What is a foam mattress?
Foam mattresses, in a nutshell, are all-foam beds.
They're especially popular as bed-in-a-box mattresses as foam can be so easily compressed and vacuum-packed for in-a-box delivery. 📦
Most foam mattresses consist of two or more layers of foam, and all-foam mattresses will likely combine multiple types of foam for the best sleeping experience.
Different types of foam mattresses
There are many different types of foam mattresses available.
You're likely to find a foam mattress to suit any budget, but we'd recommend you stay away from low-density, cheaper models.
Here is an overview of the most common types of foam used in foam mattresses.
Polyfoam is very common in modern foam beds.
Foam made from polyurethane is known to be a bit more bouncy and springy, and it's often used as the top comfort layer in a mattress. 😴
There are different types of polyfoam available.
The two most common types of polyfoam used are:
- Standard soft polyfoam, which is used as comfort or transitional layers.
- High-density polyfoam (also known as cold foam), a firmer foam used in lower support & base layers.
Most all-foam mattresses will feature a layer of cold foam at their base.
Memory foam (also often called viscoelastic polyurethane foam or low-resilience polyurethane foam) is also made predominantly of polyurethane but includes a few additional chemicals to increase viscosity and density.
NASA first designed it as a pressure-absorbing material to cushion astronauts' seats and absorb impact during space travel. 🚀
It's called "memory" foam as the material tends to retain the shape of your body for a few seconds after pressure is applied.
The images below demonstrate this well:
In addition to standard memory foam, you can also find open-cell memory foam with increased airflow and gel memory foam with enhanced cooling properties.
Memory foam is one of the highest quality mattress foams available.
It also happens to be hypoallergenic, making it an excellent choice for people prone to allergies. 🤧
One of our favourite memory foam beds is the Nectar mattress.
It features multiple layers of contouring and supportive foams, but the core of the mattress is orthopaedic memory foam.
This is one of the most comfortable foam mattresses we've tested.
Latex is a natural rubber-like material that's very common in organic mattresses.
The foam produced is generally soft and comfortable, bouncy, and very durable.
There are two common types of latex foam:
- Dunlop latex: This is made in a more traditional process, resulting in a firmer foam.
- Talalay latex: This foam undergoes a more intensive production process, resulting in a bouncier, softer foam.
Pure latex mattresses are very expensive - and very difficult to find.
You're more likely to find all-foam beds with just one layer of latex for some of the benefits.
Our favourite foam mattresses in the UK:
Foam vs spring: Which mattress is best suited to you?
As you may have gathered, there are some pretty stark differences between foam mattresses and spring mattresses.
Naturally, this will result in a different sleeping experience.
So how exactly do foam mattresses and spring mattresses differ in terms of their feel and sleeping comfort?
Let's find out. 👇
What does sleeping on a foam mattress feel like?
We'll disregard all the cheaper foam mattresses on the market as we really don't want you to have a terrible night's sleep.
So let's consider what the best foam mattresses, like memory foam and latex mattresses, feel like.
In general, foam mattresses:
- Adapt well to your shape for body-hugging comfort & support.
- Relieve pressure effectively, ensuring you wake up pain- and tension-free.
- Have excellent motion isolation so that you won't be disturbed by your partner's movements at night.
- Are a bit softer, making them great for side sleepers.
- Retain more body heat & offer a slightly warmer feel, so they're great for people who quickly feel cold at night.
These properties make foam mattresses an excellent choice for anyone with orthopaedic concerns, couples, people who want more warmth, and slide sleepers. 👍
As foam mattresses are generally softer, they allow for more sinkage.
This is particularly important for side sleepers, who need to sink into the foams a bit more deeply for optimal spinal alignment.
On the downside, heavy-weight sleepers or those of a larger build can often sink in too deeply.
If you sleep on your stomach or back, you should be especially wary of the hammock effect. 🏖
This puts a lot of strain on the spine and can cause back problems.
But, of course, there are also firmer foam mattresses available, like the Nectar mattress.
We explore mattress firmness in more depth further down.
Foam mattresses in a nutshell:
|Suitable for:||Not suitable for:|
What does sleeping on a spring mattress feel like?
As above, we'll disregard cheaper spring mattresses and only focus on the features of the best spring mattresses, like pocket sprung mattresses. 🌀
In general, quality spring mattresses:
- Are much firmer and offer greater stability & support than most all-foam mattresses.
- Offer better body temperature regulation and allow for a cooler sleep.
- Offer great pressure point relief and high point elasticity.
- Have a long lifespan.
Spring mattresses are a great choice for people who need more support and enjoy a cooler sleep. ❄️
They're also well suited to heavier-weight people, back sleepers, and stomach sleepers.
A very lightweight person may not sink deeply enough into a spring mattress when lying on the side.
This can lead to neck and shoulder pain.
In this case, a slightly softer mattress would be a better choice.
