This post was most recently updated on May 1st, 2019
There are a few things that you just can’t learn from product descriptions and reviews.
The mattress in a box concept looks great when you’re shopping for a mattress. They’re super affordable, they’re shipped straight to your door, and the ads make it seem like a lot of fun when you unroll the mattress out of the package.
The reality is, you need to sleep on one, to truly know what the experience will be like. Here at Sheet Market, we’ve tried them all. We’ve tried the Casper, Leesa, Purple, Lucid, Slumber 1, Tuft & Needle, and a few others.
Mattress in a box reviews tend to focus on the affordable aspect of the mattress, and not as much on the overall bed; which is important, because a bed isn’t just for sleeping. We tend to think of a bed as just something to sleep on top of, but it’s actually a piece of furniture.
Yes, you can sleep on a mattress in a box, and if your budget is limited, they are a good option. However, there are a few unexpected drawbacks that product reviews or descriptions can’t or won’t fully illustrate for you.
You don’t realize how much your bed impacts your lifestyle until you’ve tried an alternative mattress. Some reasons are significant, some are more nuanced. Here are 7 examples:
1.) Can’t sit on the edge
In order for these mattresses to be rolled up and shipped, they have to be compressed. This limits the level of sturdiness that can be built into the mattress. The first thing to go is the wooden frame inside of the mattress.
Inside of a traditional mattress, there are wood slats that go across the edges, from top to bottom, and from left to right. These slats make the mattress sturdy. They are what allow you to sit on the edge.
A mattress in a box doesn’t have this frame. When you sit on the edge, your sink in, all the way down – uncomfortably so. In other words, you can’t sit on the edge of a mattress in a box.
Sitting on the edge of a mattress is one of those small details in life that you don’t quite appreciate fully – until it’s gone (or uncomfortable at best).
2.) They are noisy
A traditional mattress has a lot more material inside. Some of this material is meant to make the springs inside less noisy, and some of it just acts as a buffer by default.
A mattress in a box is made to be affordable. Certain certain corners are cut. This results in a noisy mattress. A very creaky mattress.
A good quality mattress has innerspring coils of various thickness or gauge depending on soft vs firm. Thicker coils provide a firmer mattress, thinner coils result in a softer mattress. Either way, these coils are thick enough to be quiet.
A mattress in a box uses coils of a much thinner gauge (and fewer coils overall). This is what allows them to be so cost-effective. It also makes them noisy!
Every turn, every shift – everything is met with the sound of coils moving.
3.) Sex becomes work
There’s no way around it – sex is just not as enjoyable on a mattress in a box.
A traditional mattress – whether by design or by accident – is the perfect vehicle for sex. When you push down, the mattress pushes up. It all has to do with the energy transfer from the coils.
When you (and your partner) push into the mattress, the coils absorb that energy, and then release it, pushing you back up, allowing you to push down again. It makes the “back and forth” action possible. See where we’re going with this?
You don’t notice how much this affects your ability to “perform” sexually until the mattress stops pushing you back up.
A mattress in a box utilizes shorter coils, covered in multiple layers of memory foam. Memory foam can be comfortable as far as sleeping is concerned, but it’s just horrible for sex.
When you push into this type of mattress, it doesn’t push back. So you go down, but you don’t come back up – you just sink in. You lose the back and forth fluidity that makes sex so enjoyable.
If bedroom sex is a priority for you, a mattress in a box isn’t a great option.
4.) They get hot
As we mentioned above, a mattress in a box usually has several layers of memory foam – which tends to hold on to heat. If you read customer reviews, they will almost always complain about the heat!
A hot mattress might sound nice and cozy – but it’s definitely not! There’s definitely a difference between warm and downright sweaty hot. It can make sleeping very uncomfortable at best, and impossible at worst.
Some brands use gimmicks like cooling gel or other substances – which do work temporarily. The cooling gel can dissipate heat, but it doesn’t take long for its cooling capability to get maxed out. It offers temporary relief – not permanent.
You don’t realize or appreciate the ability of a traditional mattress to dissipate heat until you sleep on a mattress in a box!
5.) They tend to sag or dip in the middle
As noted earlier, a mattress in a box does not have a wooden frame inside. They aren’t very sturdy.
Have you ever had a mattress that sagged in the middle? If so, did you and your partner sink into each other?
This is another reality with a mattress in a box.
A mattress in a box looks even on the surface until you lay down. Regardless of the brand, they all tend to dip in the middle.
If you and your partner like to spoon all night, you might be able to overlook this drawback. If you need your space to sleep comfortably, it can be severely inconvenient.
A traditional mattress that sags can feel too mushy. The dip in a mattress in a box feels entirely different. Which brings us to…
6.) They can feel like you’re sleeping on the ground
Even for people who enjoy a firm mattress, a mattress in a box can feel too firm.
In order to get these mattresses compressed and fit into a box, they naturally need to be rolled first. We mentioned how the wood frame has to be compromised, but so do the innerspring mattress coils.
Full-length mattress coils are impossible to fit in a small box, so half of the mattress is made of memory foam – usually a few layers of different types of foam.
The innerspring coils inside of a traditional mattress offer some give. When you lay down, they compress, but not all of the way. Each coil carries its share of your weight. They provide both support and comfort.
A mattress in a box is constructed quite differently. They use fewer coils, which are also about half the length of traditional innerspring mattress coils. Since each coil carries more weight, they tend to compress down further, reducing their ability to provide comfort.
The memory foam layers are meant to provide the missing comfort, but can only do so when properly supported. Memory foam by itself has no structural integrity – it can add a layer of comfort, but it can’t support you by itself. You tend to sink down in the spot where you are.
When ends up happening is that the memory foam cushioning compresses down fully, and becomes very dense. Fully compressed foam is no longer soft – it’s quite firm actually.
7.) They are almost impossible to return
The product ads really sell the money-back guarantee – and it’s inevitable, you will most probably want to return it after a few nights. This turns into a lose-lose situation.
These mattresses are compressed and packaged using large machines – which you don’t have. That means you won’t be able to roll it up and get it back into the original box.
If you bought it from a local store, you can probably strap it on top of a truck and take it back. If you have to ship it back, it will cost more than what the mattress is worth.
In which case you’ll more than likely list it in the classifieds and try to sell it. However, a used mattress, even if used briefly, is not worth the same as a brand new mattress. You wouldn’t pay top dollar for a used mattress right?
The most recent mattress that we tested was a Slumber 1 by Zinus model. With shipping, we paid about $300 for a Queen-sized mattress. When we sold it 2 weeks later, we were only able to get $80 for it.
Unless your budget is severely limited, we would strongly suggest not buying a mattress in a box. They’re convenient, and they’re affordable, but they just aren’t practical.
Asides from being poor beds, you don’t realize how they will affect your lifestyle until it’s too late. Once they’re rolled out and used, it can be very difficult to return them. In which case, your options are to throw them away or try to sell them – usually for much less than what you paid.
A traditional mattress might cost a few hundred dollars more, but they are well worth it!