The Definitive Guide to Buying a Mattress
Shopping for a mattress has never been easier if you’re armed with this info.
Replacing your mattress can be exhausting. Navigating the stores and websites, debating between foam and springs, and determining how much to spend can leave you feeling like you need a good nap.
Instead, skip the stress and follow these tips from Lexie Sachs, Senior Textiles Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, that will help you navigate the world of mattresses.
Where to Shop for a Mattress
Laying down in the store isn’t the only way to go anymore. New mattress-in-a-box companies have won over thousands of customers with convenient shipping and free trial periods. Online mattress buying has seen a serious boom, but it’s not right for everyone. Here’s what you need to know.
Shop in the store if.
Go the traditional route ifyouwant a greater variety and to feel them before buying.In a mattress store, you should never pay full price. Always shop the sales, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the salesperson. Most stores will also offer removal of your existing mattress. The downside is it can feel overwhelming and it’s harder to compare prices to know if you’re getting a good deal. A big mistake is rushing the decision by quickly lying down on many different mattresses to find the one that feels best. If you’re going to invest in a mattress,take the time to recline for a while (at least 10 minutes)and make sure you don’t feel any pressure or pain.
Shop online if.
This newer route offers agreat alternative if you have trouble making decisions, since there are fewer options. Plus, you can shop from home!These mattresses generally arrive in a box at your doorstep within a few days and include free shipping and a money-back guarantee (even if you simply don’t like the mattress!) so there’s minimal risk. Online, the price is usually final, but it doesn’t include markups for being sold at a physical store. The downsides are that you typically have to set it up yourself and deal with getting rid of your old mattress.
Either way, always ask about the return policy.Not happy with your pick? You may get a partial refund if you bought it in a store, but online companies often arrange to pick it up for a local charity and will give back 100% of your money. Make sure you can test out a new mattress for a month risk-free; that way, you can get used to it before making a decision.
The Best Mattresses You Can Buy Online
The name Casper is synonymous with "mattress-in-a-box." Itsfour foam layers range from soft to firmto offer comfort and support, which our testers loved (especially the under-40 crowd). There’s both a less expensive version (with less layers) and a pricier one (with more).
Tuft & Needle was priced lowest among its competitors, but still stands out as atop mattress on Amazon. This simple model has two layers of foam: a firm, support layer on the bottom and a cushy, cooling layer on top. Our panel particularly liked the friendly customer service.
Unsure if you need a soft or firm option? This foam style gives you both: Justflip the mattress to change the support level. It has copper built-in to help keep you cool and avoid the overheating that is typically associated with memory foam.
Fill out a survey about your sleep habits, andHelix builds a "custom" mattress for youwith layers of foam, latex, and microcoils. They can even personalize each side, so you and your sleeping partner don’t have to fight about which mattress to get.
How to Choose Your Perfect Mattress
There are three common types of mattresses:innerspring, foam, and adjustable. There’s no one "right" material to choose, but in general, side sleepers need a softer mattress, stomach sleepers need a firm one, and back sleepers fall somewhere in between. Beyond the types of mattresses and firmness, you’ll need to think about a few other factors. From sleep style to negotiating with a bedfellow, here’s what to look for based on your needs:
If you like a bed with bounce
Traditional innerspring styleshave that familiar bouncy feel and may be firmer. Interconnected coils are extra-durable, but individual "pocketed" coils, each covered with fabric, reduce the ripple effect that happens when someone on one side of the bed moves.
If you prefer a firmer base
Memory foam optionshave less spring and offer more pressure relief. To determine quality, look at the density and thickness of the foam, which will determine how deep you’ll sink. The newer, online mattresses generally use several different layers of foam, with heavier ones on the bottom for support and lighter, cooler kinds on the top for comfort.
If you want a plush top
Innerspring mattressestypically have either a fiberfill or foam outer layer, covered in quilted ticking. But even if you want an uber-plush feel, don’t be swayed by a thick-looking pillowtop as it can compress over time. It’s often best to choose a firmer, well-quilted mattress, and then cover it with a replaceable mattress topper.
