Home Uncategorized How We Test Mattresses – CNET

How We Test Mattresses – CNET

6
0

Yes, we sleep on beds for a living. Our dedicated team of mattress testers knows much more about beds than the average person. Over the last seven-plus years, we have tested a considerable number of mattresses — around 300 and counting — and have spent hundreds of hours examining and reviewing the beds delivered to us in our mattress warehouse.

At CNET, our sleep experts thoroughly review mattresses to give you an honest opinion of every mattress we test. We put each mattress through a series of strategic tests to understand and rate its features, from feel and firmness to construction and durability. That way, we can compare them and tell you which beds are worth the money and which are total snores.

Caroline Igo sits on one of the many mattress stacks in our warehouse

Sleep and mattress expert Caroline Igo puts pea-detecting princesses to shame with her bed knowledge.

Aly Lopez/CNET

Where we test mattresses

Our CNET sleep experts are located all over the country, from Puerto Rico to North Carolina to Reno, Nevada, where our mattress facility is located. The expansive 6,000-square-foot warehouse functions as a testing lab, complete with two studio bedrooms for filming and office space.

Beds come and go, but there are always well over 100 beds in the warehouse at any given time. The mattresses are kept in tall stacks throughout the space and are frequently moved around depending on our testing and reviewing needs. As you can imagine, we’re pretty efficient at lugging mattresses around. Beds are transferred to and from the two studio bedrooms for filming and are also used as a backdrop for video reviews, which you may have seen on our YouTube channels, CNET Home and The Slumber Yard.

“We initially started testing beds back in 2017. The first testing area was in one of our houses. Once we fully engaged in reviewing mattresses, we soon realized that this wouldn’t be feasible with the number of beds we were testing. So, in 2018, we packed our bags from Sacramento and moved our office to Reno. We settled on a warehouse that could store over 100 mattresses at a time with dedicated rooms where we could test all the mattresses.” -Dillon Payne, CNET director of video production

Mattress Warehouse Mattress Warehouse

One of the spacious rooms where we store dozens of mattresses that have been tested and reviewed. 

Aly Lopez/CNET

How CNET gets the products we review

Filming a mattress review in one of our studio bedrooms Filming a mattress review in one of our studio bedrooms

Wes Ott, senior video producer at CNET, films an in-depth mattress review in one of our studio bedrooms.

Aly Lopez/CNET

Mattress and bedding companies continuously introduce new products, whether a new mattress model or line, an updated cooling pillow or a complete rebrand. Companies keep us in the loop on new product launches and often send us editorial samples for testing prior to release. We keep most of the mattresses we receive and store them in our facility to be reviewed for videos, best lists and comparisons.

Our editorial team also requests samples of products from brands. If we can’t get our hands on a product we want to test, we’ll often purchase it.

Our team of certified sleep science coaches

Our editorial team members are also certified sleep science coaches (or are currently in training), and all have dedicated countless hours to researching sleep and mattresses. A sleep science coach certification from the Spencer Institute means that our experts have undergone over 20 hours of learning and studying the intensive science behind sleep and have passed the final exam. This certification qualifies our experts to speak knowledgeably on all sleep-related topics, including the relationship between the brain, body and sleep, and to offer helpful advice to those needing quality rest.

JD Christison shrugs in front of several stacks of mattresses JD Christison shrugs in front of several stacks of mattresses

JD Christison, senior video producer at CNET, sits in front of dozens of mattresses while filming a review for The Slumber Yard.

Aly Lopez/CNET

Our resident mattress experts have tested and laid on more beds than you’d find at your local mattress firm. Over the years, we’ve had our hands and bodies on roughly 300 mattresses from dozens of brands. With this extensive knowledge and experience, we can offer expert insights on the pros and cons of each bed and select the best mattress picks that are worth the purchase.

Industry knowledge

Staying current on industry knowledge is another component that sets us apart as leading authorities in the mattress world. Being informed about the latest technologies, materials and design trends allows us to help consumers make better purchasing decisions. We recognize the importance of understanding the entire bed-making process and the steps that lead up to a mattress arriving at your doorstep. 

