Best mattress 2021: Memory foam, pocket sprung and hybrid mattresses reviewed

Kate Hilpern
·19-min read
The new generation of bed-in-a-box, vacuum-packed mattresses – usually made of foam, latex or a mixture, are becoming increasingly popular  (The Independent)
The new generation of bed-in-a-box, vacuum-packed mattresses – usually made of foam, latex or a mixture, are becoming increasingly popular (The Independent)

If you’re struggling to sleep at night, it may be time to invest in a new mattress.

According to the Sleep Council, you should change your mattress every seven years, or when you start waking up with stiffness or aches and pains.

Other tell-tale signs include not sleeping as well as you did a year ago, or noticing that you sleep better in other beds. It’s also worth checking your mattress for wear and tear, although do be aware that the signs of needing a new one aren’t always visible.

Traditionally, the most popular type of mattress was pocket-sprung, where the springs are sewn into individual fabric pockets. But the new generation of bed-in-a-box, vacuum-packed mattresses, usually made of foam, latex or a mixture, are taking off big time – as are hybrids between the two.

As most are available online, you can’t try them out first as you can with pocket-sprung mattresses, but most manufacturers offer a trial period – usually of about 100 nights, but sometimes more – during which you can send the mattress back and ask for a refund.

Read more: 10 best mattress toppers for a comfortable and well supported sleep

If you’re a side sleeper, look for a soft or medium level of firmness in your mattress – this will give you the correct level of cushioning and mould to your body’s natural curve. If you sleep on your front, go for a firm mattress, while back sleepers should go for a firm or medium firm mattress.

Remember that your mattress and bed frame need to work in tandem, so you should also check which kinds of mattresses will work well with your bed base. The filling is also important as these offer different properties, comfort and warmth options – and don’t forget to look into the thickness and tensions, which can vary greatly. For more information on how to choose the best mattress for you, read our mattress buying guide.

According to the Sleep Council, a bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move around less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching. Here are our favourite mattresses that promise just that.

Read more: Mattress buying guide: How to choose a mattress for the best night’s sleep

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Emma original mattress: £529 for a double, Emma

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 25cmMaterial: Memory foamTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Despite the name, this is the second version of the popular German-made three-layer foam mattress, which uses a different kind of foam to the likes of Eve, Simba and Casper that the manufacturer claims is longer-lasting. Also exclusive to Emma is the exceptionally breathable top layer. We found it more instantly comfortable than other bed-in-a-box mattresses we tried, it has significantly more bounce and is easier to turn over on – with no chance of disturbing your partner when you do.

There isn’t a body shape or type of sleeper that it wouldn’t suit, making it a great all-rounder, and it doesn't need turning, although there are handles if you need to move it. There’s also a washable cover. The icing on the cake is that there’s no minimum time-frame to request a return, and if you do decide to send it back (we doubt you will), you don’t have to repackage it. This is as good as it gets.

Buy now

The Nectar memory foam mattress: £424 for a double, Nectar Sleep

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 28cmMaterial: Memory foamTrial period: 365 nightsGuarantee: Lifetime

The USP on this bed-in-a-box mattress is the 365-night trial, meaning you have an entire year to decide whether it’s right for you, and if you do keep it there’s a lifetime warranty. Nectar Sleep also stands out for being the first and only mattress company in the UK to be climate neutral – all emissions are offset by various global schemes, including an Amazon forest protection programme.

Comprising of three layers of foam, the mattress is slightly firmer than most and particularly good for front and back sleepers, as well as smaller and lighter people. The fourth layer, the soft quilted adaptive cooling cover, means you won’t feel hot, and we also like the seven zoned layer which attends to all your support needs.

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Simba hybrid pro mattress: £794.76 for a double, Simba

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 28cmMaterial: Micro pocket spring, foam, woolTrial period: 200 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

This vacuum-packed mattress is a thicker, more deluxe version of Simba’s regular hybrid mattress. If you lean more towards foam than springs, but still want the best of both worlds – support, squidge, bounce and breathability – it’s definitely one to consider. Surrounding the supportive foam core (16cm) is a layer of higher definition foam (5cm), followed by 5,000 microsprings (2cm) and a final layer of open cell foam (3cm), the result of which is a firm-ish mattress that suits people of all shapes and sizes and particularly front and side sleepers.

