There's a wealth of mattresses out there, so we've put together a guide with an overview of all the types and styles you'll come across to make choosing the perfect mattress easy!
The mattress is at the heart of the bed and the springs are at the heart of the mattress. The higher the spring count, the better the level of support. Well, roughly, because this is where things start to get complicated. The support offered by a mattress isn't simply down to the number of springs, but also depends upon the thickness of the wire, the number of coils and the density of the springs. Furthermore, there are different types of spring systems (we said this was complicated!). Because the types of springs make such a difference to the overall feel of the bed, it's worth taking a look at them in more detail:
Open (or Bonnell) springs
Open springs are the traditional spring option which feature row upon row of hourglass shaped springs. There are at least 325 springs in a 150cm/5ft mattress and altering the number of springs and the thickness of the wire can vary the level of support. Open spring mattresses are widely used in budget and mid-priced beds.
Continuous springs are made by knitting a single length of wire into a series of interwoven springs that run up and down the bed. They use small coils made from thin, soft wire to increase the spring count and give a bed with a very responsive feel. Often marketed under specific brand names, continuous spring beds fall into the mid-to-high price ranges.
Pocket sprung mattresses are often considered the creme-de-la-creme of beds. They are made from rows of small springs; each housed in its own fabric. Because each spring can be compressed individually without affecting the others around it, a pocket sprung bed is very flexible, contouring to individual body shapes and offering support just where it's needed. This makes them particularly good for couples. Available in a variety of support options, pocket sprung beds are usually in the mid-to-high price bracket.
Fillings and finishings
Mattress fillings provide a cushion between you and the springs and help you to enjoy a comfortable night's sleep. There are literally hundreds of different types and combinations of fillings used, with natural fibres such as cotton and wool being more expensive and luxurious than polyester and other man-made fillings. The same holds true for the ticking - the tightly woven external layer of fabric that keeps the fillings in their place.
Although sprung mattresses are by far the most common, there are other types available which offer an excellent alternative:
Most foam mattresses are made from layers of different densities of material that impart the required degree of comfort and support. These days, all foams used in beds must be combustion modified to meet stringent fire safety regulations.
There are three main types of foam in use:
Polyurethane foams are the most common and versatile, with performance and price varying according to density and quality.
Latex is a premium quality material known for its distinctive resilient feel and durability and is available in range of comfort options. These mattresses are often anti-microbial and offer benefits to many allergy sufferers.
Viscoelastic 'memory foam' is the latest addition to the foam mattress family. This premium quality, high-density foam softens when introduced to body heat and moulds to the body's natural sleeping position to give the optimum support. The foam then recovers its original state when the weight is removed.
Foam topped mattresses
Foam topped mattresses combine a traditional spring unit with a top layer of foam (often viscoelastic) and therefore offer the best of both worlds.
A Japanese invention consisting of a firm, unsprung sleeping surface made from layers of cotton wadding, which moulds itself to the shape of the sleeper. In the UK, they often come as sofa beds with slatted convertible frames. Futons need good ventilation and lots of turning if they are to remain effective. Their life expectancy is generally shorter than a conventional bed and they are ideal for occasional use.