Finding the best mattress for your (sleeping) needs is vitally important for your overall wellbeing. It's no secret that when we wake up from a decent nights kip we feel rested and refreshed and, if you have a good mattress, you could even feel relieved from any niggly aches and pains.
Investing in a good mattress is an essential first step to prevent disturbed nights, aching joints and general irritability. But with current estimates showing there are hundreds of brands and thousands of different mattresses in this burgeoning market, how do you pick the one that’s going to be your ‘Goldilocks’ bed – not too hard and not too soft but just right – and that will last you the requisite eight years or so?
Happily, our research has tackled all of these issues and we highlight who this pick of the best mattresses will suit most in each mini review. We've even been fortunate enough to try out some of these mattresses for ourselves – such as the Emma Original mattress which offers a wonderful amount of comfort all night long – so you can take it from us that we are confident you'll rest easy after buying one of the seven mattresses in this guide.
If you need a pillow (or two) to go with your new mattress, check out our best pillow guide for the top buys.
The best mattress for 2021
Much loved by buyers in the UK and US alike, this mattress gets top marks from us. Apparently, on average, Europeans get five more hours a week sleep than Americans and good mattress choices might be the secret to why!
As with other bed-in-a-box offerings, it’s delivered in a compact, easy to move package. It features three layers of foam, including a cooling Airgocell layer, below which sits comfortable memory foam and finally a base made from supportive cold foam.
To top it all, there’s a machine washable cover that is both soft and breathable.
Those that get hot at night and memory foam mattresses are traditionally not good bedfellows but it seems the Airgocell layer definitely seems to keep night-time sweats at bay for lots of reviewers.
This combined with the fact it almost eliminates all motion transfer means it’s a good choice for couples, particularly if one’s a sweaty, restless sleeper.
Meanwhile, the pressure-relieving layer meant a marked absence of sore knees in the morning, while the thick foam zoned base was supportive for the neck, shoulders and the lower spine.
Finally, the good news is that despite its roots being in the UK, the American version is actually made in the USA.
Homes & Gardens rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Initially this mattress feels like it has a lot of give but once you’re on board, the four foam layers are surprisingly supportive. In particular, we’d give a high-five to the Zoned Support layer, which is designed to treat different pressure points in specific ways to ensure all-round comfort.
It’s a combination that’s great for side sleepers, giving added support in the shoulder and hip areas and means there’s not a ‘solid as a rock’ sleep experience evident in some memory foam options.
There’s also little or no motion transference, ideal if you are a light sleeper who shares a bed with a night-time wriggler.
Delivered in a box, it’s simple to unpack and pop on the bed – it has handles, too, which (trust us) come in very handy when changing and rotating the mattress.
It takes just a few hours to fill out, although you might need to crack a window open to release some of the initial ‘chemical’ smell that lots of memory foam mattresses are prone to.
Luckily, most reviewers report that odour dissipates pretty quickly and most don’t have problems sleeping on it just a few hours later. They also wake feeling well rested and without aches and pains in the morning. The top layer has an open-cell structure that increases airflow to stop overheating – perfect if you’re a ‘hot’ sleeper.
Homes & Gardens rating: 5 out of 5 stars
It is so confident about the quality of its mattress, Nectar is offering a whole year for you to trial its product – yep, that’s a whole 365 nights to see if you like it and if you decide you don’t, well, just send it back.
The three layers – memory foam, pressure relieving foam and a seven-zone base layer for support – all sit below the outer cooling cover which adapts to body heat keeping night-time temperatures down.
This means that even the most feverish of sleepers will stay cool all night. It’s slightly on the firmer side of medium firm – it’s website claims it ranks from 5.5-7.5 on a firmness scale of 1-10, so is a top choice for front and back sleepers but probably not best for heavy side sleepers or those that prefer a mattress you can really sink into.
Having said that, the more we slept on it the more comfortable it became, so given time would probably even suit those who want a sleep experience that’s slightly more giving.
Erring on the side of medium firm also ensures there’s no pesky motion transfer to speak of. As with some other memory foam mattress, there was a faint, lingering odour. However, it wasn’t at all noticeable by day two and certainly didn’t trouble our sleep.
We can’t attest to some online comments that claimed the mattresses filled unevenly as we had no problems there. Price reductions seem to be pretty regular – as do special offers for free pillows, toppers, bedding and duvets – so try not to buy when there isn’t one.
Homes & Gardens rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Leesa has a One-10 programme, which promises that for every 10 mattresses sold, it donates one to charities that serve homeless and those at at-risk.
Also worth noting, is the company’s partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant one tree for every mattress they sell, with a goal to plant one million trees globally by 2025.
All well and good but how does the mattress itself stand up to testing?
It comes well packed in a box, like many of its memory foam competitors, and is super simple to place it on the bed and unfurl. The padded cover is gloriously soft and contains three sandwiched foam layers.
The top Avena foam provides airflow to keep you cool, the pressure-relieving memory foam contours gently to your body and the dense 6” core adds support and durability for joints. Initially it feels quite firm but becomes more giving as it warms to your body temperature.
An accusation often leveled at memory foam mattresses is that they can contribute to overheating but most reviewers agree it provides a sweat-free night, probably due to the cooling cover and Avena layer, and it gets a healthy four and five star rating on many sites.
There’s free delivery, a 100-day sleep test and free returns if you’re not 100% happy. It’s also a good idea to keep a look out for regular promotions with money off the regular price.