This isn’t to say that it’s bad for back sleepers and it certainly won’t bother you if you occasionally sleep facing upwards, but we think there are better options for those who regularly sleep on their backs. It’s robust and doesn’t sag, making it a keeper for years to come. And it feels just as comfy right on the edges as bang in the middle. You won’t disturb your partner if you toss and turn and it’s exceptional at keeping sweat at bay, thanks to the added wool (another advantage over the original version). We appreciated the handles at the side which were handy for the regular rotation, although at 33kg it is hefty to turn over.

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Otty hybrid mattress: £424.99 for a double, Otty

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super king, emperorMattress depth: 25cmMaterial: Memory foam and springsTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

With this firmer mattress, you can literally feel it adapting to your body shape as you move, giving it a feel unlike any other bed-in-a-box mattress we tested. It’s particularly supportive for your spine and brilliant for those who sleep on their back. It’s got good temperature control too, thanks to a cool blue gel layer at the top, while the remaining four layers – including pocket springs and memory foam – have great longevity with no sagging or softening even years later.

You do have to rotate it once a month for the first six months – no mean feat with no handles – and it’s probably not the best for those who toss and turn, as your partner may feel some of that movement on the other side of the bed. Also be warned this mattress takes getting used to, but this only takes a night or two and it’s well worth it.

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Eve Sleep the original hybrid mattress: £599.99 for a double, Eve Sleep

Sizes available: UK single, UK double, UK king, UK super kingMattress depth: 25cmMaterial: Memory foam and full-sized pocket springsTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Despite the name, this model is the third mattress to join Eve’s hybrid range and it falls right in the middle on price, depth, support, number of springs and layers of foams. While the lighter hybrid version is 20cm thick with three layers of foam (but no memory foam), and the premium hybrid is 28cm thick with a whopping five layers of foam, this one sits nicely in between at 25cm thick with 800 full-sized 12cm springs (in a double), combined with four layers of memory and support foam.

The result is a more supportive yet bouncy sleeping surface than its cheaper counterpart, though not quite as decadent as the pricier version. We think it particularly suits combination sleepers, with the seven zoned sections helping to relieve key pressure points by being softer where protruding and heavier body parts (eg shoulder and pelvis) push down and firmer where they don’t.

And if you use it, as we did, with Eve’s famous storage bed frame, you can make even more of these pressure points by adjusting the slats accordingly (this worked wonders for our tester’s lower back pain). Compared to some other brands, we found the foam more breathable – also helped by the moisture-wicking, washable top cover. And as with all Eve mattresses, you can arrange to have your old mattress removed and recycled at the same time.

Buy now

Eve Sleep the premium mattress: £948 for a double, Eve Sleep

Sizes available: Double, king, super kingMattress depth: 28cmMaterial: Memory foamTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

This premium model joins the original, hybrid and light mattresses in Eve's range, and we love it. It feels like you're floating, and while at first we worried it might be a bit too soft and spongy, it only takes one night’s sleep to appreciate how supportive it is, especially around the hips and shoulders. It’s all thanks to the unique top layer of foam that the brand calls "floatfoam", while the other three layers of foam provide the scaffolding. There’s no dipping in the centre and the material moulds to your shape as you move.

We also like the quilted washable top cover with anti-bacterial properties, and the fact that the brand delivers the box right to your room and take away the packaging. It’s cooler than most, though, so not for those who get chilly at night. Eve's silky-soft bed linen is worth checking out, too.

Buy now

Dormeo S plus memory foam mattress: £399 for a double, Dormeo

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 20cmMaterial: Memory foam and customisable layerTrial period: 60 nightsGuarantee: 15 years

If you and your partner have different ideas about whether a firm or softer mattress is preferable, then read on. This mattress – which arrives rolled and vacuumed – has two separate cores, which can be rotated and flipped independently so you get a firmer or softer feel for different areas of your body. In other words, it’s incredibly personalised – and you get no gap or slippage between the two cores. We also like the S shape of the core that mirrors the natural curve of the spine to support you in all the right places (head, shoulders, hips and legs) no matter what position you sleep in and even when you rotate it.

It’s surprisingly lightweight (handy for rotating and flipping – there are handles for this too) and it stays cool, thanks to a number of factors including the "climalite" cover being infused with silver to keep moisture from soaking into the mattress. For a mattress that helps with back pain without breaking the bank, this is a great buy, although you’ll need to put some time aside to watch the video and figure out how it works. We also think there was more scope for the firm to be firmer and soft to be softer.

Buy now

Simba hybrid mattress: £569.06 for a double, Simba

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 25cmMaterial: Memory foam and springsTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Another vacuum-packed mattress, this medium-firm hybrid is an upgrade from Simba’s original model. Comprising of a foam core (16cm), with an outer layer of memory foam (3cm), followed by a final layer of 2,500 micro-pocket springs (4cm), this mattress also has a 3D woven structure which stops creasing in the cover, as well as a new cloud-like sleep surface with a hidden zip, so you can take it out to wash it.