3z-facilities-tour-00-11-08-00-still014.jpg 3z-facilities-tour-00-11-08-00-still014.jpg

CNET mattress experts Owen Poole, Caroline Igo and Dillon Lopez toured the 3Z Brands factory to see exactly how the mattresses are made.

Dillon Lopez/CNET

One of our strategies for staying up to date is touring mattress factories and manufacturers. Most recently, three of our sleep experts embarked on a behind-the-scenes tour of the 3Z Brands facility in Arizona. 3Z Brands manufactures beds for leading mattress brands such as Brooklyn Bedding, Leesa, Bear, Nolah, Birch and Helix. Our experts had an in-depth look at every part of the manufacturing process, including the hardworking teams and innovative machinery constructing and assembling the various foams, coils, covers and other materials to create the high-quality mattresses you can buy online.

screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-29-44pm.png screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-29-44pm.png

Caroline and Owen interview Scott Paladini, founder of Bear Mattress.

Dillon Lopez/CNET

Another strategy for staying informed is to interview brand founders and company representatives one-on-one. What better way to learn than from the professionals designing and manufacturing the beds?

Meet our mattress experts

Dillon Payne

dillon-p.png dillon-p.png

Dillon Payne, director of video production

Cole Kan/CNET

Dillon Payne is a director of video production at CNET and a mattress tester in the Reno-based sleep team. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism with a concentration in broadcast journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dillon is a certified sleep science coach from the Spencer Institute and has tested well over 250 beds since he began in 2017. Dillon’s favorite mattress is DreamCloud’s first 2018 mattress model, which he keeps in his guest room.

Sleeper type: Combo (primarily back and right side)

Favorite sleep fact: There are four sleep chronotypes: bear, lion, wolf and dolphin. Most people fall into the bear chronotype, which wakes up around 7 a.m. and goes to bed around 11 p.m.

Current mattress: Helix Moonlight Luxe with an active cooling cover

Owen Poole

owen.png owen.png

Owen Poole, senior video producer

Cole Kan/CNET

Owen is a senior video producer for CNET and one of our Reno-based mattress experts. He is a certified sleep science coach from the Spencer Institute and has been reviewing beds for over six years. Throughout his sleep career, Owen has tested roughly 300 mattresses from dozens of different brands and can even identify them blindfolded

Sleeper type: Combo (mostly left side, some back)

Favorite sleep fact: Sharks have to continuously move to breathe, so they don’t sleep the same way humans do. They find ways to rest while moving.

Current mattress: Tempur-Pedic Pro Breeze (medium)

JD Christison

jd.png jd.png

JD Christison, senior video producer

Cole Kan/CNET

JD is a senior video producer at CNET who has tested hundreds of beds over the last six years. A certified sleep science coach from the Spencer Institute, JD has created countless mattress reviews and best lists in video and article formats. Having tested all types of mattresses from dozens of brands, he prefers sleeping on pillow-top beds.

Sleeper type: Combo

Favorite sleep fact: REM stands for rapid eye movement. It’s the deepest state of sleep your body goes through, lasting only one to two hours per night.

Current mattress: Intellibed Grand Matrix (now branded the Purple Rejuvenate Premier)

Caroline Igo

caroline.png caroline.png

Caroline Igo, sleep editor

Cole Kan/CNET

Caroline is a sleep editor based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who holds sleep science coach and stress management certificates from the Spencer Institute. She received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Miami University and won the Carl R. Greer/Andrew D. Hepburn Award for a creative nonfiction essay in 2020. Caroline has been a part of CNET since 2021, covering all things sleep, mattresses and bed accessories, and has tested over 50 mattresses.

Sleeper type: Combo (primarily side and stomach)

Favorite sleep fact: Koalas spend 90% of their lives sleeping — that’s 20 to 22 hours each day.

Current mattress: Casper Select (from Costco) with an Eight Sleep Pod 3 mattress cover

Taylor Leamey

taylor.png taylor.png

Taylor Leamey, senior writer

Cole Kan/CNET

Taylor Leamey is a senior writer for CNET. Since joining the team in 2021, she’s written about all things wellness and specializes in sleep. She has spent hundreds of hours studying and researching why we need rest, not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology. She holds a sleep science coach and stress management certification from the Spencer Institute.

