How to create the ideal bed

Flip and rotate you mattress and vacuum the surface every few months.

Story highlights

  • One good measure of how well a mattress will support your body is the number of coils it contains
  • Comforters are usually filled with cotton, silk, synthetic fibers, or down
  • If you're a back or side sleeper: Pick a dense foam pillow, which is more stable
Options abound. Here's how to choose wisely.
The mattress
Take your time when selecting a mattress, since "you'll spend a third of your life on it over the next 8 to 10 years," says Perry Davis, a division president at Leggett & Platt, a company that makes bedding components in Carthage, Missouri. There are three main types to choose from:
Innerspring construction (steel coils topped with layers of padding) is the most common. One good measure of how well it will support your body is the number of coils it contains. Davis recommends a minimum of 350 coils for a full-size mattress, 480 for a queen, and 580 for a king.
Air-filled models (composed of air chambers surrounded by foam) let you adjust the firmness; opt for a top layer of high-density foam.
Foam mattresses come in latex (made of natural or synthetic rubber), polyurethane (which varies in density), and viscoelastic (one example is memory foam, which molds to your body's shape). Foam retains heat well, so if you get hot while sleeping, look for open-cell construction for maximum breathability.

For an innerspring model, expect to spend anywhere from several hundred dollars to $2,000; for memory foam, from $1,000 up to $5,000 (for a thicker mattress, perhaps covered in silk or satin).
How to care for It
Every few months, flip and rotate it for even wear, and vacuum the surface. Once a year, air it out by opening a window for a few hours.

Royal Pedic Organic cotton three-inch pillow-top pad, ABC Carpet & Home, $1,826 for queen
To buy: 212-473-3000.
SpringFree by Sealy Posturepedic mattress, $1,899 to $3,199 for queen (includes box spring). Synthetic latex foam. Antimicrobial and dust mite-resistant.
To buy:  sealy.com for retailers.
Royal Pedic Organic mattress, ABC Carpet & Home, $2,535 for queen. Organic cotton and wool.
To buy: 212-473-3000.
Queen Plush Innerspring mattress by Room & Board, $499. The cover repels both moisture and stains, and it's bacteria-, mold-, and dust mite-resistant.
To buy:  roomandboard.com.
The bedcovers
Essential for snuggling on winter nights, covers include quilts (filled with cotton or polyester batting; some are machine-washable and some aren't), decorative coverlets, and simple blankets (note: Blankets with borders tend to hold up best). Comforters are usually filled with cotton, silk, synthetic fibers, or down. Not sure which material to choose?
Cotton is breathable.
Fleece is plush (and often composed of polyester fibers made from recycled plastic bottles).
Wool is dense, warm, and a natural insulator. (Virgin wool, which has never before been processed into a textile, is especially supple.)
Down is warm. Always ask about the product's "fill power," or the space an ounce of down fills (550 is good; more than 800 is considered luxury). Also ask where the down hails from. "Geese from cold regions have bigger tufts of fluffy down," says Ursula Terrasi, owner of Scandia Down, a down retailer.
For an ultrasoft option, Terrasi recommends eiderdown, which is collected from the eider, a Northern European sea duck. Opt for a lining that's downproof, meaning it has a weave tight enough to prevent feathers from poking through.
 
How to Care for Them
Wash duvet covers weekly, once a month if you use a top sheet. Launder down comforters twice a year, or every three to five years if covered. Throw a few clean tennis balls into the dryer to prevent the down from clumping, and fluff the comforter when you make the bed to redistribute the down.
The pillows
If you're a back or side sleeper: Pick a dense foam pillow, which is more stable. It will keep your neck in a neutral position, maintaining its natural curve. Without that support, neck muscles can tense up, leading to headaches or even migraines.
Look for a contoured version, especially if you sleep on your side. The front mound fills in the space between neck and shoulder. Try the Isotonic Memory Foam Contour Pillow.
To buy: $89, ahhmemoryfoam.com.
 
If you tend to sleep on your stomach: Opt for a down pillow. Density isn't as important here, since lying on your stomach requires less neck support. Down also compresses easily, which means air passages aren't restricted when you turn your neck to sleep. Try the Down Slumber Pillow from the Company Store.
To buy: $30, thecompanystore.com.
 
If you're an allergy sufferer: Note that dust mites like to burrow into down. Keep them away with a miteproof cover, like the BedCare Ultra Cover.

To buy: $12, natlallergy.com.