For many college students, the combination of a demanding academic schedule and a busy social life can hurt sleep. Studies suggest as many as 60% of students don’t receive the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Other factors such as poor sleep hygiene and stress can also contribute to a lack of proper rest. For these reasons, the right mattress can make a huge difference for sleep-deprived scholars.
Whether you reside in a dorm or off-campus housing, your bed serves many purposes in college. In addition to sleep, you may lie down in your room to study or unwind in the evenings, and you may also share your bed with an overnight guest. New mattresses can be pretty expensive – mainly if you’re operating on a student budget – but this isn’t always the case, and many high-quality beds can be shipped directly to your doorstep.
Best Mattresses for College Students Buying Guide
Most mattresses sold today fall into four different categories: foam, latex, innerspring, or hybrid. Each type is associated with different features and qualities that appeal to different people based on their body type, primary sleep position, and personal preferences.
Since your college mattress will likely be the first one you purchase on your own, it’s important to research different brands and models to get an idea about price expectations. This will make buying your mattress online an easier, less confusing process.
Size: If you live in a dorm, then your room should come equipped with a mattress and bed frame. Schools frequently allow students to replace their used, standard-issue mattress with a newer model, but due to space constraints and bed frame limitations, you’ll probably be limited to twin, twin XL, or full sizes. All three of these sizes are best suited to solo sleepers. Twin and full models each measure about 75 inches long, while the twin XL adds 5 extra inches for those who need extra legroom.
In addition to these three sizes, those who live in apartments, houses, and other types of off-campus residences can also opt for a queen, king, or California king mattress – provided their room is large enough. A couple can comfortably share a queen mattress, but king and California sizes offer much more width.
|Twin||38W” x 75L”|
|Twin XL||38W” x 80L”|
|Full||54W” x 75L”|
|Queen||60W” x 80L”|
|King||76W” x 80L”|
|California King||72W” x 84L”|
Support: When discussing mattresses, “support” refers to how well (or poorly) a mattress promotes even spinal alignment. Since many students spend their days sitting in rigid classroom chairs or hunched over notes in the library, a supportive mattress can prevent them from waking up stiff and sore.
Firmness: Mattress firmness is largely a matter of personal preference. In general, lightweight individuals and side sleepers favor plusher mattresses, while heavier individuals and stomach sleepers favor firmer mattresses. Average-weight individuals and back sleepers will usually fall somewhere in between.
Motion Isolation: Some mattresses absorb movement better than others, so you and your sleep partner will notice less of a ripple effect across the surface when the other person gets in and out of bed or changes positions during the night. Generally, all-foam mattresses and hybrids with foam layers provide the best motion isolation.
Temperature Regulation: Some people naturally sleep hotter than others and will want a breathable mattress that doesn’t make the problem worse. Some mattress materials promote temperature control better than others. These include comfort layers made of ventilated latex or foam infused with cooling gel, and coil support cores that circulate air throughout the interior. Covers made of cotton or Tencel also tend to sleep cooler than those made from other fabrics.
Value and Price: From tuition and books to food and living costs, college students face a barrage of expenses – and for many, an expensive new mattress will be out of their financial reach. That said, the average mattress performs for about seven to eight years, so choosing a high-quality bed can be a smart investment for the future. Ultimately, you should pick a comfortable, supportive mattress within your budget that you can potentially still use after you finish school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should I buy a mattress?
Most cities and towns have at least one brick-and-mortar mattress store where you can purchase a new bed, but visiting these locations requires you to confine your shopping to store hours. Prices also tend to be somewhat steep at these establishments due to high overhead costs.
By comparison, buying a mattress online is more convenient and less costly. Online mattress brands typically offer free shipping within the lower 48 states and, for an added fee, you can often arrange for couriers to set up the mattress in your residence and haul away your old bed.
One downside is not being able to try out the mattress before placing your order, but most online mattress brands offer “sleep trials” that allow you to sleep on the bed for a certain length of time. These trials typically last at least 90 nights, but some span a year or longer.
