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How to Choose the Mattress of Your Dreams

Written by, Viktor Gruevski

Updated July, 18, 2023

You’ve probably heard that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. That’s why choosing the right mattress for you or your loved ones is of vital importance. 

Unfortunately, most people take the wrong approach when it comes to how to choose a mattress and only consider the price and size. In this guide, we’ve put together everything you need to know about choosing the right mattress for you. 

Trust us, your lower back will thank you in the morning.

How to Choose the Best Type of Mattress

Not all mattresses are created equal. There are many choices out there, and you must equip yourself with the knowledge needed to pick the right one for you. 

The important thing to understand is there’s no such thing as the best type of mattress. There are a lot of different mattress types, and they all fall into one of several main categories:

Pocket Spring Mattress

Also known as a coil mattress, this is the standard type of bed we’ve all known forever. 

Inside, it has a system of steel springs that give the mattress its support, with soft padding material on top. Each spring is located in a pocket of fabric, thus the name. This construction provides better airflow and cooling than most foam and latex mattresses, making these beds a great choice for hot sleepers. 

Pocket spring mattresses are also the most versatile type of beds, since you can find them in different designs at any price point. The firmness and quality can vary, too, depending on the number and type of coils the mattress has. 

In fact, the steel coils are the reason mattresses have bounce, which may guarantee comfort, but not motion isolation. In other words, pocket spring beds may not be the right choice for couples.

If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to a pocket spring bed, try an open spring mattress. These beds have one long piece of metal wire that’s coiled into springs. They’re also lighter and easier to move and set up, but don’t offer much in the way of support. 

Memory Foam Mattress 

Memory foam mattresses have really gained in popularity recently, becoming one of the preferred mattress types in the UK.

Known for the sinking feeling one gets when lying down on one of them, they mould to the shape of your body and absorb all the weight. Because of this, these mattresses offer great pressure relief on the joints and sensitive areas like the shoulders, hips, and lower back. The material is also resistant to allergens, so a great choice for those suffering from allergies. 

Another point in their favour is their motion isolating properties, making them perfect for couples. 

Sadly, due to their density, they do retain a lot of heat, which could be an issue for hot sleepers. Also, some memory foam mattresses have been known to emit unpleasant chemical smells, although these should dissipate within a month of use. 

Latex Mattress  

If you’re searching for a mattress without springs but aren’t a fan of foam beds, give latex a try. 

Latex is a natural compound made from the sap residue of the rubber tree. Synthetic versions also exist, but you should always opt for natural latex as it’s much better. 

Latex beds are similar to memory foam, although they offer less sinkage and have a quicker pressure response and more bounce to them. They don’t absorb as much heat, making them ideal for hot sleepers. 

Latex is also hypoallergenic and has antimicrobial and mould-resistant properties. Plus, it’s incredibly durable, lasting 20 years or more and providing a great long-term investment in high-quality slumber. 

We should point out, however, that latex mattresses are on the firmer end of the spectrum, so sleepers who want a cloud-like experience should think twice before choosing them.

Hybrid Mattress

Hybrid mattresses are made from a combination of springs and foam. This way they offer the best of both worlds by providing you with the support of a spring mattress as well as the soft pressure relief of a memory foam or latex bed. 

They’re designed in a plethora of combinations, making them suitable for a wide range of sleepers, as it’s possible to pick a custom configuration that works for even the pickiest person. That’s why the hybrid type has the potential to be called the most comfortable mattress

However, this can add a layer of complexity to choosing a mattress because of the vast variety of options, so make sure you research things thoroughly first. 

It’s important to add that due to their current popularity and specific construction, they can get somewhat pricey. 

How to Choose the Right Firmness

When it comes to mattress quality, one of the most important aspects to consider is its firmness

This is a very tricky subject, as the level of firmness is a subjective thing and different for everyone. What might be perfectly firm for one person might be uncomfortably soft for another. 

Choosing the right firmness for you is crucial because if you get it wrong, you won’t get the mattress support your body needs. In addition to poor sleep, this can lead to the development of chronic back pain. 

Luckily, most manufacturers use a mattress firmness scale to help their customers make the right choice. This scale usually ranges from one to ten, with one being the softest (imagine sleeping on a cloud) and ten being the firmest mattress possible (think sleeping on a rock).

Let’s take a look at the variety of firmness available.

Firmness scale Firmness level Recommended for:
1-2 Soft Side sleepers, light sleepers
3-4 Medium-Soft Side sleepers, combination sleepers, couples, light sleepers
5-7 Medium-Hard Back sleepers, combination sleepers, couples, people with back pain, heavy sleepers
8-10 Hard Back sleepers, stomach sleepers, people with back pain, heavy sleepers

Soft Mattresses 

Soft mattresses offer the least support and the deepest sinkage. This is why they’re most suitable for side sleepers, allowing their shoulders and hips to sink in nicely. Usually made from plush and soft types of memory foam, these beds’ more pliable core means that they have slightly shorter lifespans than firmer ones.

