Choosing your Ideal Mattress
Updated: May 19, 2022
Choosing a mattress can be an overwhelming experience; with so many things to consider, how can you be sure that you'll choose the right kind for you, or that, six months down the line, you'll still be comfortable with the choice you made? How can you be sure that you even need to replace your existing mattress and how on earth can you justify the cost if you're not 100% certain you need a new one?
Well, that's where this blog can help you. I'll talk you through some facts you may not already know; and I'll help you to understand what options are out there and how to choose your ideal mattress.
Did you know that we spend 1/3 of our lives in bed? Based on the average life-span of 81 years old in the UK in 2019 and an average of 8 hours sleep per night, that's 27 years of our lives, spent sleeping! So, it's no wonder we need to be comfortable - and it should go some way to explaining why I see the bedroom as the most important room in the house.
Our bedroom - our sleep room - is where we go to recover, recuperate, relax and restore ourselves; it's where we take our tired bodies and exhausted minds at the end of a long day working, creating, communicating, moving, or simply surviving, to re-energise and rejuvenate. For some, it's where they spend the majority of their time, battling ill health and/or disability.
We all need comfort.
It is no surprise that sleep deprivation and stress go hand-in-hand. When we are tired, experiencing poor sleep, or struggling with aches and pains, due to a bad bed, it is going to take a toll on our mental health. We are going to feel irritable, lacking in concentration and anxious - and that is not going to improve all the time we are putting up with poor sleep conditions.
Sleeping in a new bed can help us to get an extra 42 minutes sleep at one time; this is probably why we tend to sleep better at a friends house, or in a hotel; if you're finding this to be the case, then it could be a good indication that you're due a new mattress, or that you're sleeping on the wrong kind of mattress for you.
So, with that in mind, let's explore a few mattress facts:
It is advised that we change our mattress every 7-10 years; of course, this is just advisory and, depending on the quality of your mattress, you may need to change it even more regularly than that.
Signs that your mattress has seen it's best include:
Sagging in the middle, on the sides, or at the corners. If your mattress seems to be losing its structure, or the cover seems to be looser than it once was, this is a good sign it isn't ageing very well.
Lumps in various places - such as feeling the springs digging into you, or feeling the imprint of your body when you lay down. If your mattress seems to remember the shape of your sleeping position, it's time to get a new one. Alternatively, if you toss and turn so much that your mattress doesn't have any chance to know how you sleep, this is a clear sign, too!
Uneven or a variation of thickness; if one side seems thicker than the other, or one side has a dip, it's definitely time to change!
Noisy - it squeaks, creaks or cracks when your move.
Fraying edges or seams. It's starting to look tatty; mattresses are made to last around 10 years, so if yours is showing its age, it's likely it's too old to be giving you a decent night's sleep.
Discomfort - if you're just not comfortable anymore because your mattress feels harder or softer than it used to, or if you wake up regularly - are in pain or discomfort, or if it takes you a long time to fall asleep, this is a sign that you need a better mattress.
Itchy? If you seem to be waking up with allergies this could be because, over the years, our mattresses can double in weight, due to dead skin cells, dust, mites and sweat! So if you're waking up with signs of allergies, hay fever, or itchy skin, it could be because your mattress is filled with nasties!
As a general rule, we are advised to rotate or flip our mattresses every six weeks and to hoover them every few months; using a decent mattress protector which can be removed and placed in the washing machine, can help make your mattress easier to keep clean.
All mattresses come with a mattress tag attached; these are a legal necessity and must be kept on your mattress; they contain important information for companies and inform manufacturers about materials and batch numbers. They will also include a date, so you will know when your mattress is due for replacement.
Types of Mattress
There is so much choice when it comes to choosing the right type of mattress, it's no surprise that we can be unsure of where to start.
But we have come a long way and our options today are a great sign of that! During the 1800s, many mattresses would be filled with scraps of old fabric; before that, reeds and rushes were used to sleep on and before that cave men would use animal skins. Quality of sleep has clearly always been an important factor, as we have found the best ways possible over the centuries to ensure we sleep in comfort and warmth.
These days, we have a far more luxurious selection available to us. Here are the types of mattresses you'll find in stores (the following points are taken from an article in The Independent Newspaper):
Open spring: Also known as open coil or continuous coil mattresses. These contain one long piece of metal wire coiled into numerous springs. There’s also an additional border rod or wire to maintain shape and provide structure. It’s a great value for money option; although sides are machine-stitched rather than hand-stitched, they are lighter than other models, making them easier to turn. They tend to be less supportive than other mattresses though, so are most suited to guest bedrooms, where they are only used occasionally, or as children’s beds, where they will need to be replaced regularly anyway.