If you like to change it up
Consider anair-filled mattress, like Sleep Number, which has a remote that controls how much air is inside. Two side-by-side chambers allow you and your partner to customize the mattress firmness separately. There are also foam mattresses (like the ones from Layla) with soft and firm sides, so you can just flip it over as needed, and modular designs that let you move around the springs on the inside.
If you sleep on your side
You’ll want a surface that will support your body weight, and conform to your shape.Innerspringsmay have more pressure relief than some foam or latex mattresses, but asoft foam mattressor one with built-in pressure relief points around the shoulders and hips can work for side sleepers, too
If you sleep on your stomach
The last thing a stomach-sleeper probably wants is an enveloping memory foam — it would feel smothering! Instead, a firmer bed will provide the best support. Consider afirm foam, dense innerspring, or air-filled mattress.
If you sleep on your back
You’ll wantsomething in the middle— a surface that supports, but has some give so your spine is kept in a healthy alignment. You’ll find happiness with any of the mattress types, but you should do your best princess-and-the-pea impression to see what feels best to you.
If your partner tosses and turns all night
Consider aninnerspring mattress with pocketed coils, or memory foam, latex, or a dual-chamber air-filled mattress. Medium-firm picks will all have good "motion isolation." But remember, these models could actually be less comfortable on the body of a restless sleeper, as there’s little forgiveness against one’s movements.
If you and your partner’s preferences don’t match
Theair-filled mattresses with dual chamberscan help, or check out the online mattress company Helix. Each person can fill out a questionnaire and have a side customized based on the responses.
If you sleep hot
Manufacturers can get carried away with claims about cooling properties, especially when you consider all the layers (protectors, toppers, sheets, and so on) that go on top of the mattress. That said,foam or latexcan hold in body heat, especially if they’re very soft and a lot of your body sinks in. Newer technology helps alleviate this issue and you can always accessorize your bed with toppers and sheets that offer cooling benefits.
If you have allergies
Foam and latexare both inherently antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites and mold. If you opt for innerspring or air topped with fiberfill, be sure to encase it in an allergen-resistant cover to keep irritants at bay.
If you have back pain
Memory foam and/or latexis best for those with back pain since it molds to your body for support.
If you’re concerned about chemicals
Look forfoams certified by CertiPUR-USas well as certifications for other materials like GOLS for latex or Oeko-Tex for other fabrics to feel more confident about your purchase.
If you can’t decide what matters most
Some savvy manufacturers make ahybrid-style mattressthat combines the buoyancy of an innerspring core with the motion isolation of memory foam. It’s a best-of-both-worlds option that can satisfy many partner disputes and sleeping styles.
A good mattress can go a long way to ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.
Finding a mattress you find comfortable and suits your budget can be tricky.
Five minutes of feeling things out on a bustling show floor won’t help you figure out which brands and models are comfortable and long lasting.
We can help you work out what type and size of mattress is best for you, and even how to save 50% or more on your next purchase.
Looking for mattresses?
We’ve tested to find you the best.
How to choose a comfortable mattress
Comfort is subjective, but understanding mattress firmness and the differences in mattress type will help you narrow the field when it comes to testing a mattress instore.
How firm should my mattress be?
It all comes down to your preferred sleeping position:
- Firm: If you sleep on your stomach, a firm mattress will keep your spine aligned.
- Medium: If you sleep on your back, it’ll provide support for your spine, back and neck while keeping you comfortable.
- Soft: Great for sleeping on your side because it’ll support and contour your body’s curves.
But be warned: we’ve found that most retailers’ firmness claims don’t match the bed being sold. We do body support and stability tests when we test mattresses, so check out our mattress reviews to see what we found.
If you’re a side sleeper, a soft mattress will support your body’s curves.
What type of mattress is best?
It really depends on your personal preference. For example, you may find a spring mattress supports your spine while a foam finish feels a bit too solid.
We explain the pros and cons, and price range, for the different types of mattresses.
There are two types of coil mattresses:
- Continuous coil mattresses are made from a single piece of wire looped into springs.
- Open-coil mattresses are made of single springs fixed together by one wire.
- $400 to $10,000*
- They’re usually lighter than other options.
