Even if you're a night owl, chances are you spend a huge proportion of your time in your bedroom relaxing or catching some zzzs. A comfy environment can set the scene for a solid sleep and serious downtime, so getting your bedroom right is worth the effort.
But with mattress prices running into the thousands of dollars and a seemingly endless array of pillow types on the market, how can you tell if what you spend will add up to a good night's sleep?
With living costs rising, we're all looking for more affordable alternatives. If the price of bedroom products is keeping you awake at night, we can help.
Here are our expert tips for choosing the right bedroom products, plus the best products that won't break the bank.
Warning: following all of these tips may lead to having a bedroom so good that you never want to leave.
Unless you're the titular character in The Princess and the Pea, you don't necessarily need to spend a fortune to get a good night's sleep.
While many people assume that there's a connection between price and comfort, our results don't bear that out. In fact, the most expensive mattress in our most recent test didn't even make the top 10!
When you're shopping for a mattress, it's always worth asking for a better price. "You should never pay full price for a mattress – don't be afraid to haggle," says CHOICE mattress expert Peter Zaluzny.
You should never pay full price for a mattress – don't be afraid to hagglePeter Zaluzny, CHOICE mattress expert
In the most recent batch of mattresses CHOICE bought for testing, we managed to get a cheaper price on almost half the mattresses we bought, in one case paying almost half the RRP.
"CHOICE has been buying mattresses for years for our tests and we've found many retailers have a lot of room to move when it comes to price," says Zaluzny.
"You can usually shave a decent amount off the price tag by haggling. Even if you're not usually one to ask for a discount, it's as simple as asking 'what's the best price you can do?' and going from there."
And if you're kitting out more than one bedroom or buying bedroom furniture as well, you might be able to negotiate an even bigger discount – it can't hurt to ask.
Buying the comfiest mattress
When we test mattresses, we measure them for comfort, both when they're brand new and after a simulated eight years' use – so you can tell whether they'll still be comfy years down the track.
But comfort can be very subjective – and the wrong mattress can leave you feeling exhausted and sore. And spending two minutes lying on a mattress in store isn't a great indicator for how they'll feel once you get them home.
Fortunately, mattress retailers are starting to recognise this and many offer trial periods so you can spend some quality time with a mattress before committing. Some mattresses can also be adjusted with extra layers, so it's worth giving that a try too to find your perfect mattress configuration.
CHOICE expert Chris Barnes conducting the 'fold test' on a pillow.
A good pillow can mean the difference between sleeping like the proverbial baby and tossing and turning all night. But before you buy a new pillow, there are a few things you should consider.
"Don't just look for the cheapest pillow – first, work out the right type of pillow to suit you," says CHOICE expert Chris Barnes. "Then look for budget-priced versions of that type, or look for them on sale."
Don't just look for the cheapest pillow – first, work out the right type of pillow to suit youChris Barnes, CHOICE expert
And don't forget that it's what's inside that counts. Chris says, "Some pricier types of pillow (such as memory foam and latex) also tend to last longer or have longer warranties, so they may be cheaper in the long run than buying cheap pillows that need replacing more frequently."
The fold test
If you're not sure whether your pillow is on the way out, do the fold test:
- Put your pillow on a flat surface and fold it in half.
- Hold it down for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Let go. If your pillow bounces back into its original shape, then your pillow is still good.
- If it doesn't spring back, then it's probably time to buy a new one.
You should test roughly every six months to make sure your pillow is still in good shape.
Does your pillow need replacing? Try this simple test to find out.
When things get too hot in the bedroom (no, not in that way!), it can be difficult to get to sleep – so investing in ways to cool down is worth the spend.
An air-conditioned bedroom is something most of us can only dream about due to the upfront expense, but there are cheaper ways to keep your cool in summer.
While a ceiling fan won't actually lower the mercury, it will make your body feel cooler – and unlike a pedestal fan, it will direct the air flow straight onto your body on the bed.
