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Foam vs Spring Mattresses: Which is Right for You?

Malena Piper

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Foam and spring mattresses are two of the most popular mattress types, but they are quite different from each other. The truth is, neither is worse or better than the other. It all depends on your preferences, sleeping style, and budget.

Even though all mattresses fit broadly into the foam and innerspring categories, each has pros and cons, which help or hinder sleep quality. To understand which mattress encourages healthy sleep, in this article, we’ll explore foam and spring mattress characteristics and how to find the best mattress for your needs.

What Is a Foam Mattress?

Foam mattresses are made with foam layers of varying levels of thickness and density. Depending on how these foam layers are arranged, the mattress’s feel and properties will change. In general, foam beds relieve pressure and pain by encouraging spinal alignment. There are three types of polyurethane foam known to increase comfort, firmness, and durability: polyurethane foam, memory foam, and latex foam.

Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam, or poly-foam, is a synthesized foam using polyol, diisocyanate, and other additives. Manufacturers often produce new formulas and re-name the foam to make the product seem unique. These re-named poly-foams may have a few differences, but overall they are very similar.

Polyurethane is bouncy and springy. Depending on the density of the foam, its weight can vary. Poly-foam is mostly used as the high-density base layer for memory foam mattresses.

Memory Foam

Memory foam was originally engineered for NASA in the 1970s to cushion air shuttle seats for astronauts. Now, memory foam mattresses are highly popular for their contouring and pressure-relieving qualities.

Memory foam is a variation of polyurethane with viscoelastic properties. It’s sometimes called low-resilience foam because it has a slow response to pressure. The synthetic material has the tendency to off-gas due to petrochemicals used in the manufacturing process, but the smell should go away within a few days of unpackaging your bed. To mitigate this concern, some brands choose to use plant-based foams that only require a fraction of the petrochemicals used to make traditional foams.

Latex Foam

Latex contours to the body while bouncing back fairly quickly, making it ideal for those seeking a firm sleep surface and pressure relief. Latex mattresses are very cooling due to their aerated surfaces, although the temperature regulation may vary depending on what type of latex it is: natural, synthetic, or blended.

Natural latex is a pure latex foam made from rubber tree sap. It’s antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and has eco-friendly properties, which make it more expensive, although the health benefits and long-lasting nature of the material make it a worthwhile investment.

Synthetic latex is produced artificially to mimic latex characteristics. While synthetic latex doesn’t have the antimicrobial qualities of natural latex, it’s is a great substitute for those who are allergic to latex but still want the supportive, breathable qualities of a latex mattress.

Blended latex is a mixture of natural and synthetic material. It’s cheaper than natural latex and maintains some of its natural properties. However, this blended foam can have harmful additives. We suggest making sure the bed is CertiPUR-US® certified to rule out the possibility of harmful chemicals.

What Is a Spring Mattress?

An innerspring mattress is the most popular mattress today; it’s also been around the longest. Innersprings have a coil system base and a thin layer for comfort. Other innerspring mattresses have Euro or pillow tops for additional comfort.

Modern spring beds use state-of-the-art technology, like pocketed coils or ergonomic zoned support, making them more supportive and durable than ever. Newer innerspring models have varied support for the hips, chest, and head, which promote spinal alignment and pain relief.

A coil’s durability and ability to “push back” are critical for the mattress’s overall comfort. You’ll have to choose which of the four types of coils you’ll want in your mattress.

Bonnell coils are hourglass-shaped coils laced together. They’ll encourage air circulation and have fewer instances of sagging, and greater support; however, this coil transfers impact in a chain reaction, making the bed sag rather quickly and make the user feel “trapped” in bed.

Offset coils are spiraled coils with squared-off, hourglasses-shaped ends. The coils lace closely together, offering support and conformability.

Continuous coils are less favorable. They feature one continuous metal piece across all the springs. As a result, they transfer more motion across the mattress surface and may cause sleep deprivation.

Pocket coils are individually responsive coils encased in fabric. The wrapped coils allow for better response and less motion transfer. Pocketed coils are more hygienic due to the fabric encasement.

