Sleep matters. Without a decent night’s sleep we’re unfocused and irritable, find it hard to get things done and liable to all kinds of medical problems — and a bad or unsuitable mattress can be your enemy.
If your mattress is too hard and it’ll make you toss and turn all night; too soft and you’ll get aches in hips, shoulders and spine, and maybe pins and needles or numbness too. So what's the best mattress to buy?
Our favourite mattress at the moment is the excellent Simba hybrid memory foam pocket spring mattress featuring a combination of 2,500 conical pocket springs (in the King sized version), a “Simbatex” cooling layer plus poly foam and memory foam.
What type of mattress is best for you? Unless you’ve damaged your back you don’t need an orthopaedic mattress, ('oprthopaedic' is retailer-speak for “really hard”). That leaves two key types: sprung mattresses and foam mattresses.
A sprung mattress uses thousands of springs to support you, while a foam mattress employs NASA-derived memory foam. Oh, and some mattresses do both, with a traditional spring support and memory foam on top.
Also, check out the Eight Smart Mattress which blends four layers of high density and responsive foam. It’s the highest comfort while also tracking sleep, managing the temperature of your bed and connecting to your smart home devices. It even has an accompanying app!
How to buy the best mattress for you
You should never, ever buy a mattress you haven’t tried, but that doesn't mean you have to go to a shop. Online dealers often offer no-quibble, free trials, so you can test at your leisure.
Start with the hand test: lying down on your back, push your hand under the small of your back. If you can’t, the mattress is too soft; if the gap’s massive, it’s too hard. If you have a partner, make sure they try it, too: what feels fine solo may be like a bouncy castle when your better half’s on board.
The best mattresses to buy
The Simba promises to be the most advanced mattress in the world, using a combination of 2,500 conical pocket springs (in the King sized version), a “Simbatex” cooling layer, poly foam and memory foam to deliver a great night’s sleep.
The makers are so confident that there’s a 100-day no-quibble trial: if you don’t love the mattress, just return it within the 100 days for a full refund. Unlike other mattresses the Simba isn’t labelled by firmness: the manufacturer calls it “perfect” and says it suits every kind of firmness fan.
That might sound like nonsense to you, but the fact is, the reviews agree that this is the best mattress for the money: if you pop along to John Lewis you’ll see stacks of happy sleepers, with the only real quibble being the lack of handles for rotating the mattress.
With celebrity backers, nearly 1,000 delighted Amazon reviews and several shelves full of awards, the Casper mattress has changed the world (of mattresses).
The majority of customers are absolutely delighted with its coolness, its comfort and its delivery in an impossibly small box.
It’s a medium-to-soft mattress that uses four distinct layers of support, and while there’s memory foam in there it isn’t as simple as a sprung mattress with a thin layer of foam on top or an overly soft foam and latex combination: it’s soft as well as supportive, and it’s proven popular with people who have dodgy backs.
Larger sizes can be expensive, and again there are no handles, but when you consider how many hours you’ll spend in bed (not to mention the potential joy of having less back pain) this mattress is not a lot of money for what you get. As with the Simba and Emma, the no-quibble trial period should guarantee you won't end up unhappy.
It does strike us as slightly softer than the Simba – whether that's better or worse is subjective.
Stop us if you've heard this one before… It's a mattress that comes in a box, with a human name that ends in an 'ah' sound, and a promotional photo shot in a contemporary apartment.
100-day no-quibble trial? Check. 10-year guarantee? Check. Multiple layers including foam? Check. Appearance that’s very similar to all the other internet mattress companies? Checkity check check McCheck.
Emma's differentiator is that it uses traditional coils as well as three kinds of foam. That means it should be extremely comfortable for most people – online reviews certainly point that way, and Which? awarded it a coveted Best Buy award in 2017.
With pricing also typical for this increasingly cut-throat market sector, choosing which one to go for is a tough choice. Although, again, the 100-day, love-it-or-return-it trial does take much of the pain out of decision-making.
Eve, like its fellow 'named-after-a-person-and-arrives-in-a-box' rivals positions itself as Mattress 2.0: rather than make a whole bunch of different mattresses its mission is to make a single one that’s ideal for everybody.