Sleeper type: Combo (primarily stomach and side)

Favorite sleep fact: When sleep-deprived, the amygdala (the brain’s emotional processing center) is overactive, and the prefrontal cortex (where rational thought comes from) is suppressed. Basically, not getting enough sleep sabotages your ability to regulate emotions and cope with stress logically.

Current mattress: Beautyrest Harmony Lux

Wesley Ott

wes.png wes.png

Wesley Ott, senior video producer

Cole Kan/CNET

Wes has been testing beds and other sleep-related products for over five years. He is a senior video producer at CNET and a certified sleep science coach from the Spencer Institute. Wes prefers latex pillows and doesn’t use a traditional alarm clock; instead, he wakes up with a sun lamp alarm. He can also enter his friends’ dreams and interact with them.

Sleeper type: Combo

Favorite sleep fact: Just like getting too little sleep, chronic oversleeping can have unforeseen health effects.

Current mattress: Tuft & Needle Hybrid (now discontinued)

Dillon Lopez

dillon-lopez.png dillon-lopez.png

Dillon Lopez, senior video producer

Cole Kan/CNET

Dillon is a senior video producer at CNET who has been testing, reviewing and filming mattresses for over five years. He has filmed and edited video reviews for hundreds of mattresses and has slept on so many different beds that he could identify them… in his sleep.

Sleeper type: Combo (stomach and back)

Favorite sleep fact: On average, it takes seven minutes for a person to fall asleep. For Dillon, it takes seven hours.

Current mattress at home: Avocado Luxury Organic (medium)

Jon Gomez

jon.png jon.png

Jon Gomez, video producer

Cole Kan/CNET

Jon Gomez is a CNET video producer and editor based in Reno. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has been testing and reviewing beds for over five years.

Sleeper type: Combo (side and back)

Favorite sleep fact: Elephants sleep less than any other animal — only two hours a night in the wild.

Current mattress: Brooklyn Bedding Aurora

Aly Lopez

aly.png aly.png

Aly Lopez, sleep writer

Cole Kan/CNET

Aly is a Reno-based writer on the sleep team at CNET, researching, testing and reviewing all types of sleep-related products in addition to mattresses. With a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Central College, Aly’s writing career began in 2016 as a news reporter. She’s currently training for her sleep science coach certification with the Spencer Institute.

Sleeper type: Combo (primarily stomach and side)

Favorite sleep fact: Sleep deprivation can cause you to have more vivid and intense dreams because your brain will start to prioritize deep and REM sleep.

Current mattress at home: Avocado Luxury Organic (medium)

How we test and score mattresses

The mattresses we recommend undergo extensive hands-on testing at our in-house mattress facility in Reno. When a brand sends us a bed-in-a-box mattress to test and review, we unbox it and set it up in our studio bedrooms just like a customer would theirs.

Our experts rigorously test each mattress for around 10 hours, often more. Dozens of mattresses have been brought home and tested for longer, ranging from a few weeks up to five years. If a mattress has unique capabilities or features, such as sleep tracking, a team member will test it in their home after the initial processes are finished.

We test every aspect of a mattress, ranging from quantifiable objective metrics to subjective features that we rank based on comparing the extensive amount of beds we’ve tested over the years. It’s important to note that the subjective features we discuss are just as important — if not more so — than the objective features we rate. We do our best to accurately describe the encompassing experience of what each mattress feels like to sleep on, not only from our own expert perspectives but also from the viewpoint of what the experience would be like for individuals and couples of all body types.

ecocloud-mattress-by-winkbed-back-sleeper-wo-7.jpg ecocloud-mattress-by-winkbed-back-sleeper-wo-7.jpg

Testing out the WinkBed EcoCloud to see how accommodating it is for back sleepers.

Jon Gomez/CNET

Our sleep team is comprised of men and women with a diverse range of body types, weights, heights and sleep preferences, so we can offer expert opinions from a multitude of viewpoints. The sleeping experience varies with the different body shapes of men and women. For example, testing a mattress as a stomach sleeper is going to feel much different for a person with breasts than someone without. With multiple women on the sleep team at CNET, we are able to test and offer the perspective of what a mattress’s firmness level feels like from that angle.