"Ceiling fans make your body feel cool and so the effect is very immediate, focused, efficient and cost-effective," says CHOICE expert Denis Gallagher.
"Pedestal fans are the least effective option – but at times are unavoidable, particularly for renters on those unbearable days."
"Ceiling fans make your body feel cool and so the effect is very immediate, focused, efficient and cost-effectiveDenis Gallagher, CHOICE expert
The good news is that pedestal fans are cheap to run: we calculated that running a fan 24/7 over summer will only cost about $30. And you can move them around the house as needed, which of course you can't do with a ceiling fan.
Lower energy use that air con
If you're trying to cut down on your cooling costs, fans are the way to go: a 2022 study found that they use 75% less energy than air conditioners and can increase the upper temperature threshold at which air conditioning needs to be turned on. The humble fan can help move cool air around more effectively so you won't need to crank the AC right up to get some relief.
And ceiling fans aren't just for summer – read on to find out how they can help keep your bedroom warm in winter, and which ones deliver the best breeze for your buck.
Whether you're sleeping, reading or getting dressed, the bedroom is one place you don't want to be freezing. Home heating is one of the biggest contributors to your electricity bill, so it makes sense to find cheaper and more efficient ways to keep your bedroom warm.
It might seem counterintuitive, but air conditioning is the best way to heat your home – it's more efficient than electric or gas heating, so it'll cost you less to run. Plus, you can use it to stay cool in summer, too.
But the upfront cost puts it firmly out of the budget for many of us. So what other ways can you warm your room without burning through your budget?
Think you need to buy the most expensive heater to get the best heating performance? Think again. In our electric heater review, six of the nine top-scoring products cost less than $150.
And forget what you think you know about which heater type is best for your bedroom.
"For heating, many people assume that a column heater is the best and cheapest option for a bedroom, but our tests show this isn't necessarily the case," says Barnes.
"Column heaters aren't always cheaper to run, but they can be a good choice for other reasons: their surfaces don't usually get as hot as on other types of electric heaters, so leaving them on all night is usually safer than for other types."
Using a timer
Using a timer on your heater is another way to save money: set it up so it switches off just before your usual bedtime and switches back on an hour or so before you usually wake up.
Whatever you do, don't leave heaters with exposed elements on unattended overnight.
Be a fan
Fans for winter? Yes, really. Not only can they help keep your home warmer, but they can also reduce your heating costs.
Hot air from the heater rises up to the ceiling.
When using a heater in combination with a fan, the warm air is distributed evenly throughout the room.
In normal 'summer' mode, ceiling fans spin anti-clockwise, generating a downward breeze that cools the skin and helps evaporate perspiration. But many of them have a 'reverse' or 'winter' mode too, which changes the spin to clockwise.
When you use a heater, the hot air rises up to the ceiling, leaving the air at ground level cooler – not great news for your toes!
"Reversing the direction of the fan pulls the cooler air up and pushes the warm air off the ceiling and down the side of the room into the living area," explains Gallagher.
"Otherwise the hot air remains up near the ceiling which, unless you're Lionel Ritchie, won't be any good at keeping you warm."
And while it may sound like running two appliances at once will push your energy bills up, you'll actually use less electricity, as your heater won't have to work as hard to maintain a constant temperature.
Not convinced? We've crunched the numbers to show how ceiling fans can slash your heating bills.
Turn up the heat in bed
The feeling of getting into a toasty warm bed is hard to beat, and an electric blanket is an affordable way to stay warm in a cold bedroom, as they're cheaper to run than a heater.
Some electric blankets aren't cheap – we've tested ones that cost up to $400 – but our experts have found plenty of affordable models that do the job just as well as the pricey ones.
