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How to Build a Better Bed

Ever wake up extremely well-rested in a hotel bed and think, “Why don’t I sleep like this at home?” The reasons? Your droopy mattress and worn-out linens have seen better days. As you move, consider getting rid of your old bedclothes (they make great drop cloths) and start building the bed of your (sweet) dreams with these five items.


1. Mattress

A good night’s sleep starts with a good mattress. If your current mattress is older than seven years, it likely needs replacing. Dr. Emerson Wickwire, director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says mattress selection is almost entirely based on personal preference. He recommends the “Goldilocks method.” “Set aside a couple of hours, go to a quality mattress store and try the mattresses out with your bed partners. Make a date of it!” Dr. Wickwire suggests. “Test firmness, material and overall comfort. Wear comfortable clothes and try as many beds as you need to until you find the fit that is just right.”


If you’re looking at inner-spring mattresses, coil count isn’t the only indicator of quality. Instead, feel out the firmness and avoid flimsy edges that won’t stand up over time. If you’re leaning toward memory foam mattresses, try them all out, because not all foams are created equal. And if you can’t decide, test out adjustable-air mattresses and hybrid models that top a traditional spring mattress with a layer of foam.


And think about what size mattress your bedroom will support. You may covet a California king, but your doorway might thwart your desires. Dr. Wickwire suggests taking advantage of your mattress dealer’s return policy. Sleep on your new mattress for a few days, and return it if you don’t love it.


2. Mattress Topper

If all that’s between your mattress and sheets is a paper-thin mattress cover, you’re missing a whole new level of luxury. You can customize your mattress with a topper — cloudlike feather beds give a firm mattress a plush factor, whereas foam toppers provide cushiness without the price tag of a new mattress. Other mattress toppers include pads designed to repel allergens and odors, performance-fabric models designed to cool down hot sleepers and electric pads to keep the bed warm on chilly nights.


3. Pillows

A pillow should align the neck and spine, so the pillow that’s right for you will depend on how you sleep. Stomach sleepers need soft support, side sleepers need firmer support, back sleepers need medium support — and if you change positions throughout the night, you may need to test-drive a few models. Down- and synthetic-filled pillows are softer, while foam ones tend to be thicker and firmer. Find the right combination of thickness and softness that keeps your neck in a neutral position.


4. Sheets

“Hotels spend a lot of time working to make sure you have a good night sleep, and the sheets are always clean when you arrive,” Dr. Wickwire says. “There’s a lesson there!” Indeed, it’s not necessarily that hotels have sheets that are so much better than yours — it’s that they’re always fresh.


Yet even a wash won’t bring tired and worn sheets back to life. In that case, you should spring for a new set. First, decide what texture you like. Do you like the T-shirt feel of jersey, the slickness of sateen or the crispness of percale? If you like the feel of cotton, consider the thread count — a higher number means more threads per square inch — but don’t obsess over it. A lower thread-count sheet in a high-quality cotton fiber like Egyptian or pima may feel softer than one with a higher number and low-quality cotton.


5. Comforter

A thin blanket’s fine for summer, but the rest of the year requires better insulation designed to keep you snug and as warm (or cool) as you like. Synthetic comforters are less expensive than down versions and often preferred by those with allergies, but down is still the gold standard.


Shop down comforters by looking at the fill power numbers, which indicate the amount of down per ounce. A thicker fill power (600 or above) indicates a fluffier comforter that’ll provide warmth; a lighter fill power yields a thinner comforter that hot sleepers may desire. Look for stitching that forms a grid pattern to ensure the down doesn’t shift too much over time.


Protect your investment with a washable duvet cover that matches your bedroom décor, or buy an extra flat sheet if you prefer the triple-sheet method most hotels use.

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