Take the right steps to buy a better mattress and get yourself a good night's sleep
Few things come down to personal preference more than choosing thebest mattress for you. What can feel like a cloud to one person can be back pain in the making for another. What makes the decision even harder is the sheer range of options, with mattresses available in practically every budget and type you can think of.
From new-age bed-in-a-box mattresses to the more traditional, feels-like-it-weighs-a-tonne pocket-sprung alternatives only found in specialist bed shops, you’ve got a lot of choice. The good news is that we’ve done the work to ensure that the decision making process is as easy as possible. Read on for our guide on how to choose a mattress.
And when you’re finished here, be sure to check out our guide to the best mattress types, where we have weighed up the pros and cons of sprung and foam mattresses.
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How to choose a mattress
What are the different types of mattresses?
There are five main types of mattress:
This is the most traditional type of mattress and has a bouncy, springy feel, thanks to the springs which are sewn into individual fabric pockets. These springs – available with different levels of tension – also make the mattress supportive and durable. Pocket-sprung mattresses can be filled with all manner of different materials to suit your needs, including wool for comfort and breathability. Unlike latex and memory foam, they don’t mould to your body or warm you at night.
These don’t have much spring, instead moulding to the shape of your body, which means that you’re less likely to disturb your partner when you move at night. They keep their shape well and many of the ‘new generation’ ones are delivered to your door rolled and vacuum-packed. On the downside, they can hold body heat, making you feel hot and clammy – particularly if they are very soft.
Best memory-foam mattress: Emma Original
Price: From £499 | Buy now from EmmaThe Emma Original mattress strikes that elusive middle ground between being too firm and too soft. Indeed, it delivers plenty of support while also feeling amply cushioned and contouring to the shape of your body.
A versatile all-foam mattress, the Original can accommodate a variety of sleeping positions, and is well-suited to couples who might be struggling to find a compromise. Following a few price increases, a king size Original will cost you £849. That said, when there’s a promotional discount in place, you can save 40% or more. The only caveat is that, like most foam mattresses, the Emma Original is not best suited to those who get very warm in bed.
These are similar to memory foam, but with a bit more spring. Natural latex is superior to synthetic latex, and it’s also antimicrobial and resistant against mould and dust mites. There are two types of latex – the heavier, denser Dunlop latex, and Talalay latex, which is lighter and softer. These are also available in the “new generation” style, with the downside that they’re similarly prone to holding body heat. Some latex mattresses claim to last more than 20 years.
Best latex mattress: Dunlopillo Royal Sovereign
Price: From £1817 | Buy now from Mattress Online
One notable property of latex, when used in mattresses, is its buoyancy. Compared with memory foam, latex mattresses recover their shape quicker when you get up or move to a different part of the mattress.
The Dunlopillo Royal Sovereign is a comfortable and supportive mattress that will suit all types of sleepers, though we recommend it for back sleepers in particular, thanks to its postural support. At £2,319 for a double, it’s not cheap, though there’s a good chance you’ll find it discounted. It’s also worth noting that it’s very heavy, so rotating it is probably a two-person job.
These combos are mix-and-match versions of the mattress types. For example, pocket-sprung core (so you get the buoyancy) with a foam top layer (so you get the moulding effect).
Best hybrid mattress: Simba Hybrid Pro
Price: From £1,149 | Buy now from Simba
Hybrids that combine synthetic comfort layers with springs tend to be warmer than their more traditional pocket sprung counterparts such as the Harrison Spinks Velocity 4250 (see above), but Simba’s Hybrid Pro attempts to overcome this by using a wool top layer. We found the mattress both supportive and comfortable during our testing and definitely found that the wool layer helped with temperature regulation. In fact, besides its lack of removable top cover, there was almost nothing we disliked about the Hybrid Pro.
At £1,649 for a king size mattress, it’s not cheap. However, it is one of our all-time favourite hybrid mattresses. Plus, like all bed-in-a-box mattresses, you can regularly find it discounted.
Continuous coil or open coil
The first is made from a single looped wire, while the latter is made from single springs fixed together with one wire. While these are the most wallet-friendly of all mattresses, they can be uncomfortable – in the worst cases you actually feel the coils – and the whole thing moves if you move, meaning you are very likely to disturb your partner. Coil mattresses also wear out the quickest, and you might well find you and your partner meet in the middle when the sagging makes you roll inwards.
When should I change my mattress?
