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Rest assured, we can demystify the hunt for a new mattress

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Considering that a good night's sleep is important for good health, the right mattress can make all the difference.

But mattress shopping can feel a bit like car shopping - you only need a mattress about every 10 years, and the whole process is mystifying.

With mattress shops seemingly on almost every corner and nice-sounding but meaningless names like "Endless Sleep" or "Luxury Comfort," it's hard to tell the difference between one mattress and another.

Experts say the mattress industry purposely doesn't make it easy for shoppers.

Here's the trick with mattress shopping. There is no standard. What one company calls ultra firm, another calls soft.

The confusion between mattress names is deliberate. In order to sell more products, manufacturers will work with retailers and sell essentially the same lineup of mattresses and give them different names for different shops.

Retailers want to compete on their ability to sell; they don't want to compete on price.

There are ways for consumers to do some price comparisons, but you have to be tenacious about it.

Whether shopping online or in a store, buyers should expect to spend time researching.

The benefit to going to a showroom is that sleepers can test out how comfortable the mattress is.

Mattress comfort is definitely subjective.

We can tell you which mattress is supportive, but not how comfortable it will be for you.

When shopping showrooms, start in the back of the store, as that's where the less-expensive models are located: The pricier pads are in front. Wear comfortable clothes and lie on the mattress for 10 to 15 minutes.

Consumers can get some basic information from statistic sheets, which the salesperson can print out. This information should explain the components inside the mattress, such as the number of coils, coil thickness, known as the gauge, and the number of layers of foam padding above the coils. It may also explain the foam's material and what's in the fabric covering the mattress, called ticking.

Repeat the process in another store, choosing the same mattress manufacturer, and test out the pads that were in a similar price range at the other store. If the mattress feels the same, ask the salesperson for the statistics sheet on that mattress and then compare the two.

If it feels pretty close, you'll likely discover the bed is very close to identical. The very least it will have the same number of coils and the same gauge. The layers of padding may be arranged differently, but fundamentally it's the same stuff and thickness. The ticking may be a different color or pattern.

Shoppers can try to look at this data, but the manufacturer may have made small adjustments as they changed the names for different retailers that may or may not reflect a difference in mattress performance.

They really don't want you to leave the store. It's not a particularly fun way to shop, and you're really shopping blind.

The one thing a consumer can't do properly is compare mattresses among brands, the technology between the manufacturers is different.

Manufacturers offer information for online shoppers, but without physically laying on the model, buyers run the risk of the mattress being uncomfortable.

They were also not only tops in scoring, but they were pretty inexpensive and these places have very liberal return policies. So there wasn't a downside to trying out these mattresses to see if they worked for you. If they work for you, that's great. You found a mattress that's relatively inexpensive and don't have the hassle of shopping at a retail store which is not a happy scene.

Return policies are key, whether shopping online or on foot.

You want to be sure it's easy to return, know the length of time for trying it out, and see if they are going to charge you a restocking fee and if they're going to charge you for transporting it back.

When shopping, try to negotiate, the experts said, particularly at specialty stores. Wait for sales, especially 40 percent or 50 percent off deals. Competition for conventional innerspring mattresses is the highest and will likely lead to more price-cutting; salespeople are less likely to offer deals on memory foam mattresses and air-filled mattresses.

Even if dealers won't budge on price, try other avenues. You can always try to get something out of them. Free shipping, a free set of sheets. To get free shipping out of them, that's great.

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