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How to Choose the Right Mattress for Your Needs.

Updated on August 2, 2016

If your mattress is 7-10 years old or more, it’s probably about time it was replaced. But there are so many different types of mattress, how do you know how to choose the right one for you? This hub is designed to briefly explain the different types and their advantages and disadvantages.

Notes on mattress buying.

  1. Set aside time to do the job thoroughly. Consider that we spend 1/3 of our lives in bed (average 8 hours in 24 which is 1/3 of the day) so invest time and money into the process.
  2. Wear comfortable clothes when you go bed shopping.
  3. Try the beds you’re interested in – sit and lie down on them, move about, change position, and adopt your usual sleeping position. Do this for about 10 minutes on each bed and compare comfort and support. This is important even if you plan to buy from the internet.
  4. Buy the biggest bed you can afford and that will comfortably fit in your bedroom. A common cause of poor sleep is being woken by a bed partner moving next to you.
  5. If you have movement problems then make sure you can get on and off the bed easily.
  6. If you’re buying your mattress separately from the base then make sure that the dimensions of each match. Not all double beds, for example, are a standard size.

Now let’s look at mattress types.

Inner spring mattresses

This traditional mattress type has evolved over time but is the one we often think if first when we think of mattresses in general. Different steel coils/springs and construction of the mattress has made it longer lasting and more comfortable. And in beds, as with many other things, quality counts and it costs.

The Bonnell coil is an hourglass-shaped spring that is used in the cheapest mattresses. It isn’t very durable and can become uncomfortable and sag quite quickly.

The continuous coil is a single steel wire that’s coiled and interwoven on itself which gives a flatter, slightly sturdier surface. The flat surface may sound ideal but it doesn’t give the body the support it needs in the right places – knees, hips and neck for example. And the construction means that if your partner moves in bed you are more likely to be disturbed.

Pocket springs are as they sound – individual coils in fabric or foam-lined pockets. This varies the level of support for the body for the places that need more or less and is a more hard wearing construction. They are of course more expensive but will give a better quality sleep.

Manufacturers will try to differentiate their mattress with the addition of different materials and finishes so ask plenty of questions of the showroom staff while you’re lying down sampling the beds.

Memory foam mattresses.

You may have heard the term ‘space age technology’ applied to memory foam and indeed NASA developed this type of foam for its space programs.

The idea is that a dense layer of foam is topped by a layer that is heat-responsive so that when you lie on it, it will mould to your body shape. This gives support and pressure relief where it’s needed.

Price ranges vary widely and the big brands say they have a proprietary formula and strict quality controls for their memory foam which the more generic memory foams don’t have.

Because memory foam is quite flammable it is treated with a number of chemicals and fire retardants as part of the production process. This can mean it smells quite strongly when it’s new but this smell fades over time.

Memory foam has a shorter lifespan than pocket sprung mattresses and can’t be used with electric blankets.

The differences between latex and memory foam explained.

Latex foam mattresses.

Latex is a product of the rubber tree so it’s a more natural substance and doesn’t need to be treated with as many chemicals so therefore there is less odour.

Dunlop and Talalay are the 2 main manufacturers of latex foam mattresses, the latter being slightly more expensive as there are a couple of extra steps in its production process. They both have the great support and pressure relieving properties that memory foam has, but is longer lasting.

Both latex foam and memory foam are heavy but have the advantage of being hypoallergenic and not supporting mould or bacterial growth so they may be better choices if you suffer from allergies.

Air mattresses.

These allow the users to adjust each side for a firmer or softer mattress within the same mattress by adjusting the air chambers.

Unlike sprung mattresses, air mattresses don’t sag but go for quality as common problems are leaks so a good finish at the seams and good materials are vital.

The waterbed mattress

Water mattresses.

THE thing to have in the hedonistic 1980s when they were a water-filled balloon! Now the mattress core is filled with water so that you get more support where you need it and there is less roll-together or motion transfer – disturbance when your bed partner moves. You can also control the firmness of the mattress by controlling how full it is filled.

Even king sized beds shouldn’t weigh more than about 700kg and modern building regulations mean this is fine for most houses. They may come with a purpose-built base so that the weight is evenly distributed over the floor.


Look for quality when you go bed shopping and buy the best you can afford. Then look after it! There’s an easy-to-read article on about how to care for your mattress. It’s not a big task but worth it.


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