When you walk into a mattress showroom, you’re likely going to be tackled by an overzealous sales guy who wants you to buy the most expensive bed on the floor.
He (or she) will tell you to lie down and feel all the life-changing benefits. But, lying down on a mattress in public for a few seconds under fluorescent light and the watchful eye of a sales rep is not going to give you a true impression of what the bed will feel like at home.
And if you’re anything like the majority of people out there, when it’s time to buy a new bed, you tend to seek out what you bought last time. Instead, it might be time to consider all of your options. With hundreds of manufacturers and countless material configurations, it can be overwhelming to know where to start looking.
This guide will outline all of the different types of mattresses you’ll find in stores or online, and it should help you begin to narrow down your choices to find the best type of bed for you.
What Type of Mattress Material is the Best?
According to Consumer Reports, innerspring mattresses are the most common type sold, but the trend is moving toward other types of beds like memory foam, adjustable, and air.
Innerspring, or coil, mattresses have been around since the early 1900s. They’re constructed of steel coils that compress when you put weight on them. The shape, size, and number of coils in a mattress can vary. As a general rule, more coils mean higher quality and more support.
One of the top reasons why this kind of bed is popular is due to its affordability. However, innerspring beds tend to wear out faster. And while you’ll experience more springiness and bounce, you may find that you’ll need to replace an innerspring mattress sooner than you would another type of bed. You may also experience audible squeaking when you move around on the bed, which is less than ideal during intimate moments.
Continuous coils use a single wire to form the entire support system of the bed. They’re made into an S-shape rather than a traditional coil. Because the system is made up of a single, interlinked wire, you’ll get more durability at an affordable price.
These coils were the first invented, and they’re still commonly used. There were originally made for buggy seat cushions in the 1800s. They look like an hourglass and form a structure similar to a helix when they’re all put together. Bonnell coils are a mid-priced option.
If you’re worried about squeaky springs, you’ll probably want to take a closer look at offset coils. Like Bonnell coils, they form an hourglass shape, but the tops and bottoms have flattened edges. These edges create a hinging effect that conforms more to the shape of your body. They’re known for being sturdy, durable, supportive, and quiet.
Marshall or Pocketed Coil
Marshall, or pocketed, coils are also referred to as wrapped coils and encased coils. Unlike the other kinds described, they’re not wired together, and they work more or less independently of each other. The effect is more support plus motion isolation.
As far as how they’re constructed, they’re made of a thin-gauge barrel-shaped design. When you’re evaluating innerspring mattresses, you’ll often come across the term coil gauge. Higher numbers represent a thinner gauge and vice versa. When making a decision, keep in mind that the thinner the coil, the softer the mattress. Thicker gauge coils provide a firmer experience and tend to be more durable.
Pocketed coils are the same as Marshall coils. As mentioned earlier, higher numbers of coils tend to signify better quality and comfort.
Invented by NASA in 1966 to improve the safety of aircraft cushions, memory foam is now widely used in a variety of commercial applications, including mattresses, pillows, blankets, furniture, shoes and wheelchair seats.
It took a couple of decades for corporations to figure out an inexpensive and reliable way to manufacture memory foam and make it widely available. Finally, in 1991, the first memory foam bed became available – the “Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress.”
Today, memory foam is widely used because of the sensation it creates of “sinking in” to a mattress and being cradled. When you press your bodyweight onto this kind of cushion, you’ll find that it takes on your shape and slowly bounces back once you remove the weight. It’s this extra cushioning and support that makes memory foam ideal for side sleepers and people who have painful conditions that want extra softness.
Other benefits of memory foam include:
- Pressure point relief
- Proper spinal alignment
- Motion isolation / low motion transfer
- Resistance to dust mites and allergens
- Works with adjustable beds
One of the biggest complaints about memory foam is that it traps heat. This is because the foam needs to be dense enough to support your body. However, that denseness limits air flow, which will make your temperature rise.
Throughout the night, the heat will stay trapped in the mattress, and you’ll tend to get hotter.
Gel works to offset the heating effects of memory foam. It is usually infused into the foam of the mattress and is naturally cooler. Throughout the night, the gel will take on the temperature of the material around it, but it tends to take a long time to do that. The result is that you are more likely to stay cool while you sleep.
Latex is considered a more natural bedding option as natural latex is a byproduct of sap from a rubber tree. If you’re looking for a natural bedding solution, look for natural latex, as opposed to synthetic latex.
This material similar to memory foam in that it offers pressure relief and contouring, but not to the extent that memory foam does. Latex does provide more bounce, so whether you choose memory foam or latex is purely a matter of preference. If you’re someone who likes to sink deeply into a mattress, you’ll like memory foam better. However, if you want something that is bouncy and retains less heat, you’re better off with a latex mattress.
