Updated: Aug 5, 2019
How to get your little one sleeping like a boss
The better the kids sleep, the better the parents sleep. So help your little sleeper slumber well by getting him or her a great mattress.
If I've learned one thing from my first two-plus years of being a parent, it's that good sleep really is important for everyone in the family. While no mattress is going to guarantee a blissfully 13 hours every night, you can be certain that a poor mattress is going to cause sleeping issues.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends that the average adult get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. For your kids, NIH advises even more slumber. Children ages 3 to 5 should get at least 10 and as many as 13 hours of sleep each night, while kids aged 6 through 13 should get nine to eleven hours whenever possible. Taken as an average, that means children between the toddler and teenage years should aim for 10.75 hours of sleep on an average night.
In theory, then, your child will be spending about 3,923 hours on his or her mattress each and every year. And as many mattresses last for seven, eight, or even ten or more years, the numbers only add up as time goes by. So go ahead and get the kid a good mattress.
What type of mattress will suit my child?
There are all sorts of things to bear in mind when picking a mattress for a young one, from how firm it is, foam or spring, organic or not and whether it helps with particular issues your child might have – bedwetting or allergies, for example.
As with adult mattresses, children's mattresses come in open-sprung, pocket-sprung, memory foam and latex foam varieties, each offering various benefits to different sorts of sleepers.
Children need support when they sleep. As well as keeping the spine and bones aligned – a very important thing to bear in mind concerning their growth – supportive mattresses will reduce rolling, fidgeting and discomfort, allowing your child to sleep more soundly (every parent's dream!). Babies and infants generally need firmer mattresses though, due to the speed and way in which their bones develop.
The most supportive varieties are pocket-sprung, memory foam and latex, though each features aspects some children will benefit from more than others. Pocket-sprung mattresses often feature comfy tufted covering layers, while memory foam mattresses, being dense and body-forming, will reduce how often restless children wake up during the night. Latex foam mattresses are very breathable – great for warm homes and kids who hate hot temperatures come bedtime.
When looking for a sprung mattress, it's important to check how high the spring count and coil gauge are. Higher spring counts mean more support, while lower gauge numbers indicate thicker coils and a firmer mattress as a result.
Foam mattresses – latex and memory – are measured by density. Quality memory foam mattresses usually have a density of four to five pounds: the higher the number, the firmer the sleeping surface will be.
Anything else to watch out for?
Certain mattresses offer other benefits, but also pitfalls that should be looked out for.
Memory foam mattresses, for instance, can sometimes release gases from the foam – a process known as off-gassing. If you experience this, simply let the unit air out in a ventilated room for three to four days, this allows the fumes to be released, and this will normally eliminate the issue.
Children who have allergies may benefit from synthetic mattresses as their fibres are less likely to attract bacteria and mites, although the same effects can be gained with natural latex, cotton, pure wool or silk – these are naturally hypoallergenic, so if your bed doesn't contain them, think about using these in the future.
That's not to say open and pocket sprung mattresses are a no-no for children with allergies though – antibacterial, hypoallergenic mattress protectors will also stop symptoms in their tracks.
The same goes if your child has problems with bedwetting – both mattress protectors and washable bed pads will help protect the mattress you choose to buy, whatever the variety.
What is the best mattress for a 3 year old?
The best mattress for a 3 year old is a memory foam mattress. Their hypoallergenic properties mean insects and dust are not attracted to them and the foam is no fun to jump on, meaning they will not break down the mattress by jumping on it!
Does the type of bed frame matter?
If buying for babies or toddlers, these bed frames will require smaller mattresses than usual. Given how quickly children of this age grow, it can often make more sense – especially from a cost perspective – to skip these varieties all together and go for a single-sized bed.
Most mattresses have a lifespan of around ten years, so by regularly flipping and rotating the mattress every six months, you'll get the most restful nights for your money, setting the scene for a change when they hit double figures.
Are there any large cost differences?
There are also a few price differences between the different types of mattress – a very important thing, bearing in mind how speedily children grow.
At the most expensive end of the scale are pocket-sprung and latex mattresses. Prices here are mainly impacted by how many springs make up the pocket mattress, and whether or not the latex is natural.
The middleweight mattress is memory foam, being synthetic yet very comfortable, while the cheapest options available are open coil and futon mattresses. These final two are cheap, but not particularly durable and sometimes uncomfortable.
Buying a mattress for your child isn't a quick decision to make, but we hope this guide helps you to buy the right thing for you and your kids.