The tester: Simone Kitchens, former Strategist senior editor
How I sleep: I slouch, so at night I need to lie down on something very firm to counter a long day of slightly stooped sitting and sinking into my hips while standing. I start out on my back but eventually collapse over to my side by the middle of the night.
What to know: Saatva, which has been around for almost a decade, was one of the first online innerspring mattress companies. It offers three versions: soft, luxury firm, and firm. In each, an organic cotton pillow top — some people call it “Euro style,” or “hotel style” — covers a top layer of ecofriendly memory foam, which sits on a level of individually wrapped coils above another layer of recycled steel coils, then a poly foam base.
How I slept: Because of my generally sore back, I was tasked with testing some of the firm mattresses out there. Side-sleepers, the company told me, are said to prefer the luxury firm. So I got it, and my first impression was how sturdy the bed felt. But lying down, I immediately noticed how incredibly bouncy the double layer of coils makes the luxury firm. I can certainly see why side-sleepers would like the pressure relief it offers, but I decided to swap it for the firm, hoping it would focus support on my lumbar region. Which it very much did. You feel more on top of it, because of the steel springs, but you still have the contoured shape of the raised pillow top. I move around at night, shape-shifting from my back to my side to stomach, but the firmness of this mattress never created a sunken, stuck feeling, which I’ve found happening with memory foam. Instead, the supported feeling of this bed (which still manages to be pretty plush) kept my lower back from collapsing in, making my spine feel more aligned overall.
The fine print: Saatva allows customers a 180-day trial run as well as a full return or exchange. The mattress is covered by a 15-year warranty. All sizes are available in two heights — a custom slim (11.5-inch) and a premier luxury (14.5-inch) — and give the same level of support. The company offers free white-glove delivery and mattress removal.
The tl;dr: Saatva’s firmest option is a true firm, making it a good choice for those in need of back support. Plus: Saatva uses organic and ecofriendly materials, so while all the mattresses listed here are certifiably safe, there are fewer chemicals in Saatva’s.
The tester: Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer
How I sleep: I am never not sweating and always sleep on my side or stomach. While I’ve stopped using it, I often long for my old five-inch memory-foam mattress topper from college; it was the kind of memory foam you immediately sink into and forms to your body and is so comfortable.
What to know: Each of Nolah’s U.S.-made, all-foam mattresses is constructed with Nolah AirFoam — a proprietary, temperature-neutral foam the company says is created without using the chemicals found in traditional memory-foam mattresses, which can trap heat. This proprietary foam, Nolah claims, makes its mattresses cooler than any other memory-foam mattresses. The Original 10 mattress I tested is topped with two inches of Nolah AirFoam; beneath that is a one-inch layer of high-resilience foam that the company claims makes the mattress 300 percent more durable than the average memory-foam mattress. The rest of the ten-inch-thick mattress consists of a high-density breathable base foam. Beyond being cooling and durable, Nolah says the mattress is also particularly comfortable for side sleepers like myself, because its combination of foams results in a plush-but-supportive mattress with a medium amount of body contouring. Side-sleepers apparently need pressure relief on their hips and shoulders, along with a mattress that supports the alignment of the spine, shoulders, and pelvis; Nolah claims its AirFoam puts 376 percent less pressure on the shoulders, hips, and back, providing 22 percent more pressure-relief overall.
How I slept: While I (and anyone who sat on it) found my beloved college-era memory-foam mattress topper comfortable, there were a couple things I didn’t like about it. One was that I would almost sink into it too much, making it harder for me to naturally roll over onto my stomach as I sometimes do while sleeping. Its memory foam also seemed to absorb my sweat (and its odor), too, perhaps because of the way it absorbed my body. I bring these points up in order to say: The Nolah Original is not my old memory-foam mattress topper — in the best way. Its top layers of memory foam have some give, but the mattress is much firmer: When I sit on it, I notice a soft bounce, but when fully recline, I feel totally supported. Before sleeping on the Nolah Original, I was sleeping on a pillow-top innerspring mattress, and I never thought there was anything wrong with that mattress until I started using the Nolah one and noticed that I’m actually sleeping better. The best way I can tell? I used to need a weighted blanket to get an uninterrupted night of sleep, but with the Nolah, I have been sleeping through the night (and often to my alarm) without one.
