Ready to find out exactly how foam mattresses differ to spring and what’s the best option for you?
Behind the cute, alluring and sometimes weird names of mattresses, is its type – which we hope to give you more insight on.
Our guide below breakdowns the types of foams and coils as well as the latest technologies used in mattresses today. We will also be taking a closer look at the differences between Memory foam and Spring mattresses.
Essentially all mattresses have 3 basic layers: Comfort layer, Support layer and Foundation layer. Some have transition layers between the support layer and comfort layer. The comfort layers can be made using a variety of materials such as; memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, polyester, silk and more.
The main difference between foam and spring mattresses is in their support layer: foam mattresses tend to use high-density foam whereas spring uses metal coils.
Foam mattresses are made from several layers of foams. The three main types of foam used in mattresses are Polyurethane, Memory foam and Latex foam:
- Polyurethane foam – Is also known as Poly-foam, and come in 3 basic grades: regular grade, high-density and high resiliency.
- Memory foam – is made from polyurethane and chemicals are added to it to give it its special conforming and slow bounce-back properties. They are the more expensive option, durable and supportive. There are 4 types of memory foams: Traditional memory foam which retains heat, Open-cell memory foam designed to offer a cooler sleep and a faster bounce-back, Gel memory foam also designed to offer a cooler sleep and aid pressure relief – liquid gel can provide better cooling than gel beads, Plant-based memory foam was developed to address the concern of volatile emissions.
- Reflex foam – a cheaper alternative to Memory foam; it is a high density polyurethane foam with medium level firmness and more bounce than Memory foam.
- Latex foam – can be naturally made from the sap of trees, synthetically made from petrochemicals or a blend of both.
Dunlop Latex is the firmer latex option and was designed to be longer lasting, more durable than other foams, whilst Talalay Latex is much softer and is a blend of natural latex, air and synthetics; 100% Talalay Latex does not exist.
The four different types of spring units that can be found in spring mattresses are:
- Bonnell coils are hourglass in shape and are connected throughout the bed.
- Offset coils are exactly like Bonnell coils, except they have hexagonal ends, so they connect better to each other than the Bonnell coils are more durable. Due to their hourglass shape, they compress on slight pressure and offer resilient support and very good bounce. Offset coils offer better backache relief than Bonnell coils, whereas Bonnell coils offer better motion isolation than offset coils. However both coils, due to their connected structure, do not offer the kind of motion isolation you can expect from a foam mattress.
- Continuous coils are s-shaped coils, made from a single piece of wire that is interconnected. Some mattresses have continuous coils lengthwise as well as crosswise making it suitable for heavy sleepers and works well for back and stomach sleepers. It is more durable, offers better support and edge support (due to a thicker wire along the edge) and less motion transfer than Bonnell and Offset coils. However motion isolation is still not as good as compared to the foam mattress. Most average and high-end spring mattresses use continuous coils.
- Pocketed coils – are not connected to each other and each coil is encased in a fabric cover and moves independently from each other, hence provides better motion isolation. These individual pocketed coils offer contouring that is similar to memory foam; the coils conform to your body to provide targeted comfort and support. Most luxury spring and Hybrid beds use pocketed coils in their support core. Some of these mattresses can offer ‘zoned’ support due to different thickness of coils. It is said to offer pressure relief and spine alignment for any sleeping position and body type. There is not much support at the edge, so edge foams are used around the perimeter to secure the edges.
High resiliency Polyurethane foam is of higher quality, more supportive than the regular and high-density grade Poly-foams and can feel as comfortable as Latex but is hard to find, so most mattresses can contain either regular grade or high-density polyurethane foam.
Memory foam conforms very well to your body shape and allows your body to be more evenly supported with excellent pressure relief. It is said to improve sleep health as it allows for blood circulation, especially for those who are recovering from injury and those with joint or spinal issues. Overall memory foam mattresses conform very well to the body and offer pin-point pressure-relief. However, heavier sleepers may not feel the support they require and edge support is poor.
Unlike Memory foam, natural Latex foam does not conform to the body and its comfort level is closer to that of a spring mattress.
Spring mattresses can offer a range of support based on the selection of coils. The more coils, the more support but if there is a high give (compresses too easily) in the coils, this might mean less spinal support. With Pocketed coils, spring mattresses can now offer targeted comfort and support close to that of Memory foam except that it does not conform to the body and it offers average pressure-relief. Lightweight sleepers may feel a build-up of pressure points. Spring mattresses also offer stable edge-support.
The higher the density of the foam, the firmer it is.
Memory foams can come in different densities and the higher the density the firmer it is. It can also range from soft to firm but usually come in medium soft – medium firm. Memory foam has a softer and more cushioned feel than a spring mattress in the same firmness level. It is temperature sensitive which means that it can become softer with body heat.
According to the Memory Foam density chart::
- low density (3 pounds/cubic foot and less) – best for lighter weight, side and back sleepers,
- medium density (4-5 pounds/cubic foot) – best for average weight, side, back and stomach sleepers and
- high density (5 pounds/cubic foot and more) – best for heavier weight, stomach, back and side sleepers.
