Choosing a bed

You spend a third of your life in bed, so making the right choice is imperative. Shopping for a bed when you are tired is a bit like going to the supermarket on an empty stomach - in other words, best avoided. It's an important investment, so take your time - don’t let the wrong purchase be the cause of sleepless nights.

Choosing a bed

Tips on choosing a bed

  • Don't be too swayed by beds that brand themselves "orthopaedic" as this does not mean they have been medically approved, but is commonly used to describe a firmer mattress.
  • Firmer mattresses are not necessarily better for back problems. If you suffer from back pain you should consult a doctor before choosing a bed.
  • Turn your mattress regularly to prevent it from becoming uneven where the weight of your body has been.
  • Look for a blue and white label on your mattress to make sure it meets UK regulations on flame resistance.
  • For more information on choosing a bed and getting a better night's sleep visit

An uncomfortable bed will cost you on average one hour’s less sleep per night than a comfortable one, according to research by sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski. The Sleep Council recommends buying the mattress and frame together as they are designed to work in unison. It also suggests lying on a mattress for at least ten minutes before you buy. To test the firmness of the mattress lie flat and slide your hand underneath the hollow of your back. If it is difficult to push your hand through it is probably too soft and, if there is a large gap, the bed is much too hard. A good mattress will let your hand slide through, but still remain in contact with your back. Of course, if you are buying as a couple you both need to test the mattress before you buy as two people’s idea of comfort can differ significantly. Pocket spring mattresses prevent one partner’s movements disturbing the other as the springs move independently between individual fabric divides. Memory foam recovers its original shape once you get up to prevent comfort deteriorating with age, while water beds are supportive without creating uncomfortable pressure points. A bedstead with sprung slats will offer more support than one with a solid base.

The style of bed you choose will be a key feature in determining whether your bedroom looks modern or traditional. An antique four-poster with a romantic canopy will work well if you are going for a classic style and have other period furniture in the room. A wrought-iron bed frame can complement a robust colour scheme but, if the walls are pale, brass or light-wood frames are easier on the eye. In a contemporary room you can make an upholstered headboard into a statement feature. Create your own with a panel of hard wood covered with foam wadding and finished with your favourite fabric in a flamboyant print. For a modern oriental look choose a low bed with a simple wooden base and a streamlined built-in bedside shelf, while for a regal style you should opt for a bed that is higher off the ground with a dark wood frame and tall imposing headboard.

Couples should make sure there is enough room for both of you to lie side by side with your hands behind your heads and not rub shoulders. The bed should be at least 10cm longer than the tallest person and preferably be placed in a position where it is accessible from both sides. If you have a cramped bedroom you may wish to opt for a platform bed so that you can use the area beneath for a desk or hanging space. Low beds create a more spacious feel in a small bedroom, but if you need extra storage you may need to choose a higher bed that has drawers built into the base. If there is not enough space for a bedside table, a shelf beside the bed can work just as well.