Mattress buying guide

Your mattress is one of the most important purchases you'll make – we all need a great night's sleep! And the quality of your slumber comes down to the quality of your mattress. We spend around a third of our lives in bed, so getting the right support from your mattress is vital. But there are a lot of features you need to take into account when choosing the perfect mattress, so in this guide we'll take a look at how to decide on the right one for you. Once you know which type of mattress you are looking for you can compare mattresses online using our mattress comparison tool

Mattress size

The first step in choosing your perfect mattress is getting the right size for your needs. Mattresses come in a huge range of sizes, with them differing slightly from country to country. In the UK, these are the main sizes you're likely to come across:

SizeDimensions
Small single75 x 190cm
Single90 x 190cm
Small double120 x 190cm
Double135 x 190cm
King size150 x 198cm
Super king size180 x 198cm

Some manufacturers also make even bigger mattress, such as the Emperor at 200 x 200cm and a 7ft bed at 215 x 215cm. When it comes to choosing a size of mattress, you may already have a bed frame in which case you'll buy the correct size for that. However, if you're starting from scratch, consider your height, weight and who you'll be sharing a bed with, and choose one that allows plenty of space for a comfortable night.

Firmness

Everyone has a preference when it comes to mattresses and their firmness. But the firmness that you need also depends on your height and weight. Do note, the below descriptions are merely a general guide and will vary slightly with different manufacturers.

Soft mattresses

A soft mattress is suitable for those of a light to average build, and also offers support for those who sleep on their sides, or change sleeping position frequently through the night.

Medium soft mattresses

A good 'all round' mattress for those of average build, as it will support most sleeping positions.

Medium firm mattresses

Again, these are suitable for people of average build and particularly support those who sleep on their backs or stomach.

Firm mattresses

Firm mattresses support those of a larger build, but are also fantastic for those with back problems as they keep your back in a more stable position.

Fillings

Apart from size, the most defining feature of a mattress is its filling. Let's look at the main types:

Memory Foam mattresses

The most popular modern choice, memory foam mattresses mould to your body to give optimum support. They're also ideal for allergy sufferers, as they're hypoallergenic and have benefits for those with joint pain.

Memory Foam mattresses to consider: Eve, Leesa

Latex mattresses

Often used alongside memory foam, latex is highly breathable and helps prevent overheating. Also suitable for allergy sufferers, latex is long lasting and helps provide a firmer support.

Latex mattresses to consider: Bruno

Gel mattresses

Gel is another breathable material offering high levels of comfort and support. They are also popular as they're slightly cooler than memory foam.

Innerspring

These are the mattresses that most of us grew up sleeping on. They have one or more layers of steel spring coils to provide support. The number of coils, layers of coils and coil type does vary but you'll find that the more coils there are the better support you'll have.

Hybrid mattresses

There are more and more hybrid mattresses being introduced on the market. They're a combination of latex, memory or other polyurethane foams, coils or other materials designed to give the best of both worlds.

Hybrid mattresses to consider: Simba, Casper, Hyde & Sleep

Structure

In addition to fillings, some mattresses also contain springs. There are two types – open sprung and pocket sprung. Open sprung mattresses are a more budget conscious option, as the springs are just one long piece of metal coiled into shapes. As they move as one, the springs are more prone to wear and tear, meaning that these mattresses won't last as long. Pocket sprung mattresses contain thousands of individual springs in separate stitched pocket sleeves. This means that each spring moves individually and provides great support for all parts of the body.

Finishes

There are a variety of finishes for mattresses, all offering different things and helping to improve the functionality.

Hand tufting mattresses

This is the most common and recognisable form of mattress finish, where tape is threaded through the mattress to give a full and dimpled surface. This keeps the mattress and its filling in shape.

Quilted mattresses

Most commonly found on memory foam, latex and gel mattresses, the quilted cover is stitched directly to the mattress filling.

Pillow top mattresses

These mattresses have a layer of pillow attached to their top to provide an extra level of comfort and softness.

In addition to all these factors, it's also worth investing in a mattress protector to keep your mattress protected from stains and deterioration. Mattress protectors are also machine washable.

So, how do you decide on a mattress?

We've talked about the terms surrounding mattresses, but how do you apply these to your own requirements? The first thing to consider is the amount of support, or firmness, that you like. So…

If you like a firmer mattress

Memory foam mattresses – particularly those with a polyurethane core have a lot less spring, as they don't tend to sink below the top layer. The thickness of this foam layer can vary enormously (from around 2 to 6 inches), which will dictate how far you'll sink.

If you like a little more movement

A latex mattress is similar to a memory foam one in terms of firmness but gives more spring. And the best thing about latex is that a good quality mattress can last you a lot longer than other mattresses – with some manufacturers predicting over 20 years of use.

If you like bounce

Traditional innerspring mattresses have a more bouncy feel, although you can control how springy the mattress is. Look for the rating of the metal coils, with 12 being the thickest and firmest coils and 18 the thinnest.

In addition to considering your support requirements, you also need to think about your lifestyle and how you sleep.

Sleep on your stomach?

If you sleep on your stomach you will really want to avoid a mattress that makes you feel smothered. So you'll probably want to avoid memory foam as it moulds to your shape. A dense innerspring or latex mattress will suit you far better.

Sleep on your side?

Sleeping on your side creates pressure points, so it's important to choose a mattress that moulds to your shape. Memory foam mattresses are the obvious choice here, as this is what they're designed to do.

Sleep on your back?

It's important to keep your spine supported if you sleep on your back but you should find that most modern mattresses will support you well, meaning that you have the pick of the bunch!

Top factors to consider

  • Comfort - The most important factor of all is to choose a mattress that you find comfortable. When you lie down, you shouldn't feel any pressure points on your body and the mattress should feel breathable and supportive.
  • Durability - A good mattress should last a minimum of 8 years, so make sure to check the lifespan of your chosen mattress and whether it comes with a decent warranty.
  • Support - Your mattress needs to keep your spine in alignment by providing good support, otherwise you'll most likely wake up with discomfort.
  • Edge Support - Look for a mattress that doesn't sink sharply at the edges when you sit on it so that you have a level support across the whole mattress.
  • Trial Period & Warranty - Make sure that your mattress comes with a decent trial period and check the terms of the warranty thoroughly! You need to know what counts as a defect, and whether you will get a replacement mattress, a full refund or just a percentage of money back.