You can also opt for a softer to medium-firm hybrid model, like the Simba Hybrid.
This mattress in particular works well for lighter-weight sleepers.
Spring mattresses in a nutshell:
|Suitable for:||Not suitable for:|
What should you pay attention to when buying a new mattress?
Buying a new mattress is never easy, regardless of whether you're buying a new foam mattress or a new spring mattress.
To help make things easier, we've come up with a list of key criteria. 📝
Make sure you consider these aspects before hitting that checkout button, and you should be good to go.
Choose high-quality mattresses
The importance of a high-quality mattress cannot be overemphasised.
After all, the quality of your mattress directly affects the quality of your sleep!
And we all know that you can't function optimally on poor sleep. 🥺
This doesn't mean you have to be sleeping on a Tempur mattress.
You can get many excellent mattresses at great prices!
The best way to determine the quality of a mattress is to look at density and spring count.
Density in foam mattresses
If you're looking to buy a foam mattress, you need to consider the density of the bed.
Density refers to how much foam was used for one cubic metre. 🧊
The rule of thumb is this:
The higher the density, the higher the quality of the mattress.
Higher-density mattresses also tend to last much longer.
You can use the table below as a rough guide to density & lifespan:
|Density in kg/m³||Quality indicator||Expected lifespan|
|Under 30||Inferior quality||Up to 3 years|
|30 - 40||Average quality||3 - 6 years|
|40 - 50||Good quality||6 - 8 years|
|50 - 60||Very good quality||8 - 10 years|
|Over 60||Excellent quality||10 years and more|
Spring count for coil mattresses
If you're looking to buy a spring mattress, you need to look at how many springs the bed contains. 🧮
The higher the spring count, the higher the quality of the mattress.
Mattresses with higher spring counts are also likely to last much longer.
Generally, a very high spring count means that the mattress relies on smaller springs, like micro-coils or mini pocket springs.
Aim to choose a mattress with an average of 1000 - 2000 springs for the double size. ✅
These will provide the best support and most comfort at a good price.
The Silentnight Eco Comfort, for example, offers outstanding value for money and has an average of 1200 pocket springs.
It's also made from recycled materials and is free from foam and chemical treatments, making it a great eco-friendly choice.
Choose the right degree of firmness
There is no one degree of firmness that's best for everyone. 😳
The right degree of firmness depends on your personal preferences.
But, factors like your body type, weight, and preferred sleeping position also matter.
- Side sleepers will generally do better on softer mattresses.
- Back & stomach sleepers will often prefer firmer mattresses.
- Lighter-weight people generally prefer softer mattresses.
- Heavier-weight people or those of a larger build will do better on firm or extra firm mattresses.
Medium-firm mattresses are a good option for most people.
To help you make a better choice, we've developed the Sleep Hero firmness scale.
We rate the mattresses we test on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the softest and 10 is the firmest.
Choose the right mattress size
The right mattress size for you will depend on your needs and your budget.
Standard UK mattress sizes include:
- Small single mattresses sized 75 x 190 cm (2'6" x 6'3")
- Single mattresses: 90 x 190 cm (3’ x 6’3”)
- Small double mattresses: 120 x 190 cm (4' x 6'3")
- Double mattresses: 135 x 190 cm (4’6” x 6’3”)
- King size mattresses: 150 x 200 cm (5’ x 6’6”)
- Super-king-size mattresses: 180 x 200 cm (6’ x 6’6”)
If you're sharing your bed with a partner, we'd recommend choosing at least a double mattress or king-size mattress. 👩❤️👨
Emperor bed-in-a-box mattresses are very rare.
The only one we've found is the Otty Hybrid!
If you need help choosing the right mattress size, take a look at our mattress size guide.
Consider the delivery conditions
Most mattresses bought online come with free delivery & returns.
But, some online retailers don't offer this.
Double-check the delivery & return conditions before hitting the checkout button to ensure you don't incur extra charges!
Make sure you get a reasonable trial period
The bed-in-a-box mattresses we recommend all come with risk-free trial periods.
These give you the chance to try out the mattress in the comfort of your own home.
It may take a few weeks to get used to a new mattress, especially if you're jumping from a spring mattress to a memory foam mattress or vice versa.
This is why trial periods are so important. 🤓
The industry standard is 200 days, but some brands like Nectar and DreamCloud even offer 365 days!
We always recommend choosing a mattress with a good trial period & free returns.
That way, you can return the mattress hassle-free and receive a full refund if you're not fully satisfied. 💰
Does your mattress come with a guarantee?
High-quality, high-density mattresses should come with a 10-year guarantee.
But, some cheaper mattresses may only come with a 5-year warranty.
This doesn't mean the mattress will be unusable after five years, but it does mean that it may deteriorate more quickly.
Some mattress brands also offer quite strict guarantee conditions.
Eve, for example, requires you to unpack your mattress within one month of receiving it!