Memory Foam VS Spring Mattress: Which One Is Better?

There are many different types of mattresses available on the market today. That’s why replacing our old mattress can be overwhelming and stressful. Sleeping without proper support can actually damage our bodies and cause pain. With the right knowledge and understanding of different mattress types, you can find the best mattress for your personal needs.

In this mattress guide, we’ll be discussing the two most popular mattress types—memory foam and spring. We will help you understand their differences, as well as their pros and cons. Using this information, you will be able to pick the right mattress and hopefully improve your sleep.

Memory Foam 

Memory foam was initially created for NASA back in the 1970s. It was a perfect material for astronauts, as it would mold to the shape of the body without creating uncomfortable pressure. NASA didn’t end up using the design, but it soon after appeared in mattresses, and the rest is history. 

Since then, the design of the memory foam has evolved quite a bit and adapted to suit many everyday items. Now, memory foam is used in furniture, pillows, car seats, and many other items, including mattresses. 

Memory Foam Mattresses

As soon as memory foam mattresses got introduced to the public, they gained popularity very fast (despite the hefty price tag). Memory foam was a fresh invention that allowed the mattress to mold around the body of the sleeper, providing a unique and supportive feel. 

Fast forward a few years, and memory foam mattresses are as popular as ever. What’s more, the design of the memory foam has been improved even further and the price has dropped. Now, there are different types of memory foam mattresses available on the market, some focusing primarily on breathability, others on support and firmness, and so on. 

Types of Memory Foam

Here are the main types of memory foam used in mattresses:

  • Traditional memory foam
  • Plant-based memory foam
  • Gel-infused memory foam
  • Graphite-infused memory foam
  • Copper-infused memory foam
  • Convoluted memory foam

Although the structure of each type is similar, they all have different properties that provide various benefits. Let’s have a closer look at each one.

Traditional Memory Foam

Traditional memory foam (also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam) has not changed much since its original invention. This type of foam is made from petroleum-based products (polyurethane) so there’s a chance of off-gassing when it’s first unpacked. 

Traditional memory foam is also known for its molding abilities and slow response time. It contours to the body by using pressure and body heat. Once the sleeper changes their sleeping position or leaves the bed, traditional memory foam takes a little longer to bounce back. 

Overall, a traditional spring mattress is the cheapest option of all the mattress types mentioned above. It’s slow to respond and it tends to trap heat. Simply Rest recommends staying away from traditional memory foam mattresses as there are many better alternatives around. 

Plant-Based Memory Foam

Like all memory foam, plant-based foam contains some petroleum, but a portion of it is replaced with plant-derived oils. This does not mean that the plant-based foam is completely natural, though. It still holds petrochemicals that provide the mattress its buoyancy as no natural replacement for this particular ingredient has been found yet. 

As for functionality, partially plant-based memory foam is more breathable and responsive than traditional memory foam because the open cells are larger. Plant-based memory foam does not experience as much off-gassing as traditional foam, thanks to the reduced amount of petroleum in the foam.

Gel-Infused Memory Foam

The biggest issue of memory foam is heat retention. To tackle this, many mattress companies started infusing the foam with gel. There are a few ways gel memory foam can be manufactured:

  • Some brands place an additional thin gel pad on top or the bottom of the memory foam layer.
  • Other brands pour the gel layer on top of the memory foam as it sets.
  • The gel can also be placed inside the mattress in the form of beads.

All of these three techniques effectively cool the mattress down and sometimes provide it with more bounce too.

Graphite-Infused Memory Foam

Graphite is a mineral that’s relatively soft and naturally cooling. The secret lies in its pores that absorb and dissipate heat. That is why some mattress brands began incorporating graphite into their foam mattresses. In order to fight trapped heat, graphite can either be mixed into the memory foam or applied as a thin additional layer. 

Copper-Infused Memory Foam

Copper is a natural mineral as well as a great heat conductor. The tiny particles of copper infused into the memory foam attract the heat and dissipate it. Although copper is not as popular as gel, it’s still very effective. Another bonus—copper is naturally antimicrobial. 

