How To Choose A Mattress

How To Choose A Mattress In The UK (2024)

Last updated: 31.10.2023 Reading time: 7.5 Min.

So, you've decided you need a new mattress.

What now?

How do you begin sorting through the hundreds of bed-in-a-box mattress options available online and at brick-and-mortar retailers and select the very best mattress that's absolutely perfect for you?

It's an overwhelming task, but we're here to help you 🥳

There are actually a few factors to consider before you get started, including your budget, preferred sleeping position, body type, level of firmness, and the mattress size you require.

The below guide can act as a starting point to help you choose your new mattress.

So let's get to it 👇

How To Choose A Mattress

Steps to choosing a mattress

Choosing a new mattress isn't always easy, but the below will certainly guide you.

Consider the following:

  • Budget
  • Degree of firmness
  • Ideal temperature
  • Mattress materials
  • Sleeping position
  • If you're sleeping alone or with a partner

We expand upon each of these sections below.


Your budget will play a big role in your choice of mattresses 💰

Some mattresses, like the Tempur mattresses, are known for their exceptional quality.

But they also come with a hefty price tag, and they certainly won't be suitable for everyone.

Quality choices at affordable prices

There are many mattresses at more affordable rates that are of very high quality.

Most of the bed-in-a-box mattresses that we recommend, like Emma, Nectar, and Eve, are more affordable choices that don't compromise on quality.

Ultimately, you're looking for a mattress that offers you the best quality at the best price.


Always keep the lifespan of your mattress in mind.

Higher quality mattresses have better durability and are likely to last a long time 🗓

You're aiming to keep your mattress for about 5 to 10 years, so it's worth spending a little more to get a mattress that will last that long.

Should anything go wrong in that period, your warranty should cover you.

Did you know? High-density mattresses are more durable but they also have the added advantage of being dust-mite resistant. Dust mites need space to live and high-density materials don't give them much space to survive comfortably.

Ideal degree of firmness

One of the first things you'll undoubtedly focus on is your desired degree of firmness.

There is no "correct" degree of firmness.

Some people may prefer a firmer mattress, while others prefer softer mattresses.

Many opt for the in-between and choose a medium-firm bed.

Support and stability

You need to pay attention to support and stability, which is essential for healthy spinal alignment and preventing back and neck pains.

Most high-quality mattresses on the market - and certainly the ones we recommend - offer sufficient support and stability regardless of their firmness level.

They may even feature upper comfort layers to provide additional cushioning to a firm and stable base.

But, your body weight can have some influence on what level of firmness you need.

In general, most people over 90 kg (198 lbs) would benefit from choosing firmer mattresses as these can offer slightly more stability. But, the mattress should never be too firm as this hinders comfort.

Lighter-weight people will do just fine on a soft mattress. But a bed should never be too soft as this can result in a hollow back and lead to lower back pain.

Sleeping position

Your sleeping position will also affect the firmness that's best for you.

Back and stomach sleepers can do well on a firm mattresses, while side sleepers should opt for slightly softer mattresses.

We'll elaborate on this in more detail further down.

Our firmness scale

Most bed-in-a-box mattresses are described as medium-firm. They have been designed to suit most people, regardless of body weight and preferred sleeping position.

That said, as we have discovered in our reviews, different people will still interpret the firmness and comfort levels differently.

This is why we have developed the Sleep Hero firmness scale.

This scale runs from 1 - 10, where 1 is the softest and 10 the firmest.

We use this to evaluate the degree of firmness in our reviews, which will give you a good indication of a mattress's general firmness and help you immediately exclude mattresses that do not match your requirements.

To choose the right level of firmness, have confidence in your judgment about what feels best.

Ultimately, your mattress needs to be comfortable so you can enjoy a good night's sleep.

Level of firmness

Ideal temperature

Some mattresses sleep warmer than others 🔥

This will significantly affect your comfort and quality of sleep.

Whether a mattress sleeps warmer or cooler will depend on a range of factors, including the materials used and their composition.

If you quickly feel cold at night

If you tend to feel cold at night, we would generally recommend choosing a memory foam mattress.

These tend to store more body heat than other mattress materials, creating a pleasant feeling of warmth.

But, you still want a mattress that isn't too clammy, so it's important to pay attention to the overall breathability of the mattress.

Many modern-day memory foam mattresses are combined with breathable covers to allow for better air circulation, which prevents that clammy feeling.

If you quickly feel hot at night

If you easily feel hot and prefer a cooler sleep, we recommend choosing mattresses made of more breathable materials, such as natural latex or pocket springs.

You can always add pillows or quilts to achieve the optimal temperature.

If you are a very heavy sweater, though, it's best to stick to spring mattresses as these allow for the greatest amount of airflow and tend to stay the coolest.

