Mattress sizes are important because humans come in all shapes and sizes. Duh.
Luckily there are all sorts of mattress sizes: single, three quarter, double, queen and king-size.
But choosing a mattress is not that simple; it’s not only about size, [but technique]. Because each of us has very different needs.
It can be a real pain-in-the-you-know-what to find the right mattress.
Especially when you’re not a Rockefeller.
Because other than size, there are all sorts of elements that influence budget. Choosing the right mattress is not for sissies.
So. What should you take into account when on the prowl for a new mattress?
Well, here’s the long and the short of it…
In this guide, find out how mattress sizes compare around the world, the standard mattress sizes in South Africa, how to choose a mattress size based on your specific needs, and what should influence your budget and finally, how to kit out your new bed, as well as what to consider when you change mattress sizes.
Let’s jump onto it, shall we?
Mattress sizes around the world
Who says size doesn’t count? Because when it comes to beds, size most certainly matters.
For instance, in Holland, the Dutch are tall and straight, just like their tulips, with an average height of 1.83 metres (a little over six foot). In fact, the average Dutchman is eight inches taller today than he was 150 years ago!
However, in Indonesia, the average person barely reaches 1.58 meters (a measly five foot two).
So, unless the Dutch sleep with their feet left out in the cold, it stands to reason that beds need to come in a multitude of sizes.
On a side note…now that you know that Dutch men tower over the rest of us by about 10 centimetres (the average man in South Africa is 1.73 metres), you’re asking what makes the Dutch so tall? Well, scientists haven’t figured it out yet, but there are a few possible reasons, and cheese is one of them…
The Netherlands may have the longest beds in the world, but according to Flowing Data, they certainly don’t boast the widest beds as the UK and Ireland do.
Here’s how bed sizes vary around the world:
Bed sizes vary around the world, so it’s important to understand this when moving abroad, or booking accommodation.
Here’s a glimpse into how mattress sizes differ globally:
Comparison: Common Bed Sizes Around the World
Bed size terminology around the world
Many countries call their differing bed sizes by different names. Here’s what each translates into:
- The single bed can also be called a twin or bunk bed.
- The three-quarter bed is only known as a three quarter in South Africa. In other parts of the world, it is a small double or a four foot.
- The double bed is often called a full bed.
- Some countries call it a king, while in another country, the same bed will be called a super king.
South African bed history and mattress sizes
Beds were created to raise sleeping people off the ground in order to avoid drafts and pests.
The earliest bed ever discovered, measuring two square meters, was found inside the Sibudu Caves situated in KZN. It dated as far back as 77 000 years ago, and was used to accommodate the extended family.
Made of animal skins stuffed with leaves, grass, moss, reeds and bracken, it was raised 30 centimetres off the ground. As archaeologists tell us, what was ingenious about this ancient bed was that it contained a top layer of foliage that repelled bugs, mites and all manner of creepy crawlies.
Pretty smart. And cheap. The modern version of that on the best beds available today, is a layer of foam that has anti-mite, and anti-allergy properties that send those little critters packing…
Looks like in those days, they did sleep tight without having the bed bugs bite…
Bugs aside, what are the sizes of South African beds? South African beds usually come in these dimensions:
Single size mattress
The single bed is one of the most popular sizes in South Africa. It is suitable for children (and the family dog), the elderly, make excellent day beds, and fits best into small spaces because it’s the smallest bed on the market.
It is the best option if your budget is tight but you don’t want to compromise on quality.
Many guesthouses and hotels use 2 single beds to make up a king size bed.
Measurements of single sized beds:
The standard size is 92 cm x 188 cm. The extra length single measures at 92 cm x 200 cm.
Minimum recommended room dimension for the single size bed: 213 cm x 304 cm.
Three quarter size mattress
The three quarter is not a common size today, but was rather popular in days of old, when siblings would sleep together for warmth. In those days, people were smaller and heat was an issue.
Today it is not as popular as the single or double bed, but the three-quarter sized mattress is excellent for single people wanting more moving space or even for teenagers who have outgrown their single beds.
Measurements of three-quarter sized beds:
The standard size is 107 cm x 188 cm. The extra length measures 107 cm x 200 cm.
