Getting a good night's sleep depends on a lot of different factors -- comfort, stress level, room temperature – but to get it right, you've got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber.
If you're in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you?
Is It Time for a New Mattress?
The age of your mattress plays a big role with regards to choosing a new one. As a general rule of thumb, if your mattress is over 8 years old it’s probably not a bad idea to consider getting a new one. However, this rule does not apply to all mattresses. There are definitely some that are able to extend beyond 8 years and still provide the same quality performance. The best way to make a judgement call falls back on your sleeping patterns.
What type of mattress do I need?
The type of mattress each person needs varies upon personal preference. With so many variations of mattress types, often times this can be the hardest choice to make. Not to worry, below I have broken down the most common mattress types to help make your research and selection a little easier.
Constructed from a combination of latex, memory, polyurethane foams, natural fillings (e.g. silk, wool, cashmere and etc.), coils, pocket springs, and / or other materials, these mattresses usually are designed to maximize certain benefits, while also minimizing certain cons. For example, a latex + memory foam hybrid is able to deliver great bounce, cooling, and responsiveness via the latex, but also provide great pressure relief and support from the memory foam.
Best for: Sleepers who want the best of all worlds. Great bounce, support, comfort, and cooling. A good all-around option that is a very good choice for the majority of sleepers.
Allow sleepers to enjoy the perfect blend of sturdy support and contouring comfort
Today, many sleepers are curious about the benefits of memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses, but they just can't make the jump to an all foam mattress. For these consumers, a hybrid mattress is the ideal choice. Hybrid mattresses combine pocket spring system with memory foam (or latex) to deliver the benefits of both technologies. Hybrids allow sleepers to enjoy the perfect blend of sturdy support and contouring comfort.
Built exclusively from latex foam, these mattresses are known for their cooling properties and comfort. Latex is known for its great responsiveness, comfort, bounce, and cooling.
Best For: Sleepers who want great bounce, cooling, and responsiveness. Additionally, good for sleepers who want foam, but want to stay away from the pronounced hug and contour that often comes with memory foam mattresses.
Just like it sounds, these mattresses only consist of memory foam. Memory foam mattresses are known for their great support, pressure relief, and body contouring. Historically, memory foam has had a bad reputation as “sleeping hot”. However, many newer more advanced memory foams have been designed with superior cooling properties, creating a much cooler mattress than traditional memory foams.
Best For: Sleepers who want great hug, body shaping, contour, pressure relief, and support. There is a wide spectrum of foams classified as “memory foam” and not all memory foams are created equal. A good option for sleepers who want a more pronounced hug
Fillings differ with the type of mattress you choose. Interior sprung mattresses use a range of fillings to meet a variety of comfort, health and price concerns. Mattress fillings are chosen to meet a range of concerns including resilience, flexibility, durability and on their ability to absorb moisture. Some of the most popular natural fillings include cotton, wool, hair and coir fibre. For added luxury silk, cashmere and mohair fillings are used in a range of quality beds. Non-sprung mattresses such as foam, flotation beds and futons also use a variety of fillings. Most foam mattresses are predominantly found in slatted bases and adjustable beds. Most fillings are added as compacted pads although some premium manufacturers add layers of loose fillings in greater quantities.
Cotton is often found at the surface of an interior sprung filled mattress promoting a softer feel and providing excellent absorption and breathable qualities.
Wool also known for its breathable and natural fibres adds a luxurious feel to the mattress with good fire retardancy properties.
Coir Fibre, which is usually applied in pads and is derived from the Coconut, is usually applied close to the springs for added insulation and to prevent penetration.
Silk, Cashmere and Mohair are often added to premium mattresses in larger loose layers before being compacted for added luxury.
It’s worth remembering that the majority of interior sprung mattresses will need turning regularly to maximize their lifespan. Dips and uneven sleeping surfaces can occur as the body compresses natural fibres in a mattress. If turning a heavy mattress is difficult you may want to consider buying a one-sided 'no-turn' mattress.
Synthetic Mattress Fillings
The three main types of non-sprung mattress include, foam, flotation beds and futons. Providing different levels of comfort and support, foam mattresses vary in their density and depth. Foam mattresses include Talalay Latex, Polyester, Visco elastic which is also known as Memory Foam, and Polyurethane. Synthetic Mattress Fillings offer many benefits to those with allergies and respiratory complaints due to their anti-microbial properties. Premium foam fillings can also be used in conjunction with the latest climate control technologies for added comfort.
Talalay Latex mattresses are a premium material which is derived from the rubber tree and is renowned for its pressure point support qualities and natural elasticity, latex mattresses recovers their shape instantly.
