Foam Mattress Vs Spring Mattress

Foam Vs. Spring Mattress Comparison - UK (2022)

Written by Nicky

Last updated: 19.07.2022

5 Min.

Choosing a mattress is never easy - and increasing choices make the decision even more difficult.

We're frequently asked whether foam mattresses or spring mattresses are better.

Well, the short answer is that it depends. 🤷‍♀️

We'll unpack the foam vs spring mattress debate in this article.

Let's get straight to it. 🥳

Foam Mattresses Versus Spring Mattresses

Foam vs spring mattress comparison

You're likely to find high-quality foam mattresses and high-quality spring mattresses in your hunt for the best mattress in the UK.

But these two types of mattresses are very different.

If you'd like to deep-dive into an analysis of these mattresses, we'd suggest you turn to our in-depth articles:

Below, you'll find a side-by-side comparison of the significant differences between these two types of mattresses.

Foam Mattresses Spring Mattresses
Construction Any foam - cold foam, gel foam, polyurethane foam, memory foam, etc. Any spring - pocket sprung, open coil, etc.
Firmness Generally softer or medium-firm Generally firmer or medium-firm
Feel Contouring More bouncy
Stability & support A high-quality foam mattress can offer good stability & support Excellent stability & support, especially for heavier weight sleepers
Suitable for (general guideline)

Light- and average-weight sleepers

Side or back sleepers

People who like softer or medium-firm mattresses

Couples

Sleepers of any bodyweight

Any sleeping preference

Sleepers who need more support

Heavier sweaters

Restless sleepers

Temperature Average to good temperature regulation Excellent temperature regulation
Mattress covers Usually removable Usually not removable
Bed-in-a-box Available as bed-in-a-box mattresses Only hybrid models available as bed-in-a-box mattresses
Durability High-density foam mattresses should last 8 - 10 years Very high-quality spring mattresses should last 7 - 10 years
Off-gassing Synthetic foam mattresses usually emit a chemical smell when first unpacked No off-gassing
Price Often cheaper to mid-range Quality spring mattresses are usually more expensive than all-foam mattresses

We can't say that one type of mattress is better than another.

But, you will find that a certain kind of mattress will be better suited to you.

Let's go into an overview of these two types of mattresses to help you figure out which one is best for you. 👇

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.

Different types of foam

Polyurethane foam

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

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:

Memory foam with hand

Memory imprint

This makes memory foam popular for orthopaedic mattresses and those aimed to provide relief of pressure points and back pain. 😁

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. 🤧

Memory foam mattress composition
Layers of a memory foam mattress

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.

45% OFF NECTAR MATTRESS£ 384.45

Latex foam

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.

Dunlop latex versus talalay latex

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.

The Sealy Nostromo Latex 1400, for example, is an excellent value-for-money option that combines pocketed coils with Innergetic latex for excellent push-back and support.

BUY SEALY NOSTROMO£ 520

Our favourite foam mattresses in the UK:

What is a spring mattress?

Innerspring mattresses are considered classics.

You're likely to have slept on a spring mattress at some point or another. 👌

These are mattresses with a core of springs or metal coils.

Most springs mattresses combine springs with top comfort layers of foam.

Spring mattress layers
Layers of a spring mattress

Some even have a foam pillow top for maximum softness.

Don't have a pillow top but want a softer feel? It may be a good idea to invest in a mattress topper. We explore this in more detail in the FAQ section of this article.

Different types of spring mattresses

There are many different types of spring mattresses available. 🌀

As with foam mattresses, we'd recommend you stay away from the cheaper models as these tend to be of inferior quality, forming dents more quickly and causing squeaky noises.

Open coils and continuous coils

Traditional spring mattresses generally consist of an open coil or continuous coil system.

  • Continuous coils consist of one single wire used to construct a row of coils.
  • Open coil mattresses are made of single springs held together by one wire.

Bonnell coils, for example, are hourglass-shaped coils used in standard designs.

Offset coils are similar, but these are straight on one side, so they fit together more snugly.

spring mattresses
Many cheaper spring mattresses feature an open coil system

These mattresses are simple and cost-effective.

As all the springs are attached, open coil & continuous coil mattresses are very supportive.

But, they tend to lack body adaptability.

