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01/09/2015 07:00 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2017

What Nobody Tells You About Buying A Mattress

Nothing is more relaxing than snuggling into bed after a long day. But buying a mattress? That event is almost ZERO parts zen.

There's much to consider when hunting for the centerpiece of your bedroom -- but the mattress-buying process doesn't have to be a nightmare. Here's a quick briefing that will ensure your shopping trip is as smooth as a midday nap.

There is indeed a "cheapest" time to buy.

Most experts recommend purchasing a mattress near a holiday -- like Presidents Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day -- or in the month of May, when mattresses are usually marked down in showrooms. In January, you can start prepping for your mattress purchase at "white sales," which are deeply discounted sales for bedding.

Higher prices does not mean better sleep.

One of the biggest complaints when buying a mattress is price, and figuring out why they cost so damn much. This is usually attributed to large markups, which depends on the brand. We recommend staying in the $500 to $1200 range, as anything over that price doesn't necessarily indicate better quality or better sleep, and probably has the same amount of cushioning and support as more expensive mattresses.

You can negotiate your price.

Though it may surprise most people, it is possible to negotiate the price at most of the bigger mattress chains. Robin Wilson, an eco-friendly interior design expert, says that if you bargain "at a department store, you might be able to get tax taken off the mattress price, or delivery for free." You'll also have a better chance of getting a discount or redeeming a coupon if you go to the store to purchase a mattress, rather than buying online.

"Firm" mattresses are not the same "firmness" everywhere.

Yes, labels may tout a mattress's level of firmness, but one brand's "firm" may be another brand's "soft," according to Consumer Reports Expert Shopper Tod Marks. "The only way to determine if the cushiness and the firmness is right for you is to lie down on the bed and try it for yourself," he says.

It's harder to return a mattress than you think.

Most mattress retailers (from IKEA to Tempur-Pedic) will allow you to try out your mattress for up to 90 days, but they differ on the amount of money you'll get back if you return it. Other stores require an exchange fee or disposal fee, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

There are organic options.

The squishy foam on mattresses is often made from petroleum oil, which (not surprisingly) can cause health problems for some. Organic mattress brands like Keetsa use their own foams that put plant oils into the mix. While they may be more costly, all-natural mattresses are worth it, says Wilson. "We spend one third of our lives sleeping," she explains. "Consider your mattress a health investment."

You can order a mattress online as easily as you can order a pair of shoes.

Yup, you'll find mattresses right in the Amazon store, many listed with free shipping. And a whole new suite of boutique mattress retailers (like the newly-popular Casper) operate solely online, sending mattresses to your door in a nice, neat box. These new online retailers often allow returns for a full refund, without any fees or charges whatsoever. But the old standby brands -- which you might find on discount sites like Overstock -- likely won't do the same, so it's smart to go test them out in a store first. Speaking of which...

You don't need to buy your mattress from a brand you've heard of.

The aforementioned Casper is an online retailer that aims to ease everyone's mattress-buying headache with a 100-day trial period and sleek design. Other sites like Saatva (which has an eco-friendly focus) and Novosbed (which also boasts free delivery, free trial periods and free returns) also deliver to your door in a snap. Hop on the bandwagon, because this is the future of mattresses.

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