- Typically cheaper.
- Can wear out quickly.
- Because the springs move as one unit the mattress is less responsive to your body.
- Any tossing and turning is likely to disturb a partner.
- Springs can rust.
* Typical retail for a queen-sized mattress.
Topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material, aka memory foam.
- Absorbs your weight as you sink in, taking pressure off your joints and increasing circulation.
- Can mould to the shape of your body.
- No risk of rust (if foam only).
- Can make you feel "encased".
- Can feel too solid and dense (not springy). Not likely to please someone wanting a softer, more cushioned night’s sleep.
- Can get warm easily due to limited air circulation.
- Can be cumbersome to move due to their weight and heft.
* Typical retail for a queen-sized mattress.
A blend of natural and synthetic latex that moulds to body shape.
- Durable and breathable.
- Better for people with allergies.
- Doesn’t gather dust mites.
- Has a solid feel, so they’re not likely to please someone wanting a softer, more cushioned night’s sleep.
- Can be cumbersome to move due to their weight and heft.
- Cheaper versions can get lumpy after a time.
* Typical retail for a queen-sized mattress.
Has up to 3000 springs sewn into individual fabric pockets.
- Good air circulation.
- Firmness can be set by tweaking spring tension (by manufacturer).
- Good support by distributing your body weight evenly.
- Can support two people of two different body weights well because the springs are separate.
- Can be heavy to turn, as they’re filled with natural materials, such as lambswool.
- Natural materials can exacerbate allergies.
- Springs can rust.
* Typical retail for a queen-sized mattress.
These combine elements of memory foam and spring mattresses. They have the same pros and cons.
What size mattress do I need?
Retailers and manufacturers recommend buying the largest bed your room can accommodate, and the length of the mattress should be at least 10–15 centimetres longer than the tallest person sleeping on it.
|Size||Measurements (W x L)|
|Single||92 x 187cm|
|Single extra long||92 x 203cm|
|King single||106 x 203cm|
|Double||137 x 187cm|
|Queen||153 x 203cm|
|King||183 x 203cm|
How to test a mattress instore
- Take your time: Most people need seven to nine hours sleep a night. A couple of minutes on your back won’t come close to replicating this experience. Lie down for as long as you need – though you probably shouldn’t spend the night.
- Move about: Roll over, sit up, get in and out of the bed. Ease of movement contributes to comfort. It will take more effort if the mattress is too soft, and will feel uncomfortable on your hips and shoulders if it’s too firm.
- Sleep on slats (or a base): Make sure the bed base in the shop is similar to the one you have at home. If you have fixed slats or a hard surface, a soft mattress will feel very different on top of that, rather than the ensemble base it’s resting on in the shop.
- Bring your partner: If you share a bed with someone regularly or every night, bring them along and ask them to lie in the bed and move around. Be aware of how the bed moves on your side when your partner moves.
- Don’t shop tired: All the mattresses will feel great if you’re already sleepy!
- Ask the salesperson to leave: While they may be friendly and helpful, few of us are able to really relax when someone is hovering around.
- Ask questions about the display model: The mattress you test in store could have been on display for two days, two weeks or even two months, with hundreds of customers potentially trying them out over that period. This will affect sag, firmness, support and so on.
- Ask if there’s a comfort guarantee:Most manufacturers don’t offer a guarantee on comfort, so you probably can’t return it if it doesn’t feel right. That said, there are a few brands that do, so it always pays to ask. Jump to Can I return a mattress? for more info.
Take your time when buying a mattress in store, and don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson to leave you to it.
How to get the best deal on a mattress
Retailers leave a significant amount of wiggle room in the price. In fact, you’re getting ripped off if you settle for RRP.
We shaved at least half and even two-thirds off the asking price while shopping for most of the mattresses in our recent tests by using the following tricks:
- Wait for a sale: They take place regularly and can bring the price down by as much as 50%.
- Head in store: Deals are generally better instore than online.
- Haggle: We rarely encountered a salesperson who wasn’t willing to shave a few hundred dollars off the asking price, even during a sale.
