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How to Choose a Mattress | Buying Guide


Written by Kyle

Last Updated: 1st January, 2022

If you're seeking advice on how to choose a mattress, then The Mattress Guide has you covered.

Choosing a mattress is a major decision. According to a research paper✓, we spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so. Even taking sleep out of the equation, a good percentage of us use our bed as a place to chill out and relax while awake.

Therefore, it is incredibly important that we make this as comfortable an experience as possible. No matter what your budget might be, you need to ensure that you are putting together a bed that will always be as comfortable as possible for you to rest in, and that it supports your body at while you sleep and relax.

Most of this comfort factor will inevitably come down to the mattress that you choose. You need to make sure that you are selecting one that perfectly meets the needs of your body. No two sleepers might be alike, but that does not mean that you are not going to be able to find a mattress that addresses some of the concerns you might have when you sleep.

If you currently have what you consider to be quite a poor standard of sleep at night✓, finding the right mattress can sometimes be a great fix. Furthermore, the NHS✓ explain that poor sleep can put you at risk of serious medical conditions.

If you want to know how to pick a mattress, but are asking yourself 'what mattress should I buy'? then we're here to help you find the best-suited mattress that will give you comfort and support.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you have to consider if you want to learn how to choose a mattress so that you can find the perfect mattress for you (Important Considerations in Conclusion).

Do I Need a New Mattress?

Mattresses are not usually a cheap product, and it can be tempting to look at the price and decide that you will make do with what you currently have. However, there are some key factors that you need to consider when trying to work out whether or not you need a new mattress.

First and foremost, you need to just consider the actual age of the mattress, and how much you use it. If you have not replaced your mattress for seven years or more, according to some additional investigation it might be time to find a new one. Though it could still look like it is in good condition, there are other issues that might lie below the surface. For example, if you have a sprung mattress, some of those springs might be in very bad condition after several years of repeated usage. Also, older mattresses may contain dirt and grime under the top layer, especially if you haven't cleaned or cared for it over the years.

how to pick a mattress

You should also pay attention to how your body feels after rest. If you are beginning to wake up with aches and pains in places you did not expect, it might be the mattress at fault. A study found✓ that certain sleep surfaces have resulted in complaints of back discomfort, pain, or stiffness. Likewise, if you feel like you constantly struggle to fall asleep and can spend hours staring at the ceiling, you need to think about whether it could be your mattress causing such issues.

It could even be as simple as the mattress looks worn and over-used. If you notice that it sags in certain places and appears to bunch up and be lumpy in others, this is a fantastic indication that you will indeed need a new mattress. It is always better to take this as an opportunity to invest in your health and wellbeing and commit to getting something that you are going to get a lot of use out of, and most people use a mattress for a lot of their lives, so you should consider investing in a new one.

Think About How You Sleep

Before you even begin to think about brands and materials, you should think about how you sleep. How much information do you have about how you sleep best? You need to know several key things to be able to track down the best type of mattress for you, as each one can do something slightly different.

Sleeping Position

First things first, you need to know the position you sleep in; whether you're a:

  1. Side sleeper,
  2. Front sleeper,
  3. Sleep on your back.

Each one of these sleeping positions is going to need something slightly different and require different mattress types. When you sleep, your body has to be supported in just the right way. A lot of pressure can be put on pressure points such as your hips, shoulders, and spine, and the mattress works hard to negate some of that pressure.

You need to make sure that you are giving your body all the tools that it needs to do so, and that means choosing a mattress that will give you both support and comfort. Knowing how you sleep will give some indication as to where the most pressure is going to be placed on your body, and you can then begin to correct it. If you have a more irregular sleeping position, such as sleeping on your front or with a limb underneath you, then this also needs to be accounted for so your body can be supported in precisely the right way when it is at rest.

There are also mattresses suited for heavier individuals which are made to be just a that much more supportive and durable.

Sleeping Arrangement

Do you toss and turn in your sleep? This is something else that needs to be considered, especially if you share your bed with a partner. No one particularly enjoys sleeping with someone who is constantly moving while they are asleep – and buying a bigger bed can either not be an option or might not even fix the issue. You both deserve to have a good night’s sleep that you both can appreciate, and it is important to find a mattress that will be able to take good care of you so you both get the rest that you deserve.

choosing mattress for couples

Firmness Selection

The comfort and firmness of the mattress can also be a massive decision-making factor when trying to find the best place for you to rest. They can come in a sliding scale of firmness from soft, medium to firm, and the mattress type and mattress firmness that you choose can affect the best mattress that will help you get a good night's sleep. This can often be a personal preference as some might not want a mattress that is too hard, and others won’t appreciate something that is super-soft.

It is, however, worth remembering that a medium-firm mattress is most likely going to be better for those who have an issue with their back, as it will help to support them more as they rest. If you find yourself waking up with aches and pains in your spine, particularly in your lower back, it might be worth investing in and then adjusting the firmness of the mattress than what you might currently be accustomed to.

