Did you know there are more than five different types of mattresses? The most common ones are innerspring, memory foam, latex foam, and hybrid. But a few others have been around either for a while or only recently. How does this exactly change the way you shop for a mattress in the 21st century?
Well, for one, it’s great to have choices. This isn’t the 1900s where you have to settle for a spring system that comes in one design and firmness. But the array of options can also be overwhelming. It isn’t enough to stick with what’s popular. Your purchase should be highly personal.
Before you raise your hands in surrender, know that there’s a way to navigate this tricky situation. Let this guide help you go through the different types of mattresses, as well as the factors to consider when buying one. We take care of the research so you can relax while reaching for the information you need.
Shall we start?
Table of Contents
- Is It Time To Buy A New Mattress?
- Types of Mattresses
- Factors to Consider Before Buying A Mattress
Is It Time To Buy A New Mattress?
Has your current mattress been more of a source of trouble than comfort? Signs may be showing up, telling you it’s time to replace the old bug. Ignore them and you can aggravate the problem. Make an impulsive decision and you can regret bringing an over-a-hundred-dollar mistake into your bedroom.
Here are several assessment questions to help:
Is your mattress old/deformed?
How old are we talking about here? Mattress types differ in terms of average lifespans. A good number would be 7 years. Even if your mattress is a sturdy one, you should still perform a diagnostic check when it reaches this age. Look for sagging, body impressions, and other signs of wear. Regardless of years, evaluate a mattress you’re inheriting from a family member or relative.
On the other hand, you might feel attached to the mattress you’ve had since childhood or college. Even with a constant rotation of the mattress, it might have deteriorated throughout your daily use. It’s probably time to buy a new one.
Do you experience pain or soreness during or after sleeping?
Body pain and soreness can be caused by multiple sources. Your mattress could be one, and this could be due to its old age. It could also be because it isn’t suited to your body, making your spine curve awkwardly. In this case, you should be replacing your bed. Your sleeping surface should provide relief from pressure, stiffness, and pain–not cause them.
Have you changed your sleeping position recently?
In this article, we enumerate the different positions we assume while snoozing. There are three main categories for the poses: side, back, or stomach. There’s the one you feel most comfortable in. If it’s two or more, you’re a combination sleeper. But if you’ve switched to a new position recently and pain has been a part of it, see if your mattress is partly to be blamed.
It could be that your current sleeping space doesn’t support your new sleeping position. It’s probably too hard or too soft for you. For instance, you used to be a side sleeper who now hits the hay on her tummy. Your plush bed may now act like quicksand with less than optimal support for your face-down position.
If your current mattress is a twin, twin XL, or full version, it’s obviously not going to work for you and your co-sleeper. An upgrade is in order–to a queen, king, or Cal king edition. The person you’re sharing with can be a partner, a sibling, a child, or a pet. Whoever they may be, you need to consider both of your comforts. You’ll have to decide on a firmness score that satisfies you both.
Types of Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses have a core composed of steel coil springs, known as coils, and upholstery top and bottom layers. This type has been around since the 1900s. Its firmness and support are determined by the coil gauge. A lower number means a thicker spring. So a 12.5-gauge coil is thicker and firmer than a 14-gauge coil. But the latter is considered of the highest quality.
Also, the coils are either interconnected using wires or individually encased. Before you settle for an innerspring, make sure you know its several sub-types and their benefits.
The most common and oldest kind is the Bonnell coil. It was derived from the springs used in buggy seats during the 1800s. Bonnell springs are hourglass-shaped steel wire coils with knotted, round tops. These are joined by crosswire chemicals, forming an innerspring unit or a Bonnell unit (hence the name).
This material is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, to be used in innerspring. It’s often found in low- and mid-priced models. Because the coils act as a single unit, the resulting mattress is likely to transfer lots of motion.
Developed from Bonnell coils, offset coils also sport an hourglass shape, but their top and bottom parts are flat or square. Every two square ends are tied using helical wires to form the innerspring unit. This creates a hinging effect, which then allows the coils to respond to your body individually. The result is better conformity.
Offset coils can be knotted or unknotted. The former gives a more stable and smoother feel, while the latter provides a springier and more flexible response. This coil system is more complex than the Bonnell coil system, so it’s typically found in high-end mattresses like those from Sealy.
Continuous coils were popularized by Serta. This spring system was created for the manufacturer by Leggett & Platt using the commercial name Mira-coil. But the continuous coils term has stuck because the innerspring unit is constructed via a continuous wire. The rows can run crosswise. But some do both crosswise and lengthwise, increasing the weight the mattress can support.
