Are you looking to buy a new mattress but are not sure whether a foam or spring mattress will be better? With so many types of foam and spring mattresses available, it can feel impossible to decide which mattress you should get.
The best mattress for you is one that supports your body in the right places and helps you regulate your temperature during the night. In this article, we compare the qualities of foam and spring mattress to help you decide which mattress type is the best for you.
Foam Vs Spring Mattress
Many people think that choosing a new mattress is simply a choice between a foam and spring mattress. However, it is not that simple because each mattress type is split into subcategories that have different qualities. To make an informed decision, you need to understand the qualities of the different types of foam and spring mattresses.
What is a Spring Mattress?
Spring mattresses are among the most affordable and simple mattresses available. They have been around since 1871 when an inventor from Germany, Heinrich Westphal, created the first innerspring mattress using steel coils.
Since then, spring mattresses have gone through many changes and now use innovative designs and the latest technologies to ensure maximum comfort. Because spring mattresses are innately responsive, they provide support, bounce, spinal alignment, and support for all sleeper types. Today’s spring mattresses can offer you an almost perfect balance between support and comfort.
Spring Mattress Components
There are three basic components in a typical spring mattress. The top layer of the mattress is called the comfort layer. This layer acts as a cushion between you and the coils. Materials used for the comfort layer include fibres and foam among other soft materials.
The steel coils are in the core of the mattress. How many coils and what their gauge is vary between different spring mattresses. Below the core is the foundation layer. It is usually made with thin foam or wool padding and it provides support to the coils.
The basics are the same for all innerspring mattresses. However, there are different coil systems, which affect how comfortable the mattress is, how much support it offers, the cost, and many other features of the mattress.
Bonnell and Offset Coils
These two systems are very similar in their properties and shape. They both have coils shaped like hourglasses, meaning they are thinner in the middle than they are at the ends. Because of the shape, the coils compress under slight pressure. This means the mattresses offer resilient support and enhanced bounce.
Mattresses with Bonnell or offset coils have flexible pushback force that supports your weight and can provide relief for sore muscles, aching joints, and back pain. These qualities make these mattresses a good choice for anyone suffering from an achy back.
Continuous coils were introduced in the mid-1980s under the name of Miracoil. The coils are s-shaped, made with a single wire, and arranged ininterconnected rows. This helps them to provide stable support. Some continuous coil mattresses have coils arranged both length- and width-wise, which provides extra support for heavy sleepers as well as back and stomach sleepers.
Compared to the Bonnell and offset coil systems, continuous coil mattresses offer firmer support and have fewer motion disturbances. Continuous coil systems are often used in average to high-end spring mattresses.
Individual Pocketed Coils
In mattresses that use pocketed coils, each coil is in its own pocket. Because the coils are not connected, they move independently, offering sleepers better movement isolation than the other innerspring systems.
In addition, the pocket coil mattresses contour to your body shape better, which makes them more closely comparable to foam mattresses. The individual coils help to distribute your weight more evenly, providing more targeted support.
Individually pocketed coils are used in hybrid and luxury innerspring mattresses. Some pocket coil mattresses even have zoned support, which can be achieved by using different gauge coils in different parts of the mattress. This can provide additional pressure relief and better spinal alignment regardless of your body type or preferred sleeping position.
What is a Foam Mattress?
Foam mattresses have been around for a shorter time than spring mattresses but have grown in popularity since the mid-21st century, as many people find foam mattresses offer better and longer-lasting support.
Foam Mattress Components
Foam mattresses typically have just two layers instead. The comfort layer of foam mattresses is made with softer foams that provide a cushioned surface for sleeping. In cheaper foam mattresses, the comfort layer usually has just one layer of foam.
In high-end foam mattresses, the comfort layer can be formed with several foams that improve the mattress’ transitional support and insulation. If the comfort layer has been made with quilted foams, they can provide instant pressure relief and comfort.
The foundation of the foam mattress is the support core, which is usually made with high-density foam. The denser foams increase the mattress’ longevity by preventing sagging and helping the mattress to hold its form for longer.
Similarly to spring mattresses, there are three different types of foam mattresses you can choose between. Each has its own unique qualities you need to consider when making a decision about a new mattress.
Polyurethane foam, or polyfoam for short, is the most common type of foam used in foam mattresses. Using polyfoam became popular in late 1950s when the mattress industry began to use it instead of natural fillings such as wool or cotton.
Polyfoam is a man-made material derived from petroleum. It can be made in three different densities and grades that affect the quality, performance, and durability. Because polyfoam is easy to compress and affordable, it is a common material in bed-in-a-box mattresses, The foam confirms to the curves of your body, offering pressure relief and comfort. The motion isolation is better than in most innerspring mattresses.
Memory foam was invented in the mid-1960s by NASA to improve the comfort of its astronauts. From there, its use spread to airplane seats and in the 1990s to mattresses. Memory foam is a highly conforming material and manufactured similarly to polyfoam with a few added chemicals to give it its unique properties.
