When it’s time to purchase a new mattress, two of the biggest decisions you’ll make are spring or foam, and firm or soft. Mattress shopping used to be simple – you just had to choose between basic innerspring models. But the rise of advanced foam mattresses has revolutionized the industry. This detailed guide will compare spring mattresses and foam mattresses. We’ll cover all the critical differences, pros and cons, and factors to consider so you can determine which mattress type is the best match for your sleep habits and preferences.
Spring and foam mattresses vary widely in their construction, feel, and properties that affect your comfort and support. By learning more about these key distinctions, you’ll have the knowledge to narrow your options and find the right mattress that meets your needs. This guide includes unbiased information on both mattress types so you can weigh the benefits of springs versus foam.
Sleep is crucial for health, mood, productivity, and quality of life. Your mattress plays a major role in how well you sleep. While there is no definitive “best” mattress style, understanding the capabilities of both springs and foam will help you select the optimal model tailored to your body, sleep position, and other personal needs. Let’s dive into the details so you can make an informed, confident decision.
What Are Spring Mattresses? A Closer Look at Their Construction and Capabilities
Spring mattresses, also called innerspring mattresses, have been the standard style for decades. As the name implies, they contain hundreds or thousands of metal springs or coils in the core interior layer to provide support and structure. The various types of coils include:
- Bonnell coils – Hourglass shaped and knotted, budget friendly
- Offset coils – Hinge design absorbs more motion
- Continuous coils – Joined into a single wire unit
- Pocket coils – Individual fabric pockets prevent motion transfer
On top of the coil layer are upholstery layers of foam, fiberfill, wool, or other padding to add comfort, cushioning, and conforming ability. These can include:
- Polyfoam comfort layers
- Memory foam contours slightly
- Microcoils for responsiveness
- Cotton, wool, or latex for breathability
Innerspring mattresses also have exterior layers like ticking fabric and edge supports along the sides. Popular varieties range from firm to plush, basic to luxurious:
- Pillow tops add extra foam and padding
- Euro tops enclose foam between stitching
- Tight tops provide flatter, firmer feels
- Hybrids combine coils and thick foam layers
Benefits of spring mattresses include:
- Traditional, familiar feel many people love
- Bouncy responsiveness adjusts quickly as you move
- Reinforced perimeter coils prevent sagging at edges
- Increased airflow and breathability for cooler sleep
- Affordable starting prices appealing for budget shoppers
- Easy to rotate and good edge support
Potential downsides of spring mattresses:
- Coils may compress, loosen, warp over years of use
- Can facilitate the transfer of motion between partners
- Audible squeaking or creaking from springs
- Thin foam layers conform less closely to body shape
- Uneven support and increased pressure points
Foam Mattress Construction and Benefits for Key Sleep Factors
Unlike innerspring designs, all-foam mattresses contain no metal coils or springs. Foam mattresses are constructed using layers of viscoelastic (memory foam), polyurethane foam, latex foam, gel-infused foams, and other high-tech materials. Manufacturers mix different foams to create a balanced sleeping surface.
Key components in quality foam mattresses include:
- Comfort layers of memory foam that mold to the body
- Transitional polyfoam for a balance of contouring and support
- High-density support foam prevents sagging and softness
- Copper, graphite gels or other infusions to dissipate heat
- Responsive latex alternatives to standard foam
Advanced construction provides cushioning where you need it. Zoned areas are firmer under the back, softer under shoulders. Some models have reinforced edges so you don’t roll off the bed.
Benefits that quality foam mattresses aim to provide include:
- Excellent contouring and pressure relief
- Minimal motion transfer so partners aren’t disturbed
- Less bouncy responsiveness but still responsive feel
- Cushioned support for side sleepers’ shoulders and hips
- durable materials retain their shape for years
- Silent operation and absorb vibrations
Potential cons that sometimes arise with foam mattresses:
- Heat retention – newer models now sleep cooler
- Slow response can inhibit ease of repositioning
- Off-gassing odor when brand new
- Cushioning comfort layers can lack adequate support
- More expensive – especially name brands and luxury models
Foam mattresses excel at conforming ergonomically and isolating motion between sleep partners. Newer technologies also combat heat and responsiveness complaints. But quality construction commands higher prices.
Notable Differences Between Spring and Foam Mattresses
Now that we’ve covered their general components and properties, let’s directly compare some key performance differences between spring and foam mattresses:
Responsiveness and Bounce
- Foam conforms closely to the body for alignment and pressure relief.
- The springs in innerspring mattresses provide more bounce and are very responsive when you change positions or get in and out of bed.
- Foam absorbs movement and prevents disruption of your partner’s sleep when you move.
- Springs facilitate transferring more motion vibrations across the surface of the mattress.
Suitability for Sleep Positions
- Foam conforms well to the curves of side sleepers.
- Springs provide the firmer support back and stomach sleepers often prefer.
- Early foam retained more heat but newer models are designed to sleep cooler.
- Springs allow more airflow through the mattress so innerspring models can sleep cooler for some.
- Foam has a slower response to pressure, while springs quickly bounce back their original shape.
- Foam absorbs noise and vibrations for virtually silent operation.
- Springs can squeak or creak temporarily until the mattress breaks in.
- Well-constructed foam mattresses are more expensive overall, especially at luxury tiers.
