These days, to find the best mattress, you’re really looking for the best mattress in a box. Not only can you order them in a few clicks, you can also avoid all the problems that come with brick-and-mortar mattresses stores: high prices, scheduling deliveries, creepy sales people that keep asking increasingly invasive questions about how you sleep, etc.
There’s just one thing: you can’t try it out first! But trust us, after comparing more than 28 mattresses from the internet, we can assure you: the risk is worth the reward. And, to minimize the risk, we’ve put them to the test ourselves.
Over the past few years, we’ve actually built our own mattress emporium exclusively from mattresses in a box. We sent GQ staffers, the sleep-indifferent and sleep-obsessed alike, to put the mattresses through the same tests they would if they were buying them at a store. Everyone’s favorite test? Testing the responsiveness and bounce by running across all 20 mattresses. In clean socks, of course.
Obviously, you can’t replace sleeping for months on a mattress with a series of catnaps. But by bringing all the mattresses in the same room, and bringing editors of all different sleeping types and mattress expertise levels, it became a lot easier to articulate differences in the small things, like, “Where is the line between feeling swaddled in memory foam and feeling like you’re drowning in it?” and “Does this mattress sleep hot, or is it just me?” Some people tested the edge support, while others focused on heat or only considered mattresses that had spring coils instead of pure memory foam.
Despite all the differences in preferences, some clear favorites emerged. The best mattresses in a box are comfortable and supportive. That’s it. Two factors. The materials, firmness, thickness, hyper-cooling gel-cushions, whatever—they all combine to offer some combination of comfort and support.
Comfort is easy to conceptualize. How comfortable does it feel to lay on this? How hot does it get? Do I like the cradling of the foam, or the bounce of a coil spring mattress—or a little bit of both, like in a “hybrid” mattress?
The support part is harder. Hammocks and bean bags are comfortable, but let us know how supported your back feels after sleeping in them for a year. Generally, thicker mattresses and denser materials are more supportive. As they get more expensive, mattresses get thicker and heavier, with an increasing amount of layers aimed at providing comfort (the top part) while giving you a solid foundation to support your body as it lays on it 2,000 hours a year (the bottom part).
If you are an average-sized male adult, you already have some options eliminated for you: it is likely a medium-soft or soft mattress won’t provide enough support for your frame; you’ll sink into a medium or medium-firm mattress just like a child or someone closer to 100 pounds might sink into a soft or medium-soft mattress. Side sleepers, whose hips and shoulders dig into the bed and create uneven pressure, might lean toward medium options, though materials and mattress thickness also affect this, as memory foam mattresses can “sink” more and keep the spine aligned and pressure even while broad shoulders are digging into the mattress.
With all that in mind, we’ve created this guide to help take the guesswork out of buying the best mattress in a box online. To make sure we bring you the best and most up-to-date mattress reviews in 2021, we’ll keep testing new ones all year round. When combined with our favorite sheet sets, pillows, and comforters, these mattresses provide what we think is the best possible sleep experience you’ll ever get. Without further adieu, here are the best mattresses in a box for every price and every sleeping style.
Helix: The Overall Favorite
Warranty/Guarantee: 100-night trial, 15-year warranty
Firmness Level: Medium
Type: Hybrid (spring coils and foam topper)