Mattress Fundamentals: How to Choose a Mattress for Your Bed

Choosing a mattress is a bit of a Goldilocks activity. You need to find the one that is just the right size and softness. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of wandering into empty forest cabins and trying beds out for size, especially not right now!

This is a bit of a problem as mattresses are not only important for our sleep and comfort. They are also a significant financial investment that will last you several years. It’s not a decision you want to take lightly.

How, then, do you choose the right mattress? 


The first thing you need to check is the size of your bed frame or base. It’s no good trying to squeeze a king-sized mattress onto a queen-sized frame. It just won’t fit. Equally, you don’t want to end up with a smaller mattress that gets lost in your bed frame. 


Frames and bases are designed to support the correct sized mattress. They have crossbars and slats in just the right places to hold the mattress. If the mattress is too small it will fall awkwardly and sometimes unsafely on these slats and bars. 


Here in the US, there are 6 common mattress sizes. Your bed frame may be slightly larger than the mattress size given below to properly accommodate the mattress. 


Size Dimensions (Inches)
Twin/Single 38.5 x 74.5
Twin XL 38.5 x 79.5
Full/Double 53.5 x 74.5
Queen 60 x 79.5
King 76 x 79.5
California King 72 x 83.5


Ideally, you don’t want more than an inch of space total around your mattress. Firstly, it will end up swallowing anything you drop. Secondly, it will allow the mattress to shift around during the night. 

If you have a headboard, you may notice a larger gap between the mattress and the headboard. This space is left to accommodate thicker mattresses and pillows but it can become annoying if it’s not filled. You can buy mattress wedges to fill the gap if needed. 


This is probably the biggest decision you’ll have to make and the toughest! The problem is, there are lots of different types of mattresses. There are pros and cons to each type and which you go for comes down to sleeping habits and personal preference. 

Innerspring Mattresses

These are the oldest type of commercially available mattresses. They’ve been around since the early 1900s and are generally the cheapest type of mattress available. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re no good! 

Innerspring mattresses are generally quite, well, springy. They support your weight using a series of steel coils that compress as you lay on them.  One thing to bear in mind is that innerspring mattresses can become squeaky with age.

  • Bonnell coil –  these springs are placed in the mattress individually but wired together in a frame. They look a bit like an hourglass as they are wider at the top and bottom and narrow in the middle. The ends of the coils are knotted so the top and bottom have a circular shape. This can get noisy as the metal rubs against itself.

    These mattresses are affordable as the manufacturing process is simple and fairly low cost.

  • Offset coil – These are essentially Bonnell coils except that the tops and bottoms aren’t circular. They’re square and the ends are not knotted round themselves. This helps eliminate the squeaking that you get with Bonnell coils.

    Offset coil mattresses tend to be a bit more supportive as they contour better to your body. They are an affordable but durable option that has a reduced noise level.

  • Pocketed coil – These are quite different from the other kinds of coils as they are not wired together in a frame. The springs are largely independent of one another.

    The springs are a typical spring shape and they are encased in individual fabric pockets. The fabric pockets are glued together but the springs are not fixed to each other in any other way.

    What’s great about pocketed coil mattresses is that your movement doesn’t affect your bedfellow. The springs around you conform to your shape but they don’t pull or drag the rest of the springs.

    With these mattresses, you have a range of gauges. These have a numerical listing and the higher the number the thinner the gauge. Thinner gauge springs tend to be softer. If you prefer a firm mattress then you want thicker springs. 

Memory Foam

This stuff is literally space-age! It was invented by NASA in the 60s for aircraft seats but is now more at home in mattresses. 

Memory foam is a soft, supportive substance. It takes the shape of the sleeper and almost cradles them. Many people love the support offered by memory foam mattresses though it can be too soft for others. 

The main appeal of memory foam mattresses is that they are ideal for side sleepers and people with orthopedic problems. They can help keep you properly aligned and relieve pressure on joints. 

One of the issues with memory foam is that it does trap heat and gets pretty warm. If you run hot then you might want to avoid these.


These mattresses aren’t really gel. They are foam infused with gel. The gel doesn’t take heat as quickly as foam so it is a good option for people who are warm sleepers. 


Latex is made with the byproduct of sap from a rubber tree. It is a natural product, unlike memory foam and gel. 

It’s not quite as soft and spongy as memory foam but it does provide more bounce. It also doesn’t get as warm as memory foam. 


These mattresses use springs and some form of topper. The topper will generally be memory foam, gel, latex, or a mix of both. 

These are excellent choices for Goldilocks! They offer a bit more of a customizable experience. You can get a good mix of support and comfort with these kinds of mattresses.


These beds are like hospital beds in that they can lift and bend at the top and the bottom. However, unlike hospital beds, these mattresses are actually comfortable! 

These beds are ideal for people who like to sit up and read or watch TV in bed. They’re also great for people with mobility issues. 

If you are looking to get a mattress like this, you might want to check out the isense mattress range.  They have a wide range of adjustable mattresses that can help you get a perfect night’s sleep. 


Mattresses are rated on a scale of 1-10. 1 is the softest and 10 is the firmest. Firmness is partly a personal preference but also has to do with the way you sleep. 


  • Soft 1-3 – these are ideal for side sleepers or people who move around a lot. They are also good for people with joint problems as they relieve pressure on the joints. 
  • Medium-soft 3-5 – best for people who move around but want a bit of extra support. 
  • Medium-firm 6-8 – good for back sleepers as they give extra support for your lower back. They are soft enough to allow you to sink in without being too soft. 
  • Firm -9-10 – If you have back pain you’ll want a firm mattress. They keep your back in a stable position which can help alleviate back pain.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right mattress doesn’t have to be a compromise between cost, type, and firmness. 

You spend about 26 years of your life in bed so you want to choose the best possible mattress. 


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