How to Choose a Mattress
If you’re wondering how to choose a mattress that is suitable for you, you might also be considering it as an investment: according to the Sleep Foundation, the average person spends approximately one-third of their life in bed.
Quality sleep is essential to health and wellbeing – so it’s important to find a supportive comfortable mattress. Under ordinary circumstances, mattresses should be replaced roughly every six-to-eight years, or sooner if the following apply:
- Waking with joint or muscle stiffness – older beds offer insufficient spinal support – which can result in waking with aches and pains. Research suggests that medium-firm mattresses may be the best for reducing pain – while memory foam or hybrids with foam can also help relieve pain at pressure points.
- Finding you sleep better when staying over at a friends; in a hotel etc.
- An increase in asthma and allergies: old mattresses can be full of mold, bacteria, dust mites and other allergens that can affect both quality of sleep and even longterm health.
- Overheating – it’s best to sleep in a cool, dark environment – too much heat can result in a poor night’s rest. Look for cooling mattresses made from material such as gel infusions, or open-cell foam to allow for better temperature regulation.
- Poor sleep quality – a 2009 clinical trial showed that new mattresses improved quality of sleep – and by association, back pain and stress levels.
Other factors can indicate when it’s time to replace a mattress, such as:
- A noisy mattress (i.e. squeaking springs)
- Sagging, body impressions or damage to certain areas = this is common in the following mattress types, where the material used to construct the mattress can impact longevity:
- All-foam mattresses
- Low-quality innerspring mattresses
- Low-quality hybrid mattresses
- Mould (this can happen in damp houses where mould affects the underside of the mattress)
- Low quality mattress material – older mattresses have a tendency to prompt sleepers to toss and turn, moving from one side of the bed to the other – and whether that’s you (or a wakeful partner) this can result in a poor night’s sleep. Investing in a new mattress (particularly a hybrid or foam model) can help to reduce this.
Mattresses come in a number of styles:
Foam material in mattresses comes in a number of formats:
- Memory foam – a flexible material that conforms to the body – some have hypoallergenic properties too.
- Open-cell foam – a cooler, lighter alternative for sleepers who tend to get too hot when sleeping on memory foam.
- Latex foam – an organic alternative to memory foam (depending on the type of latex used) – although people with latex allergies should avoid these.
- Polyurethane foam – a firm material often used in cheaper mattresses
- Combination – a mix of gels, perforations and other materials developed by manufacturers to help air circulation and temperature regulation.
Perhaps the most easily recognisable of the three, the traditional innerspring contains rows of steel springs covered by a thin layer of padding to prevent them from poking through (newer models have additional layers, making them more “hybrid” than previous models). One downside to this mattress type is its inability to prevent motion transfer between sleepers – so if you share your bed with a partner, look out for an innerspring mattress with individually wrapped coils.
Hybrid mattresses are a combination of innerspring and layers of foam, creating a blend of firm support and comfort. While not the softest option, they are generally considered a good all-rounder for various body types and sleep positions, allowing for increased airflow and good regulation of temperature. These can also be found in “bed in a box” formats – compressed mattresses that fold out once opened, making them easier to set up in smaller homes.
Once popular throughout the 70s and 80s, waterbeds went into decline due to their tendency to spring leaks. These days, waterbeds come with padding and interior fibres and tubes designed to prevent leakage and the “seasick” sensation some sleepers get. Although softer than most mattresses, waterbeds are not the most supportive and require regular maintenance.
Airbeds for nightly use generally have a mattress topper made from foam or other padding. They allow sleepers to customise for firmness, making them a good choice for combination sleepers – but ensure you look for a quality option with a good warranty to ensure longevity and durability.
When deciding how to choose a mattress that will last, look for the following.
- When choosing a hybrid mattress, look for quality, durable materials.
- Consider a latex mattress – these are the most durable, lasting upwards of eight years. Look for natural rather than synthetic latex.