The Differences

As we said earlier, innerspring and foam mattresses have several differences that affect the way you sleep. Now that you have an understanding of coil and foam beds and characteristics, we can focus on specific differences, such as cost, support, temperature regulation, off-gassing, bounce, motion isolation, and which material is best for your sleep position.

Cost

Spring and memory foam mattresses offer affordable options suitable for every sleeper. That being said, mattresses utilizing premium materials and advanced construction techniques will likely cost more, regardless of whether they are a foam or spring mattress.

Innerspring mattresses should cost, on average, $700 to $1200 for a queen, and foam mattresses should cost between $600 to $2000 for a queen.

Support

The term “support” refers to the mattress’s ability to lay flat even while bearing pressure on the surface. Both foam and innerspring beds are known for having incredible support, although coil mattresses are known to sag more than their foam counterparts.

Memory foam mattresses suffer fewer indentations and foster more spinal alignment in the long run. The best mattresses for back pain relief are often memory foam due to their ability to relieve pressure points and promote healthy posture.

Temperature

While it’s true foam mattresses can trap heat, new cooling technologies, such as gel, copper, and graphite infusions, pull heat from the body to encourage temperature neutrality. Even without infusions, modern memory foam’s cell structure fosters greater airflow to regulate body temperature while maintaining support.

Spring mattresses are naturally cooler than foam due to their coil bases. Air is virtually unhindered within the spring layer, which keeps the sleeper from overheating.

Scent

New foam mattresses can emit an unpleasant odor called off-gassing, which is the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used during manufacturing. Mattresses made with plant-based foam don’t emit as much off-gassing since the manufacturing process uses fewer harmful chemicals.

Spring mattresses, on the other hand, don’t often release odors, and hybrid mattresses, which use spring and foam materials, sometimes emit off-gassing.

Sleeping Position

Side sleepers benefit from softer and plusher foam mattresses with supportive surfaces. Side sleepers often accumulate pressure and strain their stomach and back muscles due to the act of balancing on their sides. A medium or medium-soft mattress will relieve pressure while adding support and alleviating muscle tension.

Back sleepers should seek a firmer foam or a hybrid mattress with a conforming top layer and a sturdy core to keep the spine’s natural curvature. A too-soft mattress will cause back sleepers’ spines to bow at the hips and possibly lead to lower back pain.

While we don’t recommend stomach-sleeping in general because of its associated pain risks, stomach sleepers should sleep on a medium-firm or firm mattress for best support. Innerspring mattresses typically fall within this firmness range. Most coil beds’ firmness will prevent misalignment at the hips, sore muscles, and future chronic pain issues.

Bounce

Innerspring mattresses offer the bounciest feel as coils tend to push back against impact. Meanwhile, foam mattresses have a tendency to absorb motion. Out of all the mattress foam types, memory foam isolates motion the most, while latex cultivates a slight bounce.

Motion Isolation

When sharing a bed with another person, it pays to use a mattress with motion isolation. Innerspring mattresses aren’t known for excelling in this category, so investing in a foam mattress is wiser.

Foam mattresses don’t let motion transfer extend beyond the point of impact, which means your partner can toss and turn throughout the night, and you’ll still get a full night’s rest.

FAQs

Which kind of mattress is best for your back?

A medium-firm memory foam mattress offers pain relief and contouring without cultivating gaps in support that might otherwise happen on an innerspring mattress.

Is it better to have more coils in a mattress?

Mattresses with higher coil counts offer better bodily support and increase the mattress’s longevity. While shoppers should avoid mattresses with low coil counts, finding a mattress with a suitable count depends on the mattress size.

  • Full mattresses: need 300 around coils
  • Queen mattresses: need 400 around coils
  • King mattresses: need 480 around coils

Conclusion

Determining which types of mattresses are best should depend solely on your needs. While some might prefer the plush and comforting features of a foam mattress, others will enjoy the overall support of a coil bed. Make sure to review all the mattress types on the market to find what will give you the best night’s sleep.

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