Memory Foam mattress fillings, also known as Visco Elastic Foam fillings gently mould to the body’s contours to provide good pressure point qualities. Responding to the body’s temperature and weight, a memory foam mattress comes in a range of densities.
Polyurethane filling is known for its versatility and excellent value for money and is a petroleum-based foam filling.
Polyester is an entry level synthetic filling with excellent recovery properties.
Remember that with time your mattress filling will settle and compress, this is a natural process and what will make your mattress truly yours as it takes your shape. This may be more noticeable in premium mattresses that contain more filling.
One of the most popular and widely used mattress types. Coil (Open coil) mattresses have one or more layers of spring coils (generally steel) that provide the support and comfort. As technology advances, the number, types, and layers of coils change. A larger number of coils typically mean better comfort and support.
Best For: Sleepers who want a more traditional coil / spring feel, great bounce, cooling, and strong edge support.
So what is a pocket sprung mattress? And why should you choose one over an open coil or memory foam mattress?
A pocket sprung mattress contains individual springs, each sewn into its own pocket of fabric. This provides much more support and comfort than an open coil mattress, where each spring is lined together within a wire frame. Springs within an open coil mattress move as one unit, so if you move around in the night, you are more likely to disturb your partner. By contrast, the springs in a pocket sprung mattress work completely independently of one another, making this type of mattress the perfect choice if you and your partner are different weights as well as ensuring you maintain correct posture throughout the night. Pocket sprung mattresses also tend to have much higher spring counts than open coil mattresses, thus offering greater support and contouring to your body more effectively.
Best For: Sleepers who prefer a firmer and more support. Ideal if there is a weight and/or size variation between you and your sleeping partner
Throughout the bed industry you may find that pocket sprung mattresses are commonly referred to as orthopaedic, most pocket sprung mattresses are considered the best for joint relief.
Falling into an array of categories (coil, latex, memory, hybrid, etc.), pillow-top mattresses have a layer of soft material either stuffed or sewn into the cover. This works to add extra comfort and cushion for the sleeper.
Best For: Sleepers who prefer a softer and more cushion comfort. If you enjoy a cloud-like type of support and comfort most pillow tops will offer the best sleeping surface for you.
As the name suggests, these beds offer the ability to change the sleeping position of the mattress, usually by elevating the feet and inclining the back. Some of these even possess the ability to vibrate, heat, and/or massage the sleeper.
Best For: Sleepers who have specific needs that would allow them to benefit from an adjustable foundation. These needs typically come from certain medical conditions, older sleepers, snorers, chronic lower back pain, among other scenarios.
What is your budget?
Budget varies from person-to-person. Just a couple of years ago the only real option was going in-store, which almost always meant overpaying for a mediocre mattress or offering your first born child up for a great mattress. The online mattress industry is helping to change that. With so many companies building exceptional mattresses at fair and reasonable prices, consumers are able to set a modest budget and get a great bed.
In this industry, more money does not always mean a better mattress. Retail store mattress pricing is dramatically inflated, in almost all cases I recommend that consider trying the mattress first. Online mattress companies are able to remove much of the markup and offer a high quality product for about 30% of what you’d pay in-store for a similar mattress, the only difference is the price you ultimately pay for it.
What firmness do you need?
Firmness is how hard or soft a mattress feels. The most common question is “how firm is this mattress?” This is also one of the most difficult to answer questions. The feel and firmness of a mattress depends on your definition of soft, medium, and firm. It’s highly subjective. Additionally, your body type, weight, size, and other factors play into the feel.
A lot of times consumers confuse support with firmness. A mattress that provides good support simply means that it keeps your spine in proper alignment without creating pressure points. If a mattress does not offer adequate support, you will more than likely wake up sore or in pain. Firmness relates more to how comfortable a mattress feels initially. Whether hard or soft, the optimal firmness level goes hand-in-hand with comfort.
Several online mattress companies have developed mattresses that have a universal comfort. Although there is only one firmness level offered with these mattresses, the structure of their foams and layered design works to offer comfort for a variety of sleepers (heavy, light, tall, short, side, back, stomach, etc.
Side sleeping positions work similarly, causing the mattress to create superior deep compression support for the heavier parts of your body. Back and stomach sleepers would see a more even weight distribution and balanced foam interaction. This universal comfort design creates a balanced level of comfort and support for the mattress that’s enjoyable for the majority of sleepers.
With this in mind, the average preferred firmness level for sleepers falls between the 4-7 out of 10 range. Universal comfort mattresses coincide with these numbers, giving sleepers the chance to really discover the firmness level that’s right for them.