While there are some better quality open coil mattresses on the market, like those from Silentnight, we generally advise against open coil mattresses.

Pocketed coils

Pocket coils, or Marshall coils, are what you'll find in modern-day pocket spring mattresses.

Here, metal coil springs are individually wrapped in fabric pocekts.

This allows each spring to move independently, enhancing body adaptability and allowing for better pressure relief, comfort, and support. 💤

Pocket springs
Pocket springs are housed in individual fabric pockets

Most pocket springs are spiral-shaped, but you can also find barrel pocket spring mattresses, where springs have a bulbous form.

These are very high-quality pocket sprung mattresses.

Pocket sprung mattresses tend to be more expensive, but you can also find some great budget options.

The SleepSoul Space 2000 Pocket Spring Pillowtop Mattress, for example, is available at a fraction of the standard pocket sprung price but still offers phenomenal value for money.

BUY SLEEPSOUL SPACE£ 339.99

Hybrid mattresses

Hybrid mattresses combine foams and springs, but they're often classified as a type of spring mattress.

These mattresses may have mini or full-size pocket springs but they also have multiple foam layers.

They are among the top mattresses available as they combine the best features of both materials. 🏅

hybrid mattresses
Hybrid mattresses combine foams and springs

Hybrid mattresses are also available as bed-in-a-box models.

One of our favourite hybrid mattresses is the Simba Hybrid.

It's a more premium mattress but it's made of excellent materials, offers great support, and feels very comfortable to sleep on.

40% OFF SIMBA

Our favourite spring & hybrid 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?

Memory foam versus spring mattress

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.

Advantages of memory foam mattresses

    These properties make foam mattresses an excellent choice for anyone with orthopaedic concerns, couples, people who want more warmth, and slide sleepers. 👍

    You may experience off-gassing when first unpacking a new foam mattress. This is an odd chemical smell, but it's not toxic or harmful. We'd recommend airing your new mattress until the smell disappears.

    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.

    Optimal spinal alignmnet
    Optimal spinal alignment is essential

    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.

    45% OFF NECTAR MATTRESS£ 384.45

    We explore mattress firmness in more depth further down.

    Foam mattresses in a nutshell:

    Suitable for: Not suitable for:
    • People looking for good pressure relief and body-hugging comfort.
    • People who prefer softer mattresses.
    • People who quickly feel cold at night.
    • All sleeping positions, but especially good for side sleepers.
    • People with back pain, joint pain, and orthopaedic concerns.
    • Adjustable slatted frames.
    • Couples.
    • People with allergies - most foams are hypoallergenic.
    • Heavy sweaters.
    • Restless sleepers (particularly if you're using memory foam mattresses as you may feel "stuck" in them).
    • People looking for a firmer mattress.

    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.

    Advantages of pocket sprung mattresses

    But:

    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.

    40% OFF SIMBA

    Spring mattresses in a nutshell:

    Suitable for: Not suitable for:
    • People who prefer firmer mattresses.
    • People looking for good support & stability.
    • Any sleeping position, but great for back and stomach sleepers.
    • People of average body weight and heavier-weight sleepers.
    • Heavy sweaters.
    • Restless sleepers.
    • People who are sensitive to movements (springs transfer motion more easily).
    • Very lightweight side sleepers.
    • Adjustable slatted frames.
    • People with severe dust mite allergies - mites can live quite comfortably in spring mattresses.

    Foam vs spring price comparison

    Foam and spring mattresses are available in many price ranges.

    Cheaper foam mattresses and open coil mattresses, like the IKEA foam mattresses or IKEA spring mattresses, are generally quite affordable - but they're also not as comfortable and won't last as long.

    We would not recommend these. 😏

    High-quality memory foam mattresses or pocket sprung mattresses are generally more expensive, but you can get some great value-for-money deals.

    Price-performance ratio
    It's always worth investing a little more to get a quality product

    On average, pocket sprung or hybrid mattresses are more expensive than all-foam mattresses.

    Most high-quality memory foam mattresses, like the Nectar mattress, will set you back between £400 and £700 for a double.

    But:

    Pocket sprung mattresses can actually be more cost-effective as they're likely to last you a long time.

