How to choose the best mattress for you

4 years ago
4 minutes

We all know that feeling – foggy head, prickly eyes and absolutely everyone is annoying. Yep, not enough sleep, or not enough quality sleep. It’s no secret that sleep is essential for a healthy, happy life and the right mattress is key.

When it comes time to buy a new one, there are a few decisions to be made.


No rules here. Most people find a queen size bed is just fine for a couple. With a king size, or a super king, only the width changes. The length is always 203 centimetres. Judge your needs by how much you like to spread out, or how much space you like around you.

Firm or soft

When trying mattresses in the store, lie in the position in which you would normally sleep. You want to find one that feels comfortable and doesn’t put pressure on any points of your body, such as hips and shoulders. If you feel pressure, the mattress is probably too firm.

The consumer advisory body, Choice, says that if you sleep on your stomach, a firm mattress will keep your spine aligned. Medium is best if you sleep on your back, and a soft mattress supports and contours your body’s curves if you sleep on your side.


Mattresses fall into two main groups – those with the support section made of springs, and those made of foam. An innerspring mattress supports you with steel springs either connected to form a single unit, or individually wrapped. The greater the number of springs, the more points of support there are. The spring support base is covered by a padding of foam, fibres or layers of smaller springs. The independent action of separate springs reduces bed movement when your partner turns, making this type of mattress ideal for couples.


Foam mattresses

The most commonly used foams are latex and “memory” foam – a high-density polyurethane used as the support system, or in the upholstery layer. Memory foam is so called because it contours closely to the shape of the sleeper. Some people find this a bit too warm, so try one out before buying.

Latex, made from natural rubber or petroleum-based materials, is also used either as the support base or in the upholstery layer. Latex mattresses are quite expensive, but last for a long time. A word of warning – some people are allergic to latex, so check to make sure.

Adjustable beds

An adjustable bed, purchased as a mattress and base, lets you really customise your comfort. Bend, elevate or lower various parts of the bed – lift your head or feet, angle your back etc – to give you exactly the support and comfort you need. Most have controls for each side. This will be an expensive purchase, but it could just revolutionise the kind of sleep you get every night.


These look conventional and consist of a support base with an adjustable air chamber, or two, and a covering of foam. Usually, the firmness of each side of the bed can be controlled and adjusted separately.


Waterbeds have moved on from the retro plastic envelope that caused sea-sickness in delicate sleepers. They now look like conventional beds with the water chamber inside a rigid frame. The water envelope can be “free flow” where nothing impedes the flow within the mattress or “waveless” where the motion is limited by baffles. Waterbed fans say they get a much better sleep due to the way the bed contours completely to their body. Try one out and see how it feels.

Mattress in a box

Around 35 companies in Australia now offer mattresses online – the vacuum-packed “bed in a box” concept. Most are foam, but some blend springs and foam. Open the box, cut the plastic packaging and the mattress magically inflates. Reviews are very mixed, so make sure you do your research.


Choice says to take your time and lie down for a while on each bed. Bring your partner, lie down with them in the position you normally sleep in and move around. Be aware of how the mattress moves when he, or she, moves. Don’t go when you’re tired as everything will feel great. If possible, try the mattress on the type of base you will be using – slats or an ensemble base.