You spend up to 16 years of your life in bed, so a good mattress is a serious investment. Before you head to the shop to start testing, get to know your options with our buyer's guide to mattresses.

Before you buy your mattress

  • A bed should be 10cm longer than the tallest person who will be sleeping in it, so a king-size is the minimum for someone 6ft or more, and wide enough to allow both partners to lie side by side, hands behind heads, without elbows touching.
  • To check if a mattress is supporting you properly, lie down and slide a hand beneath the small of your back. If your hand fits easily, it's too soft; not at all, and it's too firm.
  • The base will affect how the mattress feels. A sprung divan will make a mattress seem softer than a solid divan or slatted base.
  • Sprung and pocket mattresses are padded with fillings including cotton, lambswool and mohair. Luxurious options, such as cashmere and silk, will mean the finished product is more expensive.
  • ‘Orthopaedic' is a term that describes mattresses with a firmer spring. While some swear by them, it's more important to choose a mattress that gives proper support as opposed to just being very hard.

Ope-sprung mattress

What is it?

An open-sprung mattress contains one long piece of wire coiled into springs. It also has a border rod of wire that gives the mattress a firm edge and helps retain its shape.

Pros

Great value for money, they are lighter than other mattresses, so easier to turn, and can be turned in all directions, which extends the life of the mattress.

Cons

As the springs are all connected, open-sprung mattresses are less responsive to your body and overall less supportive.

Best for

Occasional use, and ideal for children's bedrooms, as they're less expensive, so can be upgraded as they grow.

Cost

From as little as £75

Pocket-sprung mattress

What is it?

Pocket-sprung mattresses are more luxurious, with up to 3,000 individual small springs housed in separate fabric pockets. They tend to have hand-stitched sides for strong, stable edges. 

Pros

The springs move independently to support your body. ‘They come in a choice of tensions - soft, medium or firm,' says Mike Meehan, Managing Director of Vi-Spring. ‘This means good support whatever your weight. 

Cons

Because of the density of the fillings, pocket-sprung mattresses can be heavy to turn. They're usually filled with natural materials, like lambswool, which can exacerbate allergies.

Best for

The separate springs make them ideal for two people of different weights. Also available with two sides of a different firmness.

Cost

From £600

Memory foam mattress

What is it?

The most well-known type of memory foam mattress is Tempur, a material originally developed by NASA. It's composed of billions of viscoelastic cells, which respond to your temperature and weight.  

Pros

‘When warm, it moulds to your shape and absorbs your weight, taking pressure off your joints,' says Andy Hills, Managing Director of And So To Bed. ‘And it feels the same on any base.'

Cons

‘As you sink in to the foam, it can feel very "close" to your body,' says Lucy Benham, Buyer for Beds & Bedroom Furniture at John Lewis. ‘This means you can become quite warm.'

Best for

Supportive, good for allergy sufferers and helpful for people with joint pain. It has a unique feel, so you'll love it or hate it.

Cost

From £500

Latex mattress

What is it?

Natural latex is white liquid tapped from the trunks of rubber trees. This is blended with synthetic latex and turned into latex foam, using the Talalay process, which produces the finest polymer.

Pros

Latex is breathable, so you won't overheat. Exceptionally durable, its resilient feel also makes it good for those who prefer a firmer bed.

Cons

Some think these mattresses have a rather solid feel, and they can be heavy and difficult to move. Cheaper versions can develop lumps and body impressions.

Best for

Those with allergies and asthma, as latex doesn't harbour dust mites. It also has natural antimicrobial properties.

Cost

From £600

Sprung memory foam mattress

What is it?

A sprung memory foam mattress is a hybrid of a pocket-sprung base and a memory-foam top layer.

Pros

A compromise between the responsiveness of a pocket-sprung mattress and the support of memory foam. There's also no need to turn the mattress.

Cons

The ‘sinking' sensation can put people off, which also means it isn't recommended for young children, in case they roll onto their face and breathing is inhibited.

Best for

People who still want the feel of a pocket-sprung mattress, without the natural fillings that may irritate allergies.

Cost

From £525

Take a look at our pick of the 10 best mattresses to buy a sprung memory foam mattress.

Also, take a look at our pick of the best beds and space-saving beds, as well as our buyer's guide to single beds.