Our scoring methodology

Over our years of testing, we’ve established a methodology that helps us evaluate and score each bed. We use that data to help us recommend the best mattresses for every type of person. This methodology includes analyzing, testing and gathering data, then ranking each mattress on a standardized point system out of 10. The main elements we test and review for each mattress are firmness, feel, performance, durability, features and policies. We also take price and budget into consideration. We acknowledge that firmness and feel are subjective qualities that will differ from person to person, while the rest of the elements are more objective and easily quantifiable. For that reason, the subjective qualities are not factored into the final score of a mattress, but we will always provide in-depth descriptions of those elements in our mattress reviews. 

Full disclosure: Mattress brands sometimes exaggerate certain features or give incorrect ratings. For example, a brand may rank the firmness of a bed as a middle-of-the-road medium to appeal to a broader range of sleepers when, in reality, it might sit around a medium firm. A common example of exaggeration is a brand claiming that its bed has special cooling features when it actually doesn’t. Our sleep experts pay attention to these important callouts when testing and reviewing each product to provide our readers with the most accurate and unbiased overviews possible. Because we test so many mattresses, we are able to make these distinctions for our readers.

Subjective features

Firmness

A person touching and feeling the top of the firm Saatva Classic mattress A person touching and feeling the top of the firm Saatva Classic mattress

Physically testing the feel and firmness of the Saatva Classic mattress.

Jon Gomez/CNET

We rate firmness numerically on a 1 to 10 scale and use industry terms such as “medium-soft” or “true firm” to describe it to the best of our ability. We collect opinions on the firmness level of a mattress from multiple CNET sleep experts with different body types and sleeping positions because it’s important to test and review this characteristic from a wide range of perspectives. Our firmness ratings are displayed from the perspective of a person weighing between 150 and 230 pounds, but we also discuss what the firmness levels might feel like for someone weighing under or above that range.

Body type

A person’s weight plays a role in the subjective firmness of a mattress, and we use our expertise to determine how a bed will feel for different body types. The heavier you are, the more support you’ll want from your mattress. The bed may also feel softer because the person will sink down into the materials more than a lighter individual. A lighter person might experience the mattress as being firmer because they won’t sink as far down into the bed’s foam as a heavier individual.

Sleeping position

Your preferred sleeping position also factors in. If you primarily sleep on your back or stomach, you’ll want a firmer mattress to help keep your spine neutrally aligned. If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll want a softer mattress that offers more pressure relief for your shoulders, knees and hips — the heavier points of contact. If you switch positions throughout the night, you’re what we call a combination sleeper, and we usually recommend a mattress that lands around the medium firmness level that can accommodate your various positions by offering a mix of support and pressure relief. 

Our sleep experts test each mattress by sleeping in every position: side, back, stomach and combination. If it feels too firm for our side or too soft for our back or stomach, we note it in our review.

Support vs. pressure relief 

Firmness also influences the degree of support or pressure relief a bed offers, and it’s an important factor to consider when shopping for a new mattress. Firm beds are more supportive and better at keeping your spine neutrally aligned so your back doesn’t droop or sag into the mattress. The firmer the bed, the more you’ll sleep on top of it rather than sinking into the layers. On the other hand, softer beds offer more give and contour around your curves, which is what we mean by pressure relief. Medium beds provide the best of both worlds: enough pressure relief for side sleepers and ample support for back or stomach sleepers.

Testing mattress feel and firmness Testing mattress feel and firmness

We are extremely hands-on when testing the firmness and feel of each mattress. 

Aly Lopez/CNET

Feel

Another subjective element we review is the feel of the mattress. Does it feel like slow-moving, sinking memory foam that holds our shape as we nestle into the mattress? Is switching positions during the night difficult? Or is it like neutral foam, which responds quicker to pressure and offers a soft, plush feel? Does the bed feel like latex foam, which is very bouncy and supportive? What about innersprings or coils — can we feel them poking through? We know you can’t feel the mattress through a screen, so we do our best to tell you how each bed feels in a descriptive, honest way.

Learn more about why the foam in your mattress matters.

