Choosing a bed: The ultimate guide to your best night’s sleep

In a sea of choice, how do you choose the mattress that is right for you?

Buying a bed

Experts agree that a night of good sleep is one of the best ways to maintain and improve your health. A mattress is a huge factor in sleeping well, yet many people overlook its importance and keep sleeping on a mattress that fails to provide the support and comfort they need.

According to the Sleep Foundation (sleepfoundation.org), most mattresses should last between seven and ten years. However, many variables can influence this. These include the original manufacturing quality of the mattress, the materials used and the weight and sleeping styles of the occupants.

Purchasing a new mattress is a sizable investment. But taking this step can mean the difference between waking up every morning with aches and pains and being refreshed. So, as with any major purchase, you want to make sure you choose wisely.

If your bed is too soft, you could have bad posture or backache for the next ten years, which will lead to all sorts of aches and pains. On the other hand, if it’s too firm, it will aggravate the pressure points that will have you waking up with pain in your shoulders and hips.

The happy medium is a mattress that conforms to your body shape while relieving the pressure points. But how do you find out which kind of bed will match your body type and your specific needs?

Checklist

A bed that suits one person may not do for another. You need to factor in age, medical conditions, sleeping positions, and partner needs to find the best one for you.

The amount of firmness is determined by your preferred sleeping position.

  • Side sleepers need more pressure relief.
  • Back sleepers need excellent comfort and support.
  • Tummy sleepers should buy a firm mattress, but not so firm that it sinks in.

You may be slim, whereas your partner is overweight. You may sleep on your back and hardly move all night, while your partner prefers to sleep on their side and moves around in their sleep. In this case, the best mattress is one with zero motion transfer so that your partner won’t disturb you when he moves or gets up.

If you have any ailments, such as backaches or shoulder, hip and neck pains, you may need a specialised bed to achieve restful sleep. However, this option is usually pricier than the standard options.

Your budget will play a significant role in your final decision. But this is one furniture item you shouldn’t skimp on.

Mattresses

The four main mattress types available in South Africa are innerspring, memory foam, latex and hybrid.

Innerspring mattresses have steel coil support systems. Different manufacturers offer different spring systems, but generally, more coils mean more support points are provided, providing greater comfort and support. According to Genie Beds (www.geniebeds.co.za), innerspring mattresses would suit people with back pain, sleep on their stomachs, and overweight people.

They tend to be relatively affordable, but coils may pop out and jut into you with cheaper models, causing discomfort.

High-quality memory foam mattresses offer good support and provide relief from pressure point pain. Because the foam envelops the body, these mattresses are also suitable for people who feel the cold or are very thin. But they can also make you uncomfortably hot unless they also contain a cooling gel.

Hybrid mattresses are made as an innerspring system for support, together with latex or memory foam, for comfort. They consist of various layers to achieve maximum support and comfort and are suitable for most body types and sleep styles.

Be aware of the following:

Hybrid can mean any mattress that combines materials and support systems, so be sure the support system and materials used are supportive and of high quality.

The particular kind of coil system used is an essential factor. An individually pocketed coil system is preferable to the cheaper – but less effective – Bonnel coils.

The materials used should result in comfort and not discomfort. For example, natural latex is innately resistant to dust mites, mould and bacteria and allows air circulation to keep body temperature constant. However, memory foam can make you uncomfortably hot.

Advantages include:

  • There is no motion transfer, so your partner moving won’t disturb your sleep.
  • Exceptional spine support decreases or eliminates aches, pains and backache.
  • Allows for air circulation to maintain body temperature.

Disadvantages

  • More expensive than many other mattress types.
  • It can be heavier than other mattresses.

First base

The mattress and base work together, and bed designers consider both integral elements of a sleep system.

The base is far more than a means to raise the mattress off the ground. It provides support, comfort and ventilation and determines the mattress’s lifespan. The base usually has to be replaced along with the mattress.

Typical bases:

Platform bases are usually made of wood or metal, and some are manufactured from eco-friendly plastics and high-quality aluminium materials.

box spring base consists of a box of shock-absorbing springs that adjust to your movements. Usually covered in the same material as the mattress, it adds height to your bed. As you cannot see the springs through the fabric, it’s hard to tell when the base needs to be replaced. But if it creaks or you see a dent in the mattress, it’s time to get a new one.

Slatted bases consist of rows of wooden slats attached to a wooden frame. They are often used for foam mattresses and are among the cheaper base options. There should be 3 cm or less between slats so that the mattress has maximum support. This also increases the mattresses lifespan.

Sleep on it

The experts agree that lying on a bed for a few minutes in a showroom won’t enable you to make the right choice. So instead, the best way to discover if a particular bed is right for you is to sleep on it for a few months.

For this reason, many online bed shops now offer 100-day trials, after which they will collect the bed if you aren’t entirely satisfied with the results. It is well worthwhile investigating these options before making a final decision.