As well as being comfortable, a good mattress will help keep your back correctly aligned and relieve pressure on your spine and joints, making for a better sleep and rested body. This depends on your preferences and other needs (see below) as well as your weight. Generally, the heavier you are the firmer your mattress should be. It is well worth trying the mattress before you buy, either the specific model you have your eye on or at least the type and firmness. Some online retailers will allow you a trial period so you have time to test whether the mattress is right for you.
Size it up
The first step in choosing the perfect mattress is, of course, the size. This will determine the size of the bed base you buy, or, if you are buying for an existing bed, will be determined by the bed you have.
The typical UK mattress sizes are as follows:
-- Small single (width 75 cm, length 190 cm)
-- Standard single (width 90 cm, length 190 cm)
-- Small double (width 120 cm, length 190 cm)
-- Double (width 135 cm, length 190 cm)
-- King size (width 150 cm, length 200 cm)
-- Super king size (width 180 cm, length 200 cm)
Switching a size up can make a huge difference to your sleeping comfort if you are affected by your sleeping partner moving or just simply taking (too much) space! With king size and super king size beds, fitting two single or small single mattresses can also be a solution to too much bounce and rolling together.
Some retailers who sell European-made furniture also offer European double mattress sizes, which come in 140 and 160 cm wide -- the first slightly wider than the UK standard double and the second one, whole four inches bigger than UK king size.
Choose your type
Open spring (also known as open coil, cage sprung): these mattresses have springs that are linked to a wire frame, so they work together as a unit. These are much more affordable and are good for guest bedrooms and occasional use, or younger children.
Pocket spring: these mattresses have individual springs, each in their own pocket. These springs respond to individual body weights and shapes and that’s why pocket-sprung mattresses provide better comfort, are harder wearing and longer lasting. In double beds, they have the massive advantage of reducing the risk of rolling towards your sleeping partner.
The number of springs is measured per standard UK king-sized bed and varies from 600 to 2,000. The units with fewer springs will use larger springs.
How many springs do you need? That actually depends, mostly on your weight! A larger person might benefit from a 2,000 spring count, while a lighter one might be perfectly happy with a 1,000 spring unit.
Unless you have a very low budget, even an entry-level pocket-sprung mattresses is nearly always a better choice for a double bed than an open-coil one. They provide better comfort, minimise the rolling-together and having your sleep disturbed by your sleeping partner’s movement transmitted by the spring unit. They also last much longer.
Memory foam: these mattresses are made from synthetic materials with anti-microbial properties. The structure of this type of foam allows it to change shape under influence of your body’s heat and mould to your body shape.
They are good for people with allergies and they also help to align the spine correctly as they mould to your body shape. Memory foam retains heat, and if you are a ‘’hot sleeper”, you might find it uncomfortable.
Memory foam also works very well as a comfort layer in the upholstery on top of open-spring or pocket-sprung mattresses. The former option is a good budget solution.
Cheaper-end memory foam mattress is also a good option for a bed in a guest room or a child’s bed.
Latex: these mattresses are made of natural latex foam, a highly breathable material that will not get you too hot. Latex is very durable, and, similarly to memory foam mattresses, also suitable for allergy and asthma sufferers. Usually quite firm, they provide excellent support
As with memory foam, a layer of latex can be used as upholstery in the construction of a luxury pocket-sprung mattress.
How soft should you go?
The perfect mattress needs to be soft enough to be comfortable yet firm enough to provide support without your body sinking in.
The best choice is ultimately a question of preference and habit (Americans visiting Europe often complain about mattresses here being too firm!), but considering your natural sleeping position and your body weight will help you choose.
Generally, heavier people need more support and firmer mattresses than lighter-built people. If sleeping partners vary significantly in body build, zip-together mattresses of different firmness might offer the optimal solution.
Soft mattresses are good for side sleepers (and for pregnant women) and for people who change positions a lot while sleeping. The way you sleep relieves pressure on the spine, so you want a mattress which will form itself to your natural body position.
Medium soft mattresses are ideal for those who change positions. They form to the body position but also provide a little more support.
Firm mattresses are good for those who sleep on their front, those who are over 15 stone in weight, or those who suffer from back pain. They keep the back comfortable and in a stable position.
After delivery, let your mattress air for a few hours (this removes any smells, cold or damp from storage).
It is a good idea to turn your mattress regularly (though some models don’t require turning) and invest in a mattress protector which will help to keep it clean.
A good mattress will keep you comfortable and provide restful sleep for many years -- but for best performance, it should be changed at least every 10 years.
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