An electric blanket is an affordable way to stay warm in a cold bedroom, as they're cheaper to run than a heater
Just keep safety front of mind if you're considering an electric blanket: check that it meets Australian safety standards, and check it before using it the first time, and then every winter before you start using it again. While it might be tempting to leave it on all night for a cosy sleep, we advise against all-night use.
Our electric blanket buying guide has everything you need to know about using electric blankets safely, plus advice on what to look for and running costs.
Do the DIY
Making sure your bedroom is thermally efficient is the best way to keep the chill out.
Put down a rug, use door snakes and check any windows or external doors for draughts around the edges. A window sealing kit can cost you less than $10, and it'll more than pay for itself in lower energy bills and a warmer bedroom.
Here are our some tips to keep your house warmer in winter.
Many of the latest e-readers have a background light that you can adjust, depending on where and when you're using it.
Harnessing the power of technology in the bedroom can give you extra entertainment and convenience. They may not be necessities, but things such as TVs, speakers, smart lighting and e-readers can take your nightly routine to the next level.
You can set up smart-light routines to change colour and brightness at a particular time to prepare you for a good night's sleep, or design a specific setting for watching TV or reading. And the best part about smart lights is not having to get out of bed to switch off the light when it's time to go to sleep.
Smart speakers can act as an alarm clock ("Hey Google, wake me up at 6am") and help you plan your day ("Alexa, is it going to rain today?"). A small speaker setup – smart or otherwise – is nice to have in the bedroom to listen to music, a podcast or (say) guided meditation before bed.
Using screens before bed isn't ideal, but many of the latest e-readers have a background light that can be altered to reduce blue light so you'll be able to fall asleep easier.
If you're thinking of buying a TV for your bedroom, now is not the time to think big: the bigger the screen, the further away from it you'll need to sit for a good viewing experience. Unless your room is the size of a football field, a smaller TV will do the trick.
Small smart TVs will most likely have all the streaming apps you'll need (Netflix, Stan, Prime, etc) and you can use voice commands to turn them off, or set them to turn off after a certain time so they aren't left on while you sleep.
If you want some of these bedroom nice-to-haves, we've listed the most affordable high achievers below.
When you're on a budget, buying second-hand can really make your money go further. And it's better for the planet, as you're helping reduce the amount of furniture going to landfill and minimising emissions from the manufacture of new products.
No matter how tight your budget is, there are some things that just aren't worth buying second-hand, either for safety reasons or just the yuck factor. We recommend that you buy these things new where possible:
- Heaters (especially gas heaters)
- Electric blankets
But buying some bedroom items second-hand will mean you can get better quality than if you were buying new – and you might even pick up some unique pieces. As with buying any used items, be careful about what you're buying and from whom – you won't be covered by consumer law if you're buying privately.
Some products you can consider buying second-hand:
- Bed frame
- Bedside tables
- Tablets and e-readers
If you do decide to buy electric appliances or electronics second-hand, make sure that all the electrical connections work and that they're safe. For things like heaters, it's a good idea to have them checked over by a licensed electrician before plugging them in – any dodgy wiring or damaged components could cause a fire.
"If you're buying a second-hand electric heater, check that it wasn't subject to a recall via www.recalls.gov.au and check it over for any signs of rust, a loose power cord, exposed wiring and dust build-up," says Barnes. "If in doubt, don't risk it."
If you were to buy a second-hand gas heater, you'd need to have it professionally serviced before using it, which might negate the savings you made in buying it. We recommend that you don't buy gas heaters second-hand.
Tips for buying second-hand
- Check whether the specific model you're buying hasn't been recalled for safety reasons.
- Check our reviews to see how it performs, and whether we've noted any safety issues.
- Ask the seller about the history of the item – has it been damaged in any way, and how has it been cared for?
- Ask to see the item in person before buying, and if it's an electrical item, check that it works before you buy it.
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is – trust your instincts. There are dodgy sellers out there, so be cautious.
Don't just go by price when choosing a pillow – think about which type is right for you.
What are the best, most affordable bedroom products?
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