Twin Vs Twin XL Mattress

Deciding between a twin vs. twin xl mattress is primarily a matter of person size and room size. Let us walk you through some considerations so you can determine which will work best for you.

By Sheryl Grassie

A Little History

In centuries past, we had primarily two bed sizes to choose from, single and double, and the names implied how many people they were intended to hold. The less common single bed could fit one person, and the more common double bed was intended for two or more.

During these earlier times, beds were more commonly shared by family members or even extended relatives. When Aunt Hattie took the train across the country for a prolonged visit in the 1880’s, she would have likely bunked in with another family member. This made double beds more convenient. A bed of your own was not expected, and siblings slept with other siblings and guests slept with other family members. These two bed sizes, single and double, remained the norm until circa 1950 when queen and king-sized beds became available.

Prior to that, however, there was a period from roughly the 1930’s through the 1960’s where a cultural trend towards couples sleeping in separate single beds became popular. This trend, of two single beds side-by-side and generally separated by a small table, created the reference to “twin beds.” Someone from a couple might say, “We sleep in twin beds,” meaning separate single beds. The name stuck and going forward single beds were interchangeably called twin beds.

Twin Vs Twin XL Mattress, What Is the Difference?

Back in the decades when couples slept separately in twin beds, the size option was singular. Only one size for a single or twin bed was available. But later, and especially as people continued to grow taller, a demand for a longer bed generated the twin xl.

History is a little vague on exactly where and when the first twin xl arrived on the scene, but it is commonly believed it was in relation to college dorms. Many students, and especially athletes, needed a longer bed frame for comfort. Twin xl beds appeared on college campuses and garnered the name dorm beds.

To get a clear picture of the difference, the standard twin or single bed is 38 inches wide x 75 inches long. The twin xl or dorm bed is exactly the same width, but 5 inches longer: 38 inches wide x 80 inches long.

It is worth noting that with some companies, the width for both twin and twin xl mattresses can vary. Some companies site 38 inches, and that does seem to be the most common, but others describe the twin and twin xl mattress as 38.5 inches or 39 inches wide. For a frame and sheets to be an exact fit for a mattress, double check the measurements of the items you are buying.

The Person

As mentioned originally, deciding between twin vs. twin xl mattresses is dependent on several variables, one being the person who will sleep in the bed. If you are buying the mattress for a child transitioning out of a crib, then a twin may work wonderfully for years to come. If you are getting it for a guest room and the guests are taller adults, they might be more comfortable on a twin xl. Also, if you and your partner decide you want to go the route of two twin beds in a king frame, so you can each have separate mattress densities or mattress firmness, then the twin xl is perfect.

Two twin xl’s equate to a standard size king bed. If you want to do a split mattress with a California king, there is a twin xxl that measures 36 inches wide by 84 inches long. This size may be special order, but two make up a California king. Some colleges also offer this size for very tall individuals. Think through the size of the person using the bed to help you decide between the different twin options.

The Room

The most common places twin beds are used is in children’s rooms, dorm rooms, guest rooms, and master bedrooms; quite a few places if you stop and think about it. Establishing what size will work in a room requires a little measuring unless the room is very large. The standard determinants are a minimum of 30 inches of space around three sides of the bed for ease of movement. The last thing you want is a bed too big to shuffle around. In the case of the twin vs. twin xl, you are primarily assessing the length of the bed and inches can make a difference in how well it works in a room.

Other Considerations

Cost Difference

The twin is generally cheaper than a twin xl. This is true of bedding as well. If you are on a budget and the length doesn’t matter, you may want to go with the standard twin. If the cost difference, which is generally not substantial, is not a concern, you may want the extra length and to go with a twin xl.


Standard twin mattresses are easy to come by along with standard twin bedding. When you move up to the twin xl, things get a bit more difficult. Many, but not all, mattress manufacturers make a twin xl, and bedding availability is varied. Some linen companies offer twin xl and others do not. So, if you don’t want the extra work of finding who carries those perfect organic sheets in a twin xl, you might go with the standard twin.

Longevity of Use

One further consideration is how long you want the bed to be viable. If you want the bed to last your child through their adolescence and beyond, you may want to just start out with a twin xl, so when your basketball-playing, 6-foot 2-inch son needs a longer bed, you don’t have to buy a new one.

Maybe you are buying a mattress for your daughter who is only 5-foot 2-inches and could get by with a standard twin, but you plan to move that bed to the guest room when she leaves for college. Then, you might want a twin xl, so it can be used for other adult guests who would be more comfortable in a longer bed.


Deciding between a twin vs. twin xl mattress? The difference is length. Which will work best is predicated on several variables including the size of the person sleeping on the mattress, the room it will be used in, if the cost difference is worth it, availability of bedding, and how long you plan to use the bed. Having size options is a great way to find a mattress that is more comfortable, especially for the taller individual.

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