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The Best Mattress…

Our Picks for the Best Mattress

No matter what Casper, Tuft & Needle, and their co-disrupters claim, a single mattress isn’t going to solve the sleeping woes of every individual. For better or worse, it all comes back to personal preference, which can change as you age. But rest easy. After talking with sleep experts, chiropractors, and even some hoteliers, we discovered that most people are absolutely satisfied with relatively few options. (It’s not like you get to pick out your mattress when you stay at a hotel — and who doesn’t like a good hotel mattress?)

Most people do well with the “Three Little Bears” approach to mattresses: neither too firm nor too mushy. “In the hotel world, we try to provide guests with a mattress that will be the most neutral — not too hard, not too soft, but still have a high-quality feel to it,” said Gregg Hilker, ‎the general manager of the JB Duke Hotel on the campus of Duke University. In the hotel industry, that high-quality feel often comes from the plushness of a pillowtop.

Grant Schilling, vice president of sales, marketing, and business development for Distrikt Hotel Group in NYC said, “We placed a lot of focus in making a bed that not only looked comfortable, but one that a guest would sink into and immediately feel relaxed. We ended up choosing a pillowtop mattress that would provide that layer of plushness.”

To make our top picks, we scrutinized the shopping experiences of various online mattress retailers, examined ratings on Consumer Reports and mattress review sites like Sleep Like The Dead, and had four of the best shipped to our office to test out. We had our testers try the Loom and Leaf by Saatva in Relaxed Firm, BedInABox’s Natural Silk Elegance GEL Memory Foam Mattress (now discontinued, but similar to BedInABox’s Silk Symphony and Serenity models), and the signature models from both Casper and Tuft & Needle.

Wide group shot of Best Mattress

The good news? They’re all supremely comfortable — even our least favorite, The Casper — and you really can’t go wrong. Of the four mattresses we tested, two had pillowtops, and that proved to be the most notable differentiator of all. Lying down, these pillowtops are plush and you definitely feel like you’re sinking in, but compared to the non-pillowtop mattresses we tested from Casper and Tuft & Needle, you will feel a little more propped up. You’re lying on a pillowtop mattress, not in it. Our testers reported back that both pillowtop models were instantly luxurious, whereas the ones without were perfectly comfortable but more utilitarian — like they were just mattresses, and nothing more. If you’re someone who thinks hotel beds are the epitome of comfort, you’ll definitely prefer a pillowtop.

The bad news is the returns every online mattress retailer promises aren’t as painless as advertised. They all require some version of submitting a return request, waiting up to 48 hours for a reply, and scheduling a pickup (Tuft & Needle’s first available pickup wasn’t for another 30 days!). It’s not effortless, but it’s not any worse than trying to figure out if you like a mattress in a showroom, bartering to get a price you like, carting it home, realizing it’s not the one for you, and then figuring out how to get rid of it. That said, our testing pool all had an overwhelming favorite: the Loom & Leaf by Saatva in Relaxed Firm. As of this writing, not a single one of them would have sent it back. (As we sleep on it more, we’ll let you know if that changes!)

The Saatva Loom & Leaf mattress stood out for a few reasons. It’s the only one that didn’t come vacuum sealed inside a box. It’s the only one that has handles sewn in (more important than you’d think!). It’s the mattress the Pope sleeps on when he’s in the US. And it’s the one that all but two of our 15 testers picked as their favorite.

Wide shot of Loom & Leaf by Saatva for Best Mattress

We discovered Saatva because the brand ties for second place in owner satisfaction on Sleep Like The Dead. The company made its name with innerspring mattresses before launching a memory foam offshoot, Loom & Leaf, and we chose its most-popular Relaxed Firm model to test (Loom & Leaf also has a Firm option). It’s constructed with four layers of “plant-based” foam: a high-density support core with two inches of “transition layer,” followed by 5-pound memory foam, then topped off in a squishier, 4-pound foam swirled with gel and laminated with a medical-grade cooling gel. Everything is wrapped in a quilted organic cotton cover. Got all that?

Yeah, we didn’t really either.

Parsing through the construction and design of various models is one of the most challenging aspects of mattress shopping — always has been, always will be. Is 5-pound foam better than 4-pound foam? Are lots of layers better than one? Does gel make a difference? Loom & Leaf does an admirable job trying to lay it all out. Its website has diagrams as well as a pop-out Layer By Layer Guide that explains what each layer is made of and what it’s supposed to do. In fact, all our top mattress picks do this to a certain extent. Part of the disruption game is radical transparency, with mattress brands exposing the guts of their models as opposed to relying solely on phrases like “innovative cooling features” (Tempur-Pedic) or “superior soft conforming foam” (King Koil). BedInABox, Tuft & Needle, and Casper go so far as to include zippers on their covers so you can just open them on up and see for yourself.

Loom & Leaf Screenshot

The Loom & Leaf website details the layers and components that make up its signature mattress.

And while we sought out this level of transparency for all our top picks — the more you know, the less you’re putting your trust in vague marketing language — even a full explanation of the insides of a mattress isn’t going to make you any more ready to hit “buy.” What you need to know is what it feels like. So here goes.