- Buy in bulk: Our discounts improved when we bought at least two beds at once, which may be handy if you’re refurnishing a house.
- Consider exclusive ranges: Retailers such as Snooze, Forty Winks and Fantastic stock exclusive brands. We found that salespeople are much more inclined to sell these over third-party brands. Snooze, for example, offered us a much better discount on their exclusive Madison range when we expressed interest in buying a Sealy.
Retailers leave a significant amount of wiggle room in the price. In fact, you’re getting ripped off if you settle for RRP.
How to haggle
Haggling can be tricky, particularly if you’re not overly confident. But you don’t need to be a smooth-talking, wheeling and dealing sort to take advantage of potential savings.
After a little back-and-forward with salespeople, we asked this question:
- "What’s the best you can do?"
That’s it – or some sort of variant.
Remember, you’re there to buy, they’re there to sell. You’re not establishing a lifelong friendship, and they’re not going to throw you out for asking.
Mattress mark-ups are so high, you don’t need to do much when it comes to saving money, which is why this question works.
Should I buy a mattress in store or online?
Bed in a box is an online only mattress industry. Manufacturers cut out the middleman by selling directly to the consumer, and they deliver compressed mattresses to your door in a box, hence the name. Once opened, the mattresses slowly expand into the full size (single, double, queen etc).
- As well as being a cheaper, and much more convenient, almost all brands let you assess the mattress after purchasing.
- If you don’t like it, you can return it for a refund, making the purchase more or less risk free.
However, this does not mean online shopping is always the best option.
Buying your mattress instore
- Can try before you buy.
- Opportunity to haggle.
- Lots of options from multiple brands in one place.
- Point of return if faulty.
- Many types available.
- Generally no trial period (some exceptions such as Forty Winks).
- Can’t change your mind once it’s used.
- Shady sales practices (e.g. tested firmness doesn’t match advertised firmness).
- Sales situations can be high pressure.
- Need to take it home or pay extra for delivery.
Buying your mattress online
- Delivered to your door.
- Trial period (e.g. Koala allows 120 days, no questions asked returns).
- Can change your mind.
- No pressure to buy.
- Sold at set price. No ability to haggle.
- You need to buy the mattress before trying it.
- Forced to trust manufacturer claims regarding firmness, comfort etc.
- Can be harder to return (than a traditional retailer).
- Mostly limited to foam mattresses (small number of spring mattresses available)
Bed in a box brands however, offer home trial periods that range from 30, to more than 100 nights. If you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can exchange the mattress for a different model (if available), or a full refund.
- It takes a few nights, minimum, to adjust to a new mattress.
- You aren’t forced to speculate and make a snap decision that you may later regret.
- You may come to like a bed that initially felt uncomfortable. This is another reason why our out of the box comfort results are not the defining scores in our test.
- It significantly reduces the financial risks involved.
See our mattress reviews to find out how long the different retailers give you to try the mattress at home and still return it.
Can I return a mattress?
Making a warranty claim on your mattress
This can be tricky, because arguments regarding comfort, faults and so on can be considered subjective, or part of ‘normal wear and tear’.
And while most mattresses have a 10-year warranty period, the small print is often overflowing with restrictions and conditions.
Take SleepMaker for example. While their warranty covers manufacturing faults, theywon’t protect against:
- a reasonable level of dipping (25–35mm)
- comfort concern as a result of product selection
- heat issues.
These are just some of the terms, but they illustrate the grey areas consumers can find themselves in.
As our investigation into spring mattresses found, advertised and tested firmness rarely match up, and it’s likely that your purchase may not be as comfortable as you expect.
However, this wouldn’t fall under a warranty claim in SleepMaker’s case. These terms aren’t exclusive to SleepMaker. In fact, they’re one of the more upfront brands when it comes to outlining their claims procedure.
Most mattresses have a 10-year warranty period, but the small print is often overflowing with restrictions and conditions
Returning your mattress (traditional retailer)
The onus largely falls on you, the buyer, to make the right purchase if you’re buying from a retailer, even when the industry practices are questionable.
Because mattresses are used in the same manner as clothes, headphones etc., getting a refund under general consumer protections can be difficult.
