils. In most modern versions, each coil is individually wrapped to help disperse motion. While it can be comfortable for most anyone, firmer versions are especially beneficial for those with back pain. When shopping, keep in mind that the coil count is important, but anything above 390 won’t make a noticeable difference.
Memory or latex foam: Tempur-Pedic has emerged as the most recognizable name for this mattress type. Memory and latex foam are both quickly gaining popularity and embody the same basic principle: a slow-responding foam that molds to your body and eliminates pressure on the body. Sounds great, right? Memory foam has an excellent reputation for relieving aches and pains, as well as absorbing movement, making it an ideal option for couples. However, it can retain heat, which makes for a warm sleep. Thankfully, newer options boast gel-infused or plant-based options that dissipate heat and provide better motion diffusion. Latex foam is more durable than memory foam and maintains a more consistent temperature, but is not as effective at relieving pressure.
You’ve thoughtfully selected your mattress. Now, let’s infuse a little coziness with a mattress topper!
Protective layers: Lightweight and machine washable, cotton is a splendid choice of material for a topper, while wool absorbs heat to keep you cool and resists mold and dust-mites. If you tend to sniffle and sneeze, a hypoallergenic option could make pollen-heavy months more comfortable.
Mini-mattresses: If you opted for an innerspring mattress, you can simulate the memory-foam experience with a mattress topper composed of the same material. The egg crate is another great foam product, featuring ridges and grooves to help disperse pressure on the body. An iconic option, featherbeds are just as luxurious as they sound! This type of mattress topper, filled with down feathers, is lightweight and soft, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Best of all, snagging a plush foam topper or featherbed is an excellent alternative to buying a new mattress!
You have a heavenly mattress and a cushy topper, now it’s time for the grand finale: sheets! As the part of bedding that actually touches your body, I consider cozy sheets to be a high priority. In advertisements, thread count seems to be the determining factor, but rest assured there are plenty of other elements to appraise including material, weave and beyond. Here’s the quick-and-easy guide to soft sleeping:
Thread count: Sorry friends, contrary to popular belief, a higher thread count does not necessarily denote a softer sheet. Defined as the number of threads per square inch of a fabric, thread count is actually influenced by many factors, with material being the most important consideration. Experts recommend sheets between 300 to 600 thread count composed of a high-grade fabric (learn more about materials in the following section). Anything more than 800 will not make a noticeable difference. Options greater than 1,000 can often begin to feel stiff due to the tightly compacted threads and will be less breathable, resulting in a warm slumber.
Material: Any self-respecting Southern woman will tell you that 100 percent cotton sheets make for the best sleep—cool, breathable, and less likely to stain…what more could you want? Sure, they can be a bit crisp at first, but after a few wash cycles you’ll swear you’re sleeping on a cloud. If you are partial to a freshly ironed look, try a cotton-polyester blend which resists wrinkles. Also very important is the fiber length. Long-fiber cottons such as Egyptian, pima, and Supima offer a distinctly softer sheet. Additionally, combed cotton fabric, true to its name, is combed to remove lingering short fibers, creating a strong but soft sheet.
Weave: The weave is the undercurrent of the sheet, determining how it feels, how long it lasts and how much it costs. Percale dominates the upper end of the basic weave spectrum, offering durability and a silk-like feel. Specialty weaves, such as sateen, provide more vertical than horizontal yarns, resulting in an extremely soft fabric.
Traversing the wild world of bedding can seem like foreign territory, but embrace the challenge. If you take your time, ponder all your options, and make informed choices, the end result can drastically improve the quality of your sleep. Now is the time to seize the sheets and take your sleep comfort into your own hands!