Pocket spring mattress: This type of mattress is more luxurious, as it’s made from individual, small springs housed in their own pocket of fabric. This means each spring moves independently, providing more support than open spring mattresses. You can buy soft, medium or firm versions, depending on your preference, and they are more breathable than memory foam or latex mattresses (so, they're ideal if you’re always getting too hot during the night). These are heavy to turn though, and can be filled with natural materials such as lambswool which may agitate allergies. This is a good option if you’re looking for a bed for two people, as the separate springs will cater for your different needs and weights, while they will also minimise the risk of you rolling towards your partner in the middle of the night.
Bed-in-a-box: The game-changer of the sleep world, these mattresses have revolutionised the way we buy our beds. Casper, one of the first bed-in-a-box companies, launched in the UK in 2016 and its popularity has seen other brands such as Simba and Leesa follow suit. The name refers to the delivery method; removing the painful task of visiting mattress shops and waiting weeks for delivery, these mattresses are ordered online and arrive within days.
Usually compressed and rolled into a box, there’s no need to struggle to get them around the bends on the stairs. Unravel the mattress and it will be ready to use within a few hours. They are usually made from foam or a hybrid between memory foam and springs.
Memory foam mattress: A mouldable material that also responds to temperature and weight, and has hypo-allergenic properties. This means it will mould to the shape of your body, absorb your weight and relieve pressure on your joints. Not everyone likes the sinking motion of this type of mattress, and it can get rather warm, but it’s ideal for those who need support or suffer from a bad back, as it will maintain posture and align your spine horizontally when sleeping on your side.
Latex mattress: As the name suggests, these mattresses are filled with latex foam, which is an especially breathable material, so you won’t overheat in the middle of the night. It’s also extremely durable and should last for many years. And it’s a good option for those with allergies or asthma. They can feel rather solid at first, so they’re better suited to those who prefer a firmer bed. Usually heavy, latex mattresses can be difficult to turn and cheaper versions can develop lumps and dents over time.
Hybrid: Drawing from a combination of materials that usually include memory foam, latex and pocket springs, hybrid mattresses are designed to give a more balanced sleeping experience. They often come with a pocket-sprung base and a memory foam top layer, providing both comfort and support – alleviating aches and pains by responding to your body’s shape.
Continuous and coil: A popular budget option, a continuous coil mattress is made from a single looped wire, while an open coil mattress is made from single springs fixed together with one wire. These are significantly cheaper than other mattress types, but be warned that with the attractive price tag comes the likelihood of these mattresses wearing out and sagging quickly. These mattresses also move around a lot with you as you sleep – as they are designed as one unit – so if you or your partner tosses and turns in the night, we’d suggest you consider other options.
The firmness you need in mattress will depend on your sleeping position, height and weight and will greatly affect how well you sleep. Here are the firmness options and whom they are suitable for:
Soft: Ideal for side sleepers or those who change positions during the night. The way you sleep relieves pressure from your spine so you want your mattress to mould to your body’s natural position.
Medium soft: Ideal for those who change their sleeping position during the night, as it will still mould to your body position but provide a little more support.
Medium firm: Best for people who sleep on their back, as you require extra lower-back support, which this type of firmness offers.
Firm: Ideal for those who sleep on their front, are over 15 stone or suffer from back pain. This is because it will keep your back in a relatively comfortable and stable position without allowing you to sink into it as you sleep, which can cause lower-back pain.
If, like me, you suffer with pain in the night, you're going to want to give yourself the best chance of a good night's sleep as you possibly can. Choosing the right mattress is imperative to your wellbeing and your mental health, and yours needs to offer you the best support and comfort possible.
Although a firm mattress is recommended by some retailers, you should always look for a mattress that keeps your back aligned while sleeping and relieves pressure points along your spine and joints. For me, the pain is usually worse in my hip joints and the base of my spine, so I tend to lose a lot of sleep, even with a newer mattress.
Your weight is also a factor in choosing the right level of firmness for you - the heavier you are, the firmer your mattress should be - so it’s best to try a mattress before you buy. Many online retailers now offer a trial period where you can return the mattress and get your money back if you don’t think it’s right for you. This is a great option for those who can't venture out often, due to ill health.
The pillow you use will also affect your sleeping position and back alignment so make sure you pick one that suits your needs. Speak to a professional if you are unsure how to find the right one for you.