As for the mattress’s cooling claims: While I was not expecting this — or any — mattress alone to stop me from being a night sweater, this memory foam does feel cooler to sleep on than other memory foam I’ve slept on. I can tell because I don’t get overheated as fast sleeping on the Nolah Original as I have in the past. In fact, I’ve been sleeping on it as summer turns to fall in New York City and have already needed to turn on the heat in my bedroom a few times — something I’d do on past mattresses, but usually not until it was closer to (or actually) winter.
The fine print: Nolah offers free shipping and free returns within a 120-night trial period; if you decide to send a mattress back within that time, the company will donate it and give you a full refund. Customers willing to forgo the trial period can save an extra $100 (or thereabouts) on their purchase. The Original mattress is covered by a 15-year limited warranty that applies to normal deterioration and craftsmanship errors; Nolah’s pricier Signature mattress, meanwhile, is covered by a limited lifetime warranty. Currently, Nolah does not ship mattresses to Alaska and Hawaii.
The tl;dr: Based on my experience, if you’re a side sleeper who moves around and skews hot, the Nolah original is a superior option. And if you’re another kind of sleeper who skews hot, I’d recommend checking out its other mattresses given that they all include the brand’s proprietary cooling memory foam.
The tester: Maxine Builder, Strategist managing editor
How I sleep: I am a stomach sleeper who prefers a plush mattress that cradles my body. However, I share a bed with a back-sleeper who prefers a firm mattress with little-to-no give.
What to know: Leesa is one of the OG mattress-in-a-box companies — it’s been selling an all-foam mattress since 2014 — and according to Sleepopolis, it’s a solid option for back- and side-sleepers. In August, Leesa reformulated its basic mattress for the first time, replacing its top layer of trademarked Avena foam (a latex alternative) with a layer of what’s called “LSA200 foam technology.” According to Jamie Diamonstein, one of Leesa’s co-founders, the new foam has improved “pushback,” meaning it better fills in the gaps around your body when you lie down. “The goal was to enhance the pressure relief of the body through this technology,” he says. “We’ve created a foam that responds to the shape and the sleeping position of your body, then it pushes back and balances your body out.”
How I slept: I used a sleep tracker for five nights while testing this mattress, and every night I fell into a deep sleep quickly and stayed there. The mattress felt soft and plush, but I never sank down into it. My partner, who is so enamored with sleeping on hard surfaces that he sometimes naps on a yoga mat on our hardwood floor, raved about the pressure relief and comfort he felt from the foam filling in the small of his back while he slept.
The fine print: Standard shipping is free, though Leesa can arrange white-glove delivery, which includes mattress removal, for an additional fee. You have 100 days to try your Leesa mattress; if you don’t like it, the company will coordinate a pickup from your home, then refund the full purchase price.
The tl;dr: This is a foam mattress but a substantial one that offers excellent pressure relief. It should suit all kinds of sleepers and is a good mattress for anyone who doesn’t want to overthink it.
The tester: Lori Keong, former Strategist writer
How I sleep: I am not loyal to any one position, so my ideal mattress is a jack-of-all-trades with support for my back, but which is also cushy enough to let me comfortably flop around on my stomach and side.
What to know: The Aviya mattress itself is a hybrid model with three layers of high-density foam over a coiled innerspring system. The brand offers three options for firmness: plush, luxury firm (Aviya’s most popular style and the one I tested), and firm. It’s possible you’ve already unwittingly slept on one, as a couple of popular (but undisclosed) hotel chains use the Aviya luxury firm bed. That may be because Sleep Advisor, Sleepopolis, and Real Mattress Reviews gave it a near-perfect all-around score for comfort, materials, and support.
How I slept: Flopping down, I was immediately taken by how plush yet delightfully bouncy this mattress was. The innersprings are a big plus, but they’re buried far beneath the layers of foam. I was amazed at just how propped-up and aligned my body felt while supine, yet how comfortably I slept thanks to the padding of the quilted foam top. Which shouldn’t bother back-sleepers, I’d think, because of the lack of give in this mattress — there is virtually no sinkage, which I tested by dropping two ten-pound weights on top of it. But the plush top still lends itself well to dozing on your side or stomach. I’d even go so far as to say that sleeping on this changed my perception of what soft-but-supportive means.
