Mattress Buying Guide

Everyone's different and needs a different type of mattress. There's no scientific consensus on what makes a good mattress, as we all have different shapes and sizes.

Why is the right mattress so important?

While most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to perform at their peak, many people are getting by on a lot less than this – but how well? Not getting enough sleep, or good quality sleep, can result in a number of health problems – mostly cognitive impairment such as memory loss, irritability, slower reflexes and an increase in illness and stress, and this can lead to developing related problems further down the track.

A good mattress (along with a dark room, comfortable temperature and the right amount of quietness) can help ensure you're in peak condition by helping you get a good night's sleep.

So how do I choose?

Though there's no one mattress that's sure to please everyone, there are some key considerations to keep in mind when out shopping for your dream bed that will increase the chances of you getting the best mattress for your buck with the least amount of legwork.

Firm or soft?

Contrary to popular opinion, a mattress doesn't have to be firm to be good for your back – there's a difference between firm support and a firm feel.

  • Firm

    If you sleep on your stomach, a firm mattress will keep your spine aligned.

  • Medium

    Best if you sleep on your back, as it'll provide support for your spine, back and neck while keeping you comfortable.

  • Soft

    Great for sleeping on your side because it'll support and contour to your body's curves.

Testing tips:

  • When testing mattresses, make sure the base in the shop is similar to the one you have at home. If you have fixed slats or a hard surface, a soft mattress will feel very different on top of that than the ensemble base it's resting on in the shop.

  • Try to roll over. It will take more effort if the mattress is too soft, and will feel uncomfortable on your hips and shoulders if it's too firm.

Which type of mattress?

There are four main types of mattress:

  • Continuous or open-coil mattress One of the cheaper types of mattress, continuous coil mattresses are made from a single piece of wire looped into springs, and open-coil mattresses are made of single springs fixed together by one wire.

    PROS

    Usually more affordable than some of the other types, though premium models can cost several thousand dollars. They're much lighter too, so they're easier to turn.

    CONS

    Because the springs move as one unit the mattress is less responsive to your body, and any tossing and turning is likely to disturb a partner. The coils also wear out more quickly than pocket springs, so it will need to be replaced sooner than some of the other types.

  • Memory foam mattress These mattresses are topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material, or memory foam. 

    PROS

    As it's a type of foam, you should sink into it and feel your weight absorbed, taking pressure off your joints and increasing circulation.

    CONS

    Because you sink in, the mattress padding can feel very close to your body all the time, meaning it can get warm easily.

  • Latex foam mattress Latex foam moulds to body shape. Natural latex is white liquid produced by and tapped from the trunks of rubber trees. This is blended with synthetic latex and turned into latex foam.

    PROS

    Tends to be durable and the materials breathe, so they are a good option for those prone to allergies and there's less chance of overheating. Latex also doesn't harbour dust mites.

    CONS

    These mattresses have a solid feel, so they're not likely to please someone wanting a softer, more cushioned night's sleep. They can be cumbersome to move due to their weight and heft. Cheaper versions can get lumpy after a time.

  • Pocket-sprung mattress One of the more popular types, a pocket-sprung mattress has up to 3000 springs sewn into individual fabric pockets. They can be customised to have two sides, of different firmness.

    PROS

    They offer good support by distributing your body weight evenly, and will support two people of two different body weights well because the springs are separate. You won't feel too warm because the open-spring construction allows air to circulate. The springs can be customised to different tensions – soft, medium or firm.

    CONS

    They can be heavy to turn and can be expensive.

What about mattress toppers?

These add a layer of memory foam or extra padding to your existing bed mattress, but they can be a very expensive option considering they cost almost as much as a new mattress. A mattress topper won't provide any extra support if your existing mattress is failing or sagging, though. If you simply want an extra layer of cushioning, an inexpensive topper can add a layer of comfort.

What size mattress should I get?

Manufacturers recommend buying the largest bed your room can accommodate, and the length of the mattress should be at least 10-15 cm longer than the tallest person sleeping on it.

Check size guide.

How can I get the best deal on my new mattress?

Take your time

Most manufacturers don't offer a guarantee on comfort, so it's best to spend time lying on the showroom mattress to ensure confidence in your new purchase. There are a few brands that do offer a comfort guarantee, so it always pays to ask.

Don't shop tired

All the mattresses will feel great when you're already sleepy!

Don't get sucked in by sales jargon

Words like "orthopaedic" don't mean very much, unless they come with accreditation from a proper medical association. If you have a bad back, it's believed that a medium-firm mattress is better than a firm mattress.

Measure up

If you're buying a new mattress but keeping your old base, measure them both to make sure they fit well together – some mattresses aren't consistent with the sizing above.