Poor sleeping patterns (fewer than seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night) can lead to back pain, bad moods and is even linked to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you are in the 10 percent of Americans who report not sleeping well, it may be time to consider a trip to the mattress store.

Poor sleeping patterns (fewer than seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night) can lead to back pain, bad moods and is even linked to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you are in the 10 percent of Americans who report not sleeping well, it may be time to consider a trip to the mattress store.

As with other important purchases, you'll get better results if you do some preliminary research.

First, set a realistic budget. A couple hundred bucks won't go very far when shopping for quality.

"A lot of people don't know that a good mattress costs real money," says Craig Haws, assistant manager at Denver Mattress in Central Point's Furniture Row. "They come into a mattress store, see the prices and leave."

As a manufacturer, Denver Mattress offers high-quality options for around $900 and up; options at other stores may start a little higher. Some mattresses can reach all the way to $5,000 or $6,000.

Also figure in the lifespan of the mattress. Although most mattresses carry a 10-, 15- or 20-year warranty, the Better Sleep Council recommends replacing a mattress after five years.

This turnover has more to do with physical developments than with the mattress. "Your body changes so much over time that you need different alignment and support styles," explains Haws.

Once you've reconciled your budget to your need for a new mattress, carve out a day or two for shopping. Most experienced salespeople will help guide you, listening closely as each mattress is tested and making suggestions for better choices.

"When they're lying on the bed, the midsection is heaviest," says Adam Spiegel, sales associate at Larson's Home Furnishings in Medford. "On a bed that's too soft for them, their midsection will dip down a little bit. Over eight hours that might not make their back feel so good."

Spiegel studies the customer's body alignment and tries to find a mattress that helps the spine stay straight. While testing mattresses, he asks about the three major pressure points: neck, shoulders and hips.

"If you start getting positive responses, you're getting closer," he says. "The mattress shouldn't necessarily feel like you're floating on a cloud, but it should feel somewhat weightless, where you feel supported but you don't feel like something is pressing against any of your pressure points."

For the best experience, Spiegel recommends combining a pillow with the mattress testing.

Try to lie on each mattress for at least five minutes, "more if the store will let you," says Kelly M. Lange, a chiropractic sports physician at Hands On Wellness Clinic in Ashland.

To assess the general quality of the mattress, employ the "boinga-boinga" technique. "Sit on the side of the mattress and bounce up and down a couple times," says Lange. "If the mattress is too wimpy, you'll slide off or bounce more than two times; if the mattress is really firm you'll only bounce once."

Ask about the store's return policy; many will allow returns after two to four weeks of trying out a mattress. But buyer beware: "There may be hidden shipping or other fees. Make sure to check this out before agreeing to it," counsels Lange.

Also consider any allergies or sensitivities.

"There is a lot of off-gassing of the chemicals with memory foam-type mattresses," Lange says. "If they are at all sensitive to off-gassing, they should consider something else. A new, great alternative is the latex mattress — a natural alternative to memory foam."