The perfect bed beckons you to get under the covers, close your eyes, and drift serenely off to sleep. Here's how to select the right mattress, pillows, and sheets to help you create that cozy and comfortable environment you've been dreaming of.
Selecting the proper pillow to help align your head and neck is essential to a good night's sleep.
1. First, choose the right firmness for your preferred sleep position. Side sleepers need firm support, medium is just right for back sleepers, while stomach sleepers require a softer pillow.
2. Synthetic is best for allergy sufferers. Shopping for down? Check the fill power-the volume an ounce of down takes up. Higher fill power equates to better insulation. Also, look for tightly woven cotton covers.
3. Synthetic pillows last one to two years; down can last five to ten. Always use pillow covers to help extend a pillow's life. Wash the covers regularly, and your pillows will need less washing.
New advances have created more options than ever, with each type offering a slightly different feel to suit every body. These choices illustrate some of the categories. Keep in mind that a mattress is designed to work with its matching box spring (also called the "foundation"). If you buy a mattress separately, it may feel different than it did at the store, or even affect the warranty.
INNERSPRING: The W Hotels Plush Top mattress has internal coils for support topped with layers of upholstery and padding; www.mattress.com; www.whotelsthestore.com
AIR: Select Comfort's Sleep Number mattress offers chambers of air that adjust to provide just the right amount of support to each side; www.selectcomfort.com
MEMORY FOAM: Made of a special viscoelastic material, Tempur-Pedic's ClassicBed conforms to your body's shape to relieve pressure; tempurpedic.com
GEL: Specially designed zones in Simmons' BackCare with Technogel mattress support each area of your body, with a gel layer in the back-support zone; www.simmons.com
There are also luxury handcrafted mattresses available. Hästens creates beds with natural materials to allow for air circulation to keep the bed a comfortable temperature. Guaranteed to last 25 years, the Superia has a pine frame with hand-tied springs and layers of flax, cotton, wool, and horsehair for comfort; hastens.com. Also handmade: shifmanmattresses.com and vispring.co.uk.
Mattresses don't last forever. "Many people confuse the warranty period on a mattress (often 10 or more years) with how long a mattress is meant to last," explains Nancy Shark, of the Better Sleep Council (bettersleep.org). After five to seven years of nightly use, it may be time to evaluate whether your mattress still provides the support and comfort you need. If it shows visible sagging or lumps, or if you awake feeling stiff, you may need to replace your mattress. Go shopping with your partner to test-drive a number of models. Look for a set that makes you feel cradled yet supported, paying special attention to your shoulders, hips, and lower back.
Body heat and moisture make a bed a haven for dust mites, so do some prevention.
COVER: Covers help ensure a mattress's life by protecting against mites, dust, stains, and body oils. Cover your box spring to keep it clean, too.
CLEAN: Use your vacuum's upholstery tool to reduce dust on the mattress's surface. Dyson's Mattress Tool attachment has a wide head for better coverage; dyson.com.
Laundering Tips: Good sheets are an investment, so be sure to care properly for them. Use a mild, natural detergent such as The Laundress Signature Detergent (thelaundress.com), and dry on low heat, or line dry if possible. Avoid bleach, which can break down fibers over time.
Having trouble navigating the bedding departments at stores? It's no wonder, given the increasingly wide selection of fabrics and thread counts that are available. Keep the following factors in mind when you go shopping.
Fabric content: Look for all-natural fabrics, such as 100-percent cotton Lustrous Cotton Sateen Sheets from the Eileen Fisher Home Collection by Garnet Hill (garnethill.com). Natural-fiber sheets allow the body to breathe and, with care (see Laundering Tips), will last a long time, making them worth your investment. Cotton sheeting feels smooth and soft to the touch, and Egyptian and Pima cottons, which have a longer fiber, have a slightly more luxurious feel.
Construction: The way a sheet is woven is another important factor to consider. Cotton percale has a clean, crisp finish, while cotton sateen has a more fluid, satiny texture. Flannel has a soft nap to it that many people like for winter use.
Thread count: Fabric content and construction are as important as thread count-which means the number of threads in a square inch of fabric. A very high thread count may be overconstructed (a high thread count marked "2-ply" may be a sign) and fall apart with wash and wear. Remember this: Find what feels best to you at a price you can afford.
Originally Published: Making the Bed