Latex foam on the other hand is quite firm compared to Memory foam and does not conform to the body.
Spring mattresses can also range from firm to soft but usually come in medium to firm and have a more firm and resilient feel than a foam mattress in the same firmness level. High quality springs are usually thicker and stronger. The thicker the spring, the firmer the feel.
To measure firmness, a firmness scale known as the ILD (Indentation and load detection) scale, from 1 to 10, with 10 being the firmest, is used. Mattresses with the same density and firmness may not necessarily have the exact same feel – it also depends on the quality of the materials and at the end of the day, firmness is subjective to the individual.
According to the ILD firmness scale:
- Soft (1-2) – ideal for lightweight (under 130lbs) side sleepers.
- Medium-soft (3-4) – ideal for lightweight sleepers, side sleepers, combination sleepers, couples
- Medium-firm ( 5-7) – ideal for heavy sleepers, back sleepers, combination sleepers, couples, people with back pain and
- Firm (8-10) – Ideal for heavy sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, people with back pain.
A higher density foam would give you a longer lifespan; even high density Poly-foam is less durable than Memory foam and Latex foam.
Memory foam mattresses last substantially longer than spring mattresses; due to having a solid high density structure, they do not break down easily.
A good quality foam mattress should last about 7 to 10 years, if properly maintained.
Natural latex is expensive (more than $1500) and more durable – it can last about 10 to 30 years.
The durability of spring mattresses depends on the thickness of their coils. The coils within a spring mattress can break quickly or lose flexibility due excessive weight or bounce, and can protrude into the comfort layer.
The coils can also sink causing indents, which can force sleepers into awkward positions. Spring mattresses can last from 3 to 7 years, depending on the quality and how it is being used.
Poly-foam is much more bouncy than Memory foam.
Memory foam has a slow bounce or response time, i.e. the time it takes to return to its original position after being compressed. This makes it difficult to move around but it does mean better conforming to your body and better motion isolation which means minimal disturbances for your sleeping partner.
Latex foams are bouncier than Memory foam and much better at motion isolation than springs.
Due to the coils, spring mattresses are bouncier than foam mattresses; this allows for motion transfer and offers a quick response.
Polyurethane foams and Memory foams will release chemicals known as volatile organic compounds and have an unpleasant smell, however there are plant-based memory foams designed to be eco-friendly with no/low odors and off-gassing.
Natural latex does not off-gas, but new natural latex foams should give off the smell of the rubber sap from trees. It is not unpleasant and it should wear off after a few hours or days. Synthetic latex does off-gas and the smell could last for weeks or months.
Spring mattresses would off-gas if it has any foam or synthetic layers.
- Side and combination sleepers of average weight, petite and curvier individuals. Stomach sleepers who want a memory foam feel can opt for firmer and cheaper memory foam such as Reflex foam.
- Memory foam is great for those recovering from injury or suffering from back or joint pain – it prevents pressure from being exerted on those painful areas.
- Memory foam mattresses are ideal for bed-sharing couples; it isolates motion very well, so less disturbance when there is movement on the bed.
- Asthma or Allergy sufferers as it is hypoallergenic; due to its solid construction it is unlikely to lead to the infestation of dust mites and bed mites.
- Cold sleepers as it retains heat very well.
- Those who want a softer, more contouring, quieter mattress with less bounce.
- Spring mattresses are best fit for heavier individuals.
- Back and stomach sleepers.
- Hot sleepers – due to the coil unit there is a steady flow of air.
- Those who want a sturdy, yet bouncy mattress.
- Memory foams distribute body weight evenly, which means they can significantly reduce pressure points and still provide a certain level of firmness without compromising on back, hips and joints.
- Memory foams are more durable than spring mattresses – a higher density memory foam could mean a longer lifespan for your mattress.
- Due to its conforming properties and slow response time, memory foam has better motion isolation.
- Memory foams are regarded as hypo-allergenic due to their solid construction, making it less likely for dust mites to breed within the foam mattress.
- It has other options such as the plant-based memory foam (which is rated as the best type of mattress that scored highest for all parameters; cooling, motion transfer, back support, indoor air-quality, durability and allergy-friendly) and the Reflex foam (which is a firmer more affordable memory foam option)
- Foam mattresses are the quieter option.
- The advantage of spring mattresses is that you can find right amount of support for you based on the coil arrangement, thickness and number of coils.
- The pocketed coil system with its individually wrapped coils offers targeted pressure relief and can also offer the option of zoned support for different parts of the body such as hips, back and shoulders,
- Spring mattresses are more affordable than memory foam and latex foam.
- Due to its structure, spring mattresses provide more cooling and airflow and any odors are easily dispersed.
- Its quick response makes it easier to move around.
- The coil-structure allows for better edge support.
- Memory foams can cause heavier sleepers to sink in too much, which can lead to body aches.
- High-end memory foams are expensive due to the cost of the materials, but you can find durable memory foam mattresses for under $950.