Minimum recommended room dimension for the three quarter size bed: 228 x 305 cm.
Double size mattress
Until the 1800’s, lower class families cuddled together on one double bed. Movies produced during and after the World Wars were very prissy about sex, so seeing a double bed on screen (because of its sexual connotations), was considered vulgar. This trend encouraged couples to start sleeping on single beds instead.
Towards the end of the 1950’s, couples began sleeping together in the same bed again and it was then that the queen sized bed was manufactured.
Today in some countries like New Zealand, the double bed has become a scarcity.
Often placed in guest houses, the double size bed can be uncomfortable for couples to sleep on together because it’s just a little too small for two to sleep on, although not a bad size for some you-know-what.
Having said that, if you and your partner are slim, Genie beds are a good option for a double mattress because of the mattress technology, giving you comfort if you can’t have both comfort and space due to budget constraints.
This is because of the scientific technology of it: even with movement from one person, the other will not wake from it. So two slim adults who may be uncomfortable on another type of double bed because of movement would sleep well on this particular mattress.
The double bed is a good size for slim couples who enjoy cuddling throughout the night, a single person who likes to sprawl, or an obese single person.
Measurements of double sized beds:
The standard size is 137 cm x 188 cm. The length measures 137 cm x 200 cm.
Minimum recommended room dimension for the double size standard bed: 258 x 309 cm.
Queen size mattress
The late 1940s saw a move away from traditional single and double beds, to the queen and eventually king-size beds.
The 1950’s saw the bed making companies start looking for more sales opportunities and the queen size mattress was born in the late 1950’s.
Today around the world, as well as in South Africa, the queen is the most popular size, because it is made for two people sleeping together, and allows for lots of um…movement.
Single movers and shakers also enjoy this large option, because it makes sprawling a joy.
Measurements of queen sized beds:
The standard size is 152 cm x 188 cm. The extra length measures at 152 cm x 200 cm.
Minimum recommended room dimension for the queen size standard bed: 273 x 309 cm.
King size mattress
In the 2000’s, beds began being viewed as social spaces; where the family might hang out on a Friday, watching Netflix and chowing popcorn. Today more king sized mattresses are sold than double.
The king sized bed is the largest of the standard sized beds across the world. It allows for ample space between two people, even if they both move a lot. However, because of their largeness, it’s important to take into consideration the size of the room, as not all rooms are big enough to accommodate the large size.
Measurements of king sized beds:
The standard size is 183 cm x 188 cm. The extra length measures at 183 cm x 200 cm.
By the way, the king-size bed didn’t remain the king of beds for long. In the 1960s, the Californian king-size bed came to be; a slumber monstrosity that measures just over ten centimetres narrower than the standard king-size, but ten centimeters longer.
Minimum recommended room dimension for the king size standard bed: 304 x 312 cm.
Big, bigger, biggest: weird and wonderful bed sizes
After a very humble beginning in history, there have been some pretty big beds; the most common of the uncommon sizes being the Emperor in Ireland and the UK, the Texas King in the US and Canada, and the largest being the Caesar (the dimensions of which are 245 x 200 cm, which is twice the size of a standard double bed in some countries), and which also hails from Ireland and the UK.
And yes, there are even more non-standard, customized, super sized beds to be found: there’s the Alaskan king sized, which will likely provide enough space for you, the wife and kids, and half a dozen malamutes.
And the Texas king size, which can probably accommodate most of Dallas.
Of course, there are even more extremes…
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the biggest bed ever recorded measures 26.5 m long, 16.44 m wide and was created in 2011 by Commissie Zomerfeesten at St Gregorius, Hertme, in (where else) the Netherlands. (Well, we did say the Dutch were tall.)
Not to be neglected is The Great Bed of Ware, a four-poster made of oak that was constructed in 1590 and initially housed in an Inn in the town of Ware in Hertfordshire, England. It measures 3.38 metres long, by 3.26 metres wide. It is big enough to accommodate four couples.
