How to choose a mattress and the best technology for sleep

Buying a new mattress guide

A good-quality mattress is one of the best investments you can make to help get a good night’s sleep. Every manufacturer promises the world, so what actually separates the good from the bad? Combined with various gadgets and technology, we explore how to choose a mattress so you can get the best rest possible.

As part of this, Emma Sleep Australia sent their Emma Zero Gravity Mattress to review, just one of many options available on the market. Now, let’s be clear: I am not a doctor. I do, however research and review different types of products and technology. My own experience with sleep struggles on older mattresses inspired me to find out what’s changed over the years when buying new bedding.

Mattress and sleep technology contents

How has buying a bed changed over the years?

Before discussing what has changed, let’s talk about what has not. Every mattress promises the best night’s sleep, and comparing mattresses is hard. Whether that be prices or how they feel. Indeed, you cannot price compare mattresses of the same model as no two different retailers stock the same models. This is a marketing tactic to stop price comparisons.

Traditionally, to buy a mattress, you would spend a day, weekend or weeks going from one store to another, from one bed to another, lying on it to decide if it is right for you. Imagine laying for 20 minutes on each, the prescribed time to decide if a mattress is right for you and how long it would take.

Then, once you decide, there are other factors the consider. How long after purchasing will the mattress arrive at your home? How do you even transport a queen mattress? Plus, what do you do with your old one?

how to choose a mattress

Mattresses are long-term investments. This means it’s likely been years since you last purchased one and plenty has changed since then. Some of the main changes include:

  • Mattresses are not likely to be double-sided. You no longer turn a mattress over, only end-to-end. The layers are designed to get the right feel only in one direction.
  • Mattresses are much thicker than they used to be, with more layers called pillow tops. Your old sheets may no longer fit.
  • Some have a removable cover, allowing you to wash the cover to remove dust, mites and stains.
  • Buying a mattress online is becoming more popular, reducing prices and meaning you do not spend days getting confused in bedding shops.
  • Mattresses are often on special at 50% off. Unless urgent, wait for a good deal.
  • Mattresses are often delivered in a box. The mattress is rolled and vacuum sealed, enabling the mattress to take up a fraction of the space and be more easily transported. Once released, the mattress takes its shape in seconds and fully expands in several days.
  • Online sellers will offer a money-back guarantee. As you have never laid on the mattress, you can return or exchange the mattress to give you the confidence to purchase.
  • A ten-year warranty is not uncommon, but it will come with conditions like 25-35mm dipping in the mattress, which is not covered and considered wear and tear. Thus, the hollow in the bed after five years does not entitle you to a replacement.

How to choose a mattress for your needs

We are not all the same size, nor may the room in which we intend to put a mattress be big enough to fit a king-size mattress. Because of this, your first decision is the mattress size. Generally speaking, these are the dimensions of common sizes:

MattressWidth x Length
Single92 x 187cm
Long single92 x 203cm
King single106 x 203cm
Double137 x 187cm
Queen153 x 203cm
King183 x 203cm

Unless you are a student, you will probably not put your mattress on the floor. You will need to decide on the bed frame/base type. The type of base will change the feel of your bed. You can choose between a flat base (ensemble) with 100% support and a slat base with gaps. On some cheap mattresses, a slatted base could mean uneven pressure points. An ensemble or slat base can also be sprung, making your mattress softer.

Suppose you will be sharing a bed with someone else. In that case, you need to consider whether the movement of one person will affect another. It is best to look for a mattress that isolates movement to not disturb your partner.

People will say they like a firm or a hard mattress. Scientifically, a firm mattress will support your spine correctly if you sleep on your stomach. A medium mattress will support your back and neck if you sleep on your back. A soft mattress will contour your body if you sleep on your side.

Mattresses are made in four primary ways: Coil, Pocket spring, Latex foam and Memory foam.

Coil Mattress

Use wire springs all fixed together; they are lighter to move and economical to buy. They tend to have a shorter life, and movement will likely transfer to a partner.

Pocket Spring

Use a wire spring sewn into an individual fabric pocket, which reduces movement to a partner. They provide good circulation, meaning you will get a cooler night’s sleep, and the tension can be adjusted in each pocket to support different parts of your body evenly. A topper is commonly used as a mix of materials to change the feel of the bed, making the mattress very heavy to lift.

Latex Foam

Use a blend of synthetic and natural latex to mould to your body shape. They don’t gather dust, so they are good for allergy sufferers. They have a firm feel and are also heavy to move. Due to their construction, they will be hot and tend to absorb odour over time.

Memory Foam

Memory foam shapes to your body but does not immediately spring back like latex foam. This has the effect of supporting your joints better and improving circulation as it moulds to your body. They tend to be very heavy to move and hot to sleep in.

Some manufacturers will combine some of these manufacturing techniques to produce different benefits. A hot bed is better for cooler climates and may not suit Darwin without air con.

