Mattresses Uncovered: How To Choose The Right Mattress For You
Mattress shopping can be an overwhelming task, especially if you’re just beginning. As it isn’t something we do regularly, the knowledge we do accrue can be forgotten or left outdated by the time we come back to buy our next mattress. We thought it might be helpful to explain some of the more common mattress types to arm you with some understanding in your search for the perfect mattress.
When you set foot in a mattress showroom, the vast number of makes and models can be daunting. All of them claim to be better than the rest, with new and innovative technology to give you the ultimate night’s sleep. Varying materials, spring counts, fillings, foams, and gels can leave you bewildered before you’ve even had the chance to try them. And when you do try them, people often say that they’re further confused by the differences.
Retailers also have a habit of withholding certain information that can make you think twice about buying their mattresses. This article will give you all these hidden details so that you are fully equipped to choose the perfect mattress to align with your sleeping needs as well as your budget.
- Open Coil
- Memory Foam
- Hybrid Foam
- Latex Foam
- Pocket Spring
The cheapest mattress construction you will find is the open coil. Sometimes referred to as Traditional, Bonnell, Continuous Wire or Offset Coil mattresses, these are made specifically for the entry-level market. If a mattress is less than £300, its almost always going to be an open coil spring unit.
An open coil spring is a single continuous piece of wire shaped to form an individual spring. If a mattress wobbles around like jelly on a plate, it is because it has open coil springs lying within that are all wired together to make one huge spring pad. This type of mattress is extremely quick and cheap to make, but the support it can offer is minimal.
We would recommend avoiding this spring type all together if possible. Because of its construction there is no separation or independence between the springs, meaning there is a constant transfer of energy across the mattress.
The expected lifespan for an Open Coil mattress is around the 5-year mark. Generally, because they are a cheaper product they use lower quality materials and fillings which don’t match the quality of more expensive mattresses.
Open Coil Pros:
- Cheap to buy
Open Coil Cons:
- High energy transference across the bed
- Minimal support
- More likely to feel springs
- Side bulging
- Reduced lifespan
Memory Foam Mattresses
Up next are memory foam mattresses. This type of mattress is what the ‘mattress in a box’ is made from. This is what allows them to be rolled so tightly and be packaged so small. They are a mid-priced mattress, usually in the £300-£600 range, that use layers of synthetic foam to build up a one-sided mattress. As the name states, memory foam works by moulding itself to your body when you lay on it, remembering the shape. The foam traps the heat from your body and softens which allows the moulding to happen.
This heat trapping makes memory foam a bit like marmite, people either love or hate the warmth is creates. Something that often gets withheld by retailers are the varying densities that memory foam mattresses come in. Below is a breakdown of the detail they should give you.
Density Min KG/M3
Density Max KG/M3
Hardness Min (N)
Hardness Max (N)
Companies like Simba, Caspa, Emma & Eve have all utilised memory foam mattresses because they can be boxed and rolled for ease of delivery, unlike their sprung counterparts. While they can be packaged up small, this can cause some damage to the foam such as small tears, or if the adhesive between the layers hadn’t dried sufficiently, other parts of the mattress can stick together. Overall, memory foam mattresses tend to see a drop off in performance after around 5 years. They can begin to sag and not bounce back as well leaving indentations. Due to being one sided, they naturally degrade faster than a double sided mattress however this can be prolonged with the use of a topper.
Memory Foam Pros:
- Hold your position during the night
- Relieve pressure points such as elbows and hips
- Low energy transference
- Can be tightly packaged for easy delivery
Memory Foam Cons:
- Less supportive for heavier sleepers
- High heat retention
- Not very breathable
- Off-gassing issues
- Only one sided
Hybrid Foam Mattresses
Hybrid mattresses were created to combat the complaints and issues that customers found with memory foam mattresses. Similarly, to memory foam, Hybrid mattresses retail around the £400-£700 mark. They can feature things like Coolblue, Laygel or lgel which have been designed to combat the heat trapping issues associated with memory foam. Unlike memory foam, they can include pocket springs systems like FEPS (Foam Encapsulated Pocket Spring) or castellated foams.