Different mattress materials

The material a mattress is made from affects both its firmness and its temperature regulation abilities.

There are many different types of mattresses available.

There are also many cheap mattresses made of pure polyether foam or air and water mattresses. We would not recommend these for daily use 🚫

The best and most common types of mattresses are cold foam, latex foam, memory foam, and spring mattresses.

Cold foam mattresses

A cold foam mattress demonstrates high point elasticity and pressure relief capabilities.

It is the ideal mattress for people who change their sleeping position quite often and generally sleep quite restlessly.

A cold foam mattress is also better suited to people who prefer a warmer sleep.

They exhibit low motion transfer, meaning that movements do not easily pass through the mattress. Thus, they are also a good choice for couples.

cold foam mattress

Latex mattresses

Latex mattresses are a good choice for side and stomach sleepers, though they may be too soft for pure back sleepers.

Latex also demonstrates high point elasticity and body adaptability and is often recommended to help relieve back pain.

Natural latex is a good choice if you're looking for a green mattress made of natural materials.

While most latex mattresses now feature covers or other types of foams to make them safe for people with latex allergies, we would still recommend avoiding latex mattresses if you have a severe latex allergy.

Latex foam

Latex foam layer

Innerspring mattresses

Innerspring mattresses tend to be firmer and offer good stability and support.

This makes them an excellent choice for back sleepers and stomach sleepers.

But, they often don't allow for enough sinkage for side sleepers, resulting in back pain.

Spring mattresses also offer the coolest sleep. The space between the springs creates natural ventilation channels, allowing for more airflow and greater breathability 💨

There are many types of spring mattresses available, and many of them, like open coil mattresses, are cheap and inferior products.

We would recommend opting for pocket sprung mattresses as a high-quality choice.

Mattress springs

Pocket sprung mattress

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses [1] have excellent point elasticity, allow for good relief of pressure points, and offer that body-contouring comfort 🤗

These are regularly recommended as orthopaedic mattresses and are a good choice for a bad back.

Memory foam mattresses demonstrate excellent motion isolation, making them a good choice for couples.

Some mattresses feature a cushioning top layer of memory foam for comfort while using more stable foams as the base. These are good options as stability is so important.

Memory foam tends to retain more body heat than other types of mattresses, though, making them much warmer and unsuitable for heavy sweaters.

Moving around on the mattress can also be a little more difficult as the foam adapts to your body so well. This is great for comfort and pressure relief, but less than ideal for restless sleepers.

Memory foam mattress

Memory imprint

An overview of mattress materials

Memory foam mattress Cold foam mattress Latex mattress Innerspring mattress
Sleeping position Any sleeping position Any sleeping position Side and stomach sleepers Stomach and back sleepers
Sleep behaviour Calm Mostly restless Calm and restless Calm
Sleeping climate Warmer due to heat storage Warmer due to heat storage Cooler due to ventilation Cooler due to ventilation
Feeling of lying down Firm but with a soft feeling. High body adaptability and point elasticity. Medium-firm. Good body adaptability and point elasticity. Medium-firm with softness. Good adaptability to body contours. A relatively firm lying sensation with minimal sinkage into the mattress.
Health For back problems and orthopaedic complaints. Recommended for back problems. Recommended for back problems. Not recommended for back problems.

Preferred sleeping position

Your preferred sleeping position will significantly impact your choice of mattress.

Always keep in mind that your ideal mattress will support the natural curvature of your spine.

Many high-quality mattresses are also divided into contour zones, allowing your body to sink in more deeply where it's heavier and be more supported where it's lighter.

This will help your spine remain in its correct alignment 📏

The firmness of the mattress and your body weight greatly influence how your body sinks into the bed.

Most high quality-mattresses will be suitable for a wide range of sleeping positions, but the following advice will also guide you.

Side sleepers

If you sleep on your side, you will need to be able to sink into the mattress much more deeply than someone who only sleeps on their back or stomach.

This additional sinkage will allow your spine to remain in healthy alignment.

Softer mattresses are the preferred choice for side sleepers.

Back and stomach sleepers

If you sleep on your stomach or your back, you'll require a little more support to prevent the formation of a hollow back.

Instead of sinking in, the hips require a little more lift to aid healthy spinal alignment.

The optimal mattress for back and stomach sleepers is slightly firmer.

Firmness according to sleeping position

Sharing your bed with a partner

Is the mattress only for you, or are you sharing your bed with a partner?

Of course, if it's only for you, then you can make all the executive decisions and choose a mattress that's perfect for you.

But if you're sharing the mattress with your partner, you'll need to agree on the right degree of firmness and optimal temperature.

This isn't always easy.

To help you, we've created a guide to choosing the best mattresses for couples 👩‍❤️‍👨

Customisable mattresses

Some modern mattress brands have a unique solution for couples.