Average preferred firmness levels – most sleepers prefer 4-7 out of 10, where 10 is the most fir
If you’re firmness preferences place you outside the typical firmness range (either in the 1-3 or 8-10 level) or you just aren’t sure about the idea of universal comfort you may need to consider other options.
What position do you sleep in?
Side, back, stomach, or a little bit of each. Everyone sleeps in their own, unique way. The big problem…most people aren’t searching for a mattress that supports their sleeping style. Each sleeping position has its own specific needs and ideal firmness level.
Sleepers who lie on their sides don’t always remain in the same position. A lot of times they rotate from both legs straight, to one straight and one bent, to both bent. With this constant change, side sleepers need a mattress with soft to medium level firmness, usually something in the 3-6 range out of 10 (where 10 is the most firm). A soft mattress with a lot of support will relieve pressure points on your neck and back.
Firmness and feel is incredibly important for side sleepers as they need a mattress that’s soft enough to contour to the curves of their body. A mattress that is too firm won’t contour to the shape of the side sleeper, resulting in a lack of support that usually creates pressure points leading to lower back pain, neck pain, and/or shoulder pain.
Firmness and support are both critical for back sleepers. A mattress that is too soft will create pressure points on the sleeper, not providing the right amount of push back they need. In addition to that, if the bed does not support the sleeper, their spinal alignment will be off, which could lead to prolonged back problems. The ideal mattress firmness is one that provides enough softness to eliminate pressure points, but still has great support. Usually a firmness level in the 4-7 range (where 10 is the most firm) is appropriate.
Stomach sleepers’ number one priority when searching for a new mattress needs to be support. The torso will apply the most pressure to the mattress for stomach sleepers. For this reason, they need a mattress that provides equal support across their body. If the mid-section sinks at the middle of the mattress (mattress is too soft) the sleeper will see a curving of the spine, causing lower back pain and other problems.
Stomach sleepers need to be as flat as possible with respect to the surface of the mattress. Even something as simple as a tall pillow could put the spine out of alignment, causing pain and discomfort. Typically stomach sleepers need a mattress in the 5-7 range (where 10 is the most firm) with some outliers requiring a slightly hard or softer feel (a 4 or 8, respectively).
Best Firmness for Stomach, Side, and Back Sleepers
How much do you weigh?
Weight may not seem that important, but it can be crucial when choosing a mattress. The sinkage, hug, feel, cooling, and support of each mattress is highly affected by how much you weigh and your body type.
Depending on your weight and body type you may need a specific type of mattress or firmness to create the ideal feel and support that your body needs. There is no perfect formula or “best” mattress for everyone
You’re a lighter sleeper (70 Kilogram or less) and want a medium feel (5-7) – lighter sleepers don’t sink as deeply into the mattress, this can make mattresses with denser top layers not as comfortable. Universal comfort mattresses are a great fit for these sleepers. If you’re lighter it is recommended my readers choose a mattress that’s 0.5-1 firmness points below what they feel they actually need. This is because most medium firmness feels are rated based on an average sleeper (80 Kilograms).
You’re an average sleeper (70-90 Kilograms) and want a medium feel (5-7) – you’re in the market sweet spot. Most mattresses are designed for average size sleepers. Anything in the universal comfort range or any mattress characterized as medium, medium firm, luxury firm, or rated 5-7 out of 10 is very likely going to be a great fit.
You’re a heavier sleeper (90 Kilograms or more) and want a medium feel (5-7) – heavier sleepers put more pressure on the mattress, so we need to adjust for that. Look for mattresses that have a comfort layer of at least 4″. This will ensure consistent support and comfort for your size. If you have extreme cooling needs and / or you need a mattress with exceptional edge support you will likely need to consider luxury innerspring / coil-on-coil mattresses. If these needs aren’t as important for you then
You can focus more on the foam side where you’ll get better contouring hug and body shaping.
You’re a lighter sleeper (70 Kilogram or less) and want a soft feel (3-4) – as a lighter sleeper you have the advantage of not sinking as deeply into foam mattresses. This allows you to get the cloud like comfort you’re looking for, but without being excessively hugged or creating as many heat retention issues. Mattresses characterized as soft, plush, plush soft, or in the 3-4 out of 10 range are good options.
You’re an average sleeper (70-90 Kilograms) and want a soft feel (3-4) – your needs are similar to lighter sleepers in this area. If you’re closer to 70 then you can follow the same rules as lighter sleepers. As you get nearer to 90 Kilograms you’ll want to consider the increased hug / sinkage of the mattress. Softer mattresses already have an increased level of hug and sinkage. For side sleepers this can be ideal, however for many back sleepers and almost all stomach sleepers, this will create a negative situation for the support of the mattress for you.
