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The complete guide to buying a foam mattress

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Get the lowdown before you lie down: here’s everything you need to know about buying a foam mattress

We spend around a third of our lives asleep – so it’s important to choose a good mattress that’s right for your back, your bed and your budget. One of the first questions is whether to plump for traditional pocket springs or a more modern mattress made from foam. To help with your search, we outline the different types of foam on the market and highlight what to look out for when buying a foam mattress to provide the best foundation for a perfect night’s sleep.

What types of foam are used in mattresses?

Most modern mattresses aren’t just made from one solid block of foam. They tend to combine multiple layers of different types of foam (usually viscoelastic, memory and polyurethane) to offer a variety of benefits. Typically there’s a base of dense foam to provide strength and support, with one or more lighter layers on top for improved comfort, pressure relief and air flow.

What is memory foam?

Memory foam may be best known as a mattress material, but it was originally developed in the 1960s by NASA engineers, to provide cushioning and crash protection for pilots and passengers. Since then this versatile material has been incorporated into products ranging from seats and saddles to prosthetic limbs.

What’s special about memory foam is the way it responds to heat and pressure. It’s perfect for mattresses because it softens and moulds to the shape of your body when you lie down, and slowly returns to its original shape when the pressure is removed – hence the name.

What to look for when buying a foam mattress

There are plenty of foam mattresses on the market, all promising the perfect balance of softness and support. If you really want the best of all worlds we recommend choosing one made from multiple layers of different types of foam.

Start by looking for a dense foam base, to provide a firm and durable core. A premium foam mattress should also feature a layer of memory foam, which can provide a variety of benefits. It has great impact-absorption properties and can support your weight evenly so it’s ideal for those that suffer from pressure point issues, and it can be effective at providing lower back support and spine alignment. However, because of the way memory foam moulds around your body, it can be a little warmer than a conventional sprung mattress, so a perforated, breathable top layer is a good idea too.

Of course, the only way to be sure that a mattress is right for you is to sleep on it, and several brands offer free trials of up to 100 nights, so you can try before you buy. If you order online, a foam mattresses can be delivered in a convenient rolled-up, vacuum-packed form.

Once you’ve found a good mattress, it’s also worth checking the length of the warranty. Some manufacturers offer a lengthy 10-year replacement warranty, which should protect you from defects for the lifespan of the product.

Featured foam mattress: The Leesa mattress

The Leesa mattress is made from three foam layers of varying density: a base layer for core support and durability, a middle layer of pressure-relieving memory foam, and a top layer made from cooling Avena foam to help deliver a cooler night’s sleep and enough bounce for freedom of movement. The Leesa mattress is made in the UK, and is delivered direct to your door, compressed in an easy to manoeuvre box. As well as a 100-night, risk-free trial, you also get a reassuring ten-year warranty.

Leesa is also a company that likes to give back: for every ten mattresses sold, one is donated to a charity that tackles homelessness and human trafficking, and a tree is planted for every mattress sold to help offset its carbon footprint.

Start your 100-night risk-free trial with Leesa

Key specs – Type: Three-layer non-turn foam (15cm dense support foam base, 5cm middle memory foam layer, 5cm cooling Avena foam top); Sizes: Single to Super-king (including EU sizes); Warranty: 100-night trial with money-back guarantee and a 10-year full replacement limited warranty