Do You Sleep Hot?

Finally, how often do you find yourself over-heating in the night? Getting too hot at night can cause nightmares and a generally poor quality night’s sleep, so it is important that you try to mitigate this as much as possible. Many people think that it is their bedclothes that are the issue when they overheat at night, but this might not always be the case. The mattress might also have a part to play in how well you are able to get to sleep.

sleeping hot

Think about it – the bedclothes are designed to trap heat in and help you get and stay warm. However, that heat does have to go somewhere, and it can’t escape entirely from under the bedclothes. Most often it goes down into the mattress, but it then has to be able to dissipate. The wrong mattress is not going to let this happen and can trap the heat instead. This makes for an unpleasant place to rest, so it is important to find a mattress with a good level of breathability.

The Basics

There are some basics that you need to know when purchasing a mattress. One of the most crucial factors you need to know is the actual size of the mattress that you need. If you will be purchasing a bed frame along with the mattress then you just need to get two that match-up, but things can become a little more complicated if you are buying for an existing bed frame.


You do not want to end up with a mattress that is too big or too small, after all. It will not fit the bed frame and will be a headache to try to fix. Instead, you should always aim to buy one that is going to be the right size from the get-go.

If you do not know the size of your mattress at the moment, make sure to measure the old one. You can then match these measurements up with ones online. Most mattresses come in single, small double, double, king, super king, queen or even emperor sizes and each one is slightly different.

Small Single75 x 190 cm2’6” x 6’3”
Single90 x 190 cm3’ x 6’3”
Small Double120 x 190 cm4’ x 6’3”
Double135 x 190 cm4’6” x 6’3”
King150 x 200 cm5’ x 6’6”
Super King180 x 200 cm6’ x 6’6”

Some mattress manufacturers work in metric units, but many UK-based manufacturers will still work in imperial ones. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to measure up your mattress in both sizes so you know both of them. It never hurts to have access to both!

Our full mattress and bed size explanation can be found here.

EU Sizes

You should also double-check that you do not have a European bed. These are slightly different from UK sizes, and so you will need a European mattress. These will typically be slightly longer in length and in some cases wider too.

How Much Space Do I need?

As for how much space you need, that is up to you if you are going to be the bed’s only occupant. Some are quite content with a single bed; others will prefer to have a super king all to themselves. If you are going to be sharing with a partner, you need to make sure that you find a bed with enough room for both of you.

When lying on the bed, you should both be able to rest your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing out. You should not touch each other, and there should also be plenty of space around you. Though you can always opt to get a bigger bed if you so choose, this should be the absolute bare minimum that you need to invest in. Everyone should have their own space when they sleep if need be.

Did you Know?
2 adults sharing a double size mattress have just about as much space as a baby in a cot.


The next consideration you need to make is always going to be the cost of the mattress. You will find that there is quite a large difference in cost between certain types of mattress. It is more than possible to find budget/cheap mattresses that will not put you out of pocket, and you can also find luxury high-end mattresses for jaw-dropping prices. Everyone will have a budget when it comes to buying a mattress, and you should be able to find something that fits comfortably within your price point.

do I choose a cheap mattress

Remember, that it might be worth it to invest a little more into the cost of the mattress. Though more affordable ones might not necessarily be poor quality, you might be able to find more options when you raise your upper limit somewhat. This is definitely going to be a purchase in which you take an initial hit, but it will be more cost-effective over time.

Mattress Cost Per Night
Taking 7 years as a cut-off point, you will be looking at ≈ 2,555 nights on your new mattress. If you were to pay £250 for a mattress it would cost you 0.98p per night and for a £500 mattress, it would cost you 1.96p per night.

As a side-note, don’t forget some of the other added costs that might come with a mattress purchase! Always double-check to see whether or not you will have to pay for the delivery of the mattress. For a small extra fee, you might also be able to pay for the removal of the old mattress rather than have to deal with its disposal yourself.

Get a Discount When Choosing a Mattress

You will find many mattress discounts running throughout the year on nearly all the most known brands. If it's that time of the year pay special attention the Black Friday and Boxing day mattress sales.


Up next will come something that many people will no doubt have an opinion on – the material from which the mattress is made. There are many options you can choose from here, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Pocket Sprung

Sprung mattresses are very popular and come either in open spring or pocket spring form. One of the big advantages of these is that they can promote good airflow, which means that those who overheat as they sleep should find that temperature regulation is much easier to control.

pocket sprung

Sprung mattresses will also differ wildly in the number of springs within the mattress. The more densely packed the springs are, the firmer it can feel and the more supportive it will be. You often find that materials like wool and cotton are used in spring mattresses like this.

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are also very popular. It is a supple and comfortable material that moulds itself to fit your body when you sleep. This means that it will be able to support you in the areas you need it most, and will then be able to spread the weight of your body more successfully across the mattress. Although there is a lot or marketing jargon connected to memory foam, research✓ is not that clear on the advantages of memory foam.