We found it squidgy yet responsive and very good at keeping sweat at bay. Best for side and back sleepers, it’s also as robust as they come, so you won’t need to replace it for years. This gets a big thumbs up from us for stability and the level of edge-to-edge support – meaning it’s just as comfy even if you lie right at the edge, where other mattresses often become harder or softer. For ultimate comfort, try its bedding and bed linen too. Again, our only bugbear with this was that it doesn't come with handles.

Buy now

Sleep Hubs tweak mattress: £895 for a double, Sleep Hubs

Sleep Hubs
Sleep Hubs

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super kingMattress depth: Dependent on foam insertsMaterial: Responsive memory foam and springsTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

This is our top choice for people with back pain. Forget memory foam – this has reactive foam that responds to movement, so there is never a moment when the mattress isn’t completely moulded to your body. The second stand-out point is that it comes with multiple inserts, with different densities, that you can tailor to target specific pressure points. You can even buy extra ones if ever you need them.

Our tester had been at his wit’s end with back ache, despite having tried other expensive mattresses that promised to work wonders. With the tweak, he reported that the support is phenomenal, with no need to compromise on comfort. And if your partner does have restless night, you won’t feel a thing. There’s initially a bit of a chemical pong, but it goes after a couple of weeks. It’s currently out of stock, but the brand reassures us it will return next week.

Buy now

Dormeo memory plus mattress: £249.99 for a double, Dormeo

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 17cmMaterial: Memory foamTrial period: 60 nightsGuarantee: 15 years

This is a great price for a memory-foam mattress with such a floaty feel. We found it springy yet supportive, especially for anyone who is average weight or lighter, including children. It’s just a smidgen firmer than average, and the high breathability factor of the "ecocell" foam layer that sits on top of the other two layers of memory means it doesn’t get damp if you sweat. Your partner can roll over to their heart’s content without you feeling a thing and it’s treated with anti-bacterial, anti-dust mite and anti-fungal protection. The box is smaller and lighter than others, making it easier to get up the stairs, but while delivery is free, be warned collection costs are chargeable if you find you don’t like it.

Buy now

Herdy Sleep mattress: £849 for a double, Barker and Stonehouse

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 26cmMaterial: Pocket springs, wool, cotton, cashmereTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 5 years

This is on the pricey side for a bed-in-a-box mattress, but it’s next level in terms of durability and number of layers that give an instant cloud-like feel. The two layers of foam, followed by three made from mini pocket springs, provide the scaffolding, while the key ingredients are the deluxe top layers of natural fillings including wool, cotton and cashmere that are sourced from farms in the Lake District.

It’s supportive for all types of sleepers and people of all different weights, which is unusual, and it’s one of the most breathable mattress we tried. You won’t struggle to turn over on this mattress, although your partner may feel it when you do, and we wouldn’t recommend it for people who like their sleeping area to remain cool, although that’s not to say you’ll overheat.

Buy now

Silentnight eco comfort breathe 2000: £594.95 for a double, Mattress Online

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 31cmMaterial: Pocket sprungTrial period: 60 nightsGuarantee: 1 year

If you're eco conscious and/or get too hot when you sleep, look to this offering from Silentnight. The fibres within this completely foam and chemical-free mattress are made from recycled plastic bottles. The mattress came about after the brand decided to try and offer a solution to foam mattresses that can make you feel too warm. So it brought in a company called Awake, which works with the likes of pilots and the Department of Transport, to explore how pressure, movement, heat and moisture each affect the performance of a mattress.

The result is this three-layered polyester mattress that proved a big hit in trials with menopausal women who are prone to poor sleep and overheating. The first layer wicks away moisture from the body and the second has vertically layered fibres that act like drainpipes, leading to the third one which pulls down moisture. Available in soft, medium and medium firm, we tested the medium and it’s restful and supportive right up to the edges.

Buy now

Casper hybrid mattress: £750 for a double, Mattress Online

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 24cmMaterial: Memory foam and springsTrial period: 60 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Casper’s latest offering – and its most expensive yet – has already proven a hit in America. Combining its now legendary foams with a base layer of springs, you get instant sumptuousness (from the moulding of the four foam layers around your body) coupled with added bounce and airflow (from the pocket coil springs). We were impressed before we even got it out of its vacuum pack – how can those springs be so compressible? (Nearly five years of research, is the answer from Casper.) But that was nothing compared to our excitement over the immediate comfort.

