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How to Choose the Right Mattress

How to Choose the Right Mattress

Look at any mattress site or walk into any bedding centre and you’ll be overwhelmed with choice. Firm or soft? Super-king or Queen size? Memory foam or pocketed springs? Without a bit of guidance, buying a mattress can be a minefield! With all this choice on offer, how do you decide which mattress is best?

This guide on how to choose a mattress will cut through the jargon and give you the simple facts, helping you make a more informed choice.

What mattress is best?

We’ll take a look at the considerations you need, including personal details such as what kind of sleeper you are, whether you have a medical condition that could benefit from a particular type of mattress, allergies, and your size. And if you have any more questions, you can always chat with our friendly team at MattressNextDay, who’ll be pleased to help you.

What kind of sleeper am I?

You can be a wriggler or a planker, have allergies or back problems, or prefer to sleep on your side. The type of sleeper you are will have a big influence on what mattress is best for you. Don’t forget your partner too – their needs may be very different from your own so mattress buying may have to be a bit of a compromise.

Side sleepers

If you sleep on your side then the most important thing you’ll need is good support that doesn’t put undue pressure on your hips, shoulders and lower back. The aim is to keep your spine in what is known as the ‘neutral position’, meaning it’s kept in line with your head and neck. To achieve that cradling effect, a memory foam mattress or topper is the ideal choice, rather than a traditional pocket sprung design.

Back and front sleepers

If you prefer to sleep on your back or your front, you’ll need a combination of comfort and support when you’re mattress buying. A medium firmness sprung mattress ticks all the right boxes, or you can combine a firm mattress for support with a mattress topper for that extra comfort. Make sure there’s little or no gap between your back or front and the mattress surface. The easiest way to test this is to lie on the mattress and then try to get your hand between your body and the mattress top. If you can, it may be too firm.


If you have allergies to dust, mites, or suffer from a respiratory condition such as asthma, it’s important to choose the right mattress that includes a hypoallergenic element. That can either be the materials the mattress is made from, such as memory foam, or a hypoallergenic cover combined with good ventilation and air circulation. If you’re allergic to Latex then the obvious advice is to avoid any mattresses that use Latex in their construction and go for natural fibre mattresses.

Back pain

If you suffer from back pain then a common misconception is that the harder the mattress, the better it is for you. This isn’t always true. You’ll need to think about what kind of back pain you suffer from and talk to a professional on which mattress is best for your condition.


You might like a soft mattress, but your partner may prefer a firmer, more supportive feel. When you’re mattress buying, consider options that’ll suit both of you. If necessary, think about zip and link mattresses, that allow you to customise your sleeping experience.


If you suffer from hot flushes or night sweats, it can ruin a good night’s sleep. There are various types of mattresses that have optimised airflow or specialist cooling gel construction, such as CoolFlex, that will help you stay cool and comfortable all night long.

What tension do I need?

By tension, we actually mean the firmness rating. There are a variety of firmness ratings, but the three basic levels are:

  • Soft mattress – these are suitable for lighter people up to around 8 stone or 50kg, so if you’re looking for mattresses for children, this is a suitable choice.
  • Medium mattress – The most common firmness rating and suitable for people up to around 16 stone or 100kg. These provide a balance of support and cushioning, and are often combination mattresses that include both springs and memory foam.
  • Firm mattress – Suitable for heavier users (above 16 stone or 100kg) or for those who simply prefer a firmer feel, they’re usually multi-layered constructions with a sprung core and additional sprung top layers.

Manufacturers also include intermediate ratings (such as medium/soft or medium/firm) and extra-firm options are also available. Bear in mind that the extra-firm rating can actually aggravate a long-term back condition. If your mattress isn’t soft enough, you can always supplement it with a mattress topper.

What size do I need?