Memory foam is not the only options you will find here, however. You can also grab a latex, gel, or reflex foam mattress that will also help to support your body as you rest. These are all known for supporting you as you sleep, and should most definitely be considered if you do not want to opt for sprung mattresses.

Hybrid Mattresses

Of course, you can also find hybrids of the two. It is common to find a hybrid mattress that has a layer of springs working hard to support a body with a layer of foam laid over the top. These are great for those who want the best of both worlds. No matter what your preference might be, you can guess that there is going to be a mattress out there somewhere that meets your needs!

Be Careful
Many brands include a mini-spring layer to claim the hybrid name, however, these springs are almost too small to produce any sort of significant support.

Certifications & Awards

You need to pay attention to the various certifications that a mattress has been awarded when you purchase one. For example, many mattresses are still made in the UK. If you want to support local British businesses and buy a UK mattress, you should definitely have a look to see whether or not you can find one that is certified as being made in Britain.

Some mattresses will also claim to have other certifications. For example, organic and natural mattresses, in which case they will carry certain certifications.

One of the most important that you need to pay attention to is an anti-allergen certification. Dust-mites and other allergies can really upset someone’s night sleep if left unchecked, so it is of paramount importance that you are able to find a mattress that has been specially treated so it is not a good environment for these allergens to live in. A study published by PubMed✓ found that simply replacing your foam mattress with a pocket sprung mattress may reduce the exposure of dust mite allergens. There are key organisations that grant certifications for anti-allergen products (Allergy UK is one of them) and you should make sure that you research them to find out which are best to have in place.

The other major certifications you should look for come in top layer when you want to buy an orthopaedic mattress. These are designed to specifically help those who might have back problems. You can always get more information from the British Orthopaedic Association, make sure you follow this up so you can be certain that you have found something good.

Trusting Reviews When Choosing a Mattress

What do the existing buyers of the mattress think? Choosing to look at the reviews of a mattress is a great way to scope out how the mattress performs – especially if you are buying online and are unable to test out the mattress in a shop.

can you trust reviews when choosing a mattress

Many websites – whether they cater exclusively to their own brand or house options from multiple manufacturers – will have a review section that you can check out. Don’t neglect this as it can tell you important details about the mattress. Quite often, a review structure will stretch beyond a simple rating out of 5 or 10. There might be specific ratings on various factors of the mattress, or you might be able to read through the thoughts of the buyers themselves.

Pay attention to all the reviews, not just the highly rated ones. You would be surprised at what you can learn from reviews that sit more around the neutral area as these customers may not be reviewing from an exaggerated emotional place.

Brands can directly influence the reviews shown on their own sites. Third-party sites are more reliable, however, the brands can invite customers to write these reviews. So make sure to see how many customers were and weren't invited to write a review. Finally, by going through the worst reviews you can see how the companies respond to negative reviews and how they will potentially treat you.


It is very important to consider how the mattress is actually going to be delivered to you. As mentioned, you might find that you have to pay a delivery fee when receiving the mattress and this has to be taken into consideration when thinking about the costs involved with this investment.

You also need to pay attention to the manner in which the mattress is delivered. Some are delivered unrolled and are just carried straight to your door. They might be left here, or they could be taken inside and delivered to a room of your choice by the deliverymen.

Many brands are also offering a bed in a box delivery too. This mattress will be delivered tightly rolled up and can then be moved by yourself to the room it needs to go in. You just then need to unroll it and let it unravel so it can best acclimatise and settle. Box deliveries such as these are convenient and are great as it means the mattress will not have to be manoeuvred around doorways and corners or upstairs, as it would if it came already flat.

boxed mattress

Sleep Trials

We always recommend when choosing a mattress to look for a mattress with a free sleep trial. Some of these might be a few weeks, some might be 100 days, others might be a full year. No matter how long it might be, it is going to be a crucial part of your mattress buying process. Many people choose a mattress without really knowing what it is going to feel like, and you have to ensure that you find one that really is comfortable to sleep on.

With so many choices available online, you have to ensure that you find one that is always going to be comfy to rest on. Only by sleeping on a mattress for multiple nights, through different weathers and temperatures, are you going to know whether or not a mattress is truly for you.

choosing mattress with sleep trial uk

If a mattress does not offer a sleep trial, there is a strong chance that you will find one with similar properties somewhere else. You always need to make sure that you find the mattress that best works for your lifestyle and your sleep patterns, whatever they may be.

How To Choose A Mattress: Our Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into picking a mattress than you might have initially thought!

While cost is always going to be a big factor here, you truly need to get in tune with your body and work out what it needs for the ideal night’s sleep. There's no definitive explanation of how to choose a mattress: you need to adapt your choice to your needs to find the best mattress to meet them.

There are going to be things that work in your favour, like the material you choose, and others that might not be for you, such as the firmness of the mattress. Rest assured, there are many different types of mattresses, so there is going to be something out there that suits you and the way that you rest. This guide to how to choose a mattress should help you understand the factors that you need to consider.

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