These coils are also hinged like the offset coils, allowing for greater flexibility.
Marshall or Pocketed Coils
Now the more preferred type by consumers and manufacturers alike, Marshall coils are also known as individually wrapped or encased coils or pocket springs. They have a thin gauge and are knotless and shaped like a Barrell. Instead of being tied together by wires, they’re usually wrapped in a man-made, non-woven fabric. This mechanism lets them work independently, such as when carrying weight.
Some pocket coils come pre-compressed, resulting in a firmer surface and motion isolation on both sides of the bed.
Foam layers in mattresses may be infused with gel. This material is added as a cooling component. Other elements are also used to achieve this, but it’s been the most common so far. So much so that there are plenty of smart gel mattresses to choose from. Here, you will find the top or support layer composed of gel foam, usually gel memory foam.
Gel mattresses can be effective in wicking heat and moisture away from your body. They can also feel cool to the touch. If you think you’re going to enjoy these perks, you can go for this mattress type. Just consider that they can feel a little different from your typical foam mattress. It may not be for you if you like, say, the classic feel of a memory foam mattress.
With superior contouring properties, the memory foam is a popular choice as a comfort and transition layer. It was based on the cushioning technology developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s. It was initially crafted to protect people from injuries during airborne emergencies. Now it’s used in different industries from shoes to the mattress.
However, it took some time for mattress manufacturers to find a way to mass-produce the material and apply it in mattress making. Finally, a Swedish company called Tempurpedic successfully did it and introduced the Tempur memory foam. This foam has since then been favored for how closely it conforms to your body, aligning the spine naturally. In turn, pressure points are relieved while you drift off to dreamland.
Memory foam is also regarded for its responsiveness. It bounces back to its original shape once you get up from the bed. When you lie down, it creates that sink-in sensation that lets your curves feel cradled. Side sleepers can rest well in this optimal condition. However, traditional memory foam mattresses may not be ideal for hot sleepers. Some companies resolve this by infusing it with cooling components.
Another thing: memory foam has reliable motion isolation, reducing the ripple effect of movements made by sleepers. It’s resistant to dust mites and allergens. And it works with adjustable beds. As one of the most affordable materials, it’s also the go-to foam layer for most companies.
Read our review of the Best Memory Foam Mattresses in 2020.
Latex is a premium material often found in luxury mattresses. It is chosen for its natural cooling properties and inherent bounce and responsiveness. While it doesn’t contour to all of your curves, it delivers some conformity. One of the things you have to look for is if the mattress contains Dunlop or Talalay latex. Next is if the latex foam is natural, blended, or synthetic.
The sap sourced from rubber trees is used to produce natural latex. This is achieved through either of two processes: Dunlop and Talalay. Developed sometime in the 90s, Dunlop is the more established and common version. It involves a baking process during which sediments from the sap accumulate at the bottom. With this comes a more dense surface, making Dunlop latex the former material whereas Talalay is softer.
The more recent method, Talalay processes rubber sap in a vacuum-sealed chamber. The result is lighter and more consistent latex foam. Talalay is also said to be more breathable than Dunlop. However, synthetic materials can sometimes be added to Talalay, so you end up with a blended latex.
But Dunlop latex is not 100% natural either. The best Dunlop latex mattresses probably contain 95% latex and 5% curing agents.
On the other hand, synthetic latex is sourced from petrochemicals. Two polymers, a liquid called Styrene and a gas called Butadiene, prove to be of the highest value. It is 100% man-made and contains zero natural latex. If you encounter one with around 30% of natural latex may be considered synthetic by many. But this falls under blended latex.
Dunlop or Talalay can be used to produce synthetic latex can. You can find this in labels that mention blended Dunlop or blended Talalay foams. Blended latex can include natural rubber in small portions to create softer beds. Just because it’s synthetic latex does not mean it’s harmful or unhealthy. An Oeko-tex or Eco-INSTITUT certification can let you know if what you’re buying has been tested safe.
A latex mattress typically costs more than memory foam and hybrid mattresses.
Hybrids are a combination of two systems. And what we’ve come to know as hybrid mattresses combine innerspring and foam. You get the familiar bounce of the springs while enjoying the benefits of the foams that serve as comfort and support layers. For it to be considered a hybrid, it should feature at least one foam layer that is more than 2 inches thick and sits above the coil system.