There are two ways to manufacturer latex bed, resulting in two different kinds: Dunlop and Talalay.
Dunlop latex refers to a manufacturing process that pours the latex into the mold in one single pour. The result is a bed that is denser on the bottom and softer on the top.
Talalay latex is made when the mold is filled, and then a vacuum sucks out all the air. Then the material is frozen to stabilize the overall structure. The resulting latex foam tends to have a more consistent feel than Dunlop.
Hybrid beds are becoming increasingly popular as they tend to combine the best of both worlds. You get the support and bounce of an innerspring mattress with the comfort and softness of either latex or memory foam.
Typically, there will be a layer of coiled springs on the bottom and one to three layers of latex or memory foam on the top. The advantage of a hybrid mattress is that you can get a more custom experience. You’ll want to research individual companies and their offerings before making a decision, but there’s something for everyone with a hybrid mattress.
For example, if you want springy bounce, advanced pressure point relief, and you want to stay cool all night, you’ll look for a bed that has coils on the bottom, memory foam on top and some type of gel or copper infusion, or an open cell foam structure to enhance breathability.
Waterbeds have been around even longer than innerspring mattresses! They were invented by a Scottish physician, Dr. Neill Arnott, to help patients with bedsores.
As a kid growing up in the 80s, it seemed like waterbeds were everywhere. They make you feel like you’re floating on a body of water (because you are), and it’s very soothing.
You can adjust a waterbed to customize how you want the water to react to your body weight. Depending on how you set up the chambers you can get either free-flowing or restricted water flow. Some waterbeds also allow you to adjust the settings on each side, so if your partner has different preferences, you’ll both be happy.
While there are several pros to owning a waterbed, the cons are how heavy it is, making it difficult to move, and how time-consuming it is to set up.
Also called a Euro-top mattress, pillowtop mattresses have a layer of padding that can be up to several inches thick on top of the bed. Depending on the type of material in the pillowtop, it can offer benefits like cooling, durability, bounce, and enhanced comfort.
A pillowtop layer may be constructed of one or more of the following materials: cotton, foam, latex or wool. They tend to be pricier, so if budget is a consideration, you may not find this feature worth the money.
There are a lot of different types of foam on the market, and one of them is called “polyfoam.” Several online bedding companies develop their own proprietary blends of foam, which allows you to find a custom solution that works for you at a reasonable price.
Polyfoam is synthetic and petroleum based. It also contains chemicals with scary sounding names. However, most of the time they’re processed in a way that neutralizes their effects and renders them harmless. If you’re looking to buy a foam bed, always look for mattresses that come with a CertiPUR-US certification.
This ensures that your bed comes free of ozone depleters, chemical flame retardants, mercury, lead, heavy metals, and formaldehyde.
Also, check the density level before you buy. The higher the density, the more durable the mattress.
Adjustable beds have come a long way since those weird commercials of senior citizens using giant remote controls on a bed that looked like it belonged in a hospital.
Now most adjustable beds look exactly like a regular bed, they just come with the feature of being able to recline, adjust and even massage your aching back and legs.
This type of bed is ideal for people who like to read, work or watch TV in bed, as well as those who suffer from sinus pressure, back pain, and snoring. Being able to adjust your bed and find the perfect position makes bedtime pure bliss.
The price of these beds is higher than average, so you’ll want to weigh the benefits against the larger investment. Expect maintenance fees, too, because there are moving electrical parts like motors.
An airbed is much different than an air mattress you put on the floor in college. There are now high-quality airbeds available that can be a refreshing change from a bulky mattress, and many of them are even adjustable on each side, so if you and your partner have different preferences, you can create a custom sleep experience.
Airbeds look like your typical bed, and they’re often made with foam layers. Unlike a traditional mattress, you don’t have to worry about it sagging over time!
Organic mattresses are ideal for people who are conscious about the environment and also want to limit their exposure to chemicals and toxins. These kinds of beds use materials like natural latex, organic wool, recycled steel support coils, organic cotton. The manufacturers of these mattresses tend to boast that all of their materials are eco-friendly, sustainable, and non-toxic.
Look for mattresses that are GREENGUARD GOLD certified, as these will be the safest.
There’s no shortage of mattress choices available. There’s something for everyone, so the most important thing to consider is what will make you the most comfortable!
Sources and References:
- How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress – WebMD.com
- Top 12 Tips for Buying a New Mattress – Spine-Health.com
Author: Sarah Cummings
I think we’re all nerds, but I’m probably the biggest nerd in the group. Put me nose deep in a spreadsheet and I'll start smiling.
I love to travel, hang out with positive people, and love cycling when I find the time!
My hope is that everyone who visits our site will walk away with a fresh perspective. I think too many people in society downplay the importance of sleep. In my opinion, it’s the difference between an average life and an amazing one.