I Splurged on a Purple Mattress, and It Was Worth Every Penny

Sleeping on the grid lives up to the hype.

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February 15, 2023

I am not a good sleeper. I’m actually the worst. I get hot and require cooling pajamas. I’m sensitive to light and need a sleep mask, among other silk sleep essentials. I have to have total and absolute silence except for the subtle, orchestrated hum of my Pure humidifier and Dyson air purifying fan. Basically, I enjoy sleeping in a cold, dark cave — if a cave had incredible air quality, my customized Pluto pillow and the perfect mattress. And after purchasing and returning several mattresses last year, I finally know what the perfect mattress is. It’s this Purple mattress. And it’s worth every penny. Here’s why the Purple grid system is different than any foam or hybrid mattress, how shopping for Purple is actually pleasant and why I’m convinced this is the only mattress brand I’ll ever shop from again.

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Important Mattress Features

Shopping for a mattress is overwhelming as there are so many different materials and styles, from traditional coils to memory foam to hybrid mattresses, which are supposed to be the best of both worlds. After five years with a Leesa memory foam mattress, I noticed it didn’t have the firm, cushioned support I once loved about it. That bummed me out because a good mattress should last you nearly 10 years on average, but Leesa couldn’t hang. When the delivery service hauled her away, Leesa flopped and flailed around like an inflatable balloon man in a used car lot. This time, I was determined to make a smarter purchase that would last longer, so I made a list of my needs and my wife’s needs.

For background, I’m a staunch side sleeper. My wife is a generalist. I needed a mattress that rates 10 out of 10 for side sleepers but also doesn’t feel too firm to someone not always on their side. It’s that Goldilocks balance of not too squishy. Because if I had it my way, I’d sleep on a board. Super squishy foam makes me feel like I’m sinking into a pit of quicksand. I also needed a mattress that wouldn’t retain heat so that rules out a lot of traditional coil mattresses. However, my biggest issue with internet memory foam mattresses in a box is the smell. The off-gassing takes forever to go away, and my wife has a NASA nose. We narrowed the search to a couple of other memory foam and memory foam hybrid mattresses that rank well for side sleepers. It was miserable, each one worse than the last.

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What to Know About Returning a Mattress

Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way: Mattress returns are a nightmare. While most mattress brands offer a flashy three-month or even a year return window, what they don’t tell you — or what is only stated in the teeny, tiny fine print — is that nearly every mattress brand has a “break-in period," meaning you can’t return a mattress until after the break-in period. Some companies say the break-in period is 30 days, some 90. So, you could be stuck with a mattress you hate for three months until it’s eligible for a return.

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And sometimes, even though the return is free, you’ll have to pay what’s called a re-stocking fee. Now, a carrot that several companies dangled in front of me while I went through multiple levels of customer service hell is an exchange. Both Helix and Saatva tried so hard to keep me in their mattress circle by offering an instant exchange for a different mattress. Yep, they will completely forego their mandated break-in period on a mattress if you switch to something else they sell. But my response back was always: If the mattress I bought was the one that was supposed to be right for my sleeping position, why would another one work? So, I bided my time and ended up with multiple mattresses as wall art in my apartment.

The Mattresses I Returned and Why

Casper: Before I ordered any mattresses, I considered the Casper memory foam as it would be the most similar to the Leesa we had. I went the Costco route since Costco now sells several memory foam-in-a-box mattress brands, and I knew Costco’s in-store return process is so easy-peasy. But once I saw the memory foam in store I knew it would be just as floppy as Leesa. So, we set out for something different than foam.

Saatva: Yep, we went back to coils. Because the internet said coils were cool again. The Saatva Classic Mattress in luxury firm is heralded as one of the best firm mattress you can buy. I have to say it did look and feel luxurious, like a big fluffy hotel bed, but the plush pillow topper jacked the mattress up so high that I couldn’t see much of my headboard and my nightstand felt 20 feet away. Then I remembered why I don’t like coil spring mattresses: You can feel every single movement from your partner. If the other person ever so slightly turns over or reaches for a glass of water, you know because it feels like an earthquake. However, if you don’t have to share, this bed is awesome and you should buy it.

