I've been sleeping on a vast range of mattresses and putting them through their paces to bring you a true picture of how comfortable each one is and how much support it provides. I've also roped in my husband Nick to create a balanced view of what each mattress is like for women (so often the purchasers) and men, persuaded friends and family to try them out, and have conducted some semi-scientific testing so that you can buy your mattress online with confidence.
If you're looking to find the best mattress for your needs, you'll find plenty of choice in our mattress guides – but don't miss our deep reviews first. This time I tested the Tempur Sensation Elite mattress.
Tempur mattress specifications:
Type: Open Cell Viscoelastic foam
Sizes: Small single, long single, single, double, king and super king. Other sizes are available by special order
Who will the Tempur mattress suit?
Side-sleepers with or without backache or muscle pain.
- Need help choosing a new mattress? Let us guide you
What's the Tempur mattress like to sleep on?
This mattress is pretty spendy, it’s the priciest one we’re testing in fact (by a country mile). However, price doesn’t always equal value so I was really intrigued to see how this mattress would play out. I could tell it was a bit special from the offset. For one it didn't arrive crammed in a box and require six hours to ‘settle’. And for another, it looks superior quality. How so? The cover is beautifully smooth, in a stylish colour combo (these things matter if you’re design obsessed) and it’s reassuringly solid. When Nick and our lovely (strong) friend Mark manhandled it up the stairs, it didn’t flop over or bend like other foam mattresses.
If you haven’t heard, Tempur’s foam was developed for NASA. Tempur claims to be the original pressure relieving mattress maker. According to them, all other memory foam products came about later and are imitations of Tempur Material. This may well be true, but I’m not sure it matters. What I can tell you is that the Tempur didn’t feel like the other memory foam mattresses we’ve tested. The first time I got horizontal, I felt like it hugged my body in place. The longer I lay prone, the deeper I sank, but subtly. I didn’t need to send for help, nor was I halfway to Oz. The sensation is a little disturbing to begin with but by night five I’d stopped noticing or had just gotten used to it.
How did we sleep? For me: really well. Side-sleeping is my go-to position. I usually switch about a bit in the night but on the Tempur I went to sleep on my side and was still in place come morning. Fluke? Maybe, but the same happened every night. If I did move in my sleep, I didn’t know about it. Nick found it a little harder to cope with the hugginess. His words: 'I feel like it has swallowed me up'. He is heavier and wider than me of course but, despite being married to a committed ‘feeder’, he’s not massive. Front sleepers should avoid this mattress as your bottom and lower back tend to sink too deep for comfort. I couldn’t cope on my front for longer than a few minutes.
The bonus of being a bit sinky is that the Tempur Sensation Elite scored really well on motion transfer. There just wasn’t any, end of story. On the Tempur website, this model is said to mimic the bounce of a traditional sprung mattress but I’m unconvinced. It didn’t feel as ‘dead’ as some of the memory foams we’ve tested, but ‘bounce’ is a bit of a stretch. ‘Squish’ would be a more accurate adjective – as in it squishes down, s-l-o-w-l-y.
Tempur grades this mattress Medium for firmness, and that’s a fair assessment. It’s not too hard, nor too soft. Our jolly band of testers (three male, three female, ranging from 10 to 17 stone) agreed and graded it between five to seven (see graph below). They are not allowed to confer until after they’ve given me a verdict by the way! Nick was a bit smug to hear our heavier testers also found it a bit cosseting for their liking but they were all impressed by how the mattress contours to your body. 'It’s like being hugged to sleep,' one said. Cute
The weight test (see below) was interesting, or as interesting as plonking a rusty 56lb weight onto a mattress can be (to be honest, I was pretty nervous about marking the pristine cover of this pricey beast in case they wouldn’t let me return it!). So I got my laser level set up, chucked the weight on (read: gently and delicately hoisted), and went to take a piccie but the weight didn’t stop sinking. Or at least it took a further 30 seconds or so to halt. In the middle of the mattress it peaked at 10cm, which was lucky because the ruler doesn’t go any further. On the edge it stopped at 9.2cm, which is still fairly deep. Of course, the weight is going to sink deeper than a body as it’s concentrated in a much smaller area but it’s a revealing exercise nonetheless.