These generally cover unfit for purpose, which isunlikely to include:
- size (mattress not fitting your base)
- reasonable sagging after extensive use
- damage due to misuse or mishandling
- smell and general wear and tear (i.e. stains).
If you truly feel that you’ve been sold a faulty product, be persistent. You can make a return.
One of the mattresses we bought from our test arrived with rust around the frame. This is reasonable grounds for a return.
Returning your mattress (bed in a box)
Almost all bed in a box brands offer a free trial period. You can return the mattress for a refund within this time, if you don’t like it. Returned beds are typically donated to charity.
However, you must adhere to these general terms to be eligible:
- Duration: Make sure you apply for a refund/return within the allocated period.
- Minimum use period: Brands also specify a minimum usage period before you’re eligible for a return, so you can take time to properly assess the mattress.
- Damage: You won’t be able to return a mattress if it’s damaged, sunk, stained, torn etc. It’s worth treating your mattress like fine china, keeping it well away from food, drink and so on, and making sure you’re clean as a whistle when it’s time for bed.
- Protection: Almost all brands specify that you must use a mattress protector during the free trial period.
Check the "free trial" page on the company’s website to find the specific terms
The so-called free trial period may incur a return fee depending on where you live, and how the manufacturer handles returns.
Occasionally, you’ll encounter brands that charge an exchange fee, on top of the pickup costs.
Choosing the best mattress type
Find the best mattress for your body and budget. We look at the pros and cons of different types – from memory foam mattresses to pocket sprung and latex.
Put us to the test
Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You’ll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don’t get stuck with a Don’t Buy.
Memory foam, pocket sprung, latex, open coil, continuous coil. not sure which type of mattress is best for you? We look at the pros and cons of the main types of mattresses to help you find the best.
There are four main mattress types to choose from. Most mattress manufacturers make more than one type – different varieties go through a different manufacturing process and cost different amounts. Price isn’t everything, though, as what is most important is what you as an individual find comfortable.
Read on to help you decide which type of mattress to buy. Once you’ve made up your mind, you can use the filters on our independent mattress reviews to find your perfect mattress.
Spring vs foam mattresses
Watch our video below to find out the key differences between the main mattress types, including what each one is made up of and how it will affect your sleep.
Use our interactive tool below for more information on the differences between spring and foam mattresses.
Keep reading for more information on the main type of mattress. Or, if you already know which type you want, find out how to buy the best mattress.
Pocket sprung mattresses
In pocket sprung mattresses, the springs are sewn into individual fabric pockets. Pocket sprung mattresses are the most popular type of mattress among Which? members – more than half of the members we surveyed about their mattress had bought a pocket sprung one.
Pocket sprung mattresses don’t mould to your shape in the same way that memory foam mattresses do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they offer less support. They also tend not to be as warm as memory foam mattresses, which could be an important consideration if you tend to find yourself too warm at night.
We’ve tested some great pocket sprung mattresses at a range of different prices, so you’re sure to find one that suits you. Go to our Best Buy mattresses page to see the very best.
Memory foam mattresses
Memory foam mattresses, also known as memory mattresses, are topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material (memory foam). They can be expensive, but we’ve found some fantastic memory foam mattresses for less than £400.
This makes the shape of the mattress change to fit the shape of your body, and it also tends to make the mattress feel warmer.
Everything you need to know about this increasingly popular type of mattress can be found in our memory foam mattresses guide.
If you already know that you want to buy a memory foam mattress, you can find the right model for your budget and body type by reading our mattress reviews.
Continuous coil and open coil spring mattresses
These mattresses are cheaper than other types of bed mattress.
- Continuous coil mattresses are made from a single looped wire
- Open coil mattresses are made of single springs fixed together by one wire.
Because the springs move as one unit, you’re more likely to be disturbed by your partner moving around during the night. The coils in these mattresses wear out more quickly than pocket springs, so you’re likely to end up rolling together eventually.
When we surveyed Which? members to find out more about mattresses, those who own an open-coil mattress are less likely to say that it helps them to get a good night’s sleep than those who own other types of mattress.
