Mattress Guides

Foam Vs. Spring Mattress

Weigh the pros and cons of foam and innerspring to determine which mattress type is better for you.

By Katie Terrell Hanna

Mattresses come in all shapes and sizes, with numerous types to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a mattress to relieve pain symptoms, one that keeps you cool at night, or one that supports your preferred sleep position—they are a plethora of options available.

So how do you choose? We believe that one of the best ways to easily identify the ideal mattress is to learn about the types of mattresses on the market and the materials they are made with.

Today, we’re comparing memory foam mattresses and innerspring mattresses. We’ll explain the similarities and differences of each mattress type, how they feel, as well as, the pros and cons of each. That way, you can decide which option is best suited to your needs.

What is Foam?

Foam, or memory foam was invented by NASA in the 1960s. This type of mattress is composed of a polyurethane foam material also referred to as synthetic viscoelastic memory foam and is sensitive to body weight and body temperature. The construction of the foam is an open bubble cell that creates a matrix that promotes airflow. This makes it especially effective in conforming to an individual’s body, relieving pressure points, and regulating temperature. 

PROS

  1. Cradles and hugs the body 
  2. Soft material that absorbs the areas of the body that need pressure relief
  3. Isolates motion (great for couples or those who share their bed)
  4. Great option for side sleepers 

CONS

  • Does not transfer heat as well, but new cooling technologies help
  • Does not respond quickly to movement
  • The mattress may have a slight odor, especially when it is first unpacked
  • Higher price point on some styles

What are Springs?

Springs, innersprings, or coils are the most traditional of all mattress types. Invented in 1871 by Heinrich Westphal, the innerspring or coil mattress is made of a continuous coil construction that consists of numerous rows of s-curved wires. They work by contracting as weight is applied and bind together to create a support system in which each coil draws support from its neighbor. 

Innerspring mattress construction has been perfected over the years and you will often see them today as a pocketed coil system which lends itself to greater comfort and motion isolation. Coils are known for offering significant support, particularly for heavier individuals and those suffering from back pain. Because of their open-cell design, they are excellent at promoting airflow for those whose body heat rises when they sleep.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Responsive, adds a bit of bounce
  • Provides firmness and support
  • Among the coolest mattresses available, thanks to airflow between coils

CONS

  • May be too firm for some
  • Can be noisy when you move around

How Foam Coils Measure Up

Overall Feel

Memory foam is a softer texture, and is built to absorb the cradle the body. Some prefer the cloud-like comfort of memory foam over the metal coils of an innerspring mattress. However, you might be surprised to learn that some actually prefer the firmer feeling of an innerspring mattresses and require the extra support they give. So, it’s really up to your personal preference to decide which feels better to you.

Cooling Properties

Innerspring mattresses are far better at cooling sleepers because of their open cell design which promotes air flow. The design of foam, however, is more narrow and does not support airflow as well as a coil system. It is worth nothing, however, that mattress manufacturers have developed new foam technologies in recent years that are better able to circulate air and regulate temperature. Many proprietary foams include an advanced open cell structure and cooling gel  to regulate body temperature. 

Motion Transfer

Because of its absorbent nature, foam is really excellent at isolating motion Because and therefore will be far less likely to transfer motion at night, potentially disrupting your bedmate. The obvious trade off, however, is that a mattress that doesn’t transfer motion is typically less responsive. This can make position changes, getting in and out of bed, and any other nocturnal activities a bit more challenging.

Support

In terms of support, innerspring mattresses and memory foam both do a good job. With metal coil mattresses, the springs compress as you move to provide firm support while memory foam mattresses are constructed with both comfort layers and high-density support layers which seek to mimic the spinal alignment and stability of their counterpart. And before you dismiss foam mattresses for being too soft, remember that you can order them in varying degrees of firmness if you require extra support.  

Which is Right For You?

Foam is a great choice if you desire a supportive mattress with a comfortable touch. While the higher layers are typically crafted with soft foams and gels, the lower base layers tend to be constructed of high density foam. This provides a viable substitute to an innerspring mattress in terms of compression and alignment. 

In addition, you can add pressure point relief and motion isolation to the list of benefits. This is great news for side or combination sleepers and couples. But hot sleepers will want to avoid foam or choose a foam mattress with cooling properties. 

Springs are the oldest mattress technology around, but their benefits in terms of support and ease of movement remain popular today. Also, hot sleepers tend to prefer the open cell design of an innerspring mattress over foam which can be more prone to trap heat. The drawback to springs, however, is that their metal construction is clearly less comfortable than foam and doesn’t cradle the body as well as foam.

Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide which type of mattress is best for you. Memory foam mattresses are far more popular than traditional innerspring mattresses. So if you’re considering one but have reservations about the support, keep in mind that you can order a firm memory foam mattress and still retain the added comfort benefits. The same can be said for hot sleepers. If this is your area of concern, we suggest reviewing some of the options we’ve picked out that include memory foam mattresses with cooling technology.


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