Everyone knows that we generally need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function well during the day. However, just because we’re getting the right quantity of sleep, doesn’t mean that we’re getting the best quality of sleep.
Having the right mattress for you can significantly improve your quality of sleep and make your waking hours happier, healthier and more productive. It’s important to replace your mattress when it’s no longer providing you with the quality of support you need.
So it’s time to get a new mattress! But which one? Mattresses are more complicated than they may seem. Many retailers and manufacturers claim that certain mattresses make you sleep better, or give you better back support. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a universally good mattress. It’s very subjective and depends entirely on what you need and what you find comfortable for the best sleep.
When should I replace my mattress?
How long a mattress lasts before you need a new one depends on a number of factors, such as the original quality and how much it’s used. A general rule of thumb is to replace your mattress after seven years, however higher quality mattresses can last as long as double that.
If you’re waking up tired, sore and irritable, it may be because your mattress just isn’t giving you the support it used to. This may be an indication that it’s time to start looking into replacing it.
What kinds of mattresses are there?
There are several main types of mattresses based on construction. However, many mattresses (particularly at the higher end) combine different types, for example coil mattresses with memory foam layers. Innovations in mattress technology and new designs mean that there’s quite a lot of different ways to build a mattress. First of all though, it’s important to understand the main types.
These are the traditional and most common kinds of mattresses. The support is provided by metal coils, which can be configured in a number of ways. The most basic are the continuous and open-coil types.
Continuous coils are made from a single piece of wire looped into strings, while open-coils are made of a bed of individual coils connected with one wire. These are generally the cheapest, but are most likely to disturb your sleeping partner and generally lose their support quality fastest. Independently pocketed springs address these issues by allowing each individual coil to respond separately to load and movement.
Quality can be measured by two metrics. Firstly, wire gauge: the lower the gauge, the less give the coils have and the firmer the mattress. Secondly, the number of coils, which according to manufacturers, correlates to quality of support and capacity of the bed to contour to your body.
On top of the coils, a comfortable sleeping surface is made with foams, padding and stuffing. This can range from simple quilting to layers of memory foam or latex.
|Retain less heat
|Move as one unit, meaning they are less responsive to your body
|More affordable at the basic end
|Tend to wear out faster than other mattress types
|Allow easiest movement while in bed||More prone to disturbing a sleeping partner when you move|
Made of a NASA-developed material called visco foam, memory foam mattresses contour to your shape and distribute your weight evenly over its surface. The ‘memory foam’ is used in the upper layer, which is then supported by a denser non-memory base foam. If it were all memory, you would sink to the bottom! Different memory foam mattresses may have multiple layers, and some have air channels cut in to reduce heat.
The key metric to look for is foam density. Lower density foam is more prone to breakdown and may not offer the best support, while too high may be too firm. There are a couple of sub-categories of memory foam mattresses:
- Standard – the traditional visco foam, with a slow response time
- Plant-based – uses natural oils which makes it more breathable and respond faster
- Gel infused – combines gel and memory foam, marketed as a cooler sleep
|Long-lasting with low motion transfer
|Tend to be hotter
|Don’t place extra pressure on heavier body points, which makes them great for people with back problems and other aches and pains||More expensive to buy
The construction of latex mattresses is pretty simple. A pure latex mattress is made of only latex foam for both the support core and comfort layers, which may or may not be glued together. The latex liquid used is either 100% natural latex, synthetic latex, or a blend of both. Many prefer natural latex due to its durable, eco-friendly, and hypoallergenic properties however this is usually more expensive and difficult to find. There are two types of manufacturing processes:
- Dunlop – the original method produces a durable, often firm mattress
- Talalay – a more controlled method which produces a mattress that is said to be more consistent
The Talalay type tends to cost more, but reviews suggest that both tend to perform similarly.
|Durable (lasting 15+ years)||Can be difficult to find|
|Same benefits as memory foam but without the heat retention and slow response time||More expensive to buy
Sleep Number/Adjustable Air Beds
Unlike the air mattresses used for camping, air beds for permanent use in the home look like conventional beds with padding and upholstery. The support system is an adjustable air chamber, which can be adjusted for different levels of firmness. They often allow separate control of each side of the bed so that both members of a couple can meet their support needs. The most famous type of air bed is Sleep Number, but there are multiple manufacturers on the market.
|Durable||Require more maintenance than other mattresses|
|Highly adaptable to different and changing support needs||More expensive to buy
What type of mattress do I need?
Firm vs soft
A common misconception is that the firmer the mattress is, the better the support. It actually depends on how you sleep. The most important thing is to keep your spine straight and supported, so depending on the position in which you usually sleep, you’ll need a different kind of support to best protect your back. How do you sleep?
- On your stomach – A firm mattress will keep your spine aligned
- On your back – A medium mattress will support your spine and back while also being comfortable
- On your side – A soft mattress is best for side-sleepers, as it can contour to your body and sink in in the right places to keep your spine aligned.
Mattresses for bad backs
If you have back problems or other issues with aches and pains, you need to be particularly careful with your mattress choice. Too firm may put too much pressure on the body which can enhance or trigger pain, while too soft may be insufficient support for your bones and joints.
Latex mattresses rate well for back pain due to their springy action. The spongy material contours well to the body and maximises body contact to relieve pressure points and better align the spine. Memory foam is also a good choice for bad backs, particularly high density foam types. Low-density memory foam provides poorer support and pain relief.