Hybrid mattresses aim to give you the best of pocket springs and foam all in one. Like memory foam, hybrid mattresses often can’t be turned which does mean a reduction in lifespan without the use of a topper to extend it. While the lifespan is slightly increased to around 5-7 years, but being singled sided foam, they are susceptible to sagging and permanent indentation.
Hybrid Mattress Pros:
- Offer a soft sink but quick return to form
- Relieve pressure points such as elbows, hips and shoulders
- Cooler temperatures and spring units
Hybrid Mattress Cons:
- Retain heat more than natural fibres
- Single sided reducing lifespan
- Uneven settlement due to material combinations
- Off-gassing issues
Latex Foam Mattresses
Latex mattresses begin to move you into a more sophisticated tier of mattresses. Leaving behind the heat retaining synthetic models, natural latex mattresses fall in the region of £1000 to £1500. Cheaper latex mattresses (less than £1000) will typically use a synthetic latex foam, but this won’t always be made clear to you.
Research is key here, and you want to find as close to 100% natural latex as possible to leave behind the heat retention of cheaper foams. Also, retailers will often charge natural latex prices for synthetic alternatives so be mindful when looking at this option.
Unlike memory foam and hybrid mattresses, natural latex only requires pressure to mould as opposed to heat. This means that it is far more breathable and will not retain the heat in the same way. Natural latex offers a wonderful slow sink making for a far more comfortable nights sleep.
If you suffer with sports injuries, sensitive pressure joints or something to accommodate aches and pains, solid core latex might be just what you are looking for. Their high level of responsiveness means turning during the night is easy as well as having a low energy transference across the bed.
Latex mattresses have great lifespans, starting from around 10 years but some lasting over 20 years if carefully looked after. All this material comes at a cost though, and that cost is the weight. Latex mattresses are notoriously heavy, and as such you should make sure you only choose ones that have been tap edged with side handles.
Latex Mattress Pros:
- Highly responsive with a soft sink
- Excellent pressure relief
- Long lifespan
- Minimal energy transference
- Accommodates a large range of weight for sleepers
Latex Mattress Cons:
- Expensive comparative to other foam mattresses
- Extremely heavy
- Finding 100% natural latex is difficult
- Retain heat more than natural fibres
Pocket sprung mattresses are generally the most widely suited mattress for several reasons. Firstly, their price ranges from as little as £500 up to £1000+. This means that there is something to suit almost all budgets out there. Pocket springs offer the most flexibility in terms of support, comfort layers and durability. They are never outperformed in tests and online reviews due to their genuine superiority. That’s why pocket springs are our personal preference without a doubt.
Pocket sprung mattresses are made up of a spring support system which is then covered with various layers of upholstery. Unlike open coil mattresses pocket springs are individual springs which are wrapped in either natural calico or polyester. These ‘pockets’ are what is then joined together enabling each spring to react independently of the next spring. This provides far more support in the areas that need it. Pocket springs reduce transference and movement between sleepers significantly which eliminates roll together.
The biggest issue sleepers have with choosing a pocket spring mattress is basing the tension on how they want the mattress to feel, which is not the right thing to do. While you may have an idea of how you like a mattress to feel, the support you require should be based on your weight. The upholstery layers on top are then what determine how the mattress feels.
Partners of differing weights can choose to have a zip and link pocket spring mattress where each half has a different tension. This means you can both have the support you require without one person having to sacrifice their needs.
Below is a rough guide for the tensions of your mattress.
|Wire Diameter (Gauge)||Weight Range|
Up to 16st
16 to 20st
The upholstery in a pocket sprung mattress comes in two forms: synthetic and natural. Synthetic fillings are those such as polyester, white fibre and foam, whereas natural fillings cover wool, alpaca, horsetail, bamboo, mohair, and coir but to name a few. It is important to be aware of the fillings that are in your mattress as they will affect the breathability and overall comfort you experience.
