King vs. Split King – What’s The Difference?

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There’s a lot to love about the king size bed. At 76 inches wide by 80 inches long, they’re the largest standard bed size by total surface area (the California king is longer but narrower). The king bed’s width gives every couple plenty of wiggle room and fills out just about every master bedroom. 

For some couples, kings are the only option, as the narrower queen size mattress doesn’t offer enough personal space to active or plus-size sleepers.

But what about couples who want to share a bed but have vastly different sleeping preferences? If one partner wants a firm memory foam mattress while the other wants a medium-soft latex mattress, it can feel like quite a conundrum. Fortunately, there’s a solution: the split king!

Below, we’ll talk about the differences between a regular and split king, their advantages and drawbacks, and which could be right for you.

Standard King Size Bed

If both partners are comfortable with the same material and firmness, there’s really no reason to have a split king. You can just get a standard or Eastern king. The standard king mattress offers plenty of width to couples, even if one partner is an active or plus-size sleeper.

Standard King Cost

As a general rule, buying one mattress is cheaper than buying two, and this typically holds true for buying one regular king mattress over two twin XLs. However, since king mattresses are so expensive, two twin XL mattresses likely won’t cost all that much more than a single king of the same brand and model. You’ll save anywhere from $100 to $400 by purchasing a traditional king mattress over two twin XLs.

Pros and Cons of a Standard King

Regular kings might not offer the same variety, but they have their advantages. Probably the biggest advantage of a single king mattress is it doesn’t have a gap in the center, so it can’t slide apart like split king mattresses tend to do.

However, the biggest drawback of a regular king is it doesn’t offer couples any options. You have to use the same material, the same adjustable bed frame, and the same firmness.

Pros

  • Can be a bit more budget-friendly
  • No gap in between mattresses
  • Mattresses won’t slide apart

Cons

  • No options for couples with different preferences
  • King mattresses are hard to move
  • Kings are more prone to sag in the middle

Split King Size Bed

If a couple wants to sleep in the same bed, but they have significantly different sleep needs, a split king mattress is a great option. A split king is two twin XL mattress, the equivalent to a standard king in size, but it has two 38 by 80-inch mattresses set in the same bed frame. This setup is great for couples who don’t want to sacrifice sleeping in the same bed because they have different sleep needs.

Split King Cost

Since split kings use the same bed frame and the same bed base as a king bed but have two separate mattresses, their price can be higher. If you want two twin XLs of the same brand and model as one king mattress, be prepared to pay up to a few hundred dollars more.

Pros and Cons of a Split King

The two biggest pros of a split king are its moveability and the options it offers couples. Two twin XLs are a lot easier to move than a single king. And two twin XLs offer a lot more variety to couples than one mattress.

However, one of the biggest problems with split kings is their separate mattresses tend to slide away from each other when you sleep on them night after night. Even if you use a split king connector, non-slip mattress pad, or another method to keep the mattresses together, there’s always going to be a seam in the middle of the bed, which some people find annoying.

Pros

  • Gives couples more choices
  • Easier to move two twin XL mattresses
  • Twin XL mattresses are more durable
  • Separate mattresses reduce motion transfer

Cons

  • Leaves gap in the middle of the bed
  • Twin mattresses can slide apart
  • More costly than the regular king

FAQs

How do I put bed sheets on a split king?

You can’t put a single fitted sheet on two twin XL mattresses. You’ll need to use two separate twin XL fitted sheets at least. If you’re not using an adjustable base, you can lay a single king size flat sheet and comforter over the mattresses. But if you’re using an adjustable base, you might need two separate twin XL bedding sets, depending on your individual base settings.

Can I have two adjustable bases in a split king bed?

Yes! Two adjustable bases can go underneath a split king’s dual twin XL mattresses. These bases are perfect for couples who want to sleep at different angles, for instance, if one partner wants to sleep sitting up while the other wants to lie flat.

What bed base goes under a regular king?

If king size mattresses are hard to move, king size box springs or mattress foundations are even harder. That’s why it’s common to use two twin XL bases in a king frame, even if you only use a single king size mattress.

As far as the type of bed base is concerned, you’ll need to pick one according to your mattress’s types more than its size. Box springs are only compatible with innerspring mattresses because the box spring coils cannot handle much weight.

If you have another type of mattress (like a hybrid, memory foam, or latex mattress), you’ll need a platform bed or mattress foundation. These bases are much sturdier than box springs and can take the additional weight of foam and hybrid mattresses.

Do two twins or two twin XLs go in a California king bed frame?

Neither a twin size mattress or a twin XL mattress can fit on a California king bed frame. Because a California king size mattresses are different than a standard kings. Cal kings measure 72 inches wide by 84 inches long, both the twin and twin XL are too short and too wide to make a split Cal king. If you want a split California king, you’ll have to buy a set of split mattresses made specifically to fit inside that size bed frame.

Is there such a thing as a split queen?

Some manufacturers do make split queens, but just like with the California king, you’ll have to buy two mattresses specifically made to be split queen mattresses (as opposed to any old pair of twin XLs for a split standard king). Split king mattresses are 30 by 80 inches apiece.

Bottom Line

Either a king or split king can be a great option for couples, depending on the circumstances. If you’re both comfortable with similar firmnesses and mattress materials, you might save a few dollars if you purchase a single king mattress. But if your sleep needs are opposite, a split king will be your best option because each partner can sleep on a different mattress in the same bed.

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