Memory foam mattresses react to your body weight and temperature, meaning it contours to your body to offer maximum pressure relief and comfort. It supports correct spinal alignment and weight distribution whatever position you prefer to sleep in. There are various firmness levels and densities available to support different sleeper profiles and they have excellent motion isolation.
Memory foam mattresses retain heat, which makes them not ideal for people who are hot sleepers. However, there are memory foam mattresses available that use cooling agents such as gel to help keep them cool. Open-cell memory foams are also better for hot sleepers because their porous structure promotes airflow.
Latex foam has existed since 1929, but it was not used in mattresses and furniture until the 1940s. Latex is a natural foam made from milk or sap produced by rubber trees. It is chemical-free and naturally hypoallergenic material. Latex mattresses are durable and offer comfort and buoyancy. They also conform to your body and help relieve aching muscles and joints.
Latex mattresses are firmer than the other two types of foam mattresses but still offer reasonable pressure relief regardless of the position you sleep in. They are better for hot sleepers because latex is a cooler material.
What Are the Differences Between Foam and Spring Mattresses?
The easiest way to compare the foam and spring mattresses is to look at their qualities in different categories side by side.
Well suited for stomach and side sleepers because of their ability to conform to the curves of the body. They allow your shoulders and hips to sink in keeping your body in the right alignment. Stomach sleepers should avoid softer foams which can make breathing more laboured.
Great for people who sleep on their back because they offer great support for the spinal curve. They are also a good mattress for people with back pain. Also good mattresses for combo sleepers because spring mattresses have quicker response to changing positions many foam mattresses.
Heavier sleepers may find that they sink too much into a foam mattress, while lightweight and average people are generally perfectly supported by foam mattresses. Heavier people need to look for firm foam mattresses to maximise support.
Spring mattresses are ideal for heavier sleepers because the springs help the mattress keep its shape under the bodyweight and offer pushback support. Lighter sleepers may not find spring mattresses as comfortable because there is a risk of developing pressure points.
The rule of thumb when buying a foam mattress is to choose a firmer mattress the heavier you are. For average people, medium is the best option. Soft foam mattresses are mostly suitable for children or very lightweight people.
In general, spring mattresses are firmer than foam mattresses. Many spring mattresses offer a lot of support but not a lot of contouring. A medium-firm spring mattress is often firmer than a medium-firm foam mattress.
Foam mattresses, other than latex, tend to retain a lot of body heat and can make you sweat during the night. If you often get hot when you sleep and want a foam mattress, it is worth investing in one with cooling technologies.
Spring mattresses are temperature neutral. This means that the heat from your body will not affect the temperature of the mattress. There is also better airflow than in many foam mattresses, particularly cheaper foam mattresses.
Because foam mattresses, apart from latex, use chemicals in the manufacturing process, they tend to have a mild or strong odour. However, the smell fades in a few days and the off-gassing behind the smell is not dangerous.
Most spring mattresses will not let off any odours even if they have a thin foam layer on top of the springs.
Most foam mattresses are better at isolating motion than spring mattresses, If you share your bed, foam mattresses can help you sleep better as you will not feel the other person moving as much.
Pocketed coil mattresses have the best motion isolation out of spring mattresses because the individual pockets reduce the amount of motion transferred between the coils. The other spring mattress types offer very little motion isolation and may lead to a disturbed sleep if you share a bed.
Cost and Lifespan
You will have to pay more for many foam mattresses than for spring mattresses because of the manufacturing technologies used to make them. However, you can find simple foam mattresses at reasonable prices. Latex mattresses are often the most expensive because of the natural materials. Foam mattresses tend to last a little longer than spring mattresses. Some foam mattress types can last around ten years.
Traditional innerspring mattresses are often the cheapest option. However, the cheapest mattresses are often better suited for occasional use. For every night use, it is worth spending more. On average, spring mattresses last up to seven years until the coils lose flexibility or break.
If you are still uncertain whether a foam or spring mattress is the right choice for you, then you might like to choose a hybrid mattress. Most hybrid mattresses will have an innerspring core, which is topped with foam for comfort. In the most luxurious mattresses, the top layer is often memory foam or latex, while the core has pocketed coils.
A hybrid mattresses are designed to give sleepers cushioned support that helps maintain the alignment of your spine regardless of which position you like to sleep in. With proper care, the best hybrid mattresses can last over ten years. However, these mattresses will usually come with the biggest price tags.
Both spring and foam mattresses have qualities that can help you sleep better depending on your body weight and sleeping position. While spring mattresses can be better for hot sleepers, foam mattresses will offer better motion isolation than most spring mattresses. Since hybrids combine the qualities of both spring and foam mattresses, they can offer you all the qualities you are looking for in a mattress.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have back pain, a spring mattress can be a better option for you. However, if you prefer a foam mattress, choose the right firmness for your bodyweight and preferred sleeping position to ensure it supports your spine alignment.
Unless you choose a pocket coil mattress, which is the best spring mattress type for motion isolation, you are better off with a foam mattress. They isolate movement and dampen vibration more effectively than most innerspring mattresses.
If you often get hot during the night, spring mattresses often have better temperature regulation than foam mattresses. If you would prefer a foam mattress, choose a latex mattress or one with cooling technologies.