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Spring vs Memory Foam Mattress

a headshot of our reviewer Connie

Written By Connie

CPD Sleep Consultant

spring vs memory foam

9 April 2024 9 min read

Spring vs memory foam mattress – which one would win in the ultimate battle of mattresses?

Purchasing a new mattress can be extremely overwhelming — that is a given! There are hundreds and hundreds of them on the market, so choosing the one that suits your budget and all of your needs can be a confusing process. Luckily, there is a way to narrow down your search – you just have to ask yourself the following question:

– Do I want a spring mattress or a foam mattress?

However, if you are not sure you have the right answer yet – don't worry. After reading this article, you will. Thus, without further ado, here are some facts about spring and foam mattresses that will help you make up your mind.

About spring mattresses and their types

man placing mattress

Spring mattresses, or innerspring mattresses as they are often called, are a standard model – a model you are able to find in all stores. They are known for their springs placed inside a layered cushion. These two offer the ultimate support and comfort.

Nowadays, you have spring mattresses with all sorts of features. That is, besides coming in all possible sizes, spring mattresses can also come equipped with features necessary for people with injuries, for people with a preferred side of sleeping, and even for people with various budgets.

So, let us name a couple of the most popular spring mattresses.

Open coil spring mattress

This is one of the most popular mattresses on the market.

An open-coil mattress (or a mattress with Bonnell coils) consists of interconnected continuous coils which are shaped like an hourglass. How comfortable and supportive the mattress will be, depends on two things – the count of continuous coils and the gauge of coils. The count of coils refers to the number of open coils inside the mattress. The more metal coils a mattress has the more supportive and durable it will be. The gauge refers to the thickness of the coils. So, if the gauge is low, the mattress will be firmer and, if the gauge is high, the mattress will be softer.

Spring mattress with pocket coils

Coil mattresses can also have pocketed coils. Here, the coils are not interconnected but placed individually in their own pockets made of fabric. And, they are not hourglass-shaped but straight. These changes were made so that the mattress would provide more comfort and support than the open-coil one. However, since there are so materials (fabrics) used in this mattress, breathability is not its strongest suit.

Offset coil spring mattress

Offset coils are the offspring of Bonnell coils. They are interconnected and they have the same hourglass shape. But what makes them different is the fact that they have squared sides. This makes a huge difference when it comes to motion transfer, noise, and pushback under an increased load. So, if you are sharing your bed with your partner, this type of spring mattress may be your best choice.

About memory foam mattresses and their types

man placing mattress

Memory foam was created by NASA in the early 60s to provide more comfort and safety for astronauts. But, nowadays, you don't have to travel out of space to be able to enjoy memory foam mattresses. You can enjoy them from the comfort of your home. And, just like with coil mattresses, that is, with spring mattresses, foam mattresses also come in all sizes and with many different features.

So, again, let us name a couple of the most popular ones.

Recommended reading:

Traditional memory foam mattress

All memory foam mattresses are made of viscoelastic polyurethane foam, but this traditional type has petroleum-based polymer in it. Because of this polymer, the mattress is denser and softer. This is great if you like the feeling of sleeping in the clouds. But it may not be great if you are a hot sleeper or if you live somewhere where the nights tend to be hot and humid.

Open-cell memory foam mattress

You can find polyurethane foam in almost all open-cell memory foam mattresses, but here, this foam is ‘broken' with pockets filled with air. This means that this type of memory foam mattress is more breathable than the traditional type. Moreover, this also means that it is much softer and that there will be less off-gassing.

However, when speaking about soft mattresses, keep in mind that open-cell memory foam mattresses can be extremely soft. These are not going to be good back sleepers and sleepers with certain back, neck, and joint injuries. Thus, if you decide to buy this type of mattress, check its density levels. The ideal density for a memory foam mattress is around 4-5 pounds per cubic foot.

Gel memory foam mattress

Another thing that is relatively new on the market is the so-called gel memory foam.

Here, again, we have polyurethane foam, but, now, instead of air pockets, we have gel beads or even liquid gel infused inside the first couple of foam layers. Sometimes it is infused in the comfort layer, sometimes in the support layer, and sometimes you can find it in both. The more gel you have in your gel memory foam, the cooler sleep you will have.

The foam layer infused with gel beads can help not only those who sleep hot but also those who need pressure relief. Depending on the firmness of the gel memory foam mattress, you can expect these layers to work wonders on all of your pressure points.

The major differences between spring and foam mattresses

man pointing both directions

Both spring mattresses (or innerspring mattresses) and foam mattresses come with many similarities. But don't focus on those. When trying to decide between two mattresses, you should look at their differences. That is, you should look at the different features they provide. So, let us compare these two and hopefully find a mattress that will ensure a good night's sleep for you.

Sleeping Position

When it comes to sleeping positions, both spring and memory foam mattresses will work well. Thus, it doesn't matter whether you are looking for a mattress for back sleepers, stomach sleepers, or side sleepers, you will not make a mistake if choosing either of these two.

However, if you want a mattress for your preferred sleeping position, the thing you should be focusing on is the firmness of the mattress. For instance, if you are one of the side sleepers, you should go for a memory foam mattress as those are generally a lot softer. Or, if you are a combination sleeper (that is, if you are tossing and turning when sleeping), you should opt for an innerspring mattress as these promote easier repositioning.

