We spend up to one third of our lives in bed! So, it’s not surprising that our bed, mattress and pillows can have a significant impact on the state of our physical health! But whereas pillows are often the first thing we change or replace if we’re suffering with aches or pain in our neck or back, we often neglect our mattress.
Choosing the right mattress can feel a bit daunting. They can cost several hundred pounds and you want your mattress to last for a long time. There’s also a huge range of choice which means working out what will give you the best night’s sleep can be bewildering.
So, with mattresses playing such an important role in our sleep quality as well as the state our neck and backs, we’ve put together this guide to help you cut through the sales talk and choose the right mattress for you.
How long should a mattress last?
The National Bed Federation recommends you change your mattress every seven years and no later than 10 years. However, it isn’t actually quite as clear cut as that. How often you change your mattress will depend on the type and quality of the mattress you have, the amount of wear and tear its endured (if your children come in and bounce on it every morning, it’s going to take its toll) and on you and how much comfort and support it provides.
What’s more, your needs, in terms of your mattress, can also change. Injuries and age can both effect the amount and type of support you may need and a new partner may be a much more restless sleeper making your existing mattress less than ideal.
Finally, how long your mattress lasts may depend on how well you’ve cared for it. Many mattresses are now one-sided, meaning they should never be turned (contrary to what many of us believe is good practice) but regularly rotating your mattress every 6 months can help with longevity. Always ask any sales person for after care advice.
The key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t wait until the 7 years is up or you feel a spring sticking into your ribs before you consider a new mattress. Instead, regularly take a moment to think about the quality of your sleep and how you feel in the morning. Do you wake up with aches, pains or stiff joints? Do you feel like you’re getting consistently good sleep at night? Are you sleeping worse than you used to? There can of course be many causes of poor sleep, but your mattress can be a very important factor.
Different types of mattresses
There are a number of different types of mattresses to choose from, but the main types fall into four categories:
- The traditional pocket sprung mattress. These remain a very popular choice. They have springs set at different levels of tension to make the mattress supportive and durable. They may also be stuffed with a number of different materials such as wool, and are often considered a more natural, breathable choice.
- The memory foam mattress. An increasingly popular choice made from foam as the name suggests. This type of mattress moulds to the shape of your body but their synthetic nature can make them a little hot and sweaty.
- Continuous coil and open coil spring mattresses. These slightly cheaper options are made from a single looped wire (continuous coil mattresses) or with single springs fixed together by one wire (open coil mattresses). These are a good choice if your partner moves a lot, but they can also wear out more quickly than other types of mattress.
- Latex mattresses. These can be more expensive but can also be longer lasting and hold their shape well. There are different types and qualities of latex (such as natural and synthetic). Natural latex is antimicrobial and resistant to mould and the dreaded dust mites.
In addition to the 4 main types of mattress, there are also a number of mattress which are a mixture of the above and you should always discuss the mattress type before you buy.
Choosing the right mattress
Don’t rush this process. You will need to ask the sales person a number of questions such as how their mattresses perform in terms of allergies, heat, breathability, durability, movement, levels of support and comfort.
The other important factor you need to consider is how you sleep, as this influences how much support you need and what type of mattress you should choose. Obviously, you probably normally sleep on your back, side or front, or a combination of these.
Back sleepers. There’s a bit of a myth that you need a firm mattress if you sleep on your back. But rather than just looking for firm, you should look for something that is comfortable and supportive. Soft mattresses don’t always provide a uniform and consistent level of support and very firm mattresses can be uncomfortable, so consider choosing a mattress of medium firmness which should provide both the support and the comfort you need.
Side and front sleepers. A traditional pocket sprung mattress is often the best option for those that sleep on their side or front as they provide relief from pressure points. Some memory foam or latex mattresses can also work well.
Most, if not all, good mattress shops will allow you to try a mattress in the shop or have a trial period. However, don’t expect your mattress to be perfect straightaway. Your body can take up to a month to adjust to a new mattress and you may be advised to rotate your new mattress every two weeks for the first two months.
What size mattress should you buy?
Well apart from personal preference and whether you share with your partner or sleep alone, there are two other basic factors you need to consider:
- What type of bed you have. A bed with sprung slats can provide good support whilst absorbing movement. Whereas as a platform style bed supports any mattress, providing a firm base.
- How big you and your partner are and how much room you need to be comfortable. A standard double bed is only 135cm wide. That’s not much space, especially if either you or your partner move around a lot. A bigger, wider mattress may mean you’re disturbed less and get a better night’s sleep.
What about cost and warranties?
Costs vary enormously but whilst you shouldn’t necessarily rule out cheaper options, you’re probably going to need to spend anything between £300 and £1,000. It may seem a lot but if you think of how many hours use you get out of a mattress during its lifetime and how important it is to your health, it helps put the price into perspective.
Many mattresses come with a warranty. However, this normally relates to the quality of the mattress rather than how long it will last.
Still not sure?
If you’re still not sure whether you need a new mattress or what type you should buy, and if you are struggling with aches and pains, why not come and see us. We can take a full lifestyle history from you to help get to the cause of the pain and give you advice about what sort of mattress you may need. And whatever you do, if you’re suffering with pain…don’t sleep on it!