What four couples on one bed could get up to in the 16th century is not for discussion here. But suffice to say that they had ample room to lie back and think of England…
Meanwhile, in Belek, the exclusive Adam and Eve, an adults-only themed hotel with it’s 469 rooms, boasts some of the world’s largest beds:
What mattress size is right for you?
Single? Double? Queen? King? Sleep on it…
Or go through this checklist of things to consider before taking the plunge (into buying a mattress, that is)
Researching and planning will streamline the process
As you’re no doubt doing this very moment by reading this guide, arm yourself with information before heading into a retail store to test out mattresses (it’s a very different story testing out a mattress in a store for 10 minutes than lying on it for 8 hours, or even more so, a few days of 8 hours each.) Which takes us to the next point:
Take it for a trial = less chance of bed flops
Buying a new mattress is hard work but since you spend a large degree of your life on it, it’s got to be the right one, so take your time in choosing it.
We are aware that you probably won’t be able to test run a new mattress with most bed stores, but the good news is that Genie Beds are so confident of their beds, that they allow you a whopping 100 days trial! Get your bed, use it for 100 days and if you don’t like it, they’ll come and pick it up again. You can’t really go wrong with that.
Now for the biggest spoke in the wheel: budget.
Set a budget
Look, the most expensive mattresses can cost about R350 000 a shot. Now, humans spend a third of their lives in bed, so while we at Genie Beds happen to think a mattress is more valuable than a brand spanking new Ford Ranger double cab (which is the same price as the most expensive mattress in South Africa), you need to set a budget and stick with it.
But before doing that, you need to know the facts and what to consider.
First, determine what is essential by doing your homework, and then check out mattresses in your price range, comparing features to what’s most important to you. That way, if you find a need to increase your budget, you’ll know exactly what the increase will buy you. What you need to take into account is that the more needs you have, the more costly your mattress is going to be.
In short, here’s what you need to ponder about mattresses and which directly impacts budget:
- Extra length
- Physical dimensions of the room
- Sleeping style
We’ll go into more detail on each point as we progress through the guide:
The bigger the bed, the more expensive the bedding
Keep in mind that the bigger the bed, the more expensive the bedding to fit it. It’s no use buying the Mazzaratie when you can’t afford the services or replacement of tyres.
The more customised the mattress sizes (anything bigger than king size), the more difficult it can be to find linen to fit it, so you may need to have it made.
We’ll dig more into bedding in the next section.
The longer the mattress, the more costly
Don’t forget to consider whether the standard mattress will do the trick, or whether you’re going to need extra length. Remember to weigh in additional cost for extra length, as well as any additional needs you have (for ideas, check the points under “Needs vs. desires” in this checklist a little further below).
Upgrading to bigger means upgrading bed furniture
If you plan on changing the size of your mattress, remember that you’ll need to upgrade any bed furniture to match the mattress size – headboards, frames and so on (although the Genie mattress can be delivered with the right size base which makes it pretty convenient).
Talking of bed furniture…this leads us to the next point…
Can the bed get into the room, and fit comfortably?
This oversight can happen to anyone and is a fairly common scenario…buying a bed for a room that it can’t fit into nicely, so be sure to measure the size of the room and how much space is needed around the bed in order to get around comfortably.
While we’re on the subject of physical dimensions…don’t neglect to measure doors, stairs and hallways. I.e. if you need to replace furniture to accommodate the size of the mattress, will the furniture fit through the door, stairs and hallways? Can the mattress be carried to its destination, or is special equipment needed?
Needs vs. desires
Your unique comfort need is the most important because it contributes most towards a good night’s rest.
If your budget is limited, what you need may have to be put before what you desire. In other words, you may desire a king size bed, but need a special mattress to avoid backache. If you can’t afford both, you’d need to forfeit width for less pain.
Comfort is a very personal matter and each person’s needs are different. And depending on each individual’s needs, comfort is what will make or break the bank (unless of course, you decide on Genie’s smart mattresses, which provides comfort and won’t break your bank account).
So, what makes a bed comfortable?
Well, it all depends on the technology of the mattress. So while this guide is not about the technology of the mattress, what the mattress is made up of has to influence your choice of the size of the mattress because it affects your budget.
For instance, Genie’s mattresses are a combination of individually pocketed springs and natural latex.