A pocket sprung mattress should also always be two sided. There is no reason to accept a one-sided model when you are paying £1000+. Many retailers will tell you it saves turning your mattress, but ultimately having two sides doubles the lifespan of the mattress. Being single sided also allows less filling materials to be used as only one side requires the full complement of fillings.
Because of the wide range of options available with a pocket sprung mattress, the lifespans can differ greatly. They should last somewhere between 5 to 25 years depending on the upholstery and construction of the mattress. Following the care and maintenance instructions is paramount to maximising the lifespan of your mattress.
Pocket Spring Mattress Pros:
- Excellent support from independent springs
- Double sided
- No roll together
- Cooler sleeping temperatures with natural fibres
- Tailored support based on bodyweight
- Long lifespan
Pocket Spring Mattress Cons:
- Higher end models can be expensive
- Fillings can make the mattresses very heavy to move
Other Mattresses You May Come Across
- Pillow Top Mattress
A pillow top mattress is a mattress with a ‘topper’ permanently attached to the top. They can be stitched or glued but either way it means they are unable to be removed. When they are brand new, they provide a wonderfully soft feel that allows you to sink into the cushioned layer. But this feature does mean the mattress becomes single sided but the unlike a normal topper, you can’t take them off to turn and plump them up.
Not only do they tend to fall flat quickly, but due to the very soft polyester that is normally used, you can be left with a lumpy and uncomfortable layer over the top of your mattress. We’d recommend avoiding these at all costs and if you want the extra layer of comfort, opt for a topper than you can take off, turn and plump up when required.
- Air Bed Mattress
Air mattresses are more typically used on camping ventures; however, they are occasionally used as a permanent choice. The main advantage of an air mattress is their customisable firmness. Just add more air for a firmer feel or remove some air to make it softer. Because you can add more air to the mattress, they also don’t suffer from the sagging that can affect a conventional mattress.
They are however susceptible to punctures and can need more attention than a traditional mattress. We’d recommend keeping these for your camping weekends rather than your everyday sleep experience.
- Waterbed Mattress
Water beds were considerably more popular a couple of decades ago, but they are still about in the market today. They can offer an extremely comfortable and relaxing environment on which to sleep, however there are a range of downsides that might be why they aren’t as popular anymore.
Some people can feel nauseous when laying on a waterbed and it can be a challenge finding sheets to fit as well. And there’s the obvious issue, the potential for a leak. This could be a disaster, not only leaving you with water everywhere, but also without anywhere to sleep! We’d recommend saving the water for when you next go swimming.
- Shopping Channel Mattresses
And finally, Shopping Channel Mattresses. Not just these specifically, but any discount auction sites, voucher sites, or even off the back of a van. While the savings can be appealing, you must be careful about what you are actually buying.
A lot of these mattresses are shown to be between 50-80% off the RRP. But in many cases, this has been hyperinflated to make the offer look considerably better than it is, meaning the mattress was never worth the amount advertised.
They tend to offer very little in the way of descriptions meaning you have no real idea what it is you are ending up with. Don’t rush into these decisions because they tell you there’s a time limit or limited quantity. We recommend avoiding these at all costs and buying your mattress from a known and trusted supplier.
Understanding the array of options that are on offer when mattress shopping is a minefield. Knowing where to start is often the hardest part. But by having a basic understanding of the various mattress types, it should better equip you to know what to expect when shopping around. If you know what to expect and have an idea of value, you’re less likely to have the wool pulled over your eyes by a pushy salesman.
Asking exactly what is inside a mattress should always be a top priority when mattress shopping either in store or online. If the retailer can’t tell you, or is vague with their answer, be wary. Knowing what is inside your mattress will help you determine not only the quality that you are paying good money for but will also enable you to better compare models in different stores more accurately. Don’t just take our word for it, check out what The Sleep Foundation have to say about mattress shopping.
Hopefully this guide has given you some useful information to help you on your mattress shopping journey. If you have any other questions or queries, please get in touch either by phone on 01926 821 036 or email us at email@example.com and we will be glad to help in any way we can.