You can find out more about our survey results, including which brands to look out for, in our full mattress brand reviews.
Latex is a less common type of mattress which features a core made up of layers of springy latex. These mattresses tend to be more expensive, but manufacturers claim that they are more resilient and able to better keep their shape.
Manufacturer Dunlopillo specialises in latex beds, although the Dunlopillo mattresses we’ve reviewed don’t come cheap.
These are different from mattress protectors in that they add a layer of extra padding to your existing bed. Mattress toppers can be made of memory foam or other materials. However, they can be as expensive as buying a new mattress in some cases, and won’t provide more support if your old mattress is already sagging.
Discover which are the best mattress topper brands according to our survey of more than 1,000 mattress topper owners.
How to choose a mattress: Tips on how to buy the best mattress for your bed and budget
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 a mattress. 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 certain considerations make the decision-making process easier – read on to find out what they are.
How to choose a mattress
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, to go with the half-pint of fluid lost each night 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.
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 100-day trial period.
What are the different types of mattresses?
There are five main types:
Pocket sprung– 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.
Our favourite pocket-sprung mattress: Sealy Nostromo
Memory foam– 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 arrive ready rolled (easy to fit in your boot) or even vacuum-packed (and delivered to your door). On the downside, they can hold body heat, making you feel hot and clammy – particularly if they are very soft.
Our favourite memory-foam mattress for front sleepers and restless sleepers: Leesa
Price:From £397 (single size) |Buy now from Leesa
Latex– 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.
Our favourite latex mattress: Dunlopillo Royal Sovereign
Hybrids– 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).
Our favourite hybrid mattress: Otty Hybrid
Price:From £350 (single) |Buy now from Otty
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.
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.
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.
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 (see the link below). 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).
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.
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, however, buy mattresses that don’t need turning or rotating.
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 Ikea Morgedal, which costs just £125 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.
How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress
Ready for a new mattress? Here’s how to find the one that suits you best.
Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of different factors — comfort, stress level, room temperature вЂ“ 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?
To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment
"If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment," Shamie tells WebMD. "If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back." Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning.
Generally speaking, one type or brand of bed isn’t better than another, says Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.But he does find that a firmer bed seems to be better for people with lower back pain.
In fact, researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain and found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale people who slept on a medium-to-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less back pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.
Is It Time for a New Mattress?
How do you know if the bed you’re sleeping on is the right one?
"If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you," Breus says.
The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air, Breus says.
If you’re looking for a new mattress, experts suggest testing it in the store and laying down on each mattress in the position in which you normally sleep. Breus suggests spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the bed. And, bring your own pillow! The more you can replicate the way you’ll be sleeping on the mattress once you get it home, the better your chances of picking the right one.
Innerspring mattresses are still by far the most widely used. They support you with coil springs, and in most built today, each coil is individually enclosed. This helps the bed weather years of use and prevents the coils from popping out of the mattress. On top of the coils are a wide variety of materials added for comfort, from pillow to latex to memory foam. It’s all a matter of preference.
Salespeople may try to sell you on the idea that more coils mean more comfort, but that’s not necessarily true, Breus and Shamie say.
"You don’t really need a coil count above 390," Breus says. Beyond that, the difference in feel is so small it would be difficult to notice.
Pros:There are plenty of innerspring mattresses on the market from which to choose. They range in firmness, the fluffiness of the pillow top, and in price to fit nearly every preference and pocket book.
Cons:There’s no direct relationship in most cases between price and comfort, but Shamie suggests steering clear of the cheapest innerspring mattress. If there aren’t enough springs and cushion to offer you proper support, he says, you’ll likely wake up with an aching back.
Conditions:For someone who is very overweight, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of, Breus says. Firmer versions are good for people with back pain. But spring-based mattresses can be comfortable for almost anyone.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. They are made of layers of different densities of foam that respond to weight and temperature, and are known for comfort because they contour to the specific shape of your body. Memory foam toppers are also available.
Pros:By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points, and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
Cons:One of the biggest complaints with memory foam mattresses is that because these mattresses are temperature sensitive, softening and molding with your body heat, they can make you feel extremely hot during the night. Breus also says memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.