Firmness

Again, both foam mattresses and innerspring mattresses come in different firmness. But, we would be lying if we said that there is no difference between them. There is! Namely, spring mattresses will always be a lot firmer than memory foam ones. Even if you decide to go for a hybrid mattress which is a combination of foam and spring, that mattress will still be firmer than the mattress with all those foam layers.

So, if you are on the look for something on the firmer side, choose a traditional spring mattress. And, if you are on the look for cloud-like firmness, choose one of those modern foam beds. But, if you just make up your mind, choose a hybrid mattress as this one usually suits all types of sleepers.

Cooling

Generally speaking, a spring mattress, especially an open coil innerspring mattress, is more breathable than any other foam mattress. And, breathability is what makes the mattress (and you) cool during the night.

However, if you don't like sleeping on a firmer mattress but still want something that provides that cooling effect, you can also go for a mattress with foam layers infused with either gel beads or liquid gel as these were particularly designed for hot sleepers.

Bounce

If you are sharing your bed with a partner, and more importantly, if you are sharing your bed with a partner who is restless while sleeping, you should look for a mattress with minimal or no bounce. That is, you should look for a bed with no motion transfer. Since memory foam mattresses are soft and dance, they will absorb all the motion.

Spring mattresses on the other hand do quite the opposite. No matter how firm (or soft) you choose them to be, they will always be bouncy. So, with them, expect motion transfer.

Sinkage

When it comes to sinkage in foam vs spring mattress competition, spring wins! Just like mentioned many times before, sleeping on memory foam beds feels like sleeping on a cloud – you will sink in all that softness. Thus, if you don't like this feeling, better go for one of those innerspring beds. Spring beds don't allow sinkage, so, when sleeping, you will feel like you are on them, not in them.

Durability

In terms of durability, again, a spring mattress would win. A spring mattress is considered more durable because of the steel coils. And, yes, this applies to open coils, pocketed coils, and offset coils.

Generally speaking, innerspring mattresses can last up to 20 years while foam mattresses have a 10-year life span.

However, the durability of a certain mattress doesn't on whether it is a foam or spring mattress, no. It also depends on the factors such as maintenance, how often you use it, and what materials were used by manufacturers. Moreover, it also depends on whether you are using mattress toppers (and even covers).

Pricing

The most expensive type of mattress you can buy for yourself is a hybrid mattress! As previously said, these are a combination of spring mattresses and foam ones. That is, these have coils on the bottom which serve as a support layer, and foam on the top which serves as a comfort layer.

Manufacturing these requires the usage of most materials, so, expect to pay the highest price.

A standard memory foam mattress takes the next place when it comes to pricing. This is because producing memory foam requires a lot of time and materials. Of course, if you want a memory foam mattress with features such as cooling and breathability, again, expect to pay a bit more.

The cheapest mattress you can buy for yourself is one of those traditional spring mattresses. And the reason for that is rather simple – building even high-quality spring mattresses is not an expensive process as the materials for that are on the cheaper side.

So, who should get a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses should, in general, be suitable for the majority of people. They can be extremely good for side sleepers as they help with pressure relief. Memory foam mattresses allow the body to sink and, thus, pressure points are relieved. Moreover, they are also great for people who like softer mattresses and mattresses that contour the body. And, of course, let us not forget the couples and all the benefits they can enjoy from a foam mattress – just like we mentioned above, if you have a partner that tends to move a lot while sleeping, memory foam can help with motion transfer.

However, keep in mind that these may not be suitable for back sleepers. When we sleep on our back, our hips and buttocks will sink in all that foam which will result in a misaligned spine and relatively tense muscles. Also, hot sleepers are the ones who should avoid memory foam mattresses. Foam is not temperature regulating, so sleeping on these can make your body temperature rise even more.

And, who should get a spring mattress?

It can also be said that spring mattresses could work for the majority of people as well. But the ones that would benefit the most are definitely back sleepers, combination sleepers, and hot sleepers. Why they are good for back sleepers needs no explaining – it is because firm mattresses keep the spine aligned. The bounce from the spring works well for combination sleepers as it has a quick response. And all the springs inside the mattress allow the bed to be breathable and thus, cooler.

But, of course, just like there are people who shouldn't use foam mattresses, there are also those who shouldn't use spring ones. And, those are couples and sleepers who prefer that softer feel. Spring mattresses that don't have a foam layer on top of them will react to movements, so whenever your partner turns, you will wake up.

What to do if you can't make up your mind?

woman thinking

After reading about the spring vs memory foam mattress, and you still can't decide what mattress to buy for your master bedroom. We suggest getting one of these hybrid mattresses. They have the best of both worlds – coils to keep the mattress breathable and supportive and foam to keep it soft and pressure-free. So, consider getting a hybrid mattress if you have no particular needs and you just want what is best for you and your body.

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About the author

Connie
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant I know how important sleep is. And as a combination sleeper, I have found it difficult to get products to suit my sleep style. I have more than 2 years product testing experience with The Sleep Advisors which means I have slept on, with and under more than 500 products with varying degrees of success. This is added to more than 2 years experience as a product reviewer for Closer, Heat and Grazia magazines, so I've got a rigorous process. I love sharing my sleep testimonials with our readers and hearing their experiences too.
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