One in five of us sleep badly most nights but rather than blaming work worries or drinking too much coffee, did you know your bed could be causing your insomnia?
Research has found that swapping an uncomfortable old bed for a new one could give you an extra 42 minutes sleep a night. ‘If you’re getting aches and pains, and waking up in the night because your bed is uncomfortable, it’s time to get a new one,’ says Rachel McGuinness, a sleep expert and CBTI (cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia) therapist.
Finding the right mattress – not to mention a duvet, pillows and bed linen – can all add up to a great night’s sleep. Follow our guide to buying the best new bed for you (and whoever you’re sharing it with).
What sort of mattress is best?
It’s recommended that we buy a new mattress every seven to 10 years. These days, there’s an overwhelming range to choose from: futon, spring, memory foam and more. ‘It really is personal preference which kind of mattress you go for,’ says McGuinness. ‘But it has to be comfortable.’
Test out any potential mattress properly before buying. The Sleep Council says we spend less than two minutes trying out a new mattress, even though we spend around 3,000 hours lying on one every year. McGuinness says, ‘When you go into a bed store, lie down on the mattress in the same position you normally sleep in – on your back, side or front. Give it some time (around 10 minutes) to discover if it is comfortable or not.’
Some people may want to give memory foam mattresses a miss, such as menopausal women suffering from night sweats. There is some evidence that memory foam traps heat in around the body, raising your temperature. Your body temperature naturally drops at night but if you’re too warm, this can make sleep less likely.
‘A lot of the new varieties of memory foam mattress have changed their materials, so this should help,’ says McGuinness. ‘Or you can just add a memory-foam topper to your normal mattress for extra comfort.’
Does the bed frame matter?
If you’re investing in a new mattress, it makes sense to upgrade the frame at the same time. The Sleep Council warns that an old base could ‘reduce the useful life’ of the new mattress.
Whether you go for a divan, wooden frame, sleigh style or storage bed, it needs to feel comfortable for you. ‘But I draw the line at those beds where the TV comes out of the end. It’s not good sleep hygiene to fall asleep watching TV,’ says McGuinness.
What about the duvet?
Although it feels great snuggling into a thick duvet, if it’s too warm, it can disturb your sleep. And if your partner prefers a thick duvet but you’re always throwing back the covers, this can cause both sleep and relationship problems.
One solution could be a wool duvet. Researchers from the University of Leeds discovered a wool duvet helps regulate our temperature better than feather, down or polyester bedding. They say wool fibres wick moisture away from our bodies more efficiently, helping maintain a ‘microclimate’ around each person.
If your bed is big enough, you could have separate duvets. Check the tog rating on your duvet too – the lower the rating, the cooler it will be. Whether you go for a feather or synthetic duvet is purely a matter of choice and how much you can afford.
Test out a range of pillows when you’re buying a new duvet or mattress too. Again, it’s personal preference as to which type you choose but ‘you don’t have to spend a fortune to find one that’s comfortable,’ says McGuinness.
Should I invest in bed linen?
‘Buy the nicest sheets and pillow covers that you can,’ says McGuinness. ‘Your bed should be a comfortable place you want to spend time in – a key point for tackling insomnia.’
If you’re going for cotton, the general rule is higher the thread count, the better the quality. Polyester sheets, or a poly-cotton mix, will last longer but they’re not as breathable as cotton so you could wake up feeling clammy.
Although buying a new bed may feel expensive, a study by the University of Warwick found a good night’s sleep gives us the same mood boost as winning £120,000 on the lottery. When you put it like that, that new bed is worth every penny.