The size of mattress for your bed will depend on your bed’s dimensions. The basic UK sizes are:

Small Single Mattress75 x 90cm / 30" x 75" / 2'6" x 6'3"
Standard Single Mattress90 x 190cm / 36" x 75" / 3' x 6'3"
Small Double Mattress120 x 190cm / 48" x 75" / 4' x 6'3"
Standard Double Mattress135 x 190 cm / 54" x 75" / 4'6" x 6'3
King Size Mattress150 x 200 cm / 60" x 78" / 5' x 6'6"
Super King Mattress180 x 200 cm / 72" x 78" / 6' x 6'6"
Queen Mattress152 x 203 cm / 60" x 80" / 5' x 6'8"
CustomMade to order

If you’re taller and find that your feet are hanging off the end of your mattress when you lie flat then you need to consider a larger size. While most single and standard double sizes will be fine for the majority of people, those over six foot may find a king-size or even a super-king more comfortable.

What are the different types of mattress?

There are four main types of mattress: sprung, memory foam, hybrid and natural fibre construction, which includes latex options.

Pocket sprung

Invented back in the mid-1800s, the pocket sprung mattress is the traditional type of mattress using coiled wire springs that are either woven into a matrix or, more commonly in the best types of mattresses, individually positioned in their own cloth pockets. Usually firmer than other types of mattresses.

Memory foam

Created for the NASA space program, the foam mattress is now hugely popular. It’s a dense foam that as soon as pressure or weight is removed, returns to its original shape.


These mattresses use both springs and foam layers and are one of the best types of all-purpose mattress. They are available in a range of firmness ratings.

Latex and natural fibre

These use natural fibres in the construction, and latex mattress options use this natural and sustainable resource as their top layer. They are one of the best mattresses for those who suffer from allergies or respiratory conditions. They create a hostile environment for bugs, mites, dust and canker.

Do I need a different mattress for a child?

Not necessarily – children’s mattresses are made in exactly the same way as adult versions! They tend to be a little softer than the average adult’s mattress, but shouldn’t be too soft to avoid aches and pains disturbing your child’s sleep patterns.

What are the best mattresses for back pain?

Orthopaedic mattresses are designed to help relieve back pain. However, the type of ortho mattress you choose depends on the type of back pain you’re suffering from, and whether it’s acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term). It will also depend on where you suffer from back pain.

Upper back pain

Focused on the neck and shoulders, this can be remedied by ensuring the neck and head are level and well supported, rather than angled. Make sure your pillows are good quality and provide the right level of support. A memory foam pillow may be the best option for upper back pain.

Middle lumbar pain

If you sleep on your back or stomach then remember the tip we gave you earlier and ensure there’s no excess space between the surface of the mattress and your back or stomach. By ensuring you have full contact you should be able to ease or even eliminate middle back pain with a medium or medium/firm mattress.

Lower back pain

This is the most common form of back pain and may require a consultation with your GP to ascertain whether it’s a short-term issue or a long-term problem. Memory foam and hybrid mattresses will give you cushioned support, but you may require a firmer level of support for long-term conditions.

Do all mattresses need turning?

No. Double-sided mattresses (hybrids that have a central core and then repeating layers on both sides or those that use a spring matrix) should be flipped and turned every six months or so to maximise their lifespan and avoid lumps and dips from forming. However, single-sided mattresses (usually memory foam or latex) only need to be rotated from head to toe every few months to achieve the same result.

How much does a good mattress cost?

A new mattress is an investment, and the more you pay, the better the quality. With so many types of mattresses available, you can spend as much or as little as you want. A higher-quality mattress will cost more, especially if you factor in advanced features such as CoolGel layers or natural fibres.

The best way to find the right mattress for you is to go online and do a little bit of research into mattress brands. Why not take a tour around MattressNextDay, where you’ll find all the information you need on each of our mattresses, to help you choose the right one for you?

Buying the right mattress means that all-important good night’s sleep isn’t compromised – and in our opinion, that’s worth every penny!

If you are unsure on whether you need a new mattress, check out our guide on how often should you change your mattress.

Author: Lucy

Lucy is a copywriter, trend spotter, and our resident sleep expert! Lucie has been with the team since 2018 and her articles cover a sweeping array of subjects from general product care, the latest bedroom design trends, ways to promote healthier sleep and jargon-busting explanations to help you understand what goes into our products. Do you have questions for Lucy & the team? Call one of our sleep experts today!