In an effort to help you narrow down the colossal search for your ideal mattress, we pit two popular styles against each other: foam versus spring. The former offers contour and softness that your aching back will appreciate, but the latter is a classic, known for its sturdy support. Which side are you lying on? We did a deep dive with Sleep Foundation expert Keith Cushner in price comparisons, pros and cons of both types. Continue reading.
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What is a foam mattress?
The top of a memory foam mattress is made up of one or more layers of low-resistance polyurethane foam that conforms to the shape of your body; help relieve back pain; and cushion pressure points like your shoulders, back, hips and back. The bottom section is made of high-density polyfoam (often accompanied by even more memory foam, gel with pockets for increased airflow, or latex for comfort) which prevents heat from reaching the surface of the mattress. Then there’s the springless middle layer, which helps stabilize the mattress for less bouncing, Cushner says.
Although memory foam is hypoallergenic, it is not biodegradable and you may notice gassing when you take your purchase out of the box. If you’re using durability as the deciding factor between these two mattress options, Cushner admits that neither is particularly eco-friendly. “However, latex foam is the stuff we’re talking about in the green conversation because it’s mostly rubber (sometimes natural, sometimes synthetic),” he adds. Your other all-natural options are organic cotton or wool mattresses.
Of all the different types of mattresses, memory foam is the most motion-isolating due to its high density (which also gives this style a natural defense against dust mites and other allergen buildup). However, since memory foam options do not contain coils, they are not as responsive as a spring mattress, so it takes longer for one to return to its original shape. . What does this mean for your sleep? Moving or changing position may be more difficult. You may also notice that the foam has much less edge support. Unlike a spring mattress, it doesn’t have a wrap around its frame, so there isn’t much stability around the sides. If you suffer from hip or joint pain or have trouble getting up from a low position, this is something to keep in mind.
Facts and figures
Expect to spend between $800 and $2,500 for this style and get between seven and 10 years of use.
Who Should Choose a Memory Foam Mattress
Anyone with back or joint pain will appreciate the soft, shaping properties of memory foam. Plus, light sleepers who are easily woken by pets or partners will find some relief (and a more peaceful nap) in the superior motion isolation.
What is a spring mattress?
The top layer of a spring mattress is usually a tufted or quilted fabric. Underneath is one or more thin layers of foam, gel or the like which provide additional comfort. The core is what you would expect given the name of this option: a continuous or bagged coil system.
Continued coils are formed from a single piece of steel which is twisted between 400 and 800 twists which are then bonded by metal. This system helps distribute your body weight evenly across the mattress, minimizing the buildup of pressure points. In other words, less aches and more rest. But although they are generally more durable, continuous springs tend to bounce and not conform to the body.
A pocket coil system contains between 800 and 1,200 individual coils wrapped in fabric. They have an easier time cradling your body and absorbing movement. And generally, they provide even better support in the form of pressure point relief and spinal alignment than their continuous cousins.
If you prefer the feeling of sleeping at the top of the bed on the sinking feeling of a foam mattress, then you’ll appreciate a spring option. It’s also great news for hot sleepers: “They sleep a little cooler because there’s more room for airflow and fewer elements in the construction that trap heat,” says Cushner. But beware: depending on the quality of construction, spring mattresses can sag in the middle and start to squeak over time.
Facts and figures
Expect to spend $500 to $1,200+ on a spring mattress and enjoy seven to 10 years of use.
Who should choose a spring mattress
Purists who value function above all else, this one’s for you (coils are the OG of mattress construction). Plus, anyone with back pain can benefit from its firmness.