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How to Choose a Mattress

How to Choose a Mattress

Choosing the right mattress can feel like an impossible task with all the different materials, features, and opinions to weigh, but it's easier than you think – you just need to match up the firmness rating with your body weight and sleep position.

First, consider what firmness level works for your sleep style and body type, rated from soft to firm on a 1-10 scale. Side sleepers, for example, often prefer plusher mattresses around a 5-6, while back sleepers prefer a 7-8. 

With basics covering mattress types, firmness, and your needs, you'll breeze through testing beds much quicker.

Choosing a Mattress Based on Body Weight

Larger-bodied folks need firmer mattresses because they provide more "pushback" support against the additional weight.

But finding the right firmness is highly personal—some may find that certain medium-firm or medium options still give ample support.

The right mattress will counteract compression enough to keep your body on an even plane. Folks in the 140–180-pound range prefer medium mattresses that balance comfort and support. Look to mid-range density foam, latex beds, or an innerspring with some padding for adequate cushioning and support.

Heavy people who weigh over 200 pounds put more force on a mattress, so they need more durable ones that won't sink down as much. A medium firm to firm mattress gives adequate pushback, whether a high-density foam, reinforced innerspring, or hybrid model.

Orthopaedic mattresses are the firmest you can get – perfect for people with poor mobility and spine problems that demand a flat sleeping position.

Choosing a Mattress Based on Sleep Position

Whether you sleep primarily on your back, stomach, side, or some mix impacts the type of mattress that will give you the zzz you need.

Your body type and weight matter, too, but how you spend those night time hours determines the right balance of cushioning and support.

Sleeping Style Recommended Mattress
Stomach Sleepers Firm
Side Sleepers Medium-soft
Back Sleepers Medium-firm
Combination Sleepers Medium-firm

Stomach sleepers

Firm mattresses work best if you primarily sleep on your stomach. You want to avoid letting your midsection sink too deeply, which can strain the spine. Considering stomach sleeping already puts extra pressure on the chest and abdomen, a mattress that is too soft and allows sagging exacerbates discomfort. Choose firm support to keep everything properly aligned.

Side sleepers

Dedicated side sleepers require plusher mattresses that cushion areas like the shoulders and hips. Rather than placing pressure on protruding joints, softer foams should conform closely to your body's contours. Some strict side sleepers also appreciate mattresses with zoned layers to relieve pressure points in sensitive regions. Medium-soft to plush is ideal.

Back sleepers

Back sleepers need a balance of cushioning yet enough firmness to keep the spine aligned. Medium-firm mattresses provide an ideal blend, supporting you while still taking pressure off the shoulders, lower back, and hips. Too soft, and you get sagging issues; too hard, and those pressure points see more force.

Combination Sleepers

If you rotate sleep positions, medium-firm mattresses cater best to that variability. There's adequate support for back and stomach sleeping paired with shoulder and hip cushioning for side snoozing. If you are over 220 pounds, consider a firmer choice to prevent sinking when on your stomach or back. Don't choose an overly plush surface, or transitioning positions may be difficult.

Mattress Technologies, Fillings and Types

The materials inside a mattress determine factors like firmness, durability, cooling, responsiveness, and price.

Knowing common components helps you select the right construction for your needs. Here's an overview of crucial mattress technologies and interior builds:

Foam Mattresses

All-foam mattresses use different types of flexible, polyurethane-based foam instead of springs. The top comfort layers usually feature softer foams like memory foam or latex that closely contour to your body shape.

Memory foam conforms closely to relieve pressure points while limiting motion transfer, so you don't disturb your sleeping partner as easily. Latex foam sleeps cooler and regains shape quicker, making it more responsive for better mobility.

Open Coil Mattresses

Traditional innerspring open coil mattresses use rows of steel coils as the support layer, topped with upholstery foam or fibre. Open coil designs, where the springs connect, offer an affordable option but tend to sag more quickly.

Upgraded encased systems increase airflow and responsiveness as well. The spring support core generally gives better bounce and edge support than all-foam builds. Open coil styles are cost-effective for basic mattresses, while wrapped coils enhance comfort, durability and edge support in mid-level and luxury models. Investing a little more in quality coils pays off in the long term.

Pocket Spring Mattresses

Pocket springs have become popular for a good reason - they respond to your movements and limit motion transfer much better than open coil mattresses.

Each metal spring gets wrapped separately in fabric to compress independently without affecting the springs next to it. This independent suspension creates contoured support that cushions your body's curves for excellent spinal alignment whether you sleep on your side or back. The independent coils allow mattress makers to use thicker springs in the shoulder and hip areas to prevent sagging.

Natural Filling Mattresses

Eco-conscious consumers turn to natural mattresses for sustainable, ethically sourced materials. These use fabrics like organic cotton, wool padding, and latex foam from rubber tree sap. Innovative plant-based foams also avoid synthetic chemicals, using natural ingredients like soybeans, aloe vera, and tea extracts.

