How well or how poorly you sleep can either set you up for a productive day or a lethargic one. There’s a wide range of behavioral changes—like limiting the use of blue-light emitting electronics before bed or practicing meditation—that can help you sleep better. However, making these changes can only do so much if your mattress causes pain or discomfort.
But for many people, just the thought of shopping for a new mattress can be exhausting. Buying a new mattress may include schlepping from shop to shop, evading pushy salespeople, and Goldilocks-ing your way through half a dozen beds, only to haul it home and set it up yourself.
Fortunately, there is another way. The mattress-in-a-box phenomenon is one of the latest trends in the online shopping movement. Now, not only can you order a mattress from the comfort of home, you can have it delivered in a surprisingly small package. Plus, these mattresses are usually more budget-friendly compared to beds from brick-and-mortar retailers.
But if your curiosity is matched by skepticism—it’s understandable. Read on to learn how buying a mattress in a box works and which products are worth the investment.
Mattress shopping used to be an in-person-only experience. You would have to visit one or more brick-and-mortar stores, listen to pitches from eager sales associates, and awkwardly test out options under their watchful gaze.
You had to repeat this process until you found the perfect product or simply gave up and settled on whatever was in stock and within your price range. Then, you could either haul it home or arrange for the shop to deliver it.
Fortunately, those days are history.
In the early 2000s, e-commerce became increasingly popular as people began using the internet as a part of everyday life. Direct-to-consumer mattress companies began cropping up not long after, and in the mid-2000s, the bed-in-a-box market began to boom.
Casper may be the best-known mattress-in-a-box dealer. But machinist Bill Bradley of Tennessee invented the concept in 2007, seven years before Casper appeared on the scene.
Bradley developed a device that could compress and roll foam mattresses to fit into a box approximately the size of a coffee table. He founded BedInABox, the first company of its kind in what is now a huge industry.
Today, dozens of companies provide mattresses in boxes, or bags, for consumers to set up and try without leaving the house or interacting with any sales reps.
To buy a bed in a box, you never have to set foot in a physical store. Instead, you can head straight to the manufacturer’s website and browse their products.
Typically, companies note all the specs and details about their product up-front. Many also have customer service representatives available to answer questions via email or phone if you need to chat with a human.
Many mattresses that arrive in a box are made of memory foam, making them incredibly flexible, compactable, and easy to roll, pack, and deliver.
Once the bed arrives, you unpack the box and allow the mattress to expand and return to its original form. Unlike air mattresses or water beds, they don’t require any manual inflation.
Companies usually offer a trial period, often 90 nights or more, for you to try the mattress out in your own home. Most will take the mattress back, if it isn’t damaged, within that period if you’re not satisfied.
When searching for a bed in a box, you can shop from your couch. You won’t need to spend your day going from one store to the next, and you can research brands and products thoroughly before making a decision. It will be delivered straight to your house, with minimal setup required. Plus, you’ll have lots of time to try the mattress in real life, rather than just in a showroom.
Some luxury mattress-in-a-box-products come at high-end prices, but most companies have standard models at an affordable price point. The low prices are possible because bed-in-a-box companies cut out the middleman and don’t have overhead costs like most brick-and-mortar establishments. Compressing the mattresses into a standard shipping box can also make delivery less expensive for the retailer.
When you shop for mattresses in person, you can go to two different types of stores: a brand store that only sells its products. or a retailer that sells mattresses from various brands. Whichever way you shop, your options are limited by what the store carries and has in stock.
On the other hand, mattress-in-a-box companies make shopping much simpler. Many brands only offer a few models, but you can easily search across different company websites and compare prices and features. Shopping online, you won’t be boxed in by the partnerships between different stores and specific brands.
Off-gassing occurs when your new mattress releases the pent-up volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) trapped in its airtight container. These molecules come mostly from adhesive and foam materials. The exact chemical makeup depends on the mattress but can include formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and chlorofluorocarbons, which are also found in many other household items, including paint and cleaners.