Helix: A newer trend in the mattress world is a hybrid mattress. It’s supposed to be the best of both — a spring coil base and a memory foam topper. And the Helix Midnight has rave reviews from side sleepers. So, we took a chance on the Midnight with the additional GlacioTex Cooling Cover because it sounded so life-changing. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. None of it was. The topper wasn’t cooling, and I believe a hybrid mattress is the worst of both worlds. My wife and I kept rolling into each other like there was a giant sinkhole in the middle of the bed. For context, we’re both petite and weigh less than 150.

This bed is sensitive, and customer service is, too. We got so much pushback for our criticisms. We were asked to check our bedframe and the floor to make sure it was level. (It was.) And then we were asked to give it a longer break-in period to settle, to which I replied I don’t think it’s going to suddenly get stronger while settling in. (We’d already given it more than a month to settle.) So, we said goodbye to Helix and the idea of a hybrid mattress, but we did keep the Helix down-alternative pillows we got because those perfectly mimic feathers in a way I’ve never seen before from vegan bedding brands. I had to double-check the tags to make sure it wasn’t actually feathers because it feels so real.

The Purple Difference

While tossing and turning (and sinking) into the Helix Midnight Luxe mattress, we started Googling other memory foam-only brands and mattresses. Maybe we missed one? Or should we give a new Leesa a try? Then we came across Purple and the gel grid system. It looked like a mattress made out of those ergonomic seat cushions you use in office cubicles, and I was intrigued. But I was done blindly buying big purchases online. So, we went in store to check it out, and it was so peaceful.

Unlike big-box mattress stores, the employees at Purple don’t earn a commission. So, there’s no pressure, no following you around the store and no awkwardly watching you fake sleep on the mattresses. These showrooms are small and you can’t even buy a mattress from the store. You can order one, but there’s no big backroom with an inventory. It really takes the pressure off of making a purchase on the spot. It feels more like a marketing activation at a convention than it does a store. The one employee working the store was friendly, helpful, answered all of my highly detailed questions and never once pushed a sale or seemed to care at all if we liked the beds or not. That’s not to say she wasn’t brand enthusiastic, she was just casual and nonchalant — a neutral party. It was heavenly. I wish appliance shopping could be like this.

The Grid System

It was love at first pretend-sleep-with-your-shoes-on-in-a-bed-that’s-probably-been-touched-by-a-thousand-strangers-and-you-just-have-to-block-that-out-and-focus-on-the-material-itself session. Purple’s GelFlex grid perfectly cradles you, offering firm, sturdy support, and yet somehow it also feels like you’re floating on a weightless cloud. The polymer gel grid moves with you. If your partner wiggles around, you won’t feel an earthquake. It’s crazy how the grid can squish and fold to your body and then immediately snap back into position once you get up. The only way I can explain the support is if you took a seat cushion for an office chair and turned it into a full-blown mattress.

The Cooling Technology

The best part? It’s naturally cooling. While memory foam is great, it can trap body heat. The polymer material doesn’t hold heat, and on top of that, the individual air channels in the GelFlex grid dissipate your body heat to the point that I can actually enjoy cozy, flannel sheets without feeling like I’m being pan-roasted.

The Non-Toxic Materials

This is the first mattress I’ve purchased that didn’t have noticeable off-gassing — that fierce, paint-like smell that lingers and stinks up your whole room. The GelFlex Grid material is CleanAir GOLD and CertiPUR-US certified as non-toxic, so there’s peace of mind, too.

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The Price

Purple isn’t cheap. For a classic Purple Mattress, a twin starts out at $799 and a full is well over $1,000. Purple typically has several sales throughout the year, though, so planning to shop during holiday weekend sales like Presidents Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can save you hundreds of dollars. We needed a queen, and I’ve never spent so much on a mattress. Choosing this mattress felt like when those couples on House Hunters who claim they have a strict budget totally blow it out of the water with extra renovation costs, but it really was worth saving up and spending more for this splurge. I don’t wake up in pain in my hips or back anymore, and I do feel like I’m getting more restful, sound sleep. The Purple grid works. Because it works, this mattress should last us up to 10 years, and not having to mattress shop for a decade is worth every penny.

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