Choosing a new mattress

KFavelle-Mattress_1024Given that it’s sale time I was going to write something about buying a new mattress when I spotted that blogger Kavita Favelle of Kavey Eats had just bought one. Who better to ask than someone who’s just been through the process of choosing one? This is what she says:

“I’ve spent 14.5 years of my life asleep. Not continuously, you understand – I’m not a sleeping beauty recently awakened from an unnatural slumber – but an average of 8 hours a night throughout my life adds up to a lot of time in bed. Sleeping is something I have a great affinity for, even more so as I get older and it helps reset the aches and pains of each day.

Like many Britons, I suffer from a bad back, plus some tedious shoulder, neck and hip problems to boot, all of which means that it’s important not only to get 8 hours of sleep, but 8 hours of really good sleep. Good sleep allows my body to rest, repair and relax muscles and joints that are often screaming at me by the time I go to sleep. And that’s where a good bed comes in.

The key aspect of a good bed is a good mattress.

Beneath the mattress, of course, you’ll need a sturdy support; one that keeps the mattress flat across its entire width and length (and doesn’t creak every time you move in your sleep). Whether you opt for a divan base (where the base is the support) or a bedstead aka bed frame (where the mattress is supported by slats within the box area of the frame), it’s simply a case of ensuring that the bed can  easily carry the weight of the mattress, bedding and people who’ll be sleeping on it.

But when it comes to choosing a mattress, it’s a little more complicated and, if I’m honest, rather bewildering.

I started to suspect we needed a new mattress when I found myself waking up with a back ache day after day for months. Sometimes the back ache would force me out of bed before I’d had enough sleep – making me grumpy for the rest of the day. What nailed it was a holiday in which the morning backache completely disappeared. It took a few more such stays away from home to galvanise me into starting the search for a new mattress.

And that’s when I ran into analysis paralysis, struggling to decide what type of mattress to buy and how much to spend.

It’s often said that you get what you pay for when buying a mattress, and that the more you spend, the better the mattress will be. But with mattress prices ranging from £100 to £3000, it can be difficult to set a budget and understand the difference an extra £50, £100 or £500 could make.

My first step was to learn about the categories of mattresses available.

Open spring mattresses are often the cheapest type available. The spring coils inside are, as the name suggests, open, and much of the rigidity of the mattress comes from rods or wires sewn into the edges. This type of mattress is the most likely to sag over time. As my partner and I are both heavy individuals, I quickly crossed open spring off my list.

Pocket spring mattresses house each spring in a separate fabric pocket, adding a lot more rigidity across the mattress. The individually pocketed springs are less likely to sag sideways than open spring versions. Pocket spring mattresses are distinguished by the spring count or spring density; the more the better, as your weight is distributed across them.

Memory foam mattresses don’t have any springs; instead they are a solid layer of visco-elastic foam that moulds underneath your body. They are marketed as being particularly good for maintaining good posture during sleep, but not everyone gets on well with them: they feel quite different to regular sprung mattresses.

In addition, it’s not uncommon these days to find pocket sprung mattresses with a thin layer of memory foam integrated into the mattress above the springs. This is what we chose for our previous mattress, and it gave us a very good sleep for several years.

As many people do, we headed to a store with a large selection of mattresses.
We spent an hour peering at specifications and lying on various mattresses for as long as we could without feeling completely daft. That seldom amounted to more than 3 or 4 minutes per mattress; rarely as long as 5.

I just didn’t feel confident in making a decision on that basis – our existing bed still feels wonderfully comfortable when I first lie on it; there’s no evident sagging or unevenness and no discomfort until several hours in.

All that this exercise allowed us to agree on was that we still prefer a firmer mattress over a soft one, and that we liked both the higher end pocket spring mattresses and the startlingly expensive well known brand (oh, alright – Tempur) memory foam ones.

I was sorely tempted to give memory foam a try.

But I’d never slept on one before and the Tempur came in at around £1800; a lot to spend without being sure. We quickly discovered that their “free 60 day trial” actually incurred an unspecified (but likely to be substantial) charge for collection when returned within the trial period. We were further put off when we realised that their “15 year limited guarantee” was what I would describe as a 5 year guarantee with stepped discounts on buying a replacement, after that.

We thought about finding a budget hotel chain using memory foam, as a way to test one for a whole night. That proved harder than expected.

Eventually, I turned to Which? and looked at their latest mattress report. The Which? tests looked at body support, durability and permeability to moisture, amongst other features. With so many choices on the market, I figured the reviews should at least help me to narrow down my choices and focus on brands that performed best.

To my surprise, the Best Buy mattress in the tests turned out to be an inexpensive option by well-established UK bed brand Silentnight; it has a core of miratex foam topped with a layer of memory foam; the miratex foam has some slits that create softer zones for head and feet and firmer for back and hips.

When I looked on Amazon, this mattress was showing as available for just over £200. That seemed shockingly cheap, certainly less than we were expecting to spend by a long shot.

I soon spotted a related product – Silentnight 7 Zone; virtually the same as their 3 Zone but 2 cm deeper (and with slightly more complex shaping to the miratex foam), it was also on special offer, bringing a UK King Size down to just £155 with free delivery. That’s over 90% cheaper than the pure memory foam mattress we’d been considering.

Customer reviews (which I checked on a couple of different sites) were overwhelmingly positive, and when a friend chimed in to let me know they’d bought the same mattress a few months earlier and were very happy with it, my decision (and order) was quickly made.

The mattress is industrially folded, compressed and shrink-wrapped in a rolled up form; as no specialist delivery team is therefore required, it was delivered within days.  After opening and unfolding, we left it the stipulated 24 hours to uncompress fully before use. It has a slight odour, like drying hops, but I am hopeful that will fade in a few days.

Of course, it’s too early to comment on durability but the bliss of waking up without back ache in my own bed is fantastic, and I’m a very happy customer.

kaveycarousel 100x100Kavita Favelle is a greedy Londoner with a love of eating well and travelling often. Enjoy Kavita’s food and travel writing at her blog, Kavey Eats.

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