The steel coils may come from recycled carbon steel. These mattresses also forego chemical flame retardants for natural fire barrier cloth. Going with more organic materials brings inherent benefits, too - natural temperature regulation to sleep cooler, moisture wicking for dryness and biodegradability at the end of life.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses give you the best features of both foam and spring designs. They use foam layers on top for cooling comfort and pressure relief over an innerspring support core boasting stability with bounce. With both contouring softness from the foam and responsive lift from the coils, hybrids suit combination sleepers who shift positions.

The layered format limits motion transfer better than an open coil build, though not quite as isolated as a solid foam. However, hybrids sleep cooler than strict foam constructions since air can flow through the coils. Most hybrids reinforce around the edges so you can use the whole mattress surface without bottoming out on the sides.

Ultimately, hybrids aim for a flexible feel to adapt to varying preferences and sleep styles. They provide close conforming and body cradling from foams paired with the steady support and airflow of pocketed springs.


A pillowtop mattress can make your bed feel like a fluffy cloud. All that extra padding on top will cushion your body in soft comfort, contouring perfectly to your shape. It helps take pressure off places like your shoulders and hips so you can relax into dreamland without any pinched nerves or sore spots.

Unlike a mattress topper that can slip and slide around, a pillowtop mattress has that luxurious layer sewn right into the good stuff inside. The high-end ones use memory foam or latex materials, reducing motion transfer if you share your bed with a partner.

Key Mattress Features for Comfort and Support

Alongside overall firmness and interior construction, several other technical mattress traits significantly impact comfort, support, and sleep quality.

Understanding subtler components like motion isolation, edge support, zoning, and breathability allows for a more informed, tailored purchase suited to your needs. Here's an overview of why these mattress features matter:

Motion Isolation

A mattress that doesn't isolate motion well can wreck sleep when your partner moves around at night. All their flipping, flopping, and climbing into and out of bed shake the whole mattress, jolting you awake all the time.

Memory foam is fantastic at damping movement thanks to how slowly it reacts to you moving on it. Choosing a mattress that blocks motion will keep you from feeling every toss, turn, and trip to the bathroom on the other side.

Edge Support

Quality edge support allows full use of the mattress sleep surface without worrying about roll-off. Reinforced sides prevent sinkage when you sit on the perimeter. This enables comfortably sleeping near the edge or using the entire area without feeling instability.

Check edge stability by lying near the borders when evaluating mattresses. All foam beds require reinforced sides or added rails to minimise sagging. The optimal sleep surface comes from beds with sturdy edges engineered to maximise usable area without compromising stability. Evaluate options by testing the edge resilience yourself before deciding. The best designs reinforce the perimeter for reliable performance edge-to-edge.

Zoned Support

Properly softer or firmer mattresses in certain areas can help provide better comfort and alignment when you sleep on your side or back. Parts of your body that put more pressure on the mattress, like your shoulders, lower back, and hips, tend to compress the mattress more deeply.

A zoned mattress design might have a firmer foam layer under the lumbar area but softer foam under the shoulders. Or a latex or hybrid mattress could have unique cutouts in the comfort layer that cradle the shoulders.

Adjustable beds also allow custom firmness for each region. The goal of zoning is to cushion the contours of your body evenly, reducing tension that can build up overnight. When done right, it leads to greater comfort come morning.

Breathability & Cooling

Some mattresses hold onto body heat more than others. Foam mattresses are known to have heat traps that absorb your body's warmth. Look for mattresses for breathability and airflow if you run hot at night.

Hybrids and innerspring designs allow air circulation through the coils, which takes away heat, so you stay nice and cool as you sleep. A mattress that lets heat escape can make all the difference for a peaceful night's rest.

Speciality foams infused with graphite or copper draw heat away from your body more effectively. Some mattress covers contain phase change materials that help regulate excessive heat buildup.

How Much Should You Spend?

£450-£500 gets you a decent double from reputable brands. Going higher or lower depends on your priorities. Splurging up to £800 secures premium materials like natural latex that contours to your body for plush comfort. The splurge makes sense for your main bedroom since you use it daily. However, kids' or guest beds don't require that level of longevity and cosiness. A budget buy around £300 will suffice for occasional use.

Despite lofty price tags exceeding £1,000, some brands don't necessarily equate to better rest. You're mainly paying for branding and profit margins rather than superior quality. Unless you have special needs, resist overspending since the average person won't notice a £1,000+ mattress making them sleep remarkably better.

To get the best value, test in stores to discover your ideal firmness and material and compare online using that data. Seek sales, bundles with pillows/bedding, and interest-free financing, which lets you buy a nicer mattress while paying it off slowly.

And don't overlook the importance of bed frames. A supportive base maximises mattress life span, so factor a high-quality bed frame into your budget.


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