Standard mattress sizes in the UK are as follows:
Single 90 x 190cm
Ideal for children and young adults, the single bed is the perfect addition to any average small bedroom leaving plenty of floor space free - unless your bedroom is as tiny as mine was, growing up!
Double 135 x 190cm
Made for two people, the double is a popular size for couples; however, would be perfect for (even better suited to) individuals just looking for a bit more room! The UK’s double is slightly smaller than the European and American version.
King 150 x 200cm
These days, couples and adults want as much extra space as they can get and therefore, the king is the most popular size in the UK. As king size beds are longer than double beds, they’re perfect for taller people, too.
Super King 180 x 200cm
Luxurious and offering more comfort with its extra 30cm width, the super king is ideal for couples who like to spread out and great for those late family mornings when the children sneak in!
Large Emperor 215 x 217cm
The large emperor is the largest mattress size in the UK, measuring an impressive 7ft by 7ft! - perfect for those of us looking for the ultimate in luxury and comfort. Just imagine all that space!
I did a little market research on my instagram account to find out how many people realise how often their mattress should be changed and to ask why they haven't done so already.
Various numbers of people answered my survey with some choosing to skip certain questions and others deciding to answer one or two. It's a bit random, but this is what I discovered:
Of the seventy people who answered the first question, forty-five people have mattresses between 1 and 5 years old! I really expected this number to be a lot less than this, so it's nice to know so many people are sleeping on (hopefully) decent mattresses! Well done you!
Seventeen people have mattresses coming up for replacement time and eight people have mattresses older than 10 years old. One of my mattresses is definitely over 10 years old!
I wondered how many people knew about the recommendation to change your mattress every 7-10 years and I discovered that fifty-eight of the sixty-nine people who answered do know this, whilst only eleven of them weren't aware that this is the case.
I can't help but wonder how much higher this number would have been if I managed to get more people to take part in the poll...
I wondered why those with older mattresses hadn't already changed them - although, I did forget to include the fact that they just didn't know they should, in the poll.
Nonetheless, twenty of the forty people who answered this question state that mattresses are just too expensive to pay out for. I agree with this; perhaps we all need to start a mattress fund... we do have 10 years to save for the next one!
Eighteen people haven't changed their old mattresses yet because they're still comfortable, whilst the remaining two people say they just haven't got around the replacing theirs yet. We can all relate there! I am a little confused as to why so many people answered this when only eight people responded to their mattress being over 10 years old, but anyway - I wonder if they'll get around to it quicker after the next question...
That's right! Our mattresses can double in weight due to all these nasty things being inside them! Out of the sixty-one people who answered this question, only seventeen of them knew this fact!
An enormous forty-one of these people didn't! I wonder how they feel now they do!
Three people, on the other hand, said that they suffer with allergies, which could be down to the dust, mites and dead skin they're sleeping with!
Only twelve of the sixty-five people who answered this question say that they do hoover their mattresses regularly, whilst thirty people say they very rarely do so.
On the other hand, twenty-three people admit to never hoovering their mattresses.
I bet they will from now on!
I urge you all to do this at least once... it's amazing what your hoover sucks up and it will definitely make you do it more often!
Three very clean people hoover their mattresses every week! Bonus points go to those people, considering we're only really advised to do it every few weeks!
Following the rules to the letter, eight people do as advised and hoover theirs every few weeks, whilst sixteen of the forty-five hoover theirs monthly (it's only an extra week!).
Joining me on the lazy front, eighteen people admitted to only hoovering their mattresses every six months or less! If I promise to do mine more often, then you have to promise to do yours more often, too! Let's keep our mattresses healthy, together!
Final Notes on Mattress Care
Once your mattress is delivered you need to let it air for at least four hours; this will remove any storage smells and allow its true form to settle. Ideally, you should remove your bed sheets weekly to let your mattress breathe, open your bedroom windows to let the fresh air circulate and clear the room of any stuffiness.
Remember to turn your mattress regularly; as mentioned above, every 6 weeks is recommended. This will prevent your weight causing an uneven surface and will help to stop dips from forming in the mattress.
Mattress protectors will help keep your mattress clean, prolonging its life, but hoovering your bare mattress is recommended every few months to suck up those nasty dust mites and dead skin cells. A mattress topper will then give the mattress some added luxury by providing additional support and comfort, helping to make your bed feel even cosier. You can pick from a variety of materials, such as goose feathers, polyester, cotton and wool (among others).
As already stated, you should aim to replace your mattresses every 7-10 years, in order to get the best sleep possible.
And that's all the mattress information you need to know for now!
Thank you so much for reading.