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Mattress Buying Guide: Know What You Are Getting Into

One of the most important factors to getting a good night’s sleep is the type and quality of your mattress. Getting the wrong kind for your body and sleep style, even if it is of excellent quality, could make getting to sleep difficult, or could see you waking up with more aches and pains than when you went to bed.

With a little knowledge, though, you’ll be able to choose a mattress that suits you perfectly. Here, we’ve assembled some of the most important things you’ll need to know about buying a new mattress.

The Different Types of Mattresses

These are a few of the most popular broad categories of mattresses available today. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and are available at all levels of cost (and quality).

Pocket Spring Mattresses

These mattresses are considered ‘high-end’, and one of the most luxurious sprung designs available. Inside the mattress are hundreds of small cloth pockets. Each pocket houses an individual spring which can compress independently. As a result of this, pocket spring mattresses are usually able to provide more support than open spring types.

They retain some of the best features of sprung mattresses, as well. They are breathable and relatively light. Because the springs operate independently, they are great for couples and can resist ‘roll together’ very well. On the other hand, many are made of natural animal materials such as wool, which can aggravate certain allergies.

Open Spring / Open Coil / Continuous Coil Mattresses

At first glance, this type of mattress seems a great deal like a pocket spring mattress. However, the thing that sets these mattresses apart is their internal structure. There is typically a wire rim that defines the overall shape of the mattress, and a series of springs separating the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ surfaces. The springs are made very differently, and are usually all coiled from one continuous piece of wire. This cuts down on mechanical failure as there are fewer welded joints to fail.

Overall, this type is most notable for its lightness and value for money. They are easy to turn over, even for older customers, but the lighter internals do not provide as much support as many other mattress types. These see frequent use in children’s beds, as they are inexpensive and easy to replace, and provide plenty of support for smaller people.

Latex Mattress

These mattresses do not rely on springs at all, but rather the natural resiliency of latex foam. This type of mattress is made of only one material throughout, which makes them extremely durable. A latex mattress should last for years, or even decades. They are also highly breathable, and prevent overheating even on hot summer nights.

However, they are fairly heavy, and can be difficult for some users to turn over. Even highquality latex mattresses can be over-firm for some people’s tastes, and lower quality models can show their wear by forming lumps and / or dents over time.

Memory Foam Mattresses

These are generally seen as an upgraded, advanced version of latex mattresses. Much like latex mattresses, they are made of solid foam. However, it is a ‘visco-elastic’ foam which softens in a very localised way to heat and weight. It tends to form fit around a sleeper, giving excellent overall support without feeling particularly hard.

However, there are a few downsides. Memory foam mattresses are much warmer than latex mattresses, and that can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially in the summer. This type of mattress is also typically very heavy, and its lack of structure makes it a ‘dead weight’ which is difficult to move.

What About Mattress Firmness?

Each of the types of mattresses above are available in different levels of firmness. This is important, as the level of firmness you select can have a higher impact on the quality of your sleep than the type or construction of the mattress, at least in the short term. With that in mind, here are the basic levels of firmness, and the types of sleepers who prefer them:


Soft mattresses of all kinds are favoured by those who habitually sleep on their sides. Side sleepers do not have as great a need of firm spine support, and prefer a sleeping surface that moulds to fit their bodies.


Medium mattresses are often preferred by those who change sleeping positions frequently over the course of the night. The mattress still does a good job accommodating your body structure in different positions, but also provides extra spinal support when sleeping on your back.


Medium-firm mattresses are generally preferred by people who sleep on their backs almost exclusively. The firmer mattress provides the back support they need to sleep comfortably.


A very firm mattress is often preferred by people who sleep face-down, those who suffer from back pain or those who weigh more than 15 stone or so. The extra support keeps your lower back in a stable, extended position throughout the night.

Mattress Sizes

If you are buying a mattress to suit a particular bed or bedframe, it is important to know exactly which size you need. These are the measurements for the six standard UK mattress sizes:

Super King Mattress: 6’0″ x 6’6″ / 182cm x 200cm
King Size Mattress: 5’0″ x 6’6″ / 152cm x 200cm
Double Mattress: 4’6″ x 6’3″ / 137cm x 190cm
Small Double Mattress: 4’0″ x 6’3″ / 122cm x 190cm
Single Mattress: 3’0″ x 6’3″ / 91cm x 190cm
Small Single Mattress: 2’6″ x 6’3″ / 76cm x 190cm

Caring for Your New Mattress

A new mattress is usually a significant investment, so you want it to last as long as possible. The life of your mattress – and the restful nights’ sleep it provides – can be extended by following a few steps:

1) Let a new mattress ‘air out’ for at least 4 hours before using it or covering it in bed linens. Let the mattress breathe like this at least once a week when you change the sheets.
2) Turn your mattress regularly, to make sure it wears evenly.
3) Use a mattress protector under your bed linen to keep your mattress free of stains and dirt.
4) Plan on replacing, even a high-quality mattress, every 8 to 10 years. Most will lose support over time, providing less and less support over the years.

After reading this guide you know the basics, and you should be able to identify the best mattress for your home and the way you sleep. Now comes the fun part – choosing your new mattress!