The cove is polyester, with four centimetres of memory foam underneath and a 3cm cooling layer below that. The final layer is made from poly foam that’s strong enough to do yoga on, and that means it’s suitable for slatted or sprung beds, divans or hard floors. Reviews are polarised: the majority of customers absolutely love the Eve mattress and leave five-star reviews, but the people who aren’t happy really don’t like it at all.
The two key complaints are the initial smell of the mattress, presumably due to the poly foam, and the hardness: while the mattress is marketed as for everybody it’s on the firmer side of medium.
Sealy used to make some of the world’s worst adverts round our way, where a heavily accented woman tried to buy a Sealy bed and the salesman said no, they only had sensible beds. What larks! But it’s true that Sealy beds are far from silly.
The Nostromo has seven zones with 1,400 pocket springs, tencel fibres, a latext comfort layer and a luxurious 29cm depth, and it’s both hypoallergenic and pleasantly cool even in hot weather.
Which? magazine made it a best buy, Allergy UK has given it their seal of approval and there’s a five-year warranty for peace of mind. Amazon tends to sell it with a decent discount on the RRP too, so it’s worth buying online rather than in a shop.
If you're struggling to sleep at night both because of your social conscience and a lack of comfort, Leesa may be your dream mattress. That's because for every ten mattresses sold, it donates one to homeless shelters and women’s refuges.
You won’t be sacrificing comfort for charity, though: the Leesa was designed to address the shortcomings of existing memory foam mattresses and uses three different kinds of foam to provide sufficient airflow and bounce. Consequently they're very popular and have good customer reviewsplus awards from Which? magazine and the Good Housekeeping Institute for its comfort and quality.
If you share with a partner their movements won’t bounce you out of bed, and the mattress does feel like something costing a lot more money. And yes, yet again there’s a 10-year warranty and a 100-night, no-quibble returns policy,
The Dormeo Memory Plus is another one designed for allergy sufferers. To that end, it not only combines memory foam and Ecocell 3D foam to protect against asthma and mites, but it’s also infused with aloe vera extract. No, us neither.
At 18cm it’s thinner than many mattresses so it might not be ideal for heavier people or slatted bases, but if you like memory foam you’ll enjoy the 3cm of it, stitched immediately below the cover.
Like all memory foam mattresses it’s important to rotate this one frequently to avoid semi-permanent dips from appearing, but if you look after it properly there’s a 15-year warranty to really guarantee the peace of mind that leads to a good night’s sleep.
Silentnight’s pocket sprung mattress has a clever solution to the problem of firmness: rather than deliver the same firmness across the whole mattress, it’s designed with different zones to ensure that the lumbar area of your back gets more support than your shoulders.
That makes it particularly good for anyone whose back needs something firm but who’d rather not wake up with pins and needles everywhere else, and it also means your partner’s movements won’t impact your side of the bed.
There are 1,200 pocket springs and a hypo-allergenic cover, and the 29cm depth is pretty luxurious for a mattress in this price range. There’s a 5 year guarantee but remember to turn it frequently: pocket sprung mattresses need regular turning to keep their shape.
We’ve found that pocket sprung mattresses with a comfort layer offer a great combination of support and comfort, combining the best of pocket spring and memory foam mattresses in one bed.
We’re particularly taken with Silentnight’s Geltex: in this mattress it’s a 6cm pillow top that adds softness to the support you get from 1,850 individual pocket springs. That gives it a total depth of 33cm, which is massive, and the Geltex layer stays cool and comfortable even in warm weather.
Like other Silentnight Mirapocket mattresses it’s zoned to deliver more support in the lumbar region than to the head and shoulders, and it’s very, very comfortable indeed - although it feels more medium than soft to us, so don’t expect it to feel like a fluffy cloud. Just make sure your sheets are big enough to fit it.
IKEA is well known for its odd-sized beds, but in addition to European sizes this mattress comes in UK single, double and king size too. It’s a thick foam mattress in a polyester wrapping, and it’s best suited to a slatted bed base or mattress base. Don’t jump on it straight away: it’s delivered rolled up and needs three to four days to return to suitable flatness.
Don’t expect lots of high-tech layers or cutting edge tech: IKEA’s mattress is exactly what you’d expect from a big lump of foam, comfortable and fairly immune to the movements of your partner. The foam can get a little damp if you tend to sweat a lot; if you do, a thick mattress protector is a good idea.
There's a 90-day trial period, and it's won a gong from Which?, so it's something of a bargain, despite its distinct lack of bells and whistles.