How to choose your bed

Getting the right bed can be a stressful purchase. Waking at 3am with discomfort after spending sometimes thousands on a bed and mattress can be frustrating and annoying. Check the returns policy when buying a bed, though the hassle of getting it back to the store is not fun. So, how do you make the best purchase of something you spend approximately a third of your life on? This is a process that requires time and comfortable clothing.

If you are looking for a specific bed base and or head board, it may limit the store you purchase from due to the bed you like. A specialist bed store will usually give you a specialist sales person, with a good sales person having good product knowledge, able to eke out your requirements, likes and dislikes. Be honest with them. They want to get you the best fit – no sales person wants to see you return dissatisfied. How much support do you require? Do you have pressure areas that need extra comfort? Do you need to have separate cells to not feel the mattress move when your partner rolls around?

Remember, I said wear comfortable clothing. You cannot expect to purchase a bed without lying on it. Initially, pretend you are goldilocks. If you have discussed your wants and needs, the sales person should take you to something close to your requirement. Then you get to give feedback. Lie on it briefly – too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold. Get your first impression and tell the sales person. If you lie on lots of mattresses for too long, you will get confused. Is the second mattress you try better or worse than the first? What makes it better or worse? Tell the sales person. You should narrow it down fairly quickly to two or three mattresses.


Now comes the fun part. It takes a little while to get comfortable, but also for niggles to start. So lie on the mattress for 10-15 minutes. Change position to your favourite positions for a few minutes each one. Is your spine in a neutral alignment (straight line) when lying on your side? You will notice that what felt great in the first minute may start to put pressure on the hip or shoulder, or you get sweaty where the mattress is on the body, or your back aches because you have sunk into the mattress too much. Pay attention and listen to your body. How does it feel getting on/off including how firm the edge is? Rate the mattress and compare it to the others. A maximum of three mattresses would be my advice as you will get sensory confusion with too many and find difficulty with determining differences between them.

The reason I have mentioned temperature is all the lovely mediums for mattresses today. Some find the foam hot, some find it great. Some contain gel. All these things you may not have been aware of and if you don’t tell the sales person that you get hot or cold through the night, then they may not mention them.


If you are confused with the decision and have narrowed it to 2 mattresses, return on another day and only lie on those two mattresses to determine which the best is. Remember that you still want to lie down for 10-15minutes on each. Relax onto the bed as you would to fall asleep and see which mattress you can comfortably stay in one position the longest. Tension remaining in the body will affect the comfort and sensory feedback.
Much like wine, spending more does not mean it is better and tastes differ. Of course, if you like the more expensive mattress, then by all means you deserve the expense for the time you will spend on it. Enjoy the opportunity to lie still in the middle of the day and don’t rush the process. And if anyone looks at you funny, it’s probably because they are jealous and too embarrassed to lie down and do the same thing.

Senior Physiotherapist
Jo Bouckley

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