The right bed is extremely important to our health and wellbeing because our sleeping environment will affect the quality of our sleep – which in turn has a big affect 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.

So, what is the right bed? It’s not easy to make specific recommendations – there’s such a huge choice on the market place 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 Sleep Council spokesperson Jessica Alexander. The Sleep Council 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’s neither too soft nor too hard – but it suits everyone’s very individual needs. First and foremost it must give you correct support and comfort – but individuals might also have to consider 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 it ever second hand: it’s not hygienic (we sweat as much as half to a pint of liquid a night!); nor healthy (dust mites accumulate in beds – bad for asthma sufferers). Nor will it be properly supportive (having been moulded to someone else’s sleeping habits).

Size is important. The most common British double bed size of 4ft 6in x 6ft 3in really isn’t big enough for two to sleep well without disturbing each other: studies have shown that more space – even a 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 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 differing results.

There are many types – and prices of beds – from which to choose, each offering 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 (futons!) – even water (flotation beds).

Don’t be too distracted by the pattern or colour of the cover – it’s called the ticking: it’s going to be concealed by bedding most of the time.

There are many different base options, too – from simple upholstered divans (which you can still get on legs if preferred, although retailers rarely show them this way) to metal or wooden bedsteads or all-singing, all-dancing adjustable beds. If you are not buying a base and mattress from the same supplier, make sure 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, not just for your home but also for your own wellbeing! Remember, every £100 you spend represents less than 4p a night over seven years.

When you go shopping for a new bed consider your priorities – support, comfort, availability, luxury, is the bed for you, the kids or the spare room – and choose the type of outlet which offers the best service to fit those needs. Ideally you should try before you buy, as comfort and support are very individual assessments. Discuss your needs with the sales person and then try out 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’s 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 – when the clocks go back in the autumn and you get an extra hour to spend in bed on a Sunday morning (if you’re lucky) is a good time 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. Call freephone 0800 018 7923 or visit the web site at www.sleepcouncil.org.uk.

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