So, on the one hand, you have access to the classic bounce and responsiveness of coils. On the other, you have the advantages found in various foams: the close conformity of memory foam, the cooling, and responsiveness of latex, and the support of polyurethane foam. The best hybrids can provide you with pressure relief and support while keeping it responsive to your amorous activities.
Hybrids often cater to couples and back pain sufferers. They also serve as the ideal choice for those who can’t make the full switch yet from innerspring to memory foam or gel memory foam mattresses. With prices in the mid-range on average, they are also good for those who cannot choose between innerspring and all-foam. We’re talking between$1,600 and $2,000 for a queen version here.
Just take note that the thicker the foam layers, the higher the price of the mattress.
Pillowtop mattresses are characterized by the addition of a pillow top layer on the surface of the mattress. Pillow top is a shorthand for pillow toppers, which is a layer of upholstery placed on your mattress to increase its plushness. It goes without saying that a pillow top feels very soft and cushy. It also mimics the sink-in feel that is found in a memory foam mattress.
Here, the hips and shoulders can sink into the pillow top, which in turn allows the spine to align naturally. This makes it a great choice for side sleepers. Most pillowtop mattresses are an offshoot of the innerspring or hybrid type. So they cost around the same price as either of the two.
Instead of foam or core layers, you will find air chambers replacing these sections in an airbed. Traditional models sport two air chambers. Recent ones can contain up to six air chambers. As its name suggests, this mattress can be inflated to a certain extent. With a manual or remote pump, you can set it to the height and firmness you deem fit.
Airbeds are a versatile type as you can use them indoors and outdoors. They can be home in a master bedroom or guest room as much as they can in an outdoor camping site or a recreational vehicle (RV). This means they have to be pretty durable, right?
Well, they can be pretty expensive, too. If it can go really thick, the price can go up as well. On average, a queen-size airbed retails from $1,500 to $2,500.
Meanwhile, a waterbed is composed of a rectangular chamber filled with water. It has a foam or fiber padding to complete the design. Here, water provides the main support. There are two types of the chamber you can find inside waterbeds. One is free-flow and the other is limited-flow or waveless. The former lets water move across the mattress without obstruction, while the latter limits its movements using fibers.
A back sleeper can benefit the most from a waterbed. Choose a model that provides enough support and flexibility. Take note that they feel may be different and the flow of the water may be distracting for some.
Technically, adjustable beds are a type of bed base or foundation that supports your mattress. But they are included here because of how they seamlessly work with a mattress to deliver specialized impact. For one, an adjustable bed lets you adjust the angle and elevation of your mattress. This results in having you try on different positions until you find the most comfortable on.
You can do all of this usually just by using a remote control. This is because adjustable beds are designed for individuals who are in need of recovery. Those experiencing back pain, joint pain, sleep apnea, and acid reflux, among others, can also benefit from sleeping on an adjustable bed. It’s said to improve blood circulation through the elevation of some body parts
One drawback of this bed is its price. The average cost of an adjustable bed ranges from $650 to $2,000. You may seek out financing to afford this one. And with the number of providers out there, your chances of snagging a great deal is not entirely impossible.
Factors to Consider Before Buying A Mattress
Construction & Materials
The materials and how they’re organized inside the mattress affect overall performance. No matter how beautiful a bed is on the outside, what matters more is the quality of its layers. For comfort layers, you’ll typically come across memory foam, latex foam, and polyurethane foam. These same materials can be used in transition or core layers. The base is often made of high-density foam (all-foams) or springs (hybrids).
As mentioned earlier, an example of a good spring system would be individually encased coils or offset coils. To guarantee the safety of foams and other materials, check for any certification. The most common names to look for are the following:
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100
- GREENGUARD GOLD
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOTS)
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOLS)
- Rainforest Alliance
Firmness & Feel
Firmness & Feel refers to how hard or soft your mattress is. This has to do with the comfort level you expect from and experience while lying down on a mattress. It is a highly subjective metric. And you can’t really tell the firmness of the mattress you’re checking out online.
This is where the Standard Firmness Scale enters. It is a scale of 1 to 10 used by the mattress industry to quantify the effect and explain the benefits to different sleepers. A 5.5 to 7 designation means the mattress surface should feel just right–not too hard or too soft.