Conditions:"If you have a hard time getting comfortable, if you have chronic fatigue, or some type of muscle pain, then a memory foam mattress would work well for you, assuming you don’t have temperature issues," Breus says.
Latex mattresses are made from either natural or synthetic rubber, and are known for providing a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed.
Pros:"Quite frankly, I think one of the best materials is latex," Breus says. He likes it for being very firm and supportive, but also for providing comfort similar to memory foam. Unlike the memory foam mattresses, however, Breus says latex pushes back, ultimately providing more support.
Cons:If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.
Conditions: Either a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is great for relieving back pain because they offer the best combination of comfort and support, Breus says.
We’re not talking about the blow-up mattresses you put your holiday guests on for a few days. Higher-end air beds look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.
Shamie notes that air beds have long been used for patients with spinal cord injuries who are lying in bed for a long time. They can be adjusted so they don’t continue to press on the same areas of the body, which helps to avoid skin breakdown in patients who can’t move.
Pros:"Couples who have dramatic differences in their individual preference for comfort and firmness levels might do very well with an air mattress," Breus says. The reason is that the firmness of each side of the bed can be altered. If you like it firmer than your partner, these beds can be adjusted for that.
Like latex and memory foam, you can also find air toppers for your mattress.
Cons:Shamie says people sometimes fail to make their air bed firm enough and wake up with back aches. Less sophisticated air mattresses also pop up on one side when you sit on the opposite end. For that reason Breus says, you want multiple chambers so that doesn’t occur.
Conditions:These beds are particularly useful when sleeping partners have different needs. If one of you has a bad back, one side can be made firmer than the other to provide greater support.
These beds are able to bend and elevate at varying angles. As a result, the mattress has to be flexible. Different types of mattresses can be used on an adjustable bed вЂ“ memory foam, latex, or air, for example. Spring mattresses are more difficult to use, however, because the springs don’t handle the bending well.
Pros:For people who have difficulty getting in and out of bed or who like to watch television in bed, Shamie says, adjustables can make life easier by moving you closer to where you need to be.
Conditions:If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping flat can make the condition worse by cutting off airways and causing the tongue to fall into the back of the throat, Shamie says. People who experience acid reflux can also benefit by sleeping in a bed that elevates their upper body.
Shamie also suggests adjustable beds for people with hip or back pain who have a hard time moving from a lying position to sitting up or standing.
When you have guests staying for a night or two, sofa beds come in handy. The mattresses in these beds tend to be very thin so they are flexible enough to fold and collapse into the couch. It’s a great convenience to have a sofa bed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who raves about their comfort.
Pros:Sofa beds are convenient, especially if you have limited space. But from a health perspective, Shamie and Breus don’t see any advantages.
Cons:A night or two on a sofa bed is OK. But "this is probably the worst kind of bed you can sleep on long-term," Shamie says. The mattresses used in most sofa beds are very thin and the springs quite weak. "It really leads to an uncomfortable situation," Shamie says.
If you’re really tight for space and need a bed that folds up, Shamie says that futons, while not the most supportive, are better for your back than the typical sofa bed.
Conditions:There are no conditions for which a sofa bed will be helpful, according to the experts. But if you have a bad back or hips, these beds will be especially uncomfortable.
When to Part With Your Old Mattress
Today’s mattresses are made to last a lifetime. But you probably shouldn’t plan on keeping yours for that long. Our bodies change over time, Breus says, so the mattress that was once a joy to sleep on may no longer feel comfortable a few years down the road.
In addition, mattresses collect dust mites, fungus, and other germs that can exacerbate allergies and impact your sleep patterns. After 10 to 15 years, it’s time to think about buying a new bed.
Ultimately, the experts say that the best bed for you is the one that feels most comfortable. And remember, Shamie says, "There’s no mattress that’s going to save your body when you get only five hours of sleep." In order to feel your best, you need to get enough restвЂ¦ no matter what type of mattress you’re sleeping on.
Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.
Breus, Michael, PhD, WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep
Kovacs, FM.The Lancet, November 2003; vol 362: pp 1599-1604.