- For innerspring and hybrids, check for a lower coil gauge – this generally means thicker, stronger coils.
- For foam mattresses, seek out higher foam densities (1.7+ PCF for polyfoam, 5+ PCF for memory foam).
Mattresses come in different levels of firmness ranging on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the firmest) – although this depends on the sleeper – in general it’s a good idea to “test” a mattress in-store before buying to see whether it feels comfortable. Try to get the firmest mattress possible while still remaining comfortable – and bear in mind that most mattresses have a “breaking-in” period of 3-4 weeks.
While sleeping on your back is generally considered to offer the most health benefits, other sleepers tend to adopt a variety of sleeping positions dependent on build, level of comfortability – and even personality, each with their own individual health benefits.
If you find you are experiencing discomfort as a result of your sleeping style, a new mattress can help – but it’s also possible to “train” yourself to sleep in a more comfortable position, too.
The type of mattress you choose should also work in sync with your personal sleeping style, ensuring you feel supported and well-rested when you wake. Here’s a guide on the various sleeping positions – with suggestions for the best mattress style for how you naturally sleep.:
Helpful for lower back pain and during pregnancy, the fetal position can also help to reduce snoring – however it’s generally best to lie in a “loose” position rather than tightly curled up to allow for ease of breathing. A pillow between the knees can also be useful to offer spinal support.
This position not only helps to reduce snoring – it can also help improve digestion, heartburn and acid reflux. That said, it also has a tendency to create jaw tightness, stiff shoulders and can also contribute to facial wrinkles in addition to causing lower back pain – however this can be mitigated by placing a pillow between the lower legs.
Best Mattress for Fetal and Side Sleepers
Both side and fetal sleepers can experience pressure in their shoulders and hips – so look for a soft mattress made from memory foam or with a padded topper to give the best combination of comfort and support
Lying on your Stomach
This is generally considered the least beneficial sleeping position – while potentially helpful for sleep apnea or snoring, it tends to cause neck, back and muscle and joint pain – placing a pillow under hte lower belly can help to reduce back pain – as can a pillow under the lower pelvis, while sleeping with your head on a thin (or no) pillow to reduce stress on the the neck.
Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers
The ideal mattress for those sleeping face-down should be a firm material (ideally a hybrid or foam mattress) that supports the spine without allowing you to sink into it.
Lying on your Back
By contrast, this is the sleeping position with the most benefits, helping to relieve hip and knee pain while protecting your spine (a pillow under your knees may offer additional support with alignment here). It’s also the kindest to facial skin – but it can prove challenging for those who snore, have sleep apnea or for back pain sufferers.
Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
The best mattresses for this type of sleeper tend to be innerspring or orthopedic mattresses that help to distribute weight evenly while reducing pressure on the spine.
Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers:
If you tend to switch sleeping positions frequently throughout the night – it may be that you are experiencing poor quality sleep. Alternatively, you might just be a combination sleeper – in which case look for hybrid, latex or foam models that respond to movement – but avoid memory foam mattresses, as these can make it difficult to switch positions comfortably.
Who’s been sleeping in your bed? Whether it’s children, pets, partners (or a family of three bears) – the longevity and durability of your mattress will depend on the size, weight (and number) of sleepers using it – while lightweight or single sleepers might need to replace their mattresses less regularly, additional weight can cause mattresses to wear out faster.
Body Type and Support
For tall sleepers, avoid dangling over the edge of a too-short mattress by measuring up first. Those weighing above 230lbs may require a firmer bed for additional support: a hybrid bed combining innerspring coils and foam can help: look for a thicker mattress as well: 12 inches or over is generally recommended, particularly for foam beds. People with lower body weight tend to find foam mattresses offer the best support.
A proper night’s sleep starts with a great mattress. Feather & Springs is a mattress company with a wide range of handmade mattresses that are high in quality, giving you a high quality of sleep. Contact us today to see how we can help!