    A decent hybrid or pocket sprung model, like the DreamCloud, should set you back at least £500 - £1000 for a double. 💷

    45% OFF DREAMCLOUD

    Cost of foam versus spring mattresses

    Looking for the best discounts?

    Bed-in-a-box mattress brands frequently offer sales and promotions. 🥳

    This means you can get the best memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses at an even better price!

    We collect all the best coupon codes for you and display them on our discounts page.

    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!

    Sleep Hero favourites include the Simba Hybrid and the Brook + Wilde Lux mattress. 🥰

    45% OFF B+W LUX / "SAVING45"

    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.

    BUY ECO COMFORT POCKET£ 459

    Spring count
    Aim for a mattress with 1000 - 2000 springs

    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.

    Mattress firmness

    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!

    -50% OTTY£ 349.99

    If you need help choosing the right mattress size, take a look at our mattress size guide.

    UK mattress sizes

    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. 🤓

    Trial period

    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. 💰

    45% OFF DREAMCLOUD

    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!

    Should you buy a foam mattress or a spring mattress?

    There is no right or wrong, but foam mattresses and spring mattresses are best suited to different types of people.

    Foam mattresses are suitable for:

    • People who easily feel cold at night.
    • People with orthopaedic concerns.
    • Light- and average-weight sleepers.
    • People who prefer softer mattresses.
    • All sleeping positions, but particularly for side sleepers.
    • Adjustable slatted frames.
    • Children.
    • Couples.

    We would not recommend foam mattresses to heavier-weight back and stomach sleepers or very heavy sweaters.

    One of our favourite foam mattresses in the UK is the Nectar memory foam mattress.

    It comes with a 365-day trial period, so it's a great risk-free option if you want to give foam mattresses a try.

    45% OFF NECTAR MATTRESS£ 384.45

    Spring mattresses are suitable for:

    • Heavier sweaters or those who prefer a cooler sleep.
    • People looking for good stability & support.
    • Average-weight sleepers & heavier-weight sleepers or those of larger builds.
    • People who prefer a firmer sleeping surface.
    • All sleeping positions, but particularly for back sleepers and stomach sleepers.
    • Rigid slatted frames.
    • Restless sleepers.

    One of our favourite spring mattresses is the Simba mattress, a hybrid model that features both foams and springs.

    40% OFF SIMBA

    Regardless of which mattress you choose, make sure it comes with a risk-free trial period.

    That way, if you're not happy, you can simply send it back for a full refund. 💷

    Frequently asked questions:

    • Are memory foam mattresses better for back pain?


      Memory foam is often used in orthopaedic mattresses.

      This is because of the body-contouring benefits of the so-called memory effect.

      When you apply pressure to memory foam, it leaves an imprint that will remain visible for a few seconds.

      This memory effect allows the memory foam to adapt remarkably well to the body, resulting in body-hugging comfort and support.

      Pocket sprung mattresses also work well if you're struggling with back pain, but many people do prefer the contouring provided by memory foam mattresses.

    • What is the best mattress for joint pain?


      If you're struggling with joint pain specifically, then we'd recommend opting for a memory foam mattress.

      These tend to offer more cushioning and comfort than spring mattresses.

    • How can I make my firm spring mattress feel softer?


      If you're sleeping on a spring mattress that's just a tad too firm, it's worth investing in a mattress topper.

      Mattress toppers are thin layers of padding placed on top of your mattress.

      Many mattress toppers are made of memory foam, and they are meant to make your firm mattress feel slightly softer.

    • Which is easier to maintain, a foam mattress or a spring mattress ?


      It's always best to choose a mattress that requires minimal upkeep.

      • Both foam and spring mattresses should be rotated regularly to avoid dents from forming.
      • Most modern mattresses are no-flip mattresses.

      This means you only need to rotate them from head to toe and not flip them upside down.

      In terms of upkeep, the two types of mattresses are relatively similar.

      Spring mattresses tend to be a tad heavier, but some of the larger foam mattresses can also be quite heavy.

      It's always best to ask a friend or family member to help you move the mattress if this is an area of concern.

    Nicky

    My mum calls me "bear" because I like to sleep so much. I never knew that, one day, that would be a very useful skill. Can you tell that I've found my calling? 

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