The pocketed springs serve two purposes: firstly, they fill in the curves of your body, so you experience less daily pain like backache, as well as being helpful for other conditions like arthritis. Secondly, they are a great solution with regards to disturbed sleep from partner movement.
The latex in the mattress combats body heat, and also helps decrease disturbance from partner movement.
Mattress comfort trumps all else. Or it should.
When choosing a mattress, these are the points to consider:
- Sleep position: each favoured sleep position has its downside, and the mattress should make up for it as far as possible in order to avoid aches, pains and discomfort. While this has nothing to do with the size of the mattress, it has everything to do with price and how you choose the best mattress for your needs. Let’s clarify.
You often end up sleeping with your feet dangling off the bed, so you are thinking about choosing a mattress that has extra length. This of course, will cost more than the standard size, and the bedding to fit the additional length will also cost more.
However, you tend to sleep more on your side, so the mattress you decide on should be made from pocket springs and latex in order to relieve pressure points created from the sleeping position. Because of the quality, this may cost more than another type of bed, and if your budget is to remain intact, you may need to forfeit extra length in order to keep back pain at bay.
If you sleep on your back or your side, the Genie mattresses are ideal because of their advanced technology. And you get to test it out for free for 100 days.
- Body temperature: how hot you get in the sack has nothing to do with size (or does it?) but needs to be taken into account when deliberating about [mattress] size. Because if you’re a hottie, you’ll need to choose the right type of mattress covering, like breathable foam, latex, or polyester cotton.
- Shape and weight: those who are heavier need a more plush mattress, while lighter people can do with a thinner, lighter layer.
- If you share a bed, you have to consider the amount of movement while sleeping, because this can seriously disrupt a good night’s rest. To prevent disturbance, the best kind of mattress is a combination of natural latex and zoned springs (the kind of mattress that Genie Beds sell).
Read more about choosing the right mattress.
How many on the bed, and doing what?
It stands to reason that bed size depends on bed activity (uh hum). In the last few years, many families use the bed for social activity, so if this is your thing, the more family members you have, the more space is needed.
Not that we want to get personal, but what are you planning to get up to in bed? If you share a bed with the family, how much space do you need for each member to fit comfortably? Or if you plan to use it for adult fun, how much space do you need for that um, fun?
Here’s a summary of which bed sizes are best for each family member:
- Single beds are great for toddlers, the elderly, teenagers and single, slim adults who don’t move around a lot.
- Three-quarter beds are suitable for teens and a pet, and single adults who want more space than a single bed provides.
- Double beds are good to sleep one to three children and a pet, single adults who like to move around and a slim couple who enjoy cuddling throughout the night.
- A queen is perfect for a couple who don’t want to be in each other’s space all the time, or a few kids sleeping together plus the family pet.
- The king size bed comfortably sleeps a couple of any size, plus the family pet, or a couple and a child.
The way you sleep may have nothing to do with the size of your mattress, but it has everything to do with comfort, and comfort plays a huge role in a budget. If you’re like normal people and have a limited budget, you may need to decide which factors are more important than others, and sleeping style is one of those factors.
A quick rundown:
Side and back sleepers have more indented spaces that need support, and so the type of mattress is key. Ideally, a side and back sleeper needs a combo of individual pocket springs and natural latex in order to spread the weight and therefore avoid pressure pain. This type of mattress may cost more than other types so if budget is a thing, it’s advisable to buy a smaller bed so that your body gets the support it needs.
If you’re a tummy sleeper, you’re going to need a mattress that is not too soft for sinking, but not too hard so it’s uncomfortable.
Lastly, if you tend to be on the sensitive side, you may need a mattress that includes an anti-mite and anti-allergy foam layer, which may cost more than a mattress that does not boast it.
There. That lists all you need to find out to ensure you make the right decision as to mattress size and budget.
