Which mattress to buy in the Boxing Day sales? Our expert reveals our testing process – and the best buys

Our expert mattress reviewer puts the likes of Casper, Simba and Emma mattresses on test in her home. Find out why, and which came out top

nectar mattress
(Image credit: Nectar)

If your sleep quality is suffering, a seen-better-days mattress could be the culprit. But when you’re looking for guidance on which is the best mattress you might find a difference between the results of lab testing, and our Realhomes.com testing really useful. 

So, read on for an insight as to how we test and review the mattresses we recommend – and find recommendations for the best buys this Boxing Day. And if you don't find what you're after on this page, we have tons more great buys on our mattress sales page.

1. Why our mattress reviewer tests mattresses at home

We’re rigorous mattress testers (of which more below) just like those lab testers, but our reviews tell you about the experience of getting the mattress delivered to your home, as well as sleeping on it. After all, that’s what you’re going to do.

It’s the answer, as well, to why lab tests can so often throw up radically different results from home testing. At home, it matters if the mattress has an odour when you first get it on to your bed. Whether your partner is liable to disturb you when you’re sharing a particular design can also be a deal-breaker. Mattresses can be heavy, so whether you can actually rotate and turn (if necessary) the mattress might also figure high in a list of the real-world concerns that can make homeowners’ priorities different from those of lab testers.

2. How we test mattresses – and our top buy

To bring you all the information you need to make the right choice our expert reviewer Linda Clayton actually sleeps on the mattresses over time – and not on her own. Sharing them with her husband (and occasionally, her children) she ensures you know how two people sleeping night after night on a particular mattress find it in terms of comfort, temperature, the feel and more.

Linda gives the Casper mattress five stars and it’s our number one best mattress. Tempted? Here’s the review – but we couldn't recommend it more.

The testing isn’t limited to the two of them either. Linda’s enrolled three male and three female testers with a range of body weights so they can lie on each mattress and report on the firmness level from their point of view. And that, in turn, makes it easier for you to trust our reviews and buy a mattress online.

3. Mattress smells, sharing and other review considerations (plus another great buy)

Linda also tells you about the smell of the mattresses she tests. Weird? Well, we don’t think so. A strong chemical whiff while your mattress is new is something you need to decide if you’re prepared to put up with. In a lab you can leave odour behind at the end of the day. In a bedroom, it can really, really matter. Of course, this smell only lasts a few days, but it is pretty strong.

We mentioned the issue of bed sharers rolling into each other as one of the elements that count in the real world rather than the lab, and this is another issue Linda considers in her reviews. A mattress that means your partner’s restless sleep doesn’t compromise yours is the buy you want.

The Nectar mattress easily kept two sleepers from disturbing one another in Linda’s test. Read the review for more details.

4. Is it a good buy for you? Plus two more favourites

Linda’s other tests? They’ll put you in the picture about whether it’s a mattress to suit side, back or front sleepers as she tests them in all positions in order to help you narrow down a shortlist to mattresses that complement the way you prefer to kip.

There’s a weight test, too, that gives an indication of how much ‘sink’ the mattress has. Are you going to find its give not to your preference? Is it going to be hard to get off the mattress in the morning because it’s so squishy? Linda clues you in. A posture test, meanwhile, plus photographic evidence, shows whether the sleeper’s spine is aligned as it should be when side lying.

Check out the ideal spinal alignment of a sleeper on the Simba mattress in Linda’s review. This mattress, by the way, is the one our Ed-in-Chief Lucy sleeps on. She says: 'I'd always thought I needed a soft mattress for my bad back because firm ones were so painful to sleep on. What I needed was a hybrid – a sprung mattress with a memory foam layer on top. It's supportive but not punishing. I'm a side sleeper and no longer suffer achy hips and shoulders in the night/morning AND my back pain has gone. Get a Simba, people!'.

The crucial issue of value is something Linda thinks about in her real-life testing. If the mattress comes in at a high price, is it worth it? Is a mattress a winner at an amazingly low price? The actual considerations that feed into homeowners’ verdicts are always part of her insights.

Linda’s verdict on the affordable Leesa mattress? It punches above its weight. Get all the details in Linda's review.

Best mattress sales deals this Boxing Day

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.