- Budget-friendly mattresses tend to be basic spring models.
As you can see, each mattress type has attributes that excel in certain areas and appeal to different priorities and sleepers. Next, we’ll discuss how to choose based on your needs.
How to Decide Between Springs or Foam Based on Your Needs
When trying to choose between spring and foam mattresses, consider these factors:
Your dominant sleep position should guide your decision significantly.
Side sleepers often prefer the closer conforming of memory foam to cushion shoulders and hips. But firmer latex or polyfoam can also prevent sinking too deeply.
Back sleepers need the spine to maintain healthy alignment. This requires moderate contouring with robust support – qualities found in some firmer foam or coil mattresses.
Stomach sleeping needs the most reinforcement to prevent the midsection from bowing down into the mattress. Innersprings or firmer foams are preferable.
Body Type and Weight
Heavier individuals over 230lbs do well with thicker foam comfort layers or the robust support of tempered steel coils. This prevents them from compressing too deeply into the mattress layers.
Lighter persons under 150lbs often feel most comfortable with the deeper contouring of softer all-foam mattresses. But firmer types still cushion pressure points.
Average weight sleepers in the 150-200lb range can find either foam or hybrid styles suit them well. Focus more on feel preferences.
Innerspring models with basic foam comfort layers provide the most budget-friendly mattress options under $800. More complex foam layering and hybrids come at mid-level to luxury prices.
Decide the maximum you’re able to spend without financial strain. But recognize that mattresses impact your daily rest and health. Investing in quality materials that last brings great value.
Personal factors that vary between individuals include:
- Feel – do you prefer sleeping “in” your mattress or “on” top?
- Responsiveness – are you comfortable with slower or faster adapting support?
- Bounce – do you want mattress motion for intimacy or motion isolation?
- Coolness – do you sleep hot or comfortably?
Take your unique needs and priorities into account when choosing foam or springs. Testing different models can help determine your best match.
Tips for Purchasing and Choosing a Mattress
With all of the information we’ve covered about spring and foam mattresses, here are some tips to make the purchasing and selection process easier:
Try before you buy
Go to showrooms to test out mattresses by lying on them for at least 10-15 minutes to experience the feel and support. Try your usual sleep positions. See how easy it is to change positions. Take note of any pressure points. Bring your pillow to test the full setup.
Consider bed frames
Your foundation impacts mattress performance. Flat platforms allow foam to conform closely. Slatted frames provide more airflow around springs. Make sure your frame pairs well with your mattress type.
Bring your partner
If you share the bed, have your partner test mattresses too. Make sure you both can sleep comfortably and that motion transfer is minimized.
Ask about warranties
A good mattress warranty covers defects for at least 10 years. Make sure the retailer delivers your mattress so any warranty issues are handled directly with them.
What is the trial period? Can you exchange a mattress if it’s the wrong firmness or size? Are there restocking fees? What are the return policies?
Check third-party mattress reviews and see what actual customers say about comfort, support, durability, and overall satisfaction after extended use. Weigh pros and cons.
Consider new technologies
Advances in foam and spring mattresses include cooling gels, zone support, reinforced edges, and adjustable air beds. Weigh the value of special features for your needs.
Factor in size
Make sure any mattress fits well in your room dimensions. Expand to a larger mattress size if you want more personal space.
Choose proper firmness
Medium to medium-firm often accommodates most sleepers. Go softer if you are petite. Choose firmer for larger body types and stomach sleepers.
Ensure foundations like adjustable bases properly support mattresses and don’t void warranties. Box springs usually pair best with innerspring mattresses.
Hybrids blend springs and foam. Latex foams sleep cooler. Air beds let you customize firmness. Memory foam isolates motion. Analyze the options.
Get the right height
Higher mattress profiles make it easier to get into and out of bed if you have mobility issues. Lower heights may feel more stable.
Pros and Cons of Spring and Foam Mattresses
To summarize the notable pros and cons of both mattress types:
Spring Mattress Pros
- Classic, familiar feel
- Bouncy, responsive support
- Reinforced edges
- Increased airflow
- Budget-friendly pricing
- Easy to rotate
Spring Mattress Cons
- Potential for noise
- Facilitates motion transfer
- Less contouring to body
- Longevity varies by model
- Uneven support and pressure points
Foam Mattress Pros
- Closely conforming to body shape
- Excellent pressure relief
- Minimal motion transfer
- Silent operation
- Durable materials retain shape
Foam Mattress Cons
- Heat retention in some models
- Slow response time
- Off-gassing odor when new
- Can be prone to impressions
- More expensive than springs
As you can see, the ideal mattress comes down to the combination of benefits that matters most to you and matches your sleep needs and preferences.
Conclusion: Choosing the Best Mattress Type for You
When comparing spring mattresses and foam mattresses, there is no definitive “best” mattress overall. The right mattress comes down to finding the model that satisfies your sleep habits, body type, temperature regulation needs, budget, and personal priorities.
The key is to educate yourself on the meaningful differences between these two leading mattress types. Take into consideration your own sleep tendencies and needs. Be sure to test out mattresses firsthand and take advantage of sleep trials.
High quality and comfortable options exist in both the spring and foam mattress categories. Focus on the factors that affect your sleep the most. Then you can confidently select the mattress type and specific model that will provide you with the most comfortable and restorative night’s sleep.