June 2020

Understanding your mattress – what to look for when buying a bed

Understanding how your mattress is constructed with accepted design principles will better arm you when searching for a new mattress. If you fail to understand what youre looking for them you're at risk of buying a unsuitable mattress and losing out. We help uncover exactly what you need to understand about your new mattress. This guide will help make you a mattress buying master!

Updated 2020: Shopping for a new mattress online can be daunting and overwhelming. You’ll be faced at any one time with 5000+ mattress models. So how on earth do you find the one that most matches your sleep requirements? Obviously, your purchase is going to depend on your budget and how you can achieve the comfort you want or require for this particular budget. The bottom line is you do not have to spend a fortune to get this. But, you do have to know what it is you are trying to achieve. So let’s look a bit deeper at how mattresses are made.

Vegan mattress on Midnight Hopsack Base
Mattress shopping is intentionally made confusing by retailers. We will explain how you can get the upperhand!

Mattress construction is a two-part process

  1. Springs: to give you the support your individual body weights require
  2. Comfort layers: the upholstery that will cushion you from the springs

The one important factor to understand is that despite how much you are willing to spend there are very few mattresses out there that will be 100% suitable for you and your needs in retail shops unless you know exactly how all the components work.

mattress hand stitching up close
Knowing how a mattress is made, properly, will help you avoid buying an unsuitable nightmare mattress

It is imperative that once you select your mattress you may have to tailor it yourself to give you the comfort level you currently need. Knowing the exact breakdown of what is inside the mattress is essential to do this. However, most manufacturers won’t want to tell you this readily. We know this does not make sense at the moment but we assure you it will when we explain why they don’t want you to know!

How are mattresses made?

If we look more closely at the basics of mattress construction it is nothing more than a compact unit of support (springs) and upholstery (comfort). No mattress can offer anything more! So ignore the space age descriptions, fake science and branding. Your focus is on these two parts when buying a new mattress.

The more you have to spend will get you a better quality and quantity of mattress upholstery and an increased level of pocket spring support. The trick is to be able to break up your available budget to get the best combination of support and comfort you can afford. You need to know the exact breakdown of any mattress to do this.

Mattresses are made up of 2 main components. Support and comfort.
Mattresses are made up of 2 main components. Support and comfort.
'Support' is dictated by bodyweight whereas 'Comfort' is your personal preference
'Support' is dictated by bodyweight whereas 'Comfort' is your personal preference

Why can’t I find out what’s inside mattress models?

This brings us to the most important question when trying to understand mattresses and that’s knowing what’s inside them. 99% of all mattress brands and retailers actively hide the contents of their mattress. They may give loose descriptions of what’s inside their mattress and an arbitrary spring count in the thousands but they give away no real discernable information on their beds.

Why do they hide what is inside their mattresses? So you can’t compare their beds with other models all so they can make a quicker sale.

They want you to base your decision on the spring count and price alone. If they did disclose exactly what’s inside their mattresses, then a quick online search for that model would then highlight a number of comparative models all at different prices. If they did disclose what’s inside then it would slow down the conversion rate of their sales as you would have far more to think about. You would also quickly be able to see that the model you’re looking at is overpriced or the upholstery unsuitable for your needs.

The problem with this mattress sales method is that you the consumer are 9 times out of 10 just guessing when buying a new mattress. That’s where we differ. We tell you exactly what’s inside our mattresses and want you to compare. This is the only way you can find a truly suitable quality mattress.

Let’s look a bit more at the two areas of mattress construction you need to know far more about:

  1. Mattress Support Units
  2. Mattress Comfort Layers

Tape edge stiching the mattress

1. The Mattress Support Unit

This is the fundamental starting point when looking for a mattress. Finding a suitable support unit for your body weight and height.

BodyweightSpring tension
Upto 16 Stone / 50-101kgMedium (1.4mm)
16 Stone / 101kg UpwardsFirm (1.6mm)
Available in Bespoke Products (Please Call)Soft (1.2mm)

Once you’ve established the correct spring tension and pocket spring type you will have to look for supplementary layers of comfort (upholstery placed on top of this spring unit) that will make the mattress entirely suitable for you. You are also trying to ensure the mattress will stay as new for as long as possible without losing any of the support quality.

The higher quality spring unit you can afford will ensure a far longer lifespan than a cheaper cage sprung model. Calico pocket springs will outperform any other support unit. It’s not unthinkable to have a calico pocket spring mattress last 10-20 years if well looked after.

The Spring Support unit is the foundation for all mattresses

However, spring counts on their own can be highly misleading. There’s a sales tactic of ever-increasing this figure to baffle and confuse the consumer.

Let’s be clear 1000-2000 quality pocket springs is the sweet spot in a king-size mattress.

Anything over this involves layers of pretty much useless micro or HD springs. We explain more in the pocket spring video guide below.

2. The Comfort Layers of a mattress

This means that once you have the correct level of support from the mattress to suit the weight (load) that will be applied, you then have to mix and match separate comfort layers to make the mattress ideally comfortable for you. To sleep directly on a mattress without a protector and or topper is akin to wearing trainers without socks! It will not be too long before the mattress is stained and flattened beyond redemption.

A thick mattress on a divan base
Understanding the comfort layers and upholstery of your mattress is key

You need to ask the retail to detail exactly what makes up these comfort layers.

