Yes, we'd all love to purchase a new mattress to float away on at the drop of a hat, but they're so dang expensive it's not always possible. The good news is, if you have a semi-decent mattress and box spring, you can make some small investments and tweaks to boost your bed's level of fluffy comfort.
1. It's all about layers
Even if you have a pillow-top, don't just throw a single foam pad on over the mattress and expect your bed to dish up the best sleeping experience ever. For a luxurious and super-comfortable bed, you need to layer on the extras and add a few other goodies to create the perfect combination for you.
Check out a memory foam mattress pad, for instance. They come in various sizes, but we suggest going for one that's 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick. You get the benefit of amazing cushioning, but the pad isn't so big that you don't have room for other types of padding.
2. More padding
Memory foam is a great start, but next you need to double down with an eggcrate mattress pad. Yeah, they look a little crazy, but they're also amazingly comfortable. Get one big enough to cover the entire top surface of your bed and position it near the top layers of extras (on top of your memory foam, for instance), just beneath a thinner topper that's directly under your fitted sheet.
3. Getting down
If you aren't allergic to feather products, down bedding can be a gorgeously fluffy addition to your bed. Look for down pillows, mattress toppers and comforters. But quality matters here, folks — if you buy a cheap down comforter or pillow, you're going to be constantly needled to death with the prickly ends of the feathers poking through the cloth barrier.
4. If you're not down
Whether you are allergic, don't like to buy animal products or just don't feel like dishing out the dough for down, there are synthetic substitutes/down alternatives for feather bedding.
If you're looking for a good bang for your buck, the Chezmoi Collection goose down alternative comforter is a steal at $55 at Sears, and you can't beat the Natural Comfort super-warm and cozy down alternative comforter at $42 on Amazon.
5. Comforter comfort
Speaking of comforters, it's important to pay attention to seasons and the climate you live in while shopping for one. The Natural Comfort down alternative mentioned above is great for winter, but for summer you'll want to seek out something a little lighter. There's also a whole category of all-season comforters to keep on hand to get your body temperature just right.
Comforters also come in a variety of weights — so if you are claustrophobic or are soothed by a substantial heavy covering while sleeping, weight is definitely something you'll want to take into consideration.
Originally published August 2009. Updated January 2017.
Next up: Get great sheets
6. Get great sheets
You want anything that comes into contact with your skin to be as soft and decadent as possible, which makes picking great fitted sheets, top sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers super-important. Egyptian cotton sheets — particularly those made in Italy — are considered by many to be the gold standard. In second place is Pima cotton. A sateen (that's not satin) or percale finish on the sheets tends to make them very soft on skin, and combing adds to softness.
7. Do thread counts really count?
Usually when you think sheet softness, you think thread count — which is true to a degree, but sheet comfort also depends a whole lot on personal preference.
And — surprise, surprise — a high thread count doesn't always mean sheets will be to your personal liking. In fact, having 800 to 1,200 threads per square inch of your sheets means a very dense and likely stiff sheet, and each of those threads are very thin. Quality sheets with a thread count of 400 to 600 per inch are pretty much the sweet spot when it comes to softness.
For durability, seek out two-ply and/or "long staple" threads used in the sheet fabric.
8. Go deep
Remember all that layering we talked about before that makes your bed a little slice of pillowy heaven? Yeah, you're gonna need to buy super-deep fitted sheets to accommodate all the extra bed toppers — look for sheets about 18 inches deep. If needed, get sheet grippers to keep your fitted sheet in place.
9. Warm it up
To reach a whole new level of toastiness, a good, old-fashioned electric blanket is the way to go. Or if you like the combination of a cozy comforter and slipping into a pre-warmed bed, look into an electric warming mattress pad, which is placed on top of the mattress. It's kind of like a seat warmer you'd find in a car — only better because, well, you're lying in bed and not driving through traffic.
10. Pillow talk
Finding the perfect head cradle is imperative to creating the perfect bed.
If you're constantly looking for the cool side of the pillow, it might be time to get a ventilated version. Is your pillow not supportive enough? Try a contoured foam pillow. Therapeutic pillows (like leg spacer/positioner pillows, leg wedge pillows, lumbar roll pillows and the multi-purpose body pillow) help address all kinds of hip or back problems.