How To Buy a Mattress in a Pandemic

By Lindsey O'Connell

I don’t know about you, but I still like to go shopping in a physical store. COVID has made that a little more complicated. While the convenience of getting something shipped right to my door is amazing (thank you Amazon, Wayfair and essentially every store on the planet!), there are still some things that I personally like to touch and test out before purchasing. One in particular—a mattress.

Recently, I was in the market for a new mattress. In the past,  this was  really fun for my husband and I.  We would go into a store, jump (I mean lay) on every mattress in sight (at least 10 times) and then decide which was the perfect one for us.  But with the state of the pandemic, we had to pause. Is that even safe to do anymore? Stores are open and are supposed to be going through the proper safety procedures, but can we trust them? Is there another way to purchase a mattress that we know will fit our needs without going in a store? 

You all know sleep is essential for our health.  Getting the proper 7 to 8 hours helps your body to recharge, remain healthy, stave off diseases and think more clearly. We can’t function without it, so you don’t want to mess around with one of the most important tools to help you get those zzzzz’s. So, I turned to the experts to help us in our search for a safe way to buy a mattress at this time.  Lexie Sachs is a Fiber Scientist and the Textiles Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Her job is to test every product on the market—from diapers and towels to workout leggings and mattresses to help us know which is the best on the shelves. 

“Not to add more pressure, but buying a new mattress is one of the most important purchases you’ll make for your home,” Sachs says. “It needs to be comfortable and supportive to give you the best possible sleep, and durable so you won’t have to replace it within a few years. And because mattresses can get pricey, you want to make sure you’re investing in one that’s actually worth the cost.”

Below are Sachs tips on how to find the best mattress (without stepping into a store).  


The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab reviews mattresses of all kinds, from traditional innerspring mattresses that you buy in stores to foam mattress-in-a-box styles that you buy online. On top of researching the brands, materials, and features, we have product experts and consumer testers try them out, and we survey our tester panel to get in-depth reviews from thousands of real users.

We ask questions to learn everything about the mattresses, from the shopping experience and delivery, to first impressions of comfort, to how they have held up over time. We also ask about any issues encountered and how those issues were handled by customer service. We want to make sure that not only is the mattress good, but that the brand also is trustworthy since there are many new companies popping up in this space with bold promises. We also research the brands ourselves to learn more about their materials, policies, and more fine details. 

And we have our product experts review them in person to get a better idea of how they feel and hold up over time. We continue to follow up with our testers and experts each year to see if there are any changes. 


People will have their own personal levels of comfort in terms of how they want to shop for a mattress during the pandemic, but the good news is that there are great options for everyone. There’s the traditional in-store method, and many stores have reopened with safety precautions in place. Then there’s online shopping with white glove delivery, where a service will set up the mattress in your home (and many will remove your old mattress for you). Lastly, there’s online shopping where the mattress is shipped compressed in a box for you to set up on your own. This may be too much work for some, but it’s a good option for people that need a new mattress but don’t want anyone entering their homes during the pandemic.


Obviously I’m biased, but I would recommend checking out our Good Housekeeping mattress roundups. I’ve done the background work to make sure these are trustworthy brands as there are a lot of highly marketed mattress companies that have issues with customer service or the mattress itself. From there, consider your preferences in terms of delivery/set up and the mattress itself.


 The main thing is personal preference: If you prefer a firmer bed with a more bouncy feel, you’ll want an innerspring mattress. If you prefer a pressure-relieving material that you sink into, opt for memory foam. You can also find hybrids that offer both coils and memory foam so you get the best of both worlds. 

You should also consider your sleeping position because you need to make sure your spine is properly aligned. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’re best off with a firm mattress. Side sleepers need a softer surface so there isn’t too much pressure around your joints. And back sleepers (or those who switch positions a lot) can opt for something in between. And when you’re online shopping, be sure to check the trial period and return policy so you can get a refund if you don’t love what you pick.


Look for mattresses with free trial periods so you can return them if you don’t love them. Most online mattress brands have generous policies where you can return the mattress within three months, or often longer. Even without a pandemic, this is a great way to make sure you love your mattress and are comfortable with the purchase. Just make sure to check for hidden fees; some charge you to pick-up the mattress for the return. Lying on a mattress in a store isn’t a great indicator of how you’ll sleep on it overnight because it’s so brief; not to mention it can be awkward in a store with a sales person looming over you.


 The best bet for someone with back pain is a mattress made of memory foam or a hybrid of memory foam and coils. We spoke with medical experts in our research for mattresses with back pain, and they said patients have reported relief with these types of mattresses. Memory foam offers excellent pressure relief, especially around heavier spots like your hips and shoulders.


My advice would be to make sure delivery personnel are wearing masks and that you distance from them during the delivery. You can keep the windows open in the room where they delivered and let it air out before you enter. That being said, if you’re worried about people entering your home, you can opt for a mattress-in-a-box with a DIY set up.


Traditional Mattress

For someone who wants the traditional mattress you find at luxury stores but prefers the convenience of online shopping, we recommend Saatva. Thousands of users on our tester panel give it rave reviews and it uses top quality materials, including both foam and coil, that feel supportive and are built to last. And unlike many all-foam styles, Saatva has great edge support, so it doesn’t sink when you get in and out of bed. Just note that it’s not shipped in a box, so a delivery service will set it up in your home. 

Sustainable Mattress

Another online mattress I highly recommend (which I know is also a Nutritious Life favorite!) is the Avocado, which is sustainable and made of natural materials like organic cotton, organic latex, and wool. But it’s still a luxury mattress and you don’t need to sacrifice quality for sustainability (though it’s pricier than Saatva). 

All-Foam Mattress

When it comes to all-foam mattresses in a box that you set up yourself, Casper is the most popular, and with good reason: The majority of our panel was thrilled with their purchase. The brand made online shopping what it is today and offers a generous return policy so there’s low risk in trying it out. Casper has several styles to choose from in its assortment, but we’ve found that the Original Mattress offers the best value. 

Cost Effective Mattress

If you’re looking to save, Allswell is a great mattress-in-a-box option for under $1,000.


(photo credit: Shutterstock)

About Lindsey O'Connell
Former Editorial Director, Nutritious Life

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