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Memory Foam or Spring Mattress? Which Is Better For You?

Memory foam and spring mattresses are two common mattress types. If you’re shopping for a new mattress, you may be wondering which is best for you.

Our team of sleep experts is here to help.

Spring Mattress

Spring mattresses were the standard model for many years, but the bedding market has changed. This change is largely due to the discovery and commercial applications of memory foam.

Spring mattresses are based on an old design in which springs are embedded inside a layered cushioned structure. These cushions provide the base where your body rests. The main disadvantage of this approach is that it reduces comfort since there’s very little foam on top of the coils to act as a comfort layer.

The springs that provide support will push back with a certain force on the body on top of the cushioned surface. This manifests as increased and uneven pressure on certain body parts of your body while sleeping, possibly causing poor blood circulation and muscle aches.

Want to learn more? Check out this guide on what is an innerspring mattress.

Our Testers testing Edge Support for each mattress

Many types of innerspring mattresses offer different features and benefits. One of the most popular types is the open-coil innerspring mattress, also known as the traditional innerspring, with coils interconnected in a metal mesh. The system features hourglass-shaped springs to provide even support across the surface.

Another option is an innerspring mattress with pocketed coils. A pocket-coil mattress has metal coils individually wrapped in a fabric pocket. The fabric sleeve allows the springs to move independently for minimal motion transfer.

There’s also the offset coil with a flat top and bottom. The flat segments are then connected with helical wires to conform to your shape.

Lastly, you may come across continuous coils, otherwise known as Mira-coils. These have an S-shaped curve and are more stable and durable.

Spring Mattress Pros and Cons

The positive side of using a spring mattress is that the coils allow for decent airflow, which is helpful for hot sleepers. Some premium models offer multi-layered grime and anti-bacterial protection, while others come in double-sided forms with two firmness options. Spring mattresses also deliver sufficient bounce, making repositioning easier for sleepers.

The coils in these mattresses provide excellent support and are highly durable but aren’t immune to wear and tear. Spring mattresses will experience sagging over time, causing the mattress to become softer and less supportive. Spring mattresses usually last between seven and ten years before needing a replacement.

Standard innerspring beds are usually a great budget option for shoppers. Buying a mattress is a significant purchase, so many consumers looking to save money may prefer the lower cost of these beds. That being said, some innerspring models, such as high-end hybrid mattresses, will cost more because of their advanced design.

Read our picks of the best innerspring mattresses.

Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam has been around since the 1960s. NASA created the material to provide more safety for astronauts.1 Once used only for the space program, it is now available to anyone.

Memory foam is a type of polyurethane foam known as viscoelastic. This synthetic material has small cavities where air can be trapped – almost like a sponge – allowing it to mold under pressure. When you remove the pressure, the foam slowly returns to its former shape. 

Memory foam also reacts to temperature. When heated, it softens up, and its structure becomes more rigid and stiff when exposed to cold.

Memory foam’s density makes it a highly durable material, but it is also prone to heat retention. However, many manufacturers have improved the material to include cooling features for added comfort.

The market for bedding and accessories is booming with memory foam-based products. From pillows to mattresses and covers – everyone is raving about memory foam. Memory foam’s popularity is understandable since its ability to conform to the shape of your body promotes optimal comfort and pressure relief.

Standard memory foam, also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam or low-resistance polyurethane foam, is a classic material created by adding multiple additives and compounds to polyurethane. Because it lacks additional cooling properties, standard memory foam typically runs the hottest.

The open-cell foam contains the same ingredients as standard memory foam but has a different internal structure. As its name indicates, open-cell memory foam has internal pockets for better ventilation and heat dispersion.

Gel memory foam is another type that’s suitable for hot sleepers. This is standard memory foam infused with gel microbeads that help keep the foam from overheating.

Read our complete guide to the best memory foam mattress.

Learn More: What is Memory Foam?

Memory Foam Pros and Cons

Memory is considered a useful product for helping people achieve more comfortable rest by displacing the sleeper’s weight evenly throughout its surface. Memory foam’s ability to absorb motion is helpful for couples since there’s a reduced risk of a partner’s movements waking up the other person.

