King vs. California King Mattress – The Complete Guide

King vs. California King Mattress - The Complete Guide

Buying a mattress is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It will affect you and your sleeping partner almost every night of your life and can make the difference between a peaceful night’s rest and the consequences that result from fitful, sleepless nights, which include fatigue, bad mood, depression, and even serious health problems down the line.

If you’ve already decided that a queen bed is too small, you might be surprised to find that you have another decision to make: king or California king bed? What’s the difference? Read on to find out which factors you need to consider before investing in your new king-size mattress.


Size Matters: California Kings Are Longer but Narrower Than Regular King Beds

The basic difference between a California king (sometimes known as the western king) and an eastern king (commonly known simply as a king or standard king) is the dimensions. At 72 inches wide by 84 inches long, California kings are the longest standard-sized mattresses available. Eastern kings measure 76 inches wide by 80 inches long, meaning they’re shorter but wider. The standard rule of thumb is that if you’re 6 feet 2 inches tall or shorter, you’re more than fine with a regular king bed, and may, therefore, prefer to go with the extra width.

If you’re tall and the prospect of sleeping with your feet dangling off the mattress gives you nightmares, you might be better off with the extra length of a California king. You’ll sacrifice some width, but not much. (For comparison, a queen-size bed is 60 inches wide by 80 inches long, making it much narrower than either a king or a California king bed.) That said, most adults are well under 80 inches tall, and can thus easily arrange their bodies to ensure that all limbs stay on the bed. A lot of couples also have children or dogs that sometimes (or always!) share the bed with them. Thus, the extra width of a regular king-size bed may be worth it regardless of your height (unless of course your puppy prefers sleeping at the foot of the bed, in which case, go for the extra length!).


King vs. California King Mattress - The Complete Guide

Regular King Beds Are More Common Than California Kings

The earliest precursor of king-size mattresses likely dates back to a British manufacturer who produced a 10-foot x 11-foot bed back in 1590. That bed now lives in a museum in London. Regular kings have been in production throughout the United States since at least the early 1900s. California king beds, on the other hand, are much newer to the market and more geographically constrained. They were first produced by a Los Angeles furniture company in the 1960s. They were longer than almost any other standard-sized beds available, and they were specifically marketed towards celebrities and athletes, who tend to be taller than the average American. A few years after its initial launch in L.A., the California king went into mass production throughout the country. In the 1980s and ’90s, many European mattress manufacturers began competing with their American counterparts and selling California kings.

But while California kings have definitely become more mainstream over the past fifty years, they’re still very much for the niche consumer. This means that consumers who buy California kings may have a smaller selection of linens, bed frames, and other size-dependent bedding accessories as compared to those who buy regular king beds. California king beds remain much more popular on the west coast compared to the rest of the country, so if you live out east, you’ll have even fewer options when it comes to bedding accessories.

Preferences, and Bedroom Dimensions, Matter

When it comes down to it, the choice between a California king and a regular king is simple: choose the California king if you prefer the extra length and don’t mind sacrificing a few inches of width. Choose the regular king if you value the extra width and can go without the extra length. You also need to make sure you pick the bed that best fits your bedroom’s dimensions as well as your preferences as a couple. If your room is long and narrow, it’ll be easier to fit a California king. And if you prefer sleeping close to your partner, the loss of 4 inches in width may actually be the best of both worlds: close enough to feel like you’re sharing a bed, but far enough apart for each member of the couple to have room to stretch out. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits not only your room’s dimensions but also your door frames and corridors so you can actually get the bed inside your room in the first place!