What’s the best mattress for my living arrangement?
Dorm-dwellers and those who live in fraternity or sorority houses should look for a mattress that won’t take up too much floor space – especially if they share a room with someone else. Those who have a bedroom to themselves may have more flexibility when it comes to mattress size and dimensions, but this depends entirely on the available space in their sleep area.
If you share your bed with a partner, then a queen size or larger is recommended. Twin and twin XL sizes are designed for single sleepers. Full sizes are a bit wider than twin options, but most couples will still feel too crowded.
Should I buy a used mattress?
Definitely not. Buying a mattress directly from the manufacturer or retailer is always better than purchasing one from an unauthorized third-party seller on sites like Craigslist or Amazon.com. Ordering from brands will ensure the mattress is in good condition, hasn’t been used, and comes with warranty coverage.
Sleep Accessories for College Students
Mattress Pads, Protectors, and Toppers
Mattress toppers and mattress pads are effective at creating a barrier between you and the dorm mattress, which has been slept in by dozens of people before you. Both toppers and pads have their own unique features.
Mattress pads are thin and are made to stay on top of your mattress using elastic straps or by being slotted inside your fitted sheet. They often have some quilting that will slightly change the feel of your mattress, but pads can also protect your sleep area from spills.
Mattress protectors are solely designed to safeguard your mattress against spills, dirt, and stains. They have little to no effect on how your mattress feels. Some protectors have elastic edges to fit over the corners of your mattress much like a fitted sheet, while others fully encase the mattress for added security against dust mites, bed bugs, and other contaminants.
Mattress toppers, on the other hand, aim to upgrade the feel of your mattress by providing a thicker layer of foam, latex, or other materials commonly used in mattress comfort layers. They are often used as a solution to fix the feel of a bed that doesn’t feel quite right, or which has lost its pressure-relieving abilities. If you don’t like the feel of your mattress but don’t want to invest a lot of money in a new one, a mattress topper may save the day. Toppers can also be useful for worn dorm mattresses.
You may not realize the important role a pillow plays in your sleep quality until you get a good one. The style of pillow that works best for you will depend on your sleeping position, body type, and personal preference. Back sleepers, side sleepers, and stomach sleepers will each require something different from a pillow.
As a student, you’ll likely spend a lot of time on a laptop, so you’ll want a pillow that provides extra support and reduces neck pain when you’re reading or completing assignments in bed. Composition is another important consideration. Common materials used to fill pillows include memory foam, latex, down and feathers, polyester-based down alternative fibers, and buckwheat hulls. Each of these materials has certain pros and cons related to factors like durability, breathability, pressure relief, and allergy potential.
Lastly, the ideal pillow for a college student will be easy and affordable to clean. Opt for a machine-washable pillow if possible. Hand washing your pillow can be a time-consuming affair, and paying for dry cleaning can get expensive.
Sheets and Blankets
Sheets, like pillows, come in many different materials including cotton, linen, flannel, and microfiber. Each of these materials has a different feel, and the longevity of your sheets will depend on the material as well as the quality. Buying a sheet set that includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and pillowcases is often more cost-effective than buying these items individually. Sheet sets for each mattress size are widely available.
If you’re living in a dorm or an apartment without a washing machine, you may want to check how easy it is to clean and dry your sheets so you don’t have to spend all day at the laundromat. Aside from the fun things like the color and pattern, you may want to also check whether your new sheets do a good job of resisting stains and wicking away heat. Most sheets don’t come with a warranty, although some come with a short trial period so you can test them out before committing.
For students living in colder climates, a comforter or duvet will be an essential part of the bedroom. These are essentially the same thing, except that a duvet needs a removable cover. Duvets and comforters can be filled with a range of insulating materials including down, synthetics, and wool, each of which offers pros and cons in terms of warmth, comfort, ease of washing, and price point. If you’re living in a tiny room, you may want to choose a thinner comforter or duvet for easier storage during the summer.