Medium-Soft Mattresses 

If you want a soft comfort layer with better core support, a medium-soft mattress might be right for you. Made from denser memory foam or latex, these beds are a great choice for side and combo sleepers, i.e. people who tend to switch positions while they sleep. 

Medium-Hard Mattresses 

One might say that this is the most common type of mattress out there since it’s the category most people favour as the ideal balance between comfort and support. While not recommended for side sleepers, it can effectively fulfil the needs of back and combination sleepers.

Firm Mattresses 

These are the perfect mattress types for stomach sleepers and people with back pain. They offer exceptional spinal support and stability. In general, if you weigh over 15 stone, it’s recommended that you use a hard mattress. Another benefit of hard mattresses is that they have the longest lifespans since they’re made from more durable materials like coils and springs.

How to Choose the Right Size 

Size matters!

When it comes to mattress size, bigger is always better. If your budget and floor area allow it, try to get the biggest size possible.

The standard UK dimensions for mattress sizes are the following:

Size Dimensions
Small single 75cm x 190cm
Single 90cm x 190cm
Small double 120cm x 190cm
Double 135cm x 190cm
King size 150cm x 200cm
Super-king size 180cm x 200cm

Another factor you need to consider is mattress thickness

As a general rule of thumb, the heavier the person, the more edge support is needed to counter sagging, thus a thicker bed is required. 

When choosing mattress thickness, make sure to consider the bed’s total height. Having a taller or shorter bed can cause difficulty when getting in and out of it, especially if your feet can’t touch the floor when you’re sitting down on it.

Choosing the Best Mattress

The best mattress for you is one that fits your sleeping style and body type. 

In our mattress buying guide, we dig a little deeper into the type of mattress you should be looking for based on your needs. Let’s go through the most common requirements.

How to choose a mattress if you’re a side sleeper

Avoid firm mattresses by any means. Opt for a soft mattress that would take the pressure off your shoulders and hips. Memory foam would be the safest choice here, but if you don’t like the sinking feeling, go for a soft spring mattress or use a soft foam mattress topper.

How to choose a mattress if you sleep on your back

Any type of mattress will suit you just fine, as long as your spine is properly supported. Consider a hybrid one, which combines foam and springs. Regarding mattress firmness, look for something in the medium-firm range. This firmness helps the spine maintain a neutral position while you get a bit of shut-eye.

How to choose a mattress if you sleep on your stomach

You don’t want to be sinking into your mattress. This can cause lower back issues, so you’ll want to pick a firmer one. Test out different mattresses in the medium-firm and firm range to find the one best suited to you. Your most likely choice would be a spring or hybrid mattress.

How to choose a mattress for back pain

It was once believed that a firm mattress was the cure for back pain, but that isn’t always the case. If you have back trouble, your spine needs better support. The best type of mattress for a bad back should be able to keep your spine in a neutral position. A memory foam or latex mattress is recommended since they offer solid support and naturally mould to your body shape. 

It’s also essential to choose a mattress suited to your weight, as well as one that’s made of natural materials, thus preventing overheating and promoting airflow. Alternatively, you could go for one of the best orthopaedic mattresses on the market, especially ones that come recommended by the country’s top chiropractors. 

How to choose a mattress if you’re a hot sleeper

Try to avoid memory foam mattresses, since they’re known to retain heat. Go for a latex or spring mattress, which offer superior airflow and breathability. If the feel of memory foam is a must for you, look into purchasing a hybrid bed.

How to choose a mattress if you’re a cold sleeper

You should probably consider a memory foam mattress as your top choice, as it absorbs your body heat and is better at keeping you warm throughout the night. You could also invest in a warmer duvet or comforter. 

How to choose a mattress if you or your partner is a restless sleeper

You need a mattress with good motion isolation. In this case, memory foam would be the best pick. Pocket spring and latex beds have a bit of bounce to them, so they shouldn’t be your number one choice. 

How to choose a mattress if you and your partner don’t like the same firmness level

Look for a manufacturer that makes mattresses with different sides. This way both sleepers can choose the material type and fitness rating on their side, so no compromises have to be made. 

Latex beds, in particular, allow varying levels of firmness by adjusting or removing the layers inside. You could also find flippable beds and take turns sleeping on different firmness levels each month. 

How to choose a mattress if you have allergies

Latex and foam mattresses have innate hypoallergenic properties and are resistant to microbes and dust mites. If you still decide to go for a different type of mattress, like wool, make sure you use a mattress protector.