Now posture – which is all about body support – is where the Tempur comes into its own and why we have rated it the best for side-sleepers. A jet-setting friend of ours has an extremely bad back and often has to lie on the floor during meetings to stop the agony. His wife jokes that the only reason he wants to come home from his global business trips is because he misses his Tempur mattress. Although neither Nick nor I share his affliction, we both noticed that our shoulders and hips felt comfortably supported, contoured by the mattress, and we woke feeling fresh and ache-free. On the morning after my weekly run (where I pretend I am still 20), I woke feeling less stiff than usual. The laser level showed Nick’s spine was virtually horizontal. Perhaps if they’d also sent a Tempur pillow, it would have been a perfect dot-to-dot!
How does the Tempur rate online?
There doesn't seem to be any love for Tempur at TrustPilot, but there aren’t any reviews about this particular mattress so it’s unfair to cast aspersions. Reviews (or at least unsponsored reviews) for this specific mattress are thin on the ground. I found six reviews on Dreams.com, where there’s big love for the Sensation Elite (4.8 out of 5 overall). The majority mentioned it helped their back pain. There’s also one review on John Lewis’ website, again very positive.
What do you get for your money?
A 100-night sleep trial, 10-year warranty, free delivery and free returns. You can also get up to two years’ interest free credit – you’re probably going to need it!
Is the Tempur worth it?
If you are a straightforward, low-fuss sleeper – ie, you can sleep standing up with one hand in a blender if required – then I’d have to say the Tempur isn’t really worth the spends. The brutal truth is that while Tempur may well have led the memory foam revolution, its competitors have proven themselves very worthy. You can get decent quality for far fewer pennies.
However, if you do struggle to sleep, this mattress may prove priceless. And I’m not just talking about you poor loves saddled with searing pain in your spine/hips/knees – delete as applicable. If your partner moans about you thrashing about during the night, or you switch positions more often than your ‘leccie company switches tariffs, this mattress could be a game-changer.
The 100-day trial means you have nothing to lose, except thousands of pounds if you do find it has transformed your nightlife. It is worth noting that Tempur has four mattress collections, each offering three depths, so that’s a total of 12 mattresses and, presumably, something to suit everyone. Also, 100 nights x 12 = 3.28 years’ worth of sleep trials… just saying. Did I mention that Tempur is certified by the International Space Foundation? Cool beans.
Tempur mattress fillings
Tempur may be secret squirrels about the exact alchemy of their Tempur Material but they will tell you how it works. Here comes the science bit: billions of visco-elastic spherical shaped open-cells respond to your body temperature and weight. They shift and re-organise their position to mould to your body’s contours. The material becomes softer and more malleable in warmer areas, essentially where it comes into contact with your body temperature, and remains firmer in cooler areas – hence the hugging. The end game is a feeling of weightlessness and contoured support. The PR also told me that this open-cell material is more breathable than the closed-cell construction of traditional memory foam. All you really need to know is that it’s sinky but supportive and you either like that, or you don’t. Oh, and I can vouch for the breathability – I did not overheat once during our five-night trial in August.
Ordering and delivery
- Delivery is free within mainland UK.
- Times vary according to stock availability but you shouldn’t need to wait much more than a couple of weeks.
- I received an advance call from Tempur’s delivery team, to make sure I was happy with my designated slot and someone would be home to sign for it.
- If you want to specify a date/time, it’ll cost ya, but the delivery team is willing to carry it upstairs into your bedroom, which is handy since it doesn’t come in a neat box.
About our review – and our reviewer
Linda Clayton has been writing about homes and interiors for nearly 20 years, working for publications such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Real Homes, Ideal Home, Livingetc and House Beautiful. Linda and her husband spend between five and 10 nights sleeping on each mattress.