While exposure to these chemicals can be dangerous, the degree to which you are exposed during off-gassing is minimal and should not impact your health. Many companies list the specifics about their products’ chemical makeup and off-gassing on their website, along with the environmental and manufacturing standards they comply with, such as GREENGUARD Gold or CertiPUR-US.
2. Specific Base Requirements
Memory foam mattresses require more consistent reinforcement, like a platform, to prevent sinking and indentations. This kind of damage is not usually covered under warranty. That means if you are replacing your traditional mattress with memory foam for the first time, you might need to get a new base.
3. No Try Before You Buy
While trying out mattresses in a showroom isn’t everyone’s idea of a good, or even productive, time, some prefer to try before they buy. If that’s you, it doesn’t necessarily mean a mattress in a box isn’t an option. Consider choosing a brand that has a showroom nearby. Or, trust the process and purchase a mattress from a company that offers no-hassle returns if you decide you don’t like it during the test period.
Almost all mattress-in-a-box models are made with some form of foam, such as memory foam, latex, gel, a viscoelastic material, or a combination of these materials. They’re covered in cloth, usually a stretchy knit that’s flexible and breathable. Just like traditional beds, they also contain flame retardants. Many boxed mattresses also contain unique fabrics for temperature control and enhanced airflow. They may also have an antimicrobial property to maintain freshness.
Memory foam or gel foam filling may be best for people who tend to get overheated at night. Some companies offer options with superior cooling and ventilation technology to further enhance comfort.
Latex foam is made from liquid rubber. Because latex mattresses provide evenly distributed, firm support, they are ideal for those with back pain or arthritis.
Reflex foam options tend to be denser than their counterparts, with medium firmness. Rather than ventilation holes, they contain air bubbles, which can provide even more support.
The price points can vary widely depending on the brand and product, but you can expect to spend around $1,000 for a high-quality queen mattress. There are significantly cheaper options, though some are not of comparable quality and may not last as long as their better-constructed counterparts. Allswell is one brand that offers a good middle-ground at around $600 for a queen size, or $400 for a twin, and quality comparable to some higher-end products.
First, shop with a reputable company. Research the brand online to ensure they are legitimate. There’s nothing worse than being unable to return a high-ticket item you don’t want, so look at their test period and return policy carefully.
Besides this, consider your sleep position, typical body temperature, and any ailments you have that affect your sleep. If you have an orthopedic condition, consider talking to your healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist or chiropractor, to see what type of mattress they recommend.
Keep in mind there is no medical organization that officially approves mattresses on behalf of the healthcare community, so be wary of brands that claim to be “medically-approved.” If they do make such claims, be sure they have a specific organization or medical professional named and ensure that person or entity is a reputable source. When in doubt, ask for recommendations online and refer to consumer reports and real customer reviews.
Our Luxury Choice– The Purple Hybrid Premier Mattress
The Purple Hybrid Premier features the company’s signature hyper-elastic polymer gel, a temperature-neutral material with built-in ventilation. The Grid offers superior support, softly cushioning pressure points like the hips while providing even support for the spine and the rest of the body. The gel sits atop steel coils, giving the mattress the optimal balance of flexibility and responsiveness.
They’re also hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and made in the U.S. with durable materials guaranteed under warranty for 10 years. This one is a little on the pricier side, at around $2,000, but well worth the investment.
Our Choice for Best Value– The Tuft & Needle Original Mattress
Tuft & Needle is known for its affordable, straightforward, but high-quality mattresses. The Original is an excellent value, offering a relatively simple streamlined design featuring adaptive foam and medium firmness. Note this is not memory foam, so it is a good option for those who move a lot at night. At about $500 for a queen, it’s an excellent value option.
A mattress in a box may not be for everyone, but with a broad array of brands and products to choose from, most people should be able to find something that meets their needs.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to your priorities, but finding a balance between comfort and budget is easier than ever with this range. If you’re still skeptical about the mattress-in-a-box concept, ask friends and family about their experiences. Chances are, someone you know is sleeping on one now.