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January 2020

How to Choose a Mattress

How do you choose a good mattress? Given the fact that at any one moment in time there will be in excess of 5000 different mattress models available to buy in the UK how do you choose the best mattress to suit your needs? Through decades of research we have broken down the different options you should understand.

This guide to choosing a mattress gives you a list of each area you really do need to understand before making a mattress choice. Buying a mattress in a showroom without understanding what’s inside is akin to buying a new car just because you like the colour of it! To make things worse mattress shops & manufacturers will actively hide key information from you. The very detail that’s essential in helping you buy the best possible mattress for your budget. All so they can lower their costs and increase profits. We explain exactly what you need to watch out for.

A white mattress in a grey themed room
This list will show you everything you need to know before buying a mattress. Click to see our range.

By reading each of the areas below you will be able to save yourself time and avoid expensive mattress mistakes. Each heading is also a link to a much more detailed article on each of the areas. This is your one-stop in finding out the key information when buying a new bed.

1. How much should you spend?

Setting your budget for a new mattress is absolutely key to your purchase decision. However, you can’t feasibly expect to do this if you do not know what your money can get you. This section breaks down what you can realistically expect to get for a particular budget.

You should aim to buy the best bed you can afford.

Given you spend 8 hours a night in your bed spending as much as you can this will pay dividends and ensure you can buy a mattress that will last.

How much to spend on a double mattress?What can I expect for my money?
£500Will not get you much at best a 13.5 gauge open coil / cage sprung with a thin polyester layer.
£750Could get you a fairly OK orthopaedic mattress or the beginnings of a basic pocket springs with 800 – 1000 count. No substantial amount of filling other than foams and synthetic materials
£1000Should get you away from most low-mid ranges and into the basic pocket spring models
£1250Should get you an average pocket sprung mattress.
£1500Should get you many manufacturers mid-range models.
£1500-£2000Should get you a hand made primarily Natural Fibre Mattress
£2000+You should expect 100% Natural Fibres and traditional construction methods
£5000+A bespoke hand made sleep system, high end spring units & featuring the Worlds Most Luxurious Natural Fibres

2. All about pocket springs

It’s essential that you know what spring type and tension you require for your bodyweight. Many people confuse the spring tension with the mattress feel. Meaning you’re more than likely to buy the wrong spring tension and end up with an uncomfortable mattress.

Pocket springs are the best support system for a mattress outlasting open coil and foam beds significantly.

The minimum amount of pocket springs you should look for is 1000 in a kingsize mattress.

Calico pocket springs in a soft spring tension take 3
Pocket springs will far outlast a foam mattress or open coil alternative

Avoiding anything above 3000 springs as these contain micro springs which reduce the quality of support significantly and are simply used to help retailers market high spring counts.

Springs are also one of the real differences that can be used to separate one manufacturer from the other.  This article here will show you how to spot quality springs from cheap mass-produced ones.

Spring TensionWire diameter (Gauge)Weight Range
Soft1.2mmUpto 8 stone
Medium1.4mm8-16 stone
Firm1.6mm16 stone plus
Extra Firm / Orthopaedic1.9mm20 stone plus
Calico pocket springs in a row
Calico Pocket springs like these are the highest quality springs available for mattresses

3. Know your GSM timetable

Next up is being able to spot decent upholstery in a mattress. This is done by knowing the GSM (Grams per Square Metre) of upholstery is what the manufacturer does not want you to know about. Once you do grasp the essentials of this you will be able to tell which mattress is a complete bag of springs and which ones are worthy of further investigation.

Take one mattress that lists its contents as containing a Wool layer. If you don’t know how much is inside you can’t possibly know whether its good value. It may be 200gsm or 2000gsm of Wool, the difference is vast!

A white mattress viewed from the side
Understand the GSM in any mattress by reading this article by clicking the image

The very minimum is 1000 grams per square of upholstery meter in a king-size mattress.