How to choose a baby crib mattress

Choosing the right mattress for your baby shouldn’t be complicated, as long as you follow some essential guidelines. Make sure it’s the right size fit for the crib and no thicker than 15cm. It should be firm, thus ensuring the baby gets proper support. Soft mattresses may increase the danger of suffocation, so avoid those. 

Though they may be more expensive, waterproof and hypoallergenic mattresses are something you should seriously look into when buying a baby crib mattress.

Where to Buy a Mattress in the UK

After you’ve done the legwork and figured out what kind of mattress you’ll need, it’s time to make the final choice and pull out your wallet. 

If you’re buying a combo of a new bed with a mattress, make sure that you thoroughly research what kind of mattress you’ll be getting, since oftentimes furniture makers include a standard option that might not suit you. You should also decide if you’re looking for a standard or an adjustable bed, as well as what features it should include. 

How to Choose a Mattress from a Retailer

If you decide on a purchase from a brick-and-mortar shop, your search will probably start with googling “mattress shop near me”. 

This is a good option if you want a bigger selection and wish to test things out in person. It can be a little overwhelming because you’ll likely see a lot of different prices and test out too many mattresses in quick succession. 

Take your time and even visit the showrooms several times if you aren’t sure. The last thing you need to do is rush and make a snap decision. Another upside of buying a mattress from a store is the possibility of negotiating a better price with the salesperson.

How to choose a mattress online

If you want to save yourself the hassle of exploring shops and their countless options, you can get a mattress from the comfort of your own home. 

Nowadays you can buy a mattress online and have it delivered to your doorstep in just a few days. 

But picking out a mattress online without even sitting on it? Well, luckily you probably won’t be their first customer, so look for online reviews. You should preferably read online reviews from third-party sites rather than the vendors’ websites, and always take them with a grain of salt. 

What’s more, most manufacturers offer 24/7 customer support, which is as close to the real thing as possible. 

Don’t order a mattress if it doesn’t have a trial period and a money-back guarantee.

Regardless of whether you got the mattress online or from a store, make sure to try it before you buy it. Most vendors offer a free trial period. You’ll want to aim for at least 30 days to test out your new mattress.

Additional Tips and Advice

Still not sure how to choose the right mattress for you? Check out some additional suggestions and mattress advice.

Search for reviews 

When choosing a mattress, don’t just take the salesperson’s word for everything. Take your time and do your research; you’ll need to know exactly what to look for in a mattress before walking into a store or ordering one online.

Look for longer trial periods and warranties

A longer trial and money-back period can mean that the company behind the mattress is confident about its product and isn’t trying to offload one to you for a quick profit. The same goes for the warranty—a longer one means a more durable mattress. Plus, it covers you in case of damage or malfunction. 

Mattress care

When it comes to beds and mattresses, properly caring for them can extend their lifespan. Mattress protectors can significantly contribute to the longevity of your mattress. As the name implies, they protect it from stains and waterproof it. They also prevent allergens and bacteria from getting into the bed.

Before You Doze Off…  

Buying a new mattress isn’t something you do every day. However, it’s an important decision that will influence your day-to-day life. It’s crucial to remember that when it comes to sleep and mattresses, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why you need to choose a mattress that fits your sleeping style. 

With the help of this guide, you now know how to make the right choice.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

How to choose a good mattress?

When choosing a new mattress, the most important thing to consider is your natural sleeping position and body type. Pick a mattress according to your needs and always buy from reputable shops.

How to choose a mattress in the UK if you’re on a budget?

With mattresses, most of the time you get what you pay for. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent mattress on a tighter budget. There are lots of budget-friendly options which are just as good as the name-brand ones. Look for longer warranty periods so that you’ll get the best value for your money. Also, do your shopping around the holidays, since most stores have sales and offer discounts at these times, especially on Black Friday and during the Christmas shopping season.

When is it time to buy a new mattress?

As a general rule of thumb, a mattress lasts for 10-15 years. However, it’s best to consider buying a new mattress if some or most of the following applies:

  • Your sleep quality is low and you wake up tired
  • You feel sore and have back pain in the morning
  • Your mattress feels deformed, lumpy, and sagging
  • Sleeping in other beds (ex. in hotels) feels like heaven

What type of mattress is used in 5-star hotels?

Most five-star hotels use memory foam mattresses. Some hotels (ex. The Four Seasons) let their guests choose the firmness rating that best suits them. If you’re interested in how to choose a mattress that offers the same level of comfort as luxury hotels, you can always inquire or email them. 

I'm an interior architect by education with a tendency for content writing and research. Whenever I’m waiting for the engine to finish rendering my model, I love reading and researching on a wide variety of topics. I especially love writing content that is backed up by thorough research and relevant data. Given my engineering background, I'm more for the empirical data, not the "I couldn’t help but wonder..." vibe. When I'm not busy writing or drawing, you can find me hiking with my beagle or binge-watching in my bed. There is no in-between.