large king mattress bed

King vs. Split King vs. California King Mattress

King vs. Split King vs. California King Mattress: A Bed Size Comparison

Sleep is a necessity, and comfort is king. But what happens when the “king” comes in three different mattress options? The three main “kings” to consider are the standard king, split king, and California king—each promises ample space and tailored comfort. Let’s take a closer look at the dimensions and characteristics of each to guide you in finding the best fit, before you start bed shopping.

What is a King Bed?

The standard king-size bed measures 76 inches wide by 80 inches long, providing plenty of sleeping space for couples to share without compromising comfort. Individual sleepers can luxuriate in the extra room a king mattress affords. In larger bedrooms, this size is ideal to anchor the room, offering considerable width without overwhelming the space. However, in more compact bedrooms, the width of a king bed may pose spatial challenges, making the room feel cramped and influencing furniture arrangement.

Those who are broad-shouldered, feel restricted in a smaller bed, or sleep warm next to someone, will appreciate the generous proportions of a traditional king mattress. The ability to move freely while sleeping or readjusting positions is essential for some people. The standard king has a much more usable width than the longer California king alternative.

Overall, the standard king mattress is best suited for couples, those who want maximum sleeping width, and bedrooms large enough to accommodate the substantial footprint of a standard king bed.

What is a Split King?

As the name suggests, the split king mattress splits the traditional king mattress into two components. A split king is two twin XL mattresses, each measuring 36x80 inches. Placed side-by-side, they retain the overall length of a standard king mattress while breaking up the width into two halves separated by a small gap. This split allows couples with different comfort preferences to customize their mattress firmness or features on each side. One sleeper can prefer the contouring hug of memory foam, while their partner selects an innerspring mattress with more bounce. Having the flexibility to tailor support is a major advantage for a couple struggling to compromise.

The split setup also facilitates easier mattress adjustments, allowing articulation of just one side if using an adjustable base bed. Separating the mattresses makes lifting, rotating, and transporting easier. From changing sheets to moving the bed, you will welcome handling lighter twin XL mattresses over wrestling an entire king mattress.

Since motion doesn’t transfer across the divide between the split mattresses, this option can greatly benefit couples with differing sleep schedules. Late risers won’t awaken as their early bird partner gets up with the sun. But split king shoppers need to be comfortable with a small gap dividing their sleep surfaces. Special split adjustable bases and bed frames are required, along with two twin XL sets of sheets.

Overall, the split king is ideal for couples with different comfort needs, those using adjustable base beds, night owls with an early-bird partner, and those who want to be able to move and handle a more manageable, lighter option.

What is a California King?

At 72 inches wide by 84 inches long, the California king mattress is four inches narrower but four inches longer than a standard king. The slightly slimmer width allows the California king mattress to fit more easily into narrow yet lengthy spaces. But the extended length is the real selling point for this choice.

For tall individuals, typically 6 foot 4 inches and up, the California king’s additional four inches of leg room prevents feet from hanging off the mattress edge. Couples, where one or both partners are tall, can fully stretch out without feeling restricted by standard mattress lengths. The added foot real estate makes all the difference for both comfort and spinal alignment.

The California king mattress length does come at the sacrifice of some width compared to the standard king. While still wider than the smaller queen or full sizes, the reduced span can limit mobility for those who frequently change positions or use the entire sleeping space. As with standard kings, the California kings need adequate bedroom dimensions for the best fit. Accommodating an extra-long mattress takes forethought of traffic flow in the room and furniture placement. California king buyers will need to budget for specific bedding and a bed frame for their new mattress.

Ultimately, the California king appeals most to tall sleepers, particularly couples where one or both exceed 6’4” in height. The extended length supports long legs while still providing enough width for sharing.

King mattress size chart

The Pros and Cons of a King Mattress


  • Ample sleeping space, ideal for couples or individuals.
  • Enhanced comfort with its extra width.
  • Suitable for larger bedrooms or spacious layouts.
  • Accommodates additional furniture in most primary bedrooms comfortably.


  • Might overwhelm smaller bedrooms.
  • Challenge to maneuver due to its size and heft.

Pros and Cons of a Split King Mattress


  • Customizable sleep experience for individual preferences, especially in firmness.
  • Maneuverable segments that are easier to manage individually when cleaning, making the bed, or moving around.
  • Minimal motion transfer since the mattresses are not joined together.


  • A split in the middle of the bed can create discomfort or inconvenience.
  • Requirement of a new bed frame or adjustable base to properly accommodate the split mattresses.
  • Specific bedding due to the distinct setup of the bed.

The Pros and Cons of a California King Mattress


  • Added length caters to a taller individual.
  • Ideal for those wanting an extended sleeping surface.


  • Narrower width may limit movement for some sleepers.
  • Challenges to fit into smaller rooms due to the elongated build.

When selecting between the three leading “king” mattress options—king, California king, or split king—reviewing a bed size comparison is helpful to determine the best fit for you. Key factors like bedroom dimensions, height requirements, desired customizability, mobility needs, and budget play a role in narrowing down your selection. Testing mattresses firsthand can provide invaluable insight into the right balance of comfort and support. Compare how you fit, move, and feel in each. Prioritizing your needs against the strengths of these mattresses will help you confidently select your ideal king mattress.

With the right mattress, you can look forward to nights of sound sleep and mornings of renewed energy. Choose wisely and rest well!


Feature image credit: max-rahubovskiy pexel

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