Convoluted Memory Foam

The surface of convoluted memory foam (also known as an “egg-crate” foam) contains hundreds of ridges. This design provides effective relief from various aches and pains as it alleviates the pressure. The usual placement of a convoluted memory foam layer is on top of the mattress for maximum effect. It can be placed with the ridges facing up or down—depending on how much relief you require.

Convoluted memory foam can be made of traditional memory foam, plant-based memory foam, or infused foam. It can even be bought as a topper for your current mattress.

What Should I Research Before Buying a Memory Foam Mattress?

If you decide to buy a memory foam mattress, there are some important factors you should look at first. Doing so will ensure that your new mattress will meet your personal requirements and provide you with a good night’s rest every night for the next decade. 

Foam Types

As discussed above, researching different types of memory foams before making a purchase is very important. If you sleep hot, pick a memory foam mattress with cooling properties. If you can’t stand chemical smells, go for the plant-based based memory foam instead of traditional memory foam to avoid off-gassing. Use the guide about plant-based and infused foams we provided above to make an educated decision.

Firmness 

Another very important choice you will have to make is how firm you’d like your mattress to be. This largely depends on your sleeping position—stomach sleepers and people with lower back pain should go for a firmer all-foam mattress; combination sleepers, back sleepers, and restless sleepers should go for a medium mattress; side sleepers should choose a softer mattress.

Zoned Foams

Although a basic memory foam mattress will contour to you nicely, a layer of zoned foam can provide even more support. The mattress areas underneath the heavier parts of your body (such as the hips and the shoulders) will be slightly softer to allow more pressure relief. The lighter parts of the body, such as the head, the torso, and the feet are supported by firmer foams. 

It’s important to note that not all memory foam mattresses have a zoned support layer. If you feel like this feature would be beneficial for you, research the structure of each potential mattress. 

Warranty and Sleep Trial

Last but not least, you must always pay attention to the warranty and the sleep trial. Avoid going for brands that offer sleep trials shorter than 100 nights, and a warranty that’s less than 10 years. After all, how can you trust a brand to provide you with a quality mattress if they cannot guarantee it will last at least a decade?

Pros and Cons of a Memory Foam Mattress

Pros:

  • Durability: Memory foam mattresses tend to outlast spring mattresses.
  • Support: The contouring and pressure point relief of a memory foam mattress is great, especially for sleepers with back pain
  • Motion isolation: Memory foam is not very responsive, so most of the movement in the bed will be locally isolated. 

Cons:

  • Off-gassing: Some cheaper memory foam mattresses will have a slight chemical odor when first unpacked. 
  • Temperature control: Memory foam tends to trap heat, especially if it’s not infused with cooling minerals.

Spring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses have been around for a very long time. In fact, records show that the very first spring mattress was patented back in 1871. Since then, the design of an innerspring mattress has been continuously improving. Over the years, more types of coils were invented and the construction of the mattresses modernized. 

Although they were dominating the mattress industry for years, in the 1950s spring mattresses started losing their popularity to new inventions, such as the first foam beds. More alternatives became available and people were keen to try something new. 

Today, all-foam mattresses seem to be dominating the market but innerspring beds are still a popular choice. New coil technologies and innerspring mattress designs are being worked on consistently to appeal to customer needs.

Types of Spring Mattresses

There are five types of innerspring mattresses available on the market today:

  • Bonnell coil mattresses
  • Offset coil mattresses
  • Continuous coil mattresses
  • Pocketed coil innerspring mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses

Each one is beneficial in their own way, but some are more popular than others. Let’s see why.

Bonnell Coil Mattress

Bonnell coils were the first type of coil to be used in a mattress. They’re shaped like an hourglass and connected by crosswire helicals. Bonnell coils are responsive and relatively comfortable. They do not provide great pressure relief though, and they tend to last only 5 years or so. 

Offset Coil Mattress

Offset coil design is similar to that of a Bonnell coil, except these hourglass-shaped springs are flattened at the top and the bottom. This improves their ability to conform to the sleeper’s body and reduces potential noise. 

Offset coils are not very popular within the innerspring mattress industry as there are better alternatives available. They don’t last as long as other coil types, and they don’t provide great pressure point relief.