Objective features

Durability

We can’t sleep on every mattress for years to test the durability (though we have for some beds). To test durability, we examine the mattress’s construction and use it to inform how supportive and long-lasting a bed will be. High-quality mattresses are usually designed with durable materials, such as dense foams, strong innerspring systems and resilient latex, that can withstand years of use while maintaining their shape.

Occasionally, we will remove the cover and cut open the fire sock (a flame-retardant liner used in some mattresses) to see and physically feel the layers of material throughout the bed. Otherwise, we study the brand’s descriptions of the construction to understand the different layers and materials used.

screenshot-2024-06-05-at-4-50-14pm.png screenshot-2024-06-05-at-4-50-14pm.png

The fire sock has been cut open so we can thoroughly examine the inner foam layers of the Leesa Reserve mattress.

Aly Lopez/CNET

The construction of a mattress also helps determine how supportive it will be. All-foam beds offer less support and durability than hybrid beds with both coils and foam. This is where body type comes into play again — typically, individuals and couples over 230 pounds should opt for hybrid mattresses with foam and coils because of the increased durability. We always take these factors into consideration when testing mattresses.

For more about mattress construction and materials, check out our guide to mattress types.

Performance

Performance is an objective indicator that we determine by examining and testing multiple characteristics, primarily edge support and motion isolation. Regardless of body size or sleeping position, mattresses typically perform well, average or poorly in these categories.

Motion isolation

Part of a bed’s performance is motion isolation, which refers to how well a mattress can absorb motion and prevent the transfer of movement throughout the bed. Motion isolation is crucial for couples and those who share a bed with pets, and we use a few methods to test it.

The first is by simulating real-life scenarios that can occur when co-sleeping. With a tester lying on one side of the bed, another will toss and turn and shift positions “aggressively” as if they’re having trouble getting comfortable. Observing how much movement can be felt through the mattress indicates its ability to isolate motion. We do this with testers of various weights and body types to examine the motion transfer from the perspective of multiple sleepers. 

screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-39-46pm.png screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-39-46pm.png

Owen Poole does the ol’ red wine test with a less staining glass of water.

Aly Lopez/CNET

The second method mimics a classic test you may remember from the original Tempur-Pedic commercial with a glass of red wine. We place a full glass of water near the end and edges of the bed and roll around, getting as close to the glass as possible to see if it will tip over from the motion transferring through the bed. Memory foam beds tend to perform best in this category, as the foam layers typically dampen movement better than beds with coils. 

Noise is another factor we test with motion isolation. Nobody likes a loud, squeaky mattress that wakes you or your partner up whenever you switch positions. We keep an ear out as we flip and flop around the beds we’re testing.

Edge support

Testing a mattress’s edge support allows us to assess how well it holds its structure and support around the perimeter — another essential feature to consider if you share the bed with a partner or pets (or if you simply like sleeping on the edge). Good edge support ensures the mattress has a consistent feel across the entire surface, creating a more stable and secure sleep experience.

We sit and lie on the edge of the mattress to see how it responds. Does it cave in and give the sensation that you’ll roll off, or is it sturdy and supportive? We also push down on the edges with our fists to observe how much the edge compresses under pressure.

screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-43-15pm.png screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-43-15pm.png

Dillon tests the edge support.

Aly Lopez/CNET

Hybrid mattresses generally offer better edge support as they have steel innerspring systems, many with coils around the perimeter for reinforcement. That said, many foam beds have stepped up their edge support game with high-density foams and can now support better than they used to.

Additional features

We consider additional features to be any other qualities or attributes that a brand has added to the mattress to enhance it, whether that be durability, edge support, motion isolation, temperature or support. These features include added zoned support or unique layers, firmness options, flippability and washable or replaceable parts or materials. Another common example is when a mattress has a unique cover, such as organic cotton or one with cooling technology — which leads us to temperature.

Temperature

Discussing mattress temperatures is tricky when considering the range of possible climates, home temperatures, bedding, pajamas and personal preferences of each sleeper. While we test and review mattresses to determine how hot they sleep, it’s also influenced by where you live and how warm you keep your home. External factors are at play if you live in more extreme environments or conditions, such as Arizona in the summer with no AC or North Dakota during a cold winter.

casper-dream-max-hybrid-mattress-side-sleeper-dl-7.jpg casper-dream-max-hybrid-mattress-side-sleeper-dl-7.jpg

Some mattresses have cooling technology and are physically cool to the touch. Others, not so much.

