How to choose the perfect mattress
Helen Stone,-Interiors Writer

Longing for a better night’s sleep? The right mattress will provide all the support you need

Poor-quality sleep can seriously impact our wellbeing. The morning after may start with a groggy head and aches and pains all over, but it can have more severe effects in the long term. Impaired concentration and problems coping with stress have all been linked to poor sleep, and low-quality slumber may even affect our immune system. 

There are many possible reasons for broken sleep, but among the first areas to check are your bed and mattress. A good-quality mattress is designed to last for seven years. Based on an average 7-8 hours of sleep each night, that’s an astounding 20,000 hours of wear and tear over its lifetime. How many other everyday items do we expect this level of performance from?

With this is mind, your mattress really is an area for investing as much in as you can afford. John Lewis offers a great selection across all price points and has the expertise to help you find the right one for you.

You can begin exploring your options right here. ‘Start with our What kind of sleeper are you? feature,’ suggests Emily Wimborne, Partner & Buyer, Beds and Bedroom Furniture. ‘It offers recommendations based on how you sleep, because we’re all different. You might be a side or front sleeper, or perhaps you get hot at night because of the menopause or suffer from allergies or aches and pains related to medical issues or sport injuries – all these can affect the qaulity of your sleep.’ The right mattress can  counter some of these issues and help support your body, keeping your spine aligned in a neutral position. 

How to choose the perfect mattress
How to choose the perfect mattress

‘I always recommend trying mattresses in store, where our expert Partners can give you the best advice,’ says Emily. Simon Williams of the National Bed Federation agrees. ‘It may sound obvious, but get on the bed and see how it feels,’ he says. ‘Don’t be afraid to spend at least 10 minutes lying on the bed in your normal sleeping position. If you’ll be sharing the bed, make sure you take your partner with you and try it out together.’

While in store, Simon also advises checking on how to look after your mattress. ‘Ask how often you need to turn or rotate it,’ he says. ‘If you live on your own, you may want a “no-turn” option.’

If you’re not able to visit a store straight away, our popular one-to-one Virtual Sleep Appointments can get you started. ‘Appointments with one of our expert Partners last 45 minutes and will give personalised recommendations as well as suggesting the top complementary products to help you get the best night's sleep possible,’ says Emily. ‘It’s a great way to narrow your choices before you visit a store.’

How to choose the perfect mattress

If it’s been a while since you’ve bought a mattress, you might be surprised by the range and choice available now, so it’s worth understanding the basics.

‘We usually recommend a good-quality pocket-sprung mattress, as it offers the best support,’ says Emily. ‘A pocket-sprung mattress is made with individual springs housed in fabric “pockets” that will respond to your every movement, whereas an open-sprung mattress is designed to provide zoned support.’ Layers of padding for comfort are added on top, with quality brands making their mattresses by hand using natural materials such as coir, felt and wool. These are breathable and help wick away moisture to keep you cool in summer and cosy on cooler nights.

Latex mattresses are also made from natural materials and promote air circulation through a bubble-based design. They are naturally antimicrobial so can suit allergy sufferers. Memory foam mattresses from brands such as TempurEmmaSimba and our John Lewis Climate Collection have grown in popularity and offer layers of responsive foam to support every movement (some also have springs for extra support). Many are sold in a box with a 200-night trial period, so there’s the option of trying before committing. You can find out more about each of the mattress types in our Buying Guide.

How to choose the perfect mattress
How to choose the perfect mattress

‘Sleep quality is so important for your child’s healthy growth and learning development,’ says Emily. ‘We offer a wide range of beds, bunks and bedding, and it’s really important to get the right mattress. For children weighing less than eight stone, we would recommend a soft, tension mattress. Pocket springs will offer the best support for a growing body, while natural materials help with breathability.’

Toddlers and young children are not as effective at regulating temperature as adults and there can be a risk of overheating. ‘Your child’s age, the room temperature and size of bed should always be considered when choosing bedding, to keep the temperature comfortable,’ adds Emily. See our Buying Guide to Children’s Rooms for more information.

John Lewis Classic Collection Video

Investing in a quality product that’s designed to last is one of the most sustainable ways to shop. As well as stocking many leading brands, John Lewis is justifiably proud of its own-brand mattresses, which are made to the highest standards and with sustainability as a priority. You’ll find a range of eco options using natural materials, including latex and wool. A new Sheep to Sleep initiative has seen us work with our partners at Waitrose to get the UK farmers supplying British lamb to also supply wool for our new Classic Wool mattresses.

In addition, John Lewis offers a 60-Night Sleep Comfort Trial period on selected own-brand mattresses to help you buy with confidence.

How to choose the perfect mattress
How to choose the perfect mattress

How do I know if I need a soft, medium or firm mattress?
‘You’ll see these terms attached to sprung mattresses, but it’s a myth that a firm mattress is more supportive. In fact, it’s your body weight that determines the best tension. A soft mattress will support those weighing less than 8st, a firm mattress more than 16st and medium tension for anywhere in between. Sleeping positions can have some sway. Side sleepers might prefer a softer mattress that cradles hips and shoulders, while front and back sleepers often like something flatter. We also offer split-tension mattresses in store if you and your partner have different body weights or sleeping preferences, while memory foam mattresses are a uniform tension.’

Are the sizes universal?
‘When buying for an existing bed, always measure your frame and compare carefully, as not all sizes are standard. Most mattresses are available as single, double, king and super-king, but you may also see small double, emperor and European king size.’

Should I add a protector or topper?
‘We always recommend a mattress protector – it prolongs the life of your mattress and is easy to launder. Look for specialist options such as anti-allergen designs and those that help regulate temperature through the night. A topper can also extend the life or make a mattress softer, if needed.’

What should I do with my old mattress?
‘Mattress recycling can be a big problem for the environment, but at John Lewis we can take your old mattress away for an additional charge and we will recycle it responsibly. Some of our ranges, such as Natural Collection and EcoMattress, are glue-free and 100% recyclable, so nothing goes to landfill.’

My new mattress has arrived – is there anything I need to do?
‘If it’s a mattress-in-a-box or a roll-up one, unroll and place it in its cover on a bed in a warm room for 24 hours before use so it can regain its shape. Air your bed every day for the first few weeks by pulling the covers right back. Your new mattress may feel slightly different and strange at first, so allow time for your body to adjust to it and for those fillings to settle.’

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