Injured, weak and mobility-impaired people may prefer a firmer mattress, as it makes it easier to get out of bed, compared to soft sink-in mattresses.
How much do mattresses cost?
Even within a particular category, there’s a wide price range. Generally speaking you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean you should just go out and buy the most expensive mattress you can find. Below is a ballpark price range for each broad type. Bear in mind that both of the coil types include prices for hybrids (coil support with memory foam, latex, or other comfort features).
|Type of mattress||Single
|Continuous/open coil||$119 – $3,299||$169 -$3,999||$199 – $4499||$299 – $5,999|
|Pocket coil||$249 – $6,899||$349 – $7,999||$399 – $8,999||$1,449 – $11,499|
|Memory foam||$449 – $3,899||$599 – $3,499||$699 – $4,799||$799 – $5,999|
|Latex foam||$549 – $1,195||$699 – $2,295||$749 – $2,695||$849 – $3,295|
|Air bed||$499 – $1,499||$699 – $4,425||$799 – $7,099||$1,299 – $9,499|
As you can see, there’s a wide range of prices depending on type, so you’ll need to carefully weigh up how much you’re willing to spend versus the features you want in your mattress.
How to pick the best mattress?
It’s a good idea to do your research first, reading product details and reviews to help you make a shortlist based on your needs. Then you can go into a retail store or display room to test out mattresses with a clear idea of what you’re looking for.
It’s also important to note that many manufacturers produce product lines exclusively for certain retailers, or have a line under one name at one retailer and a different name at the other when they’re actually just the same product. Below are some of the major mattress brands available in Australia:
Sealy produces hybrid coil mattresses with latex and memory foam. The range starts with basic pocketed coil mattresses from around $340 for the Sealy Starlight single, and covers a broad range of budgets and technologies, up to the pinnacle Sealy Crown Jewel mattress at approximately $19,200 for a king size.
SleepMaker produces mostly hybrids with memory foam and Dunlop latex. These start from around $490 for the East Comfort single, an open coil mattress with Dunlop foam comfort layers. The range extends up to the Trinity with Miracoil 5-zone spring unit, gel, graphene and medium Dunlop comfort layers, and high density foam box edge support for around $3,499 for a king size.
IKEA produces a simple range of basic memory foam, latex and spring mattresses. These no-frills options may work out great for you if your needs are simple. Single beds start at $549 for the Matrand latex, $449 for the Myrbacka memory foam, $119 for the Hafslo open coil, and $249 for the Hövåg pocket spring, with no mattress over $1,000.
Serta produces a wide range of mattresses including traditional continuous coils, gel-infused memory foams and hybrids. They tend to sit at the higher end of the price scale. The range starts with continuous coil mattresses, such as the Serta Icon at $1,749 for a single, up to $11,499 for the Serta Avant Garde San Sebastian with pocket springs, Dunlop memory foam layers, and a cooling gel memory foam layer.
The original producer of memory foam mattresses, Tempur produces both fully foam mattresses and hybrid coil mattresses, ranging in price from $2,999 to $10,899. Tempur beds are also unique in that the base can be adjusted to angle upwards, whether to slightly lift your head or comfortably sit up. Each side of the bed can be adjusted independently.
Sleep Number (a Select Comfort brand)
Sleep Number’s adjustable air mattresses allow firmness to be adjusted by air pressure on a scale of 1-100. For beds sized double and upwards, each half of the bed can be controlled independently. Sleep Number mattresses start at $499 for the classic C2 single, up to the X12 with memory foam, adjustable base (raise the foot and head of the bed), under-bed soft light, and massage for $9,499 (king size).
Makin’ Mattresses produces a diverse range of coil and hybrid mattresses, from budget to premium prices. Coil mattresses start from $199 for the Perfect Posture single with foam comfort layer, standard edge supports, and double-sided, up to $1,795 for the Indulgence Plus king size with zoned springs, memory foam and latex comfort layers, and hourglass edge supports. The pure latex Bellissimo Duo ranges from $2,195 to $3,995 depending on size, while the Bellissimo Duet pocket springs model is just a little less ranging from $2155 to $3,795.
Where to buy mattresses
It’s important to shop around to know what your options are and where to find what you want. That said, try to narrow down your options before you go around trying out beds, otherwise you risk wearing out your ability to tell the difference.
When you go into a retail store or showroom to test out mattresses, don’t let the salesperson rush you. 30 seconds of lying on a bed is not enough. Get a pillow (or better yet take a comfortable one with you) and relax properly, as you would if you were going to sleep.
For more specialty types of mattresses, you may find it easier to buy them online. This can be a bit risky, especially if you’re looking to buy something quite different from your previous mattress. Before buying online, check the retailer’s returns policy to make sure that if you don’t like it, you’re easily able to return it.
Ready for a good night’s sleep?
You spend as much as a third of your life in bed, so it’s really worth investing in a good quality mattress, taking the time and care to make the best choice for you. Before you go to the shop, understand what different types of mattresses do and what kind of sleep needs they’re best for so you don’t end up paying thousands of dollars only to get an aching back. As it’s a long-term investment, looking at reviews can be useful for information about how your mattress may perform in the long-term.
Take care of your mattress… so it can take good care of you.