The fact that it’s noticeably softer than other Casper mattresses might not be for everyone, though, and made us surprised that Casper claims it’s the brand’s “most supportive mattress yet”. You should also be aware the extra bounce means your partner is more likely to feel it when you turn than with a pure foam mattress. But neither put us off this mattress that feels as indulgent as – if not more than – others two or more times its price.

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Hypnos pillow top stellar mattress: £1,235 for a double, Best Price Beds

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 32cmMaterial: Pocket sprungTrial period: NoGuarantee: 10 years

If ever you’ve taken a sneaky peak at a mattress you’ve loved in a posh hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll have discovered it’s a Hypnos. This hand crafted, hand-stitched, hypo-allergenic pocket sprung mattress is made entirely from sustainably resourced materials. It has a plush top layer of cotton, wool, natural latex and a material called Solotex, which gives it the ultra-soft feel.

Each pocket spring is designed to sense the shape of your body and flex accordingly, which makes for outstanding weight distribution, comfort and support. It’s good at regulating body temperature too. You can choose your own firmness – we went for medium, which was just the ticket for average weight and build.

Buy now

Woolroom Oxford 9000 wool mattress: £1,201 for a double, Woolroom

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 29cmMaterial: Pocket sprung and natural fillingsTrial period: 100 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Drifting off to sleep will be a breeze when you sink into Woolroom’s bestselling sumptuous pocket-sprung mattress, made purely from British wool. Whereas 99 per cent of mattresses in the UK contain chemicals, wool is naturally flame retardant, so there is no need for any at all. You’ll probably enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep with no morning aches and pains too, thanks to excellent support that results from the 9000 mini pocket springs (in kingsize), and there’s a British grown hemp core layer for extra support. There are two tension options available and we’d recommend buying the brand's mattress protector or topper too for ultimate comfort. It’s mighty heavy for turning, though.

Buy now

Casper the essential mattress: £400 for a double, Mattresses Online

Sizes available: Single, small double, double, king, super kingMattress depth: 18cmMaterial: Memory foamTrial period: 60 nightsGuarantee: 10 years

Casper is probably the best-known name in the world of bed-in-a-boxes. For a long time, you could only get its flagship mattress over here, while in the states the brand started offering newer versions. But we’re catching up, with both the hybrid (also reviewed here) and the essential model, which is a great option for those who want all the benefits of a stable, comfortable and long-lasting mattress, without the hefty price-tag.

We couldn’t fault this three-layer foam mattress when it comes to breathability, which stops you getting too hot, and you can move around without much effort or disturbing your partner. All this and yet it supports you in all the right places, even if you sleep on your back (which usually makes finding the right mattress extra tricky). But stick to the Casper original if you’re heavier and/or want a thicker mattress, and the hybrid if you want an ultra-squishy one.

Buy now

Brook + Wilde the elite mattress: £1,099 for a double, Brook + Wilde

Brook + Wilde
Brook + Wilde

Sizes available: Single, double, king, super king

Mattress depth: 28cm

Material: Memory foam and springs

Trial period: 100 nights

Guarantee: 10 years

This extra-thick and truly magnificent mattress doesn’t come cheap but is worth every penny, despite being from a relatively new kid on the block in the world of mattress brands (although they’ve been making bedding for zonks). There’s no overheating, no loss of comfort or support even when you’re so close to the edge that your limbs are hanging out and, most importantly, it provides instant sumptuousness (some other mattresses take a bit of time to provide the right amount of give). Spine alignment gets full marks too, thanks to the four zones of support at the neck, shoulder, hip and leg.

Brook + Wilde says it all comes down to a whopping eight layers of foam and various sized springs. The mattress comes with a handy, soft, washable cover too. Plus, you get to pick from four firmness levels and if you get it wrong, the brand swaps it for a different firmness level or refund you. Being of average weight, we chose medium, which turned out to be spot on. The fact that a tree is planted for every mattress sold is a nice touch.

Buy now

The verdict: Mattresses

The Emma original mattress is our favourite of the new-generation bed-in-a-boxes, the options of which seem to be growing by the day. A three-layered sleep system, it’s very breathable, instantly comfy and has noticeably more bounce, taking you to the land of nod in record time. For a pocket sprung mattress, the Hypnos Stellar pillow top mattress is soft, sumptuous and yet supportive, albeit quite high. And if money is tight, our recommendation goes to Casper’s the essential mattress.

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