At first bounce, the Loom & Leaf is the firmest-feeling of all the models we tested — although two of our testers who prefer really firm mattresses scoffed at that description. (If you’re a firm-or-bust sleeper, skip the Relaxed Firm model we tested and head straight to plain old “Firm.”) One tester said this mattress felt the sturdiest of the four we looked at; another described it as “dense.” If the ultra-pillowy BedInABox we tested was so lush it felt like a marshmallow, the Loom & Leaf is closer to pound cake.

Loom & Leaf looks the most like a traditional mattress out of the four. It’s all stitched together, unlike the other models we tested with zip-off covers, and has microsuede around the edges and built-in handles on the two long sides — the only mattress to include them. We suspect this is because the Loom & Leaf doesn’t come vacuum-sealed in a box, and the handles help with transport. But anyone who has ever moved will confirm how useful mattress handles are; it’s not like you can re-box up the Casper, and even if it’s only 71 pounds to Loom & Leaf’s 93, it’s no one-man project.

Close-up of Loom & Leaf by Saatva for Best Mattress

The queen-size Loom & Leaf retails for $999, and there’s an extra $99 delivery and setup fee, bringing the total to just under $1,100. Loom & Leaf is the only brand we tested that had any sort of delivery or shipping fees, but even with the extra charge, it fell smack in the middle of the pack price-wise: $400 more than Tuft & Needle, $500 less than BedInABox, and within $200 of the Casper after taxes. It has a 75-day home trial; if you’re unsatisfied in that time, you can schedule a pickup return for a full refund — minus the delivery fee.

It really surprised us that Loom & Leaf doesn’t refund that $99 delivery fee. It’s the only mattress we looked at that didn’t refund every penny in the event of an unsatisfied customer. Even though the 100 percent money-back guarantee is de rigueur among online disrupters, we still liked Loom & Leaf the best — it was so universally loved among our testers we think $99 is a risk worth taking.

One last downside: Loom & Leaf doesn’t have particularly speedy service either. For our mattress to be delivered in Seattle, we were prepared to wait between nine and 18 days for delivery; a customer service rep says it can take even longer if you’re farther away from a local delivery hub. Saatva hand-crafts all its mattresses (in the US), which likely contributes to the time lag, but all the other mattresses we tested had one-week-max shipping times. You can even buy Casper and Tuft & Needle via Amazon Prime with two-day shipping. It’s up to you if the slower ship time or $99 fee is a deal breaker — we don’t think it is.

If you’re looking for luxury, you want BedInABox — although you wouldn’t know it from the state our BedInABox test model arrived in. The box was decrepit and covered in oily stains, but once unveiled, it started raking up superlatives: the plushest and the most satisfied customers on Sleep Like the Dead, and the most expensive too. Two of our 15 testers ranked BedInABox their favorite: They liked the “squooshiness” of this pillowtop over Loom & Leaf’s, but thought it felt more supportive than either Tuft & Needle or Casper. The test model we tried was the BedInABox Silk Elegance GEL; it’s since been replaced by two new models. At $1,599, the Silk Symphony is most similar in price and feel — it’s got the same innards as our test model with quilted top. One step up there’s the Serenity — a pricey $1,899. The $300 difference is a temperature-regulating CoolRest outer layer. If you don’t sleep hot, save $300 and choose the Silk Symphony.

Arrival comparison for Best Mattress

Construction-wise, BedInABox is more streamlined than its pillowtopped counterpart — just a fat layer of support foam, topped by a few inches of gel-infused memory foam, and two and a half layers of quilted foam more inches of thick pillowtop covered in a silk blend. BedInABox has nothing to hide. Its cover unzips to reveal it all, whereas Tuft & Needle and Casper unzip, but keep everything wrapped in gauze. It’s pretty obvious why most mattress companies don’t prefer to show off their innards: Exposed, even the best mattress looks pretty humble. But we love this level of transparency, and appreciate BedInABox all the more for it.

Interior of BedInABox for Best Mattress

BedInABox offers five mattress models, or really, five different covers to the same core mattress. The cheapest model ($849 for a queen) is just the core: the support foam topped with the super squishy gel-infused foam, wrapped in a thin cover. Unzip the pillowtop on the Silk Symphony, and there it is. We preferred the addition of the pillowtop. Without it, you sink quite deep into the foam — if you’re looking for a non-pillowtop mattress, we prefer Tuft & Needle, which has more bounce and keeps you elevated.

Be forewarned, the BedInABox has a distinct “off-gassing,” a chemical odor that is common in memory foam mattresses, which was present for all four of our finalists. BedInABox’s has lingered the longest: going on seven days as of this writing. Additionally, BedInABox customer service reps were the least knowledgeable. When we inquired what weight our mattress could accommodate, the reply was essentially “any and all weights!” — which we can assume just isn’t true.

At 120 days, BedInABox has the longest at-home trial time of any brand we tested; even more interesting is that it requires you to keep it for at least 60 days before submitting a return. If you know you don’t want it after month one, you’ll have to find a place to stash it before you can schedule a time for someone to come pick it up.