Continuous Coil Mattress

Another older and not that popular type of spring mattress design is a continuous coil bed. These coils are shaped like an “S” and made from one long wire. This design improves the stability and longevity of the mattress, and it offers pressure relief. However, continuous coils do not relieve pressure as well as pocketed coils.

Pocket Coil Innerspring Mattresses

Pocket coils are the second most popular innerspring mattress option on the market. They aren’t cheap but they are very effective.

Each spring is individually wrapped in fabric and connected only at the top. This allows the coils to move individually, which greatly improves pressure point relief and motion isolation. It also makes the mattress essentially silent.

Hybrid mattress

A hybrid mattress aims to combine the breathability and pressure point relief of an innerspring bed with the comfort and contouring of a foam or latex bed.  Usually, hybrids contain pocketed coils because they are more breathable and relieve pressure. The layer of pocketed coils is then topped with a foam layer (memory foam, gel foam, or even latex) to create a hybrid mattress.

Because of this interesting yet effective design, hybrid mattresses have been growing in popularity year by year. The ever increasing demand allows manufacturers to develop and release new and improved designs on a regular basis.  In fact, hybrid mattresses are the most popular consumer choice within the innerspring mattress industry today.

What Should I Research Before Buying an Innerspring Mattress?

Now that you understand the difference between the different types of spring mattresses, it’s time to consider other important factors that may influence your decision.

Coil Gauge

The gauge indicates the thickness of the coils within the mattress. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the coil, and thicker coils mean a firmer mattress.

The gauges of mattress coils usually vary between 12 and 15. A mattress with a coil gauge of 12 or 13 will suit stomach sleepers best. A bed with a coil gauge of 14 means it will work well for combination sleepers and back sleepers, while gauge 15 coils will suit side sleepers. 

Thicker coils typically denote a longer-lasting mattress. Therefore, the lower the gauge, the longer your mattress will serve you.

Number of Coils

Cheaper mattresses usually have a lower number of coil springs, which means poorer support and longevity. A coil count of 300 to 400 is the absolute minimum for a queen size bed

Simply Rest recommends a coil count of 1200 to 1500 for a queen size mattress. This amount will ensure great support and pressure point relief. It may even increase your mattress’s lifespan.

Comfort Layer

As mentioned above, the coils are usually topped with some sort of foam comfort layer. Refer to the list of different memory foam types above to see which one would suit your personal needs better. 

Some innerspring mattresses can also feature a latex foam comfort layer, and natural latex is known to be more bouncy and cooling. If you tend to sleep hot, this could be your best bet to a quality rest every night.

Zoned Support

Just like memory foam beds, innerspring mattresses sometimes include a zoned pressure point support system incorporated within the coil design. This means some coils will be thicker to provide more support to the lighter parts of your body, and some will be thinner to cushion heavier parts of the body.

Warranty and Sleep Trial

As a rule of thumb, innerspring mattresses usually do not last as long as memory foam mattresses, so don’t be surprised if the warranties vary between the two mattress types. However, you should still avoid getting a spring mattress if it comes with a warranty lasting less than 10 years. The same goes for the sleep trial—100 nights should be the minimum.

Pros and Cons of a Spring Mattress

Pros:

  • Bounce: Spring mattresses are naturally a lot more responsive when compared to memory foam. 
  • Support: Pocket coils, in particular, offer great support and pressure point relief, even without the zoned support system.
  • Breathability: The air gaps between the coils encourage airflow within the mattress, which automatically helps with temperature control.

Cons:

  • Durability: Spring mattresses typically don’t last as long as memory foam mattresses.
  • Motion isolation: If your new spring mattress is made with Bonnell coils or offset coils, most likely the motion isolation within the mattress will be very poor. Pocket coils stop motion more effectively than other coil types, but memory foam still has the best motion isolation of any mattress material.

Conclusion

Both memory foam mattresses and spring mattresses have improved over the years to provide the most comfortable sleep possible. Both types are great in their own ways, even if they still lack in certain aspects.

Deciding which one is better comes down to your personal preferences. Consider your preferred sleeping position, the sleeping temperature that you find comfortable, and the importance of motion isolation, and you will be on your way to a good night’s sleep soon.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

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