Basing on the scale, where 1 is softest and 10 is firmest, here are the ideal scores and assignments to aim for according to your weight:
- Soft (3 to 4) – Those who weigh less than 130 pounds
- Medium Firm (5 to 6) – Those who weigh 130 to 230 pounds
- Firm (7 to 8) – Those who weigh above 230 pounds
In some cases, a company applies a reversed version of the firmness scale (i.e. 1 is firmest and 10 is softest). Others may also use the term Plush instead of Soft. The intervals are also not set in stone. The scale is just a guideline and a sort of consensus for manufacturers and consumers alike.
People may sleep hot or not. Regardless, they need a mattress that will not leave them breaking into sweats in the middle of the night. Otherwise, wouldn’t you have chosen to snooze in a bathhouse with a sauna instead? But old memory foam and innerspring mattresses are notorious for trapping heat. Thereby, you need a mattress with cooling and/or temperature neutrality properties.
Cooling is concerned about wicking heat and moisture away from your body. Temperature neutrality refers to regulating your skin temperature while you snooze. With the likes of phase change technology, the mattress can cool you down during hot nights and warm you up during cold nights.
Cooling components are often infused in all-foam designs or foam layers in hybrids. Gel, copper, and graphite are the most common examples. These elements are good conductors of heat, absorbing it quickly so it doesn’t get trapped in the foam. Aside from phase change, the open-cell structure can also help regulate temperature or promote airflow.
Edge Support & Sinkage
When do you need good edge support? One of the most common answers here is if you tend to snooze near the side. It is possible that you hog the perimeter area as long as you feel comfortable in this area. But you won’t feel that comfortable if you experience a roll-off feel or deep compression here. It would be akin to almost falling off the floor.
At the same time, you probably sit on the side a lot, too. Significant sinkage when you do may make you feel uneasy. But there’s also a physical effect on the mattress itself. Poor edge support can leave it prone to early sagging. Over time, the sagging can cause uneven surface, which can be tough to lie down on. Edge support is what allows you to maximize your mattress’s lifespan.
Leaving too much body impression can also lead to dips in spots where more pressure and weight are applied. Aside from an uneven surface, this can be a source of soreness and pain. These are just the main reasons edge support is important. Hybrids tend to be an ideal choice in this regard.
A performance-based factor, motion transfer is another factor you have to consider depending on certain conditions. You would want low motion transfer or total motion isolation from your sleeping surface if you sleep lightly. Motion isolation prevents the transfer of movements across the mattress. This means fewer interruptions for you at night.
It should be a top priority if you share your mattress with someone. If you or your co-sleeper sleep lightly and the other person shifts or gets up frequently at night, you should be kept from this kind of distraction and allowed to catch a deep, restful sleep. If not, your sleep quality may be negatively affected.
Memory foam mattresses and hybrids with pocket coils are great candidates in this department.
There are high-quality options to match any type of budget these days. You don’t have to scratch your head and guess which mattress type is within your reach. Here are the average prices for the most common, as well as some special, types of mattresses (Queen):
- Innerspring – $100 to $2,500
- Memory foam mattress – $500 to $1,500
- Hybrid mattress – $1,600
- Latex mattress – $2,000
- Adjustable mattress – $1,000 to $3,500
Know that you can apply for financing in case you cannot pay cash upfront for the mattress of your choice.
Every mattress purchase comes with terms and policies. The difference is in how sophisticated, generous, or customer-centric they are. Make sure to read the fine print before clicking the Buy button. This could prevent some headaches in the future.
More often than not, shipping and returns are free when you order online. But usually, these perks apply only to residents of the contiguous United States. If you’re lucky, your dream mattress model can come from a company that delivers to Hawaii, Alaska, and even Canada. But this service is not free of charge.
When it comes to sleep trials, most online mattress brands dish out generous. The market average ranges from 90 to 120 nights. The longest can last up to 365 days. Some terms depend on where you choose to shop: around 30 nights on an eCommerce site (e.g. Amazon) and around 90 nights in retail stores (e.g. Macy’s).
Warranties can cover your mattress from 10 to 25 years. Some come with a lifetime warranty. But as we said, mattresses should be replaced every 7 years or so. Still, study your policy so you won’t do anything that could invalidate your claim. Some won’t honor your warranty if you don’t use a box spring or foundation with your mattress.
There’s even our buying guide to help you sort through some more the models you’re eyeing. If you are not sure about specific models, you can always browse our mattress reviews and comparisons here at phatfusion.net.
For some, understanding the different mattress types is only the beginning. And if that’s you, you’ve come to the right place. Buying a mattress is a major investment for individuals and households. Don’t fall into the trap of going for what’s popular or whatever goes.
From hereon, be the smart mattress shopper you want to be.