California King vs. Standard King Bed

California King Bed vs. Standard King Bed

When buying a new mattress, you are faced with decisions about numerous options, including size, firmness, and material. Many people apply the saying “bigger is always better” to everything they buy, including mattresses. The King size bed is often thought of as the largest bed size on the market, but the California King is a variation of the King size bed, and should be considered if you’re over six feet tall.

Understanding the differences between the standard King and California King bed will help you determine which option is best suited to your needs and preferences.

California King Bed and Standard King Bed Sizes

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The California King bed measures in at 72 inches wide and 84 inches long, while a Standard King bed (also called the Eastern King) measures 76 inches wide and 80 inches long. If you’re a math wiz, you probably already figured out that the Standard King mattress has more surface area than California King mattress.

Where the California King mattress draws buyers is in the extra four inches in length. The increased length of the California King makes this mattress preferred by taller individuals who may find their feet hanging off the end of a Standard King mattress.

Other King mattresses abound in different widths and lengths. The Super King mattress is smaller than a Standard King mattress by 4 inches in width and 2 inches in length. The Super King mattress is popular in England, but less so in the United States. Mattress sizes vary throughout the world, differing even between countries using the U.S. standard measurements and the metric measurements. Most countries have their unique mattress standard measurements and terminology.

Standard Bed SizesWidth (inches)Length (inches)
Twin Bed39’’75’’
Full Bed54’’75’’
Queen Bed60’’80’’
King Bed 76’’80’’
Super King Bed72’’78’’
California King Bed72’’84’’
Grand King Bed 80’’98’’

Choosing the Right Size Mattress

When choosing between the various sizes of mattresses available, some important considerations  should be kept in mind, such as:

  • Number of sleeping partners
  • Height of each partner
  • Pets sharing bed space
  • Sleepers who roll during the night
  • Bedding availability

While the California King may seem grander, in terms of the total surface area, this bed is actually smaller than a Standard King bed. If you are six feet or taller, the California King may be the best bang for your buck if you don’t want your feet hanging over the edge, but the increased length of the California King comes at a decrease in width.

For people who are less than six feet tall and share their bed with a partner, children, or pets, a Standard King bed will give you the space needed for a comfortable night’s sleep. Individuals who tend to roll during the night might find that the extra 4 inches in width of a Standard King bed could mean the difference between rolling off the bed or into their partner, and getting a restful night’s sleep.

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If you decide to upgrade to a California king bed, don’t forget to order bedding made for this size mattress. While California King bedding is less common in many brick-and-mortar stores than Standard King-size bedding, online retailers such as Amazon have mostly eliminated the difficulty in finding California King bed accessories. Most Standard King mattresses and California King mattresses are similarly priced, but accessories may be slightly higher priced for the California King.

Check out our review of the Best Online Mattresses to choose from the best.

Space Requirements

The size of your bedroom can be the deciding factor when choosing whether to get a new mattress of the size you already have or to upgrade to a larger mattress. A general rule of thumb is that you need about two and a half feet on either side of your bed for moving throughout the room.

For example, if you only had a California King-sized bed in your bedroom, without a dresser or other furniture, you would need a room that’s 8.5 feet wide by 9.5 feet long. If you want to put a standard nightstand on each side of the bed and a dresser on the wall in front of the bed, you would want a room that is 12.5 feet wide by 10.5 feet long. You can add roughly half a foot in width and subtract half a foot in length for each of these measurements for a Standard King bed.

Frequency of Mattress Changes

How often do you change your mattress? Some people go decades without purchasing a new mattress, primarily due to the lack of knowledge regarding when sleep experts recommend mattress changes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, mattresses should be changed about every eight years. Eight years is a general estimate, and the actual need to change your mattress may be shorter or longer depending on the type of mattress, the material the mattress is made of, and how often you flip your mattress. Pillows should be replaced about every two years, depending on the type and material used.

Flipping your mattress can increase or decrease the longevity of your mattress, depending on the type of mattress you own. Pillow-top mattresses should not be flipped—flipping can increase the wear and tear these mattresses experience. Standard double-sided mattresses should be flipped about every three months. Done diligently, proper flipping every quarter increases the lifespan of these mattresses.

To summarize, the California King (or Western King) mattress, despite its unclear history, is an excellent option for people six feet and taller, due to the extra four inches in length that distinguishes the California King from the Standard King mattress.

If you are under six feet tall and are looking to purchase a larger mattress, the Standard King (or Eastern King) mattress, which has more surface area than the Western King mattress, will give you the extra room you desire.

Remember to flip your mattress regularly (as long as it’s not a pillow-top model!) and buy a new mattress every eight years or so—and don’t forget to change out your pillows about every two years.

History of the California King Bed

The history of the California King mattress, also called the Western King, goes back decades—and many of the reports about who invented this icon of the West contradict each other.

One account claims that the California King was an invention catalyzed by the end of World War II, when Americans were able to purchase larger homes—and there was a more than three-fold increase in the percentage of men who were over six feet tall (the increase in both male and female average heights is credited to better nutrition and health).

Another version claims a manufacturer made the California King upon the requests of movie stars and other celebrities looking for bigger beds to place in their large homes. The one consensus between California King speculators is that this bed originated in The Golden State.

Stepping aside from the convoluted history of the California King mattress, big beds are nothing new to humans. One of the most massive beds in the world was made in the late 16th century, and it can still be seen if you are inclined to take a trip to England. The bed is called The Great Bed of Ware and measures over 10.5 feet wide and 11 feet long. The Great Bed of Ware makes the California King look small in comparison, with its additional 4.5 feet in width and 4 feet in length.

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