Choosing the best mattress

Many of us spend one or two hours a day driving, and we would never buy a new car without trying it first and checking that it ticks all our boxes. When we are buying a mattress that we will spend around eight hours a night on, isn’t it equally important to make sure we choose the right one?

Buying a mattress can sometimes seem like an exercise in guesswork, but with a little thought and testing, you can be sure to get one that is going to give you peaceful nights for years to come.


The common belief is that good mattresses are expensive, and it is true that you get what you pay for. On the other hand, a mattress is something that you use every single night, and everyone appreciates the value of getting good sleep. Good-quality mattresses can easily last for a decade, and if you were willing to spend 10 pence per night for those 10 years, you would already have set aside 400 pounds for your mattress budget. The bottom line? Allow as much money as you reasonably can when buying a mattress.

Type of mattress

You wouldn’t necessarily expect mattresses to contain different ‘technologies’, but there is an increasing number of different types of mattresses available these days. Choosing which kind you want is an important step towards choosing your final product.

Continuous-coil mattresses

The basic type of mattress that most people grew up with is probably a continuous-coil mattress – a popular and cheap option where metal coils support the sleeper. They tend to be easy to move around on, but movement in one part of the bed tends to be transmitted to other parts, which means you might be roused when your partner gets up.

Pocket-sprung mattresses

These differ from continuous-coil mattresses in that each coil is separate from the rest, meaning that they all move individually. Usually more expensive than continuous-coil options, they have advantages such as better back support, less sagging, and limiting movement from one point being felt all across the bed.

Memory foam mattresses

Invented by NASA, these mattresses are topped with a layer of ‘viscoelastic’ foam, which responds to body heat and position to help support you and relieve any pressure points. They promote improved comfort and positioning, but can be hard to move around on top of for some people. Also, it’s important to be aware of any mattress claiming to be orthopaedic; there are no limits to the use of this word in mattresses, so it is no guarantee of any extra benefits.

Try before you buy

This is the part that many people find the most difficult, but you really do have to try a mattress out before you buy it. Go to the shop in comfy clothes, take off your shoes and coat, and get on top of the mattress.

Try lying in lots of different positions that you would normally sleep in, and stay there for a good few minutes. Do you feel comfortable? Is it easy to move from one position to another? Can you feel someone moving around next to you? Also, in the same way that you shouldn’t do your weekly food shop when you’re hungry, it’s important not to go mattress shopping when you are sleepy, otherwise every single mattress will feel good when you lie on it!

Simple tests

There are a couple of good tests you can do to make sure the mattress is a good one. Firstly, when you sit on the side, it should have a little give but it shouldn’t collapse down completely. Then, when you lie facing up on the mattress, try and put your hand under the small of your back. It should just go through; if it goes too easily, the gap is too big and the mattress is too hard. If there is no gap, the mattress is saggy and probably isn’t supporting you properly.

Taking it back

It is always good to check what refund guarantee your mattress comes with. Many reputable manufacturers offer a 30-day guarantee of a refund. That way, if you take the mattress home and it doesn’t work for you, you haven’t lost out.