If you’re thinking of buying a new mattress or bed, then this mattress buying guide is for you! Getting enough sleep is vital when it comes to both mental and physical health. So buying the best mattress you can afford is a sound investment.

what mattress to buy

This mattress guide covers all you need to know before making this major purchase. While we often hear that we spend a third of our lives in bed, in many cases it can be much more than that. Such as if you settle down on the bed to watch a film, or get stuck into a good book.

Read on to discover all you need to know in this bed buying guide. It’s all broken down into five simple steps.

Your 5 step mattress buying guide

1. Select the size

The size is the first factor to determine and thus is first on our list of mattress buying tips. Here are the main options.

  • Super King: 180cm wide x 200cm long
  • King: 150cm wide x 200cm long
  • Double: 135cm wide x 190cm long
  • Small Double: 120cm wide x 190cm long
  • Single: 90cm wide x 190cm long
  • Small Single: 75cm wide x 190cm long

2. Know the types

The first step in this mattress quality guide concerns the options. There’s a number of mattress types open to you, so it’s worth knowing what these are before you start shopping.

Sprung mattress

A sprung mattress contains inner coils. This type can be firmer and more supportive, and is good in terms of longevity. No mattress shopping guide would be complete without this classic type.

Some foam will be present here, to pad out the springs. Sprung mattresses come in two main types. They either have open coils, or are pocket sprung.

The latter type is more hardwearing, can offer extra support and is arguably more comfortable. It can also cost considerably more, however.  

Foam mattress

Foam mattresses tend to be the cheapest of the types listed in this mattress selection guide. They’re soft and comfortable, but are not perhaps as supportive or long-lasting as other kinds. Like mattresses themselves, foam can be firmer or softer.

Memory foam, for example, is more supportive - and often more pricey. This type can be better for those with allergies, as the materials often have antimicrobial properties.

a foam mattress
Image by luigicora from Pixabay

Latex mattresses

This relative newcomer is another option to think about when choosing a new mattress. Instead of regular foam, these contain latex. There may also be springs in a latex mattress.

Hybrid mattress

Hybrid mattresses, as the name suggests, can be a combination of the above. Memory foam is also often used for the top layer. These mattresses contain both springs and foam for the best of both worlds.


3. Think about thickness

As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the mattress the more comfortable it’s going to be. The price will also be higher, as more materials are used. So you might want to look for thicker mattresses. Buying one will cost more, though, so this can go hand-in-hand with your budget.

Hybrid mattresses, for example, are often thicker - and more costly. They have multiple layers for supreme comfort and support. If you buy an extra deep mattress that’s over 30 cm thick, don’t forget that you may also need to buy deeper fitted sheets to cover it with.

20 to 30 cm is a reasonable thickness, and most mattresses will fall into this category. Don’t go for anything less than 15 cm, unless it’s only for occasional use.

mattress thickness can vary
Image by Luisao Pepe from Pixabay

4. Assess your sleeping position

Crucial for inclusion in this mattress choosing guide is a mention of how you sleep. Do you tend to stay in one position, or shift often throughout the night? Whichever it is, bear this in mind when choosing the right level or firmness or softness.

Here’s a brief rundown of how your sleeping position can determine which mattress to buy.

Front sleeper

You’re likely to need a mattress that offers more support. The thing to aim for is less gapping between you and the mattress. This position is more difficult to get up from or adjust, so you’ll need adequate support.

Back sleeper

Test firmness by sliding your hand beneath your lower back. Your hand should fit snugly into the natural curve of your spine. If there’s too big a gap, then the mattress might be too firm.

If it’s difficult to slide your hand in, then you’re probably sinking into the mattress too much. Which means it’s too soft.

a mattress for back sleepers

Side sleeper

A slightly softer mattress is often ideal for someone who sleeps on their side. This is because your body needs to sink into the mattress a little more when sleeping in this position.

See our article for the best pillow for side sleepers

5. Find the right firmness

One of the more obvious steps in this mattress comparison guide concerns firmness. Whether you prefer a firm or softer mattress can be a matter of personal preference. The best way to test this is to take a trip to your local bed shop and try a few out for yourself. Don’t forget to try out the mattress in your usual sleeping position!

The less you sink into the mattress, the firmer it is. If you sink into it a lot as soon as you lie down, then you’re lying on a softer mattress. Your weight also comes into it - as anyone who’s ever shared an air mattress will know! A heavier person will sink into the mattress more than someone who weighs less.

Think about getting out of bed too. Particularly if you’re older, or have spinal or joint issues. If it’s difficult to get up from, then the mattress is probably too soft for you.

6. Caring for your new mattress

And finally, we’re including a few tips in this mattress purchase guide about how to take care of your new mattress.

  • Add a mattress protector to keep your new purchase in squeaky-clean, tip-top condition.
  • Air your mattress once a week. It’s easy to do this after removing the bedding for washing. Allow at least a few hours before re-dressing the bed with clean linens, preferably with the bedroom window open.
  • Clean up any spills as soon as you can. Carefully remove any excess solids or liquids first, then gently clean with water and a mild detergent on a damp cloth.
April 26, 2023 — Michelle Fletcher Smith