They offer customisable mattresses, where you can specify the degree of firmness for each half of the bed.

In this way, you and your partner can both enjoy the perfect degree of firmness.

The mattresses are also expertly assembled, so they're as sleek, stylish, and comfortable as the rest.

Two separate mattresses

If you and your partner have vastly different body sizes or sleeping requirements, then you may wish to invest in two separate single mattresses instead.

In this way, both partners can choose the mattress that's perfect for them.

How do I know if I've chosen the right mattress?

One of the best things about buying your mattress online is that you can try the bed at home during the risk-free trial period.

These trial periods range from 30 to 100 days or even longer, depending on the manufacturer.

Nectar, for example, gives you a full 365 days to try the mattress!

This gives you enough time to find out if the mattress is right for you.

And if you're not completely satisfied, you can return the mattress and receive a full refund 💵

But how do you test the mattress?

The mattress that suits you will meet the following criteria:

  • You feel comfortable and relaxed, regardless of which position you sleep in.
  • You won't feel like you're sleeping in a bowl (the so-called "hammock effect", which is detrimental to your spine).
  • You can easily slide your hand under the small of your back.
  • You can't push your elbows into the mattress too deeply.

Don't give up on your new mattress too easily.

It takes a minimum of ten days to adapt to a new mattress, especially if the material is different from what you had before.

Some people may need up to three weeks to become accustomed to their new mattress and form a good opinion.

So take your time.

After all, your new mattress will be your source of comfort for a long time to come.

How do I protect my new mattress?

If you've chosen a new mattress and you're happy with it, then you'll want to protect your purchase.

After all, if you've chosen a high-density, high-quality mattress that will last you a long time, you want to take good care of it.

Here a few tips:

  • If you've purchased a mattress that requires flipping, make sure you flip your mattress and rotate it regularly (once every 3-6 months).
  • If you've purchased a non-flip mattress, rotate it at 180° regularly (once every 3-6 months).
  • If you've purchases a mattress with a removable and machine-washable cover (which we'd recommend), wash this cover regularly.
  • Invest in a high-quality waterproof mattress protector to further safeguard your mattress against stains, spills, dirt, and bacteria.
  • Wash your mattress protector regularly.
  • Wash your bedding once a week - or at least once every two weeks 🛁
  • Air your mattress regularly.
  • Invest in a good quality bed frame that allows for air circulation (which prevents mould).

If you take good care of your mattress, it will provide you with years of comfort and support.


While the right mattress for you is essentially a matter of personal preference, we can help you find the best one.

Always consider the following:

  • Budget
  • Degree of firmness
  • Ideal temperature
  • Mattress materials
  • Sleeping position
  • If you're sleeping alone or with a partner

While these factors will act as guidelines, the only way to see if a mattress is right for you is by trying it out.

That's why we always recommend making use of the risk-free trial periods that come standard with most bed-in-a-box mattresses.

Frequently asked questions

  • Which mattress is the best for a bad back?

    We are sleep enthusiasts and not orthopaedists, but we know that the right orthopaedic mattress can help support your spine, ease pressure points, and relax your muscles.

    Memory foam mattresses are great orthopaedic choices as they allow for body-hugging comfort.

    Also, choose mattresses with a cold foam base with five or seven comfort zones, which help keep your spine in its optimal alignment. 

  • My partner is much heavier than I am. What mattress should we choose?

    If there are major differences in body weight, then definitely consider joining two mattresses of a smaller size, like the standard 90 x 190 cm single mattresses.

    This allows both you and your partner to choose a mattress that supports you perfectly.

    If the gap between the mattresses becomes a problem, you can simply add in a bed bridge.

    A mattress topper can also help, but be sure to pay attention to the topper's material. 

  • What's the best mattress size?

    There is no such thing as the best mattress size.

    The right mattress size for you depends on your preferences and personal requirements.

    We elaborate on all the standard UK mattress sizes in more detail in the links below:

    Some brands also offer custom sizes in case you need an extra-length mattress or have an unusual bed size.

  • What should you do with your old mattress?

    Of course, if you're buying a new mattress, you'll have to find a way to dispose of your old mattress.

    Many mattress brands offer removal services, where they pick up your old mattress when they deliver your new one.

    These are usually recycled or donated to charity. 

    You can also read our article on the disposal of mattresses if you'd like to recycle or throw away your old mattress yourself.

  • References



Editor & Certified Sleep Therapist

Nicky is an experienced writer and editor with numerous qualifications. As a certified sleep coach, her interests lie in understanding how sleep problems arise from hormonal and environmental issues, particularly as part of stress and anxiety management.

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personJennifer Lynch
May 2024 thumb up
Helped me to consider all factors when buying a mattress for my elderly mum


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