Anything less than this will indicate you’re looking at a cheap short-lived mattress.

4. Understanding mattress upholstery

There are only two parts that go into making a mattress – the springs and the upholstery. Once you grasp the basics of upholstery your job is halfway done. Be warned, not all is as it seems as mattress brands try and trick you into blended fibres and low natural fibre percentages.

You have two choices with mattress upholstery:

  1. Synthetic entry level materials like foam, polyester and white fibres
  2. Natural Fibres such as Horsetail, Wool, Cotton & Bamboo

Where ever possible you should always opt for a Natural fibre as these are more breathable, last longer and have more resilience for a perfect nights sleep. True Natural fibre mattresses are not available for under £1000. Any that claim to be will only contain 1-5% actual natural fibres blended with cheaper synthetic fibres.

1200 gsm of blended wool and cotton cross section
Natural Fibres will keep you cooler at night and last far longer than foams

The fibres and upholstery within a mattress dictate the overall ‘Comfort Feel’ of the mattress.

This is where most people mistake the spring tension as comfort. You need to know exactly what upholstery layers and in which order they appear to work out how it will feel and respond to you.

5. How to do a mattress comparison

When you’re wondering how to choose a mattress, and are faced with 5000 or so models, you really do need to do like for like comparisons. This section guides you through the process of comparing like for like models. Not particularly easy when manufacturers or retailers do not give you the information you require to do this! We show you what to look for.

The key to comparing is knowing the Spring type, tension, mattress upholstery GSM, layering of fibres and construction methods used.

All of which retailers will do their best to hide from you! Below is an example of how to compare two mattresses side by side.

John Ryan By Design Artisan Naturals Upholstery Layers
Comparing mattresses is the best way to spot good value from an expensive low quality bed.
 John Ryan By Design Artisan NaturalsVi Spring Regal Superb
11200gsm Blended British Fleece Wool and Cotton.900gsm Blended real Shetland Isle Fleece Wool and Cotton
2Hairproof Cambric CoverHairproof Cambric Cover
31250gsm Rebound Poly Cotton1200gsm long stranded Horsetail blended with British Fleece Wool
41500gsm 100% Pure Mohair1000gsm Bonded British Fleece Wool and Cotton
51600 Calico encased Pocket Springs [ 49mm ] [1.28mm ]1720 Calico encased Pocket Springs [48mm ] [1.28mm ]
Total GSM3950gsm3100gsm

6. Mattress detailing

This section will give you the confidence to walk into any mattress showroom and determine quite easily the products that are worthy of further investigation. The clues to a well-built mattress are quite obvious once you know what to look for.

Retailers will use all sorts of fancy names and fabrics to avoid you asking what’s actually inside the mattress.

A few tricks below will help you spot a quality mattress from a cheap import such as:

Seamstress using Charcoal Bracken fabric for headboards
A hand made mattress like ours can take upto 13 hours to make – understanding the differences in detail by clicking here

7. Mattress construction

This section gives quite a comprehensive overview of what makes a good mattress. We have used real-life examples to dissect what can be considered to be a well-constructed product and analysed each component to determine what makes one model better than the other.

A hand made mattress is always far superior to a mass-produced machine-made model.

By understanding certain construction methods you will be able to better select your perfect mattress.

Here are a few quick tips when looking at construction specifics in a bed.

Tape edge stiching the mattress
All of our mattresses are Hand-Made here in the UK. Click to find out how mattresses are made.
Summary

Getting to grip with these basics will put you in a far better position to determine what will be the most suitable mattress for you. Meaning you can start to compare mattresses in retailers and showrooms. By asking questions and uncovering the detail you can then spot a quality good value mattress from an expensive unsuitable bed in no time!

We hope you find our site useful and feel free to browse our online handmade in the UK mattress shop. If you have any questions please contact our friendly expert team or drop us a question below for more tailored mattress advice.

John & Ryan

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