  • What upholstery is it? ie Wool, Polyester, Horsehair etc?
  • What’s the gram per square meter of that upholstery (which tells you how much of it is contained).
  • Is this fibre natural or a synthetic man-made fibre?
  • Is the fibre a blend? If no what percentage?

As a guide, you want to be looking for at least 1000GSM in a kingsize mattress if not more!

horse hair mattress fillings
High-end mattresses are both 2-sided and will contain over 3000GSM of Natural Fibres

It seems absurd that 99% of all mattresses are sold under the premise that they are the finished product. Sadly in most cases, this is not true and there is no way that this can be deemed to be the case.

Especially when looking at the midpoint mattresses sold at most retailers. There is no way that these models with limited synthetic fillings can be the perfect end result for your best nights sleep. There’s simply not enough quality upholstery to provide the comfort you may need.

When you look at Savoir Beds, Hastens, Marshall and Stewart, Vi-Spring (all premier mattress manufacturers) they all contain huge amounts of natural fibre fillings, sometimes in excess of 4000 GSM. Whereas midpoint retail mattresses may only contain 1000GSM. It’s for this reason that if you’re buying a mattress under £1000 for a kingsize you will ideally need to partner this with an additional removable matrtess toppers. This is to increase the comfort layer and provide you with a much more advanced sleep surface. Adding a topper can turn a good mattress into an amazing mattress and is definitely worth the investment in your search for sleep perfection!

John Ryan Latex Topper 2
Toppers can help soften the mattresses overall feel

Mattress Toppers can be an integral part of your mattress for many reasons:

  • Provide a barrier from the copious amounts of perspiration we expire each night
  • Provide an additional level of upholstery that can be replaced once wear and tear have taken its toll
  • Able to be shaken and aired as regular maintenance
  • Protect the primary comfort layer built into the actual mattress

Support and comfort as separate parts

Once you subscribe to this thesis of separate purchase of support and comfort you will be able to adapt your mattress to make it entirely suitable for your needs. This site goes into great depth about the different spring types and the different types of upholstery to show you where your money is going and to explain whether you actually need all the bells and whistles that are applied to such.

Understanding what your budget can feasibly get you will make your purchase easy. You will soon come to realise that many products are over-hyped, overpriced pieces of tat. Spend your money on what your body actually needs!

A kingsize mattress in a bedroom
Where possible natural fibres should always be preferred if your budget allows

It is worth bearing in mind that there is only so much upholstery that can be contained in any mattress. When considering your mattress purchase, you will have to keep looking at whether any additional £100 or so is better spent on upholstery contained or would it be better spent on separate comfort layers? It does become a juggling act but after a few comparisons, it can become relatively easy. The upholstery table below will help you see exactly where on the price spectrum certain fibres sit. This will allow you to work out whether that mattress you’re looking at can actually contain these fibres at that price point or whether you should be expecting better fibres even!

Upholstery LayerFibre TypeHow it will feel?Price Point
White FibreSyntheticSoft/MediumCheap
Recycled Fibre / Eco FibreSyntheticMediumCheap
Memory FoamSyntheticMedium/FirmMid Price
Igel / Hybrid FoamSyntheticMedium/FirmMid Price
PolycottonSynthetic/Natural BlendSoft/MediumMid Price
LinenSynthetic/Natural BlendMediumMid Price
Wool (Pure)NaturalSoft/MediumHigh-End
Cotton (Pure)NaturalSoftHigh-End
Latex (100% Natural)NaturalMedium/FirmHigh-End
Coarse CashmereNaturalFirmHigh-End
BambooNaturalSuper SoftExpensive / Exclusive
Horsetail NaturalFirmExpensive / Exclusive
AlpacaNaturalSoftExpensive / Exclusive
Cashmere (Pure)NaturalSoftExpensive / Exclusive
VicunaNaturalSuper SoftExpensive / Exclusive

The more you have to spend the better the combination you can expect to achieve. The additional money being spent will be on the higher quality of materials used which can help extend the longevity and comfort of your mattress. As a general guide on what to expect for your money when buying a new mattress, we have a handy table below.

How much to spend on a double mattress?What can I expect for my money?
Under £500Will not get you much at best a 13.5 gauge open coil/cage sprung with a thin polyester layer or a solid foam mattress.
£500Entry level spunbond springs with some form of synthetic upholstery. Usually one sided mattresses.
£750The beginnings of a basic pocket springs unit with 800 – 1000 count. No substantial amount of filling other than foams and synthetic materials. Two sided models.
£1000Should get you away from most low ranges and into the mid-range pocket spring models.
£1250Should get you a decent pocket sprung mattress with some Natural Fibre content.
£1500Should get you many manufacturers mid-range models with Natural Fibres
£1500-£2000Should get you a Hand Made primarily Natural Fibre Quality Mattress
£2000+You should expect 100% Natural Fibres and Traditional Hand Made Construction Method.
£5000+A Bespoke Hand Made Sleep System, High-end Spring Units & Featuring the Worlds Most Luxurious Natural Fibres.
Hand side stitching mattress 3
All our mattresses are lovingly made by hand; for us by us.


This is just a starter post on what you are up against. It is very hard to give a general explanation considering the vast array of price points and what these price points will give you. After you have read a few of our articles you will soon come to understand what it is you should be looking for and more importantly where your money is going.

Why not ring our friendly team on 0161 437 4419 for a personalised recommendation to find the most suitable mattress for your requirements?

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