These mattresses should also benefit people experiencing muscle or joint pain. Memory foam’s ability to cradle the sleeper is great for pressure relief, which is important for many people.

Despite its many benefits, memory foam has some drawbacks that shoppers should consider.

Depending on the quality of the foam structure, memory foam beds can cost significantly more than spring options. Memory foam’s advanced design delivers a durable, high-quality product that may be a larger investment. However, the value these beds can provide toward better rest is often worth it for many people.

As mentioned, memory foam’s density causes it to trap heat, which could be a downside for people who struggle with overheating at night. However, technological innovations like open-cell foam and gel infusions can help with this.

Lastly, memory foam is a synthetic material, so you will likely experience some off-gassing after unboxing your new bed. Off-gassing is normal and usually goes away within the first few days, but people sensitive to smells could experience symptoms like headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

Differences Between Innerspring and Memory Foam Mattresses

Innerspring and memory foam mattresses deliver different levels of support, pressure relief, and comfort. Both types have advantages and drawbacks, so choosing one is usually a matter of preference.

Pressure Relief

If pressure relief is your number one concern, we suggest you lean towards a memory foam bed rather than an innerspring. This is largely because innerspring mattresses don’t usually have as many comfort layers to help relieve pressure. Most innerspring beds have only a thin layer of foam on top, which might not be enough, especially if you’re a side sleeper. 

A memory foam mattress is typically great at this because there’s usually enough cushioning and cradling to relieve pressure in the hips, knees, and shoulders. However, the exact level of relief also depends on the firmness of the foam. 

Support

Innerspring mattresses use coils as their support system, so you might assume they can handle more than memory foam. Incorrect. When it’s high-density, memory foam can take on a lot of weight, providing equal support in all areas. Plus, it helps with weight distribution. 

Overall, it’s always important to check the support layer. If it’s memory foam, check how dense and thick it is. If it’s an innerspring bed, check the type and number of coils. 

Firmness

Both innerspring and memory foam mattresses are available in different firmness levels. There are no rules as to which type is firmer or softer since it all depends on the construction of each mattress. An innerspring bed, even though it has coils, can be quite soft and bouncy, whereas memory foam can be slow-moving and sometimes firm, offering very little contouring at the surface level. 

Learn More: Mattress Firmness Guide

Cooling

As said, memory foam is known to overheat at night because of its density. The material absorbs and traps heat, so it may not be the best option for hot sleepers unless it has cooling features such as gel infusions to keep the foam cool. In some cases, the foam has an open-cell structure that allows the air to circulate instead of staying trapped. 

Innerspring mattresses don’t typically have this problem because coils foster airflow, and they don’t have a lot of foam in their construction, so they’re great for hot sleepers. 

Read More: Best Cooling Mattresses

Body Weight

Your body weight might play a significant role in choosing between innerspring and memory foam mattresses. Innerspring mattresses have coils that can usually hold a lot of weight, but you should always check for firmness, weight capacity, and how it fits your body weight. 

Memory foam can work equally well for heavy sleepers, but again, make sure its firmness and overall construction can support you. Lightweight sleepers may prefer memory foam mattresses for their ability to relieve pressure, especially for side sleeping. 

Explore our picks for the best mattresses for heavier people.

Price

Traditional innerspring mattresses are typically more affordable than memory foam ones because the materials used in innerspring beds are cheaper. The manufacturing process of a memory foam mattress is more expensive, which is why these beds usually have a higher price. Some innerspring models, like hybrids, are priced higher than all-foam memory beds because of their advanced design features, which include both foam and coils. That being said, most shoppers should be able to find innerspring and memory foam models at varying prices, including low-cost options.

Bounce

Memory foam has almost no bounce because it absorbs motion and pressure. This means little to no motion transfer, which is good for partners with different sleeping habits. Conversely, innerspring beds are bouncy regardless of the firmness level you choose. This allows excellent mobility, which combination sleepers should appreciate the most.