The National Bed Federation recommends you change your mattress every seven years (although really good ones can last eight to ten years – in some cases even more). They warn that quite often a mattress has worn out before you realise.
Indeed, the Sleep Council points out that after seven years, your mattress will have had over 20,000 hours of wear and tear; that includes the half-pint of fluid lost each night on average and pound of dead skin cells shed each year.
Tell-tale signs that you need a new mattress include finding that you sleep better in other beds, and realising that you don’t sleep as well as you did a year or so ago. If you start to wake up with stiffness or pain it may also be a sign that you need to splash the cash.
A mattress that’s right for you and not worn out will mean you move about less, awaken less and are less disturbed by your partner. You’re also less likely to wake up feeling groggy or with any aches or pains.
How big should my mattress be?
People don’t buy big enough beds, warns the Sleep Council. Many people, for instance, don’t realise that a double bed is only 135cm wide – that’s not even two single beds and nowhere near enough room for two adults to sleep comfortably without disturbing each other. Even moving up one size to a kingsize mattress – at 150cm – can make a big difference.
The bottom line is that if you share your bed, buy as big a bed as you can fit in your bedroom; disturbance from a partner is one of the most common sleeping problems. Also, don’t forget to match the size of your mattress to your bed frame – European mattress sizes, for instance, differ slightly to standard UK sizes.
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Should I try before I buy?
Besides being the right size, your mattress should provide the correct support and comfort levels. That’s why it’s important to either try before you buy or get a mattress with a trial period. That means either trying it out in the shop – taking time to lie on it in your natural sleeping position or, if you buy one online, looking for one that comes with a trial period (many bed-in-a-box brands offer trial periods that last 100 nights or even longer).
READ NEXT: The best mattresses for a bad back
Should my natural sleeping position influence which mattress I buy?
Yes. Different sleeping positions require different types and amounts of support, so it makes sense to pick your mattress accordingly.
Side sleepers – Here you need a mattress with a lot of pressure relief, especially at the points in which your body pushes down the most (you can work these out by imagining yourself lying on a floor). Pocket sprung with a soft top is best, although some memory foam or latex mattresses can also work well. Avoid very firm mattresses, which may cause pain at the key pressure points. See our roundup of the best mattresses for side sleepers here.
Front sleepers – again a pocket sprung mattress can work well for supporting you in all the right places, whereas with memory foam you might feel restrained. Latex can also work well as there’s more bounce-back.
Back sleepers – any mattress type can work for back sleepers but look for one with good support and some give so your spine stays well aligned while you sleep.
READ NEXT: Eve Hybrid Mattress review
Should I buy a soft, medium or firm mattress?
As a general rule, heavier people tend to prefer firm support, while lighter people find medium or soft mattresses more comfortable. However, you need to consider your sleeping position and personal preference too. In fact, personal preference counts for more than you probably think.
Don’t assume firm mattresses are automatically better for bad backs and older people – that’s a myth. And remember that if you and your partner have different preferences, you can get mattresses where each half has a different tension (with or without a zip in the middle).
Do some mattresses require a certain type of bed base?
Your bed base can affect both the feel and the performance of your mattress, so always check which type of base the mattress manufacturer recommends you use. Many suggest a base with sprung slats, which provides good support and absorbs movement as you move about in your sleep.
A platform base can also support any mattress, providing a firmer foundation. It’s worth noting that a slatted base can cause a mattress to bulge over the years, so you should make sure the slats are no more than 70mm apart to ensure its full longevity.
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Do all mattresses need turning?
Most mattresses need to be turned regularly to ensure even wear and tear. Consider this when buying one, particularly as many mattresses are extremely heavy. Some mattresses only need rotating rather than turning, although even that can be a tricky job when it weighs a tonne. You can also buy mattresses that don’t ever need turning or rotating.
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How important is the warranty?
Check the warranty, not only for the number of years it lasts, but also for the fine print. Most warranties cover manufacturing defects, which will probably happen quite quickly – for example, a popped spring, or foam not bouncing back. But if something happens and you haven’t used the recommended bed base or have failed to use a mattress protector when they insist you need one, the warranty could be invalid.
How much do I need to spend?
It used to be the case that a cheap mattress was a false economy, but we found that there are exceptions, such as the Dormeo Memory Plus, which is regularly discounted to around £200 for a single. That’s not to say that mattresses costing thousands of pounds aren’t worth it, though – just make sure to do your research first.