Homes & Gardens rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Roll-packed rather than in a box, at 7in deep this single layer pure foam mattress isn’t as thick as some and it takes a little while to fill out.
Ikea recommend 48 hours but some reviews say they were happy to get on board after just 24 hours. Still, it’s best not to dump your old one before this one has had time to fill out properly.
Despite its relative thinness compared to some – 10-11” is standard – it’s a solid medium to firm sleep. This means it might not be great for heavier side sleepers or those that are after a soft, cloud-like base and there’s no cooling layer so could feel warm.
It works for back sleepers, though, giving good spine alignment and the comfort zones help relieve joint pain. It may be fairly basic but it’s also cheaper than many of the other mattresses we tested – a twin/double is currently $179/£179 – so excellent value for money and a good choice for those experimenting with foam for the first time, or a good choice for a guest room.
The cover can be removed for washing, which is a bonus, as are the carrying handles that help when the mattress needs rotating, which it will from time to time, although it doesn’t need turning over.
Mattresses are always going to be subjective and on the Ikea website opinion is split with some feeling it’s a bit too firm and there’s concern about the off-gassing smell but plenty also give it 5 stars with one proclaiming it’s the best they’ve ever slept on.
Unlike some rolled or bed-in-a-box mattresses, you can go in store to see and try it out but Ikea still offers a 90-day returns programme in case you’re not happy.
A perfect option if you’re unsure whether a pure memory foam mattress is for you, a hybrid combines traditional pocket spring coils with a memory foam layer for comfort and all-round sturdiness.
Far from a compromise, this mattress provides the best of both worlds. Although it’s certainly not cheap, for a mattress of this quality, it is well priced, with quality features such as an organic cotton cover, recycled steel coils and CertiPUR-US foam.
While the steel spring layer adds support for aching limbs, the cosy pillow top layer is soft and comfortable. As the mattress comes in three options of firmness – Plus Soft, Luxury Firm and Firm – it’s also suitable for all styles of sleeper.
Looking at reviews though, most opt for the Luxury Firm, which is actually rated as a medium-firm, and seems to suit side, front and back sleepers alike.
The coil construction means there’s good air-flow, perfect for those who get hot at night and it also provides stronger side support, so the mattress doesn’t tend to sag at the edges.
Handmade in LA, the Avocado is the mattress of choice for those searching for one with eco credentials.
Made with a combination of GOTS-certified cotton and wool, plus latex that has been responsibly and sustainably harvested it is certainly a quality choice, something that’s reflected in its price.
It is made without fire retardants, chemical adhesives – that’s achieved using wool a natural fire-retardant – or petroleum-based foam layers, so it’s a good choice for those with allergies or sensitivities to certain chemicals.
As there’s no foam, another benefit is there’s no off-gassing – something prevalent in the memory foam market. So there’s no initial odd smell with this mattress.
The top latex layer is gently yielding and sits on top of a layer of tempered steel coils, while five zones support different areas of the body to give overall comfort and prevent motion transfer.
As far as sleeping goes, it’s on the firm side of medium, the company puts it at 7 out of 10 on the scale, so a good option for back and lighter side snoozers as well as front sleepers.
If you do want a tad more comfort, it’s also available with a soft cotton pillow top.
Reviewers seem to overwhelmingly love it and note cool nights and relief from aches and pains as key benefits.
How to buy the best mattress for you
What is the best type of mattress?
Mattresses are generally split into three main types:
- Traditional coil sprung mattresses with natural or man-made fillings and covers
- Foam mattresses, including cold, polyurethane and memory or latex
- Hybrid mattresses that are a mix of the first two mattress types
Hot sleepers tend to prefer traditional coil or hybrids while those with specific aches and pains appreciate the levels of support that zoned memory foam can provide. Light sleepers with restless partners will enjoy memory foam which is more efficient at combating motion transfer.
What mattress firmness do I need?
To find the right level of comfort, you first need to discover what position you sleep in, as that’s key to making the right choice.
As a general rule, back sleepers and those carrying more weight will find a better level support with a mattress that errs on the side of firm – around 7-7.5 on a scale of 1-10.
Side and front sleepers need some support but of a slightly softer kind, so should opt for a medium or medium firm 5-7 out of 10.
Lighter and some front sleepers might suit something a little more cloud-like.
That said, if you have particular issues with muscle aches and joint pains, a mattress that is zoned with varying levels of firmness to help different areas of the body may be the better choice.
The good thing is that many brands recognize that sleep styles vary and so many offer 100-night trials with free returns to make sure you get the one for you.
Do all mattresses require turning?
Not all mattresses are made equal. Most traditional sprung mattresses – featuring a core of covered springs surrounded by a comfort layer top and bottom – will need turning to ensure they don’t start to dip and sag where you sleep.
This should be done around every three months or so, as well as rotating – turning the top of the bed to the bottom.
Many memory foam mattresses by their very nature should retain their shape and most have a ‘right’ or ‘top’ side as the layers are arranged in a very specific order to give comfort and relieve stress on neck, shoulders and hips.
Those won’t require turning, just regular rotating will be enough to keep them in tip-top condition.
How much sleep do I need?
Although seven to eight hours are recommended the kind of sleep stages experienced within that is important – there five stages, ranging between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement).
Stages one, two and REM are light and dream sleep, while three and four are important levels of restorative deep sleep. With the best mattress you can buy – and that means one that really suits your body rather than one that you buy purely based on price – you can be sure to get the quality of sleep you need.
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