Best sleep technology

Studies have shown that using your smartphone directly before bed will delay your ability to fall asleep. There are, however, several tech gadgets that will help you sleep.

Blue light reduction technology: Blue light boosts alertness, helps memory and brain function, and elevates mood, which you do not want when trying to sleep. Blue light is in sunlight and on your smartphone, tablet, and TV. A darkened room blocks this light, while most smartphones and tablets can switch off or filter out blue light, helping you sleep. Devices like the Osin Loop smart lamp claim to help you get blue light when you need it, and reduce exposure later in the day,

Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen: This bedside smart device has a built-in feature called sleep sensing, which uses motion sensors to detect movement, breathing and sounds like coughing and snoring. This data is analysed to understand what could impact your sleep and recommends improving your sleep with personalised insights.

Apple Watch: WatchOS tracks sleep stages by analysing heart rate and movement. You can see how much REM, Core and Deep sleep you had and how long you were awake. This data can be tracked over time and set up a sleep schedule. This schedule will aid sleep by turning off the display and switching on Do Not Disturb. Other smart wearables like the Galaxy Watch and Pixel Watch also provide similar sleep-related features.

Withings sleep analyser
Withings sleep analyser

Withings sleep analyser: A sound sensor and a pneumatic sensor are built into a pad that you place under your mattress. These combine to measure everything from movement, heart rate, snoring, and breathing. The app or a doctor can then use this data to make recommendations for better sleep.

Vtech BC8313 V-Hush Pro Storytelling Soother with Sleep Trainer: Designed to help children get to sleep and learn sleep boundaries. It uses songs, stories, lullabies and light to help train children and stop them from disturbing their parents’ sleep.

Emma UP: A personalised sleep coach that uses AI to help you get a good night’s sleep, with recommendations from sleep experts to help you identify why you might be having trouble sleeping.

Sleeping on an Emma Zero Gravity Mattress

Emma may not be a familiar mattress brand yet in Australia. Still, this German brand bedding company is one of the fastest-growing mattress manufacturers in the world. They refer to themselves as the sleep company. Being this big, they have the advantage of economies of scale for manufacturing and, secondly, a large R&D department.

A worldwide trend is sleep divorce, in which a third of couples put up barriers or move to another room to get a better night’s sleep. The team at Emma believe they have a product that addresses the most common issues associated with a mattress and that of sleep divorce with the release of their new Emma Zero Gravity Mattress.

Sleep Expert Emma Merritt from the Emma Sleep Research Team says, “The Emma Zero Gravity Mattress is the crème de la crème of mattresses for sensitive sleepers. Our Airgrid technology increases airflow within the mattress to prevent heat from being trapped around your body, increasing comfort and reducing midnight awakenings. Meanwhile, motion isolation technology prevents bed partners’ movements from disturbing one another. This addresses some of the most common issues – overheating and restless partners – that Aussies face. We can’t wait to share this latest sleep innovation with the Land Down Under!”

The Emma mattress turns up in a cardboard box with wheels and only took 48 hours in Sydney from order. The wheels are handy as the mattress weighs 38.5kg for the double and 46.7kg for the queen. Once you unbox it, it is in a vacuum-sealed roll, which, once punctured with the included safety knife, expands to its full size in seconds. Although the bed can be slept on immediately, we left it a few days to fully expand.

Our previous experience with new mattresses has been it takes a few nights to get used to the mattress. Not so with Emma. We both slept soundly and found the mattress very supportive and comfortable. The mattress has several layers, including pocket springs and air grid material zoned to adjust to different body parts. Your head and feet need less support than your hips.

One of the disadvantages of having a supportive mattress for side sleepers, which both my wife and I are, is the padding can become very hot. Think of it as an upside-down doona. To overcome this, Emma uses a technology they refer to as Airocell. This foam layer absorbs body heat and quickly dissipates that heat by evaporation.

After a month, I would love to tell you how the mattress was, but I slept through it, and that is the point. I enjoy going to bed on it and feel good in the morning.

I have booked a council clean-up, and the old mattress disappears today.

Don’t just take my word for it; the Emma Zero gravity mattress has just been awarded an Australian Good Design Award winner for 2023.

If I did not like the mattress, Emma offers a 100-night trial, which means you could get your money back if you could not get a good night’s sleep. The returned mattress is donated to charity.

We tested an Emma Zero Gravity Double Mattress with a 10-year warranty that retails for $2,719 but, at the time of writing, was on sale for $1,223.55

How to choose a mattress in 2023

Spending hours in a bed shop may be a thing of the past, and a new mattress may be just a few clicks away once you have identified how you sleep and what sort of support you need.

Technology has meant the positives and negatives of springs, and foam can be combined to make a comfortable, supportive mattress that you will not wake up in a sweat. A bad night’s sleep on a new mattress can mean you return it for a refund or exchange.

You can now rest easy knowing that buying a mattress has become easier, and you will get a better night’s sleep for your money.