Related: Best Mattress for Sex

Sinkage

Memory foam is dense and responds slowly to pressure, featuring noticeable sinkage. However, sinkage depends on the quality of memory foam and its firmness, so not all memory foam beds will produce the same amount of sinkage. Innerspring mattresses don’t allow as much sinkage, so you’ll feel more on top of the bed than in it. Some models may include soft foam layers on top that may hug the body a bit.

Learn More: Best Mattresses That Don’t Sag

Who Should Sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress?

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers often struggle with pressure buildup, and a good memory foam bed should help with this problem. These beds offer sinkage and body contouring to prevent pressure from accumulating.

Generally, soft to medium-firm beds (4 to 6.5 firmness rating) are going to do well for this group, and the ideal firmness will depend on the individual sleeper’s body weight. You can find our picks for beds for side sleepers here.

Couples

Couples who are frequently disturbed by their partner’s movements should find that memory foam does a great job of reducing motion transfer for better rest. Memory foam beds often excel best at this, particularly those that only have foam layers, though some hybrids with memory foam can perform well for motion isolation too, and they give couples some extra ‘oomph’ for support.

Explore beds for couples for additional options.

Back Sleepers

Firmer memory foam models should work well for back sleepers who need more support but still want some cushioning for their shoulders. We recommend memory foam beds that are at least medium-firm (6 or 6.5 firmness rating) to ensure the lower back remains supported enough.

Who Should Sleep On an Innerspring Mattress?

Combination Sleepers 

Innerspring mattresses offer a lot of bounce, and their quick response is ideal for combination sleepers since it will help them move around more easily when they want to change to a new sleep position.

Explore more mattresses for combo sleepers.

People with Limited Mobility

Just as the buoyancy of these beds is good for combination sleepers, the same goes for those with limited mobility. If you already have physical limitations that make it more difficult to move around, you don’t want a bed exacerbating this. Instead, the ease of movement on an innerspring should be a welcome relief if you need to adjust.

Discover: Mattresses for Seniors

Stomach Sleepers

Firmer innerspring beds come with little sinkage, making them ideal for stomach sleepers, who need something that’ll keep their midsection level.

Hot Sleepers

Innerspring mattresses are often cooler than memory foam ones, so this may be a better mattress for hot sleepers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are memory foam or innerspring mattresses better for heavy people?

Heavy people might benefit more from an innerspring mattress because of the coils. However, even memory foam can be a good option for heavier sleepers if it’s denser and firm enough to keep your body aligned in different positions. In both cases, it’s worth checking the weight capacity of the bed as well as its overall firmness to see how that fits your body type and preferred sleeping position.

What is the difference between memory foam and innerspring?

Most memory foam mattresses are made entirely of foam, whereas innerspring beds have steel coils. Some innerspring mattresses, like hybrids, may include memory foam layers toward the top. There is also a difference in how the two types perform and the advantages and drawbacks they come with. Memory foam has a slow-moving feel, while innerspring beds have a quicker response.

Which is better, memory foam or innerspring mattresses?

It’s difficult to say which of the two is better since this depends on the sleeper’s needs and preferences. For example, side sleepers may like memory foam better for pressure relief, while stomach sleepers may prefer innerspring mattresses for support. Hot sleepers may also like innerspring models for cooling, while memory foam is better for couples looking for motion isolation. Hybrids are often a popular choice for people torn between the two since many hybrid beds include coils and memory foam.

Are innerspring mattresses good for back pain?

Most high-quality innerspring beds should help mitigate back pain. The steel coils in their construction offer solid support, especially in firmer models. Good body support is key to treating back pain, which often arises from poor spine alignment.

Read More: Best Mattresses for Back Pain

Final Word of Advice

Whichever type of mattress you choose, make sure to test it thoroughly, making use of the trial it comes with. Most companies offer general trial periods, allowing you sufficient time to try the mattress before committing to the purchase.

Some people say they can never return to spring mattresses after using foam-based ones. Assess the pros and cons of each type and how these relate to your individual needs. This will give you the best chance of finding the most comfortable mattress for a great night’s rest.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn

Editor

About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach
References:
  1. “Forty-Year-Old Foam Springs Back With New Benefits”. NASA Spinoff. 2005.