- Traditional memory foams are known for retaining heat, which means you could wake up hot and sweaty. To combat this, memory foams have been designed with open-cell structure to make it more breathable than traditional memory foam and infused with cooling gel to allow for more heat transfer but up to a point.
- Due to its slow bounce-back or slow response, it is not so easy to change positions or move around.
- Memory foams, particularly ‘Bed-in-a-box’ brands offer less edge-support so that it will be able to compress easily.
- Petroleum-based foams may off-gas.
- Spring mattresses can cause pressure points for lightweight sleepers which can lead to poor blood circulation and body aches or tossing and turning to relieve the pressure.
- Spring mattresses can be less durable than memory foam – the coils can wear faster and lose their support. Care also needs to be taken to not bend or fold the mattress while moving it around or the springs could break.
- It could be heavy and difficult to move around.
- Not allergy-friendly as dust mites can collect in the coils.
- Springs make it bouncier, which means poor motion isolation so you will easily feel the movement that occurs on the bed.
- Springs can also be the noisier option.
Difference between memory foam and a spring mattress?
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Memory foam mattresses last substantially longer than spring mattresses; due to having a solid high density structure, they do not break down easily. A good quality foam mattress should last about 7 to 10 years, if properly maintained.
The durability of spring mattresses depends on the thickness. Coils can quickly wear out quickly. They can protrude into the comfort layer or sink and cause indents, which can force sleepers into awkward positions. Spring mattresses can last from 3 to 7 years, depending on how it’s being used.
Memory foam conforms very well to your body shape and allows for even weight distribution so you feel more evenly supported. It offers pin-point pressure relief and allows for blood circulation, especially for those who are recovering from injury and those with joint or spinal issues. This is why it is said to improve sleep health.
Spring mattresses can offer a range of support based on the selection of coils. The more coils, the more support but if there is a high give (compresses too easily) in the coils, this might mean less spinal support. It does not offer even weight distribution, except with Pocketed coils, spring mattresses can now offer targeted comfort and support close to that of Memory foam.
Memory foam has a slow bounce or response time makes it difficult to move around but is better at conforming to your body and isolating motion, which means minimal disturbance for your sleeping partner.
Due to the coils, spring mattresses are bouncier than foam mattresses; this allows for motion transfer and offers a quick response.
A medium-firm foam mattress can feel softer than medium-firm spring mattress.
A medium-firm spring mattress can feel firmer than a medium-firm foam mattress.
Despite advancements such as cooling gel foam and open cell memory foam to combat the problem of heat retention, due to their closed structure they still cannot provide the kind of air circulation that a spring mattress would.
Due to the coil unit in spring mattresses, there is air circulation and heat can be easily transferred away from the body.
Memory foams are regarded as hypo-allergenic due to their solid construction, making it less likely for dust mites to breed within the foam mattress.
Not allergy-friendly as dust mites can collect in the coils.
Due to their ability to mold and conform to the body, it is able to isolate motion much better than a spring mattress, so memory foam offers less disturbance for your sleeping partner or when there is movement on the bed.
Spring mattresses cannot isolate motion as well as memory foam, however pocketed coils, because they move independently from each other, offer more improved motion isolation than other coils but it still would not be able to compare to memory foam.
Memory foam offers poor edge support due to its soft nature, even higher density memory foams cannot compare to that of a metal frame in a spring mattress.
Spring mattresses are able to offer excellent edge-support due to their wire frame around the perimeter and even pocketed coils can offer reinforced edge-support.
Memory foam mattresses, because they are made from Polyurethane, are said to release volatile organic compounds and hence need to be aired out before use.
Spring mattresses should not emit any odors unless it has any Poly-foam or synthetic layers.
Soft and contouring, even weight distribution, pressure-relieving.
Sturdy and firm, more affordable.
More expensive, not suited to heavier individuals.
Uneven weight distribution, coils can wear out and cause uneven sleeping surface and poor alignment.
We continue to see an evolution in design and advanced technology with both foam and spring mattresses, to provide better sleep solutions and it can be pretty enticing!
However, we know that you have to make a decision based on your budget, sleep needs and preferences, that is why we put this guide together just for you and we hope that it can help you make a well-informed decision!
If you are still unable to decide between the two, there is always the option of a Hybrid mattress, where you can experience both the pressure-relief of foam and the sturdy feel of a spring mattress.
Spring mattresses are firmer because of the flexibility of the springs to push back, so a medium-firm spring mattress will usually feel firmer than the medium-firm foam.
A good quality foam mattress would usually last longer than a spring mattress. Spring mattresses can sag within three years, if the coils are thin and of poor quality.
Yes, foam mattresses can emit a chemical odor, especially if made from polyurethane and other synthetics. In polyurethane foams, this is known as the 'off-gassing' of volatile organic compounds.
Spring mattresses are best fit for heavier back and stomach sleepers, those with back pain, hot-sleepers and those who need or prefer a bouncier mattress.
Foam mattresses are best for lightweight or petite side sleepers, including those who suffer from joint pain, cold-sleepers and those who have to deal with a restless sleeping partner.