In an ideal world, you'd crawl into the Goldilocks of beds each night. It'd be just the right amount of firm, supportive, comfortable, and cosy yet cool. Unfortunately, it's not an ideal world. Because if it was you'd be in a hot and steamy yet respectful relationship with your celebrity crush, you could indulge in your favourite treat without ever putting on a kg, and you'd have a well-loved job that pays you far more than you deserve.
We can't help you with any of that. But we can help you buy a new mattress. (Which might solve the issue of you waking up on the wrong side of the bed every morning.) Choosing your ideal mattress begins with the basics: learning about the different mattress types and deciding which type of mattress is right for you.
The different types of mattresses
From our hours of research and hands-on testing, we say there are 4 main mattress types: memory foam, hybrid, latex and inner spring. Sure, there are things like gel-infused foam and other types of mattress materials like polyurethane foam. But the most common is memory foam. Sure, there are pocket springs but they're actually a type of inner spring. Sure, there are air mattresses, pillow top mattresses, and adjustable beds, but we're not covering them in this guide. Cutting through the bull (and marketing speak) is what we do so 4 main types it is.
What's the best mattress? Well, the best mattress type for you is based on a few things including:
- Size of your bedroom.
- Material preference (more on that below).
- Your preferred sleeping position.
- Your preferred firmness.
- Your size and weight.
- Your preferred mattress size.
- Whether you're a co-sleeper or a solo one.
- Whether you're planning on sharing your bed with family members, including furry ones.
Memory foam mattress
Choose a memory foam mattress and you'll be in good company - it was invented by NASA-funded researchers. They were looking for a way to cushion pilots during space flight. Now this widely used material is a popular mattress choice. You'll know you've slept on a memory foam mattress because it feels like you're sinking into it. It gives you a snug hug as it cradles and contours to your body. This makes memory foam a good choice for anyone looking for pressure relief on their shoulders, hips and lower back.
Sometimes memory foam mattresses include layers of other foam. These foam layers serve multiple purposes, including as a firm mattress base, extra support and a cushioned topper for an extra-plush feel.
Other common types of foam used in a mattress include gel-infused foam. This is designed to be cooler and more breathable than memory foam.
- Good at absorbing motion so minimises partner disturbance.
- Quiet as there are no noise-causing springs.
- A soft mattress for side sleepers and anyone with joint pain.
- Durable and long-lasting.
- Can trap body heat, making them uncomfortably hot.
- Softer than other mattress types, resulting in a sinking feeling.
- Not enough support for some sleepers.
- One of the most expensive mattress types.
Foam mattresses are best for sleepers who want to feel in their mattress, not on it. With its pressure-relieving nature, side sleepers can benefit from memory foam.
Hybrid mattresses combine the best bits of multiple mattress types, normally foam and springs. As you'd expect, they're one of the most expensive mattresses you can buy. However, they do offer the benefits of multiple materials. Combining foam and springs means you get a supportive mattress that works in different ways.
Hybrid mattresses don't have the sinking / hugging feeling of a memory foam mattress and are softer (and quieter) than springs but you still get a supportive, pressure-relieving sleep. Think of a hybrid as the firm support of a spring mattress with the soft cushioning of a foam mattress.
- Usually quieter than spring mattresses thanks to the layer(s) of foam.
- Better at keeping you at a comfortable temperature than memory foam.
- Can be customised to different firmness levels, including on different halves of the mattress.
- Softer than springs while not having the sinking sensation of memory foam.
- Not as good at minimising movement and partner disturbance as memory foam.
- Not all hybrids are actually hybrids - do your research so you understand what you're getting.
- Might be too soft for some people.
Hybrid mattresses work well for couples who want different firmness options. Most sleepers will be happy with a hybrid, especially back sleepers.
Latex mattresses are normally promoted as eco-friendly or organic mattresses. That's because latex is a natural material that comes from the sap of the rubber tree. It's even biodegradable once you're done with it. It's also naturally cooling, making it a good choice for hot Aussie nights. However, that's only natural latex. Synthetic latex is made from petrochemicals, so not quite the natural vibe you might be after.
Natural latex foam feels bouncy and springy. Synthetic latex less so. Whichever type you choose, latex moulds to your body for support and pressure relief, like memory foam. Unlike memory foam, it's not temperature sensitive so it feels firmer. It also lacks that sinking sensation because it's quicker to respond to pressure than memory foam.
- Natural latex is a more eco-friendly choice.
- More breathable than other materials, helping you stay cool as you sleep.
- Bounces back more than memory foam so no sinking feeling.
- Can feel too firm for some sleepers.
- The bouncy / springiness can feel spongy.
- Unsuitable for sleepers with latex allergies.
As long as you don't have a latex allergy and are happy at the top end of your budget, a latex mattress will suit most sleepers well. If you move a lot in your sleep, you'll appreciate the bounce of a latex mattress. However, if you're after deep pressure relief, latex may not be supportive enough.
Inner spring mattresses are the most traditional mattress type and they're still one of the most popular types. That's because they offer a huge range of firmness options, can be affordable and widely available. Inner spring mattresses can be broken down into 4 different types:
- Continuous coils: rows of flat, connected single-wire coils.
- Bonnell coils: also called open coils, Bonnell coils are the oldest type of innerspring mattress. They're hourglass-shaped coils connected by smaller coils.
- Offset coils: an improvement to Bonnell coils in that the coils are cylindrical, not hourglass-shaped, making them more durable.
- Marshall / pocketed coil / pocket spring: every individual coil is wrapped in its own fabric pocket. This allows the coil to absorb pressure and movement better than other types of spring mattresses.
- Can be flipped to extend the mattress lifespan.
- Normally the most affordable mattress option.
- Come in a range of firmness options.
- As they age, they get noisy.
- Can be firmer than other mattress types so won't suit every sleeper.
- Don't tend to last as long as other mattress types.
Innerspring mattresses suit sleepers who need a lot of support, like back, heavier or stomach sleepers. If you struggle with hip, shoulder or back pain, an innerspring mattress lacks the pressure relief you need for a comfortable night's sleep.