The fine print: Aviya provides free shipping, which includes in-the-door delivery through a third-party service. However, that might not cover getting the mattress upstairs in a walk-up apartment (it didn’t at my Brooklyn brownstone), so customers living in cities should ask ahead of time. Mattress setup and removal are available for an additional fee, and Aviya will set this up during a two-hour window, Mondays through Fridays only.
The tl;dr: The Aviya is supportive but soft and is another can’t-go-wrong choice for those who don’t want to overthink it but know that they’d prefer an innerspring system.
The tester: Margaret Rhodes, former Strategist senior editor
How I sleep: I’m a stomach-sleeper — I often can’t fall asleep at all unless I’m fully prostrate — but often wake up on my side, and I like a mattress that feels fluffy without having too much give.
What to know: If you’re reading this, what don’t you know about Casper? It wasn’t the first mattress-in-a-box company to launch, but it quickly became the most prominent, thanks to factors like shiny branding and venture-capital funding. The original premise of Casper was that one mattress could make everyone happy. The company has abandoned this Goldilocksian ideal and made two other models (read on for those), but this is the original: a four-layer foam construction with firmer support around the shoulders and hips in the newest update.
How I slept: I owned a Casper before this project (as did several other Strategist staffers), so my evaluation is actually based on a year’s worth of sleep. And it was great. I didn’t have any sleep complaints before, but graduating from my Ikea mattress to the Casper was like flipping a light switch. It’s definitely a foam mattress, and for some people (like Strategist writer Liza Corsillo), that makes it feel hot. It also makes some people call it a soft mattress (Karen Iorio Adelson, Strategist senior writer). I found it to be squarely in the middle, with absolutely no painful give around the back, but cushy enough that collapsing into it at the end of the day felt like a reward. (Lori also had one and liked it.) Casper has become the de facto mattress, the one bought by people who don’t shop obsessively and who say, “I just have a Casper.” But, honestly, the ubiquity is deserved.
The fine print: You get the standard (with mattress start-ups, at least) 100 days to decide if you like your Casper. Free shipping and returns come with that, and the company says it tries to donate returned mattresses when possible. Formerly called the Casper Mattress, the company has rebranded this as the Casper Original Mattress and claims that the latest version has “enhanced support and cooling features,” as well as a “new cover made with recycled materials.”
The tl;dr: As a company, Casper is a well-oiled machine that makes delivery a cinch and offers other high-quality products along with the mattress, which is convenient if you want new, say, pillows. As for the mattress, it skews just a tad softer, and hot sleepers don’t always love the foam. For everyone else, you can’t go wrong.
The tester: Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
How I sleep: I mostly sleep on my back but also switch to my side during the night. I prefer a mattress that’s on the firmer side.
What to know: Tuft & Needle launched early, in 2012, and in 2018, it was acquired by Serta Simmons. Tuft & Needle offers three mattresses: The Original foam mattress; the Mint, an upgraded version of the original; and the Hybrid, which has both foam and springs. The original has just two layers of material: a seven-inch support layer of dense foam as the base and a three-inch top comfort layer of proprietary Adaptive Foam infused with a “cooling gel” and graphite to keep sleepers cool. Its simplicity may explain its lower price — it’s a couple hundred dollars less than other foam competitors — but its appeal is meant to be broad and is aimed at a wide range of sleeping preferences and body weights.
How I slept: Right off the bat, the mattress felt substantial. The textured fabric cover felt plush to the touch, and when I pressed my open hand down on the mattress, it bounced back with a friendly spring. Lying on the Tuft & Needle for the first time, I immediately felt embraced. Sleeping on my back, I felt supported and cocooned at the same time, and when I turned to my side, the transition felt natural. The company calls its in-house T & N Adaptive foam “soft and comfy while still being bouncy and supportive,” and I completely agree. While I may revert to a coil-spring mattress eventually, I can see myself keeping the Tuft & Needle for a long time. My husband also really likes it, and he’s a back- and stomach-sleeper whose temperature runs a little hotter than mine. It’s a solid introduction to a compressed mattress-in-a-box.
The fine print: Shipping is free, and if you don’t like it after a 100-day trial, the brand offers a full refund and free removal to a charity of your choice. It also comes with a ten-year warranty.
The tl;dr: Another crowd pleaser for anyone who’s happy with foam, Tuft & Needle is a very smart choice for anyone looking to spend a bit less.