You’re a heavy sleeper (90 Kilograms or more) and want a soft feel (3-4) – this is one of the most difficult to find mattress combinations. Heavier sleepers already sink deeper within the mattress and soft mattresses amplify this further. A mattress that’s designated as soft will create dramatic sinkage and hug for heavy sleepers. It is incredibly important to find a mattress that still offers great deep compression support. This means a minimum of 4″ of comfort foam, which usually will only be found in mattresses that are 12″ or thicker. If you don’t like the foam mattress options you’re seeing a pillow-top coil mattress can be a great fit for this area. They’ll provide great deep compression support, but can still bring the soft feel you’re looking for.
You’re a lighter (60 Kilograms or less) or average (70-90 Kilograms) sleeper and want a firmer mattress (8-9) – firmer mattresses are a little easier to diagnose, mostly because there’s a smaller degree of variation in their feel…i.e. you don’t deal as much with balancing hug, cooling, contour, etc. A firmer mattress floats sleepers on the surface of the mattress, as opposed to hugging the sleepers (like many foam mattresses will). For lighter and average sleepers that want a firm feel you’ll want to look for mattresses characterized as firm or in the 8-9 out of 10 range.
You’re a heavier sleeper (90 Kilograms or more) and want a firmer feel (8-9) – since you’re a bit heavier you’ll want to adjust your targeted firmness. If you’re looking for something that’s an 8 out of 10 this means you’ll be looking at mattresses that are in the 8.5-9 range.
A Different Frame
A well-made bed frame or bedstead can offer you years of loyal service. However, a bed that has not been properly looked after or is in bad shape will affect the comfort and lifespan of your mattress.
Signs that it’s time to look for a new bed frame include:
- An uneven or sagging base
- Awkward sounding creaks or crunches when you move
- Warped or broken slats
- Visible holes in the solid wire base
Trying out a bed in a spacious showroom is all very well, but it’s important to remember that the dimensions of your bedroom and furniture will to some extent dictate the type of frame you choose.
Size it up: check your mattress and bed are the same size. There are no standardized sizes, so even if they're both double, the size may vary - particularly if they're from different manufacturers.
High or low: consider how high you want your bed to be. While modern styles tend to be quite low to the ground, under-bed storage drawers may add extra height.
Tight squeeze: measure how much space you need for your doors and drawers to comfortably open and, more importantly, make sure your bed will actually fit in the space.
Moving day: while most divans will split down the middle for easy transportation and other bedframes can be assembled in your room, take into account the logistics of moving your new bed into the room.
The most popular type of bed in the UK, a Divan consists of one or two upholstered bases that rest on castors or legs.
Sprung edge divan beds are considered to be the most comfortable and luxurious. This type of bed features an open-coil or pocket spring unit on the frame which acts like a giant shock absorber. The mattress sits on top of this, making it more durable as there is more give.
Solid or platform top divans are also a popular choice. As the name suggests, they have a rigid base, often made from hardboard. They tend to feel firmer and are more affordable than divans with sprung bases.
Favoured for their functionality, some divans also come with concealed drawers in the base to provide extra storage space.
With a huge range of styles and materials to choose from, Bedsteads provide a more decorative look for the bedroom. The mattress is supported by horizontally lined wooden slats, though some have a metal or wire frame base, consisting of two types:
Affordable and firm, solid slat beds are a more traditional style with no additional support other than the wooden beams.
Made from laminated soft wood, bowed or sprung slat bases are the most comfortable, with each beam fitted to form a slight arch or 'bowed' shape that gives the bed its spring.
The width between each slat will not only have an impact on the comfort of the mattress but also increase wear and tear. As a rule, ensure the slats are no wider than 9-10 cm apart also making sure to refer to the specification of the mattress (some will require a closer spacing, such as Memory Foam).
Many modern bed designs also offer a range of space-saving and storage options that suit smaller urban spaces.
Ottoman: a good option if you're short on storage space, the mattress base is designed to lift up so you can store your belongings neatly away.
Storabed: perfect for children's rooms or guest bedrooms, this type of frame includes a concealed under bed that slides out from underneath the main bed.
Sofa Bed: an adaptable piece of furniture that transforms the living space into a guest room, sofabeds operate via either a folding back or a concealed collapsible bedframe within the base.
Choosing a Headboard
Unlike bedsteads, which are almost always designed to include a headboard, most divans are sold without one. This does, however, provide a number of options when it comes to shape, size and style.
A few points to consider when deciding on a headboard:
Check how much space you have above your bed as the headboard may impose on other decorative items on the wall such as a picture or light fitting.
Consider how the headboard will be used – is it purely decorative or will it be leant on whilst reading.