Budget checklist summarised
|Bedding||The larger the mattress, the costlier the linen. The more customised the mattress size, the harder it may be to shop for bedding.|
|Extra length||The longer and more customised the length, the more expensive the mattress.|
|Bed furniture||If you’re changing the size of your mattress, you may need to upgrade your bed furniture too.|
|Room size||Can the mattress get into the room, and is there room around the bed to move around comfortably?|
|Mattress type||Consider types of mattresses for sleep position, body temperature, movement, shape and weight of each person sleeping in the same bed.|
|Amount of people||Mattress size depends on how many people and pets need to sleep in the bed.|
|Bed activities||Is the bedroom a family social hub? Does the family watch movies on the bed, or what kind of you-know-what happens between you and your special one?|
|Sleeping styles||Different sleeping positions require different types of mattresses to avoid daily pain and sleep disturbance.|
|Allergies||If you suffer from allergies, or are sensitive in general, you may need to consider a mattress which has a layer of anti-mite and anti-allergy properties.|
Kitting out your ideal bed
Now that you’ve decided between the variety of mattress sizes, how do you buy the linen for it?
Well, in South Africa, it’s pretty easy to find linen for standard size beds; these include the single, three quarter, double, queen and king size mattresses.
What’s really important to know when shopping for different mattress sizes, is the depth of the mattress, because this makes the difference between a fitted sheet actually fitting, and how much of the duvet and duvet cover drops down on each side
Here are the standard linen sizes in South Africa; the fitted sheet width size is dependent on the depth of the mattress and varies from brand to brand (in this table, for example, we’ve used the measurements of Mr Price fitted sheets and night frills). Night frills should be fitted according to the height (also known as width) of the bed frame or base:
Tips for buying linen according to mattress sizes
Duvet inners and duvet covers
Strangely, king and queen duvet inners and their covers are the same widths.
Although there is a 30 cm difference in the width between the queen and king bed sizes, standard South African duvet inners and covers remain 230 cm in width, but king duvets are 20 cm longer. We know, right?!
What you have to be careful about is the drop down length of the duvet on either side of the bed.
Here’s the thing: the drop down on a queen is about 40 cm on either side, but the king size bed only has a drop down of 24 cm, so sometimes a king duvet won’t cover both sides of the mattress. While this may look nasty, the real problem is the fitted sheet…
Now, mattresses which are extra long are between 10 to 13 cm longer than standard length mattresses, so duvet sizing is not such an issue. But again, it is a problem when purchasing fitted sheets.
Fitted sheets will only fit properly when mattress depth is taken into account, so it’s a good idea to haul out the measuring tape before making your final choice.
Just as with fitted sheets, night frills will also not fit correctly if the height of the bed frame or base is not the same as the depth of the frill, so bear this in mind.
The standard pillow size is 45 x 70 cm.
Standard pillows are good for single, three quarter, double or queen size beds, while the king size is good for a single or king size bed (for each pillow to meet in the middle). The king size measures 50 x 90 cm.
Continental pillowcases measure 78 x 78 cm.
Remember to match the right size pillow inners to the right pillow cover size.
Putting matters to bed
Final thoughts about choosing the right mattress size:
Singles are usually used by the younger members of the family or by the elderly.
Now, there are health guides for every age group concerning the amount of sleep they require, and you may be surprised to know that teenagers need the most amount of slumber, which is between nine and 11 hours a day. So, don’t skimp on your teenage son or daughter’s single bed.
A natural latex foam mattress with pocket coil springs and hole-studded foam casing to eliminate heat build-up will give them all the support and comfort they’ll ever need.
A double bed is a pure bliss for a single person and cosy for a cuddling couple.
However, if you and your partner are on the large side, you might find a double a tad too snug, like the Premium Economy section on an airline: ample space, but sometimes you need to wrestle for some elbow room.
For more space, opt for the queen. And if you’re unusually tall (or Dutch of course), then the queen-size XL will cater for you from head to toe as it exceeds the standard queen size by an additional 120 cm in length.
For the ultimate, there’s nothing better than the king (yes, we remember you, Elvis). At 1880 cm x 1830 mm, the king allows you to stretch out to your heart’s desire. It’s also great for the whole family to cosy up and share a midnight snack or to watch a movie. After all, that’s a tradition that goes back a while.
To find out more about buying the right bed, download our free Genie Bed guide, ‘How to Choose a Better Bed’