Investigate the big sleep

Given that many of us consider we need a full eight hours sleep at night, it is pretty fair to assume that we will be spending about a third of our life asleep. That is quite a sobering thought when you consider about 80 per cent of shoppers will spend less than two minutes trying out beds before purchasing one.

The quality of your bed will have a dramatic effect on the way you sleep, so it is an important purchase – not one to be rushed into. That said it is also not something that you should put off. Like pillows and duvets, your bed has a finite practical life.

The Sleep Council advises that you should assume a reasonable bed lifespan to be about eight years. This obviously, depends on various factors such as the quality of the original purchase, how much you use the bed (a guest bed slept in occasionally will obviously last years longer) and whether it has ever served as a trampoline for your children.

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If you find that you wake up in the morning with aches that wear off during the day, or sleep better somewhere other than your own bed, then it could be that it is time to consider a change in the bedroom.

Once the decision is taken, the planning should start in earnest. There are a myriad of styles and types of bed to choose from, but before you do anything consider the size that you need – and we are talking length as well as width.

Being disturbed by a sleeping partner is one of the biggest causes of sleep deprivation; so if you are sharing a bed it is important to ensure you have enough room. A standard UK double bed is only 4ft 6in (an allowance of only 2ft 3in per person). When you consider that a standard single bed is 3ft wide these days, then you are cheating yourself out of a good 9in of space each.

It is sage advice to try and buy the largest bed that your room can accommodate – especially when you consider that you are likely to be lying around in it for 3,000 hours (or 120 days) a year. For two people, I would always opt for a minimum of a king size bed, which is 5ft wide. Most homes can fit these in a double bedroom, but when you are checking your available space do remember to factor in the need for bedside tables. For ultimate luxury a super king will ensure roll together is unlikely as you relax in a full 3ft each.

The length of your bed is also important, for comfort your bed should be about 4in longer than the tallest occupant. At 6ft 6in, king size and super king size mattresses tend to be 3in longer than a standard double and single – so ideal for most people. However, if you are over 6ft tall you should check with a company if they do a longer base (many do 7ft lengths as standard). Remember that you will need to factor this in when you are shopping for bedding.

Next up is cost and here you must be realistic. When setting your budget consider a sobering fact: every £100 that you spend on a new bed represents an investment of only 3.5p per night (based on a lifespan of eight years).

It can be a false economy to buy only a mattress, especially if you have a divan, as the base can affect both the overall comfort and longevity. Try to change both parts at the same time to ensure you get the best benefit for your money.

You should also check the size of the access to your bedroom to avoid any nasty surprises when you take delivery. Most large divans now come in two parts, which makes them easier to bring in, but never trust to luck.

With your size and budget in mind it is time to hit the high street and spend quality hours trying out the options. No matter how much you read in advance there is no substitute for lying on a bed and checking that you find it comfortable.

There seems to be a great deal of embarrassment among the buying public who do not wish to be seen lying on a bed in a store. However, it is vital to get over the awkwardness and have a really good test drive in the showroom. That is what those beds are there for – and all the other customers are going to be buying a one too, so there is really nothing to be worried about.

Be prepared to test a lot of beds, take your time and ask advice. Consider this a proper research trip, so be prepared. If you are going to share a bed, you both need to try it out at the same time (as the weight of your partner can affect how the mattress feels). Dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable clothing, especially a good pair of socks or tights, and take your coat and shoes off. This will ensure that you are relaxed and can objectively assess the situation.

Above all, never attempt to go bed shopping when you are tired. If this is the case, you are likely to find that everything feels really great and you could end up making an expensive mistake.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is a multi-award winning Interior Designer. Visit him at or call 0800 032 1180.