Jon Gomez/CNET

In temperature-controlled rooms, we test the mattresses (without sheets or bedding) by seeing how warm or cool we physically feel while sleeping or lying on the bed. Occasionally, we’ll break out the temperature gun, but we’ve found it’s better to get the point across by detailing our experience while on the bed. We also use our knowledge and expertise to examine the materials of each mattress, which helps us determine how hot or cool the average person might sleep on it.

Be wary of mattress brands’ claims that their beds are cooling. We’ve found that, more often than not, beds sleep more neutrally than cold. While adding cooling technology or gel-infused foams can help regulate temperature, it doesn’t mean they’re physically cool to the touch. We carefully assess each of the cooling features but differentiate between being temperature-neutral and actually cooling. For instance, Purple is a naturally breathable bed because of the grid construction, but we don’t consider it an actively cooling bed. Only a few beds, such as the Brooklyn Bedding Aurora Luxe, truly live up to the claim of being cooling.

Policies

Policies are a company’s approach to its trial period, warranty, shipping and returns. Many online and bed-in-a-box mattress brands recognize that customers may be hesitant to order a mattress over the internet without trying it out, so they offer a range of company policies. Some policies are much more generous than others, and it’s something to consider when purchasing a new mattress online.

  • The average policy offers a 90- to 100-night trial with a 10-year warranty.
  • A better deal provides a 120-night trial and a 20- to 25-year warranty.
  • The best company policies offer a 365-night trial with a lifetime warranty.

Shipping and returns also vary from brand to brand — some charge a $99 return fee, while the best policies offer free shipping and returns.

Other factors we consider

Smell

Many bed-in-a-box mattresses emit an… interesting smell once they’re unboxed, like a new car. The foams have been manufactured, compressed and packed in plastic, so it’s common to notice an odor when the mattress is unrolled from the packaging. It’s not something to be concerned about; it will fade away after a few hours to a few days. We mention any noticeable smells in our review, especially if the odor is overwhelming.

screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-49-40pm.png screenshot-2024-06-05-at-5-49-40pm.png

Breathe in that new mattress smell, JD.

Aly Lopez/CNET

The only way to avoid the off-gassing smell is to purchase an organic and natural mattress made with latex foam and certified organic materials like cotton and wool. 

Sustainability and certifications

We like to acknowledge when a mattress brand goes above and beyond in its commitment to environmental sustainability and ethical practices. Many mattress brands use natural and organic materials and recyclable packaging, but some brands go even further than this through certifications and charitable donations. We recognize that many of our readers prioritize purchasing from companies that value environmental sustainability and social impact, so we will always mention this in our mattress reviews. 

For example, Avocado Green’s extensive list of green certifications includes Global Organic Latex and Textile Standard, Oeko-Tex, Greenguard Gold, B Corp and Climate Neutral — some of the strictest certifications a company can receive for nontoxicity and social and environmental responsibility.

CNET Mattress Experts CNET Mattress Experts

CNET’s mattress and sleep experts are here to help you get better rest.

Cole Kan/CNET

Why you can trust CNET reviews

CNET editors, writers and staff value integrity and unbiased coverage. We refuse compensation for placement or positive coverage and don’t guarantee a best list spot to brands who send editorial samples. All recommendations are based on our experience as expert mattress testers with a range of different sleeping positions and body type perspectives.

All review articles and videos share the same commitments to excellence.

Independence: The products recommended in our reviews, roundups and other stories are independently chosen for review and recommendation. 

Expertise: Our mattress experts are all certified sleep science coaches from the Spencer Institute. Collectively, we have 40-plus years of experience testing and reviewing mattresses and sleep products. 

Hands-on testing: We personally unbox and hand-test the mattresses we review and recommend.

Research: If we can’t test a product ourselves, we make recommendations based on extensive research, customer reviews, brand reputation and expert advice. 

Value: We consider price when making product recommendations and aim to find the best products at affordable prices.

Industry knowledge: Our sleep experts stay up to date on industry knowledge through continuous research and education, facility tours and interviews with mattress brand founders and company representatives.

Source link