Are You Lying Comfortably?

2nd March 2012

March is the Sleep Council's National Bed Month – an entire month dedicated to celebrating the most important piece of furniture in the home, and helping you decide what’s right for you…

The right bed is absolutely vital to our health and wellbeing the quality of our sleep has a big impact on how well we feel, both physically and psychologically. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching. Less, in this instance, is definitely more.

So, what is the right bed? That’s the big question. It’s not easy to make specific recommendations because there is such choice available, and the key deciding factor – is it comfortable – is such a subjective measure. “All we can do is give people an overview of the different types of bed available and tips on how to go about the process of choosing the right bed for them…” explains Jessica Alexander, spokesperson for the Sleep Council, which was set up to provide an independent source of advice on bed buying, as well as to raise awareness of the importance of getting a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing.

According to the Sleep Council, Goldilocks had the right idea: the right bed is neither too soft nor too hard, but suits everyone’s very individual needs. First and foremost it must give you the correct support and comfort – but you might also have to consider personal factors such as back pain, allergies, breathing problems, available budget, storage or space requirements – let alone style preferences.

The right bed is also not more than seven years old. After seven years a bed used regularly will have deteriorated by as much as 75% from its ‘as new’ condition. Nor is the right bed ever second hand: it’s neither hygienic (we can sweat as much as a pint of liquid a night!) nor healthy (dust mites accumulate in beds – bad for asthma sufferers) nor properly supportive (having been moulded to someone else’s sleeping habits).

Size matters. The most common British double bed size of 4ft 6in x 6ft 3in really isn’t big enough for two people to sleep well without disturbing each other: studies have shown that more space – even just the slight move up to a 5ft x 6ft 6in king size bed – can make a lot of difference to night-time comfort. Where bedroom space allows, there are of course much larger beds available, even special sizes and shapes, to order. Zip and link beds, which join two single beds together also have distinct advantages for those who have widely differing comfort and support requirements.

Always consider both the mattress and its support, whether divan base or bedstead. They work together to create the overall feel and performance of a bed, with different combinations producing substantially differing results.

There are many types (and, of course, prices), from which to choose, each with their own features and benefits. Mattresses come with various types of internal spring unit (open coil, pocket sprung or continuous springing) in ordinary foam, visco-elastic or latex foam, filled with cotton or other fibres and even water. Don’t be distracted by the pattern or colour of the cover – it’s called the ticking, and it’s going to be concealed by bedding most of the time.
There are many different base options, too – from the simple upholstered divans (which you can still get on legs if you prefer, although retailers rarely show them this way) to metal or wooden bedsteads or all-singing, all-dancing adjustable beds. If you’re not buying base and mattress from the same supplier, make sure that the mattress is suitable for use with the type of support you are considering: if you don’t, lack of durability could be a problem, with no comeback to the supplier.

You should spend as much as you can afford on a new bed. It’s probably one of the most important investments you’ll make – and every £100 you spend represents just 3.9p a night over seven years.

When you go shopping for a bed consider your priorities – support, comfort, availability, luxury, who it’s for (you, the kids or the spare room?) – and choose the type of outlet offering the best service to suit. Ideally you should try before you buy: comfort and support are very individual assessments. Discuss what you need with the salesperson and then sample a small selection – not more than three – for comparison. Take your time, spending at least five minutes on each bed. Lie down in your natural sleeping position (wear comfortable clothing and take off any outdoor coats) – together if the bed is for two. It needs to be right for both of you.

Once you’ve got your new bed, do remember that it won’t stay wonderful forever – beds get a lot of wear and tear! Over time, your comfort and support needs change, too. Do the Bed MOT. Test once a year to consider the state of your bed and your sleep and comfort quality…

Two free leaflets from The Sleep Council – the Bed Buyer’s Guide and
the Sleep Good Feel Good Guide – provide more information on how to
improve the quality of your sleep and the different types of beds available.
See or call freephone 0845 058 4595.

Find Your Local