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Foam Mattresses Vs. Spring Mattresses

FOAM MATTRESSES VS. SPRING MATTRESSES

Nancy K.

Last updated: 26.10.2020 13 Min.

Choosing a mattress is never easy. There are so many different mattresses available, and all of them come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

We at Sleep Hero have tested dozens of mattresses, and have summarised all of these in our mattress reviews.

One question we’re frequently asked is whether foam mattresses or spring mattresses are better.

And that’s exactly what we’ll unpack in this article.

Which type of mattress is better for you? Continue reading to find out.

Foam Mattresses Versus Spring Mattresses
  • Overview
  • What is a foam mattress?
  • What is a spring mattress?
  • Comparison
  • Pros & cons
  • Availability: foam mattresses
  • Availability: spring mattresses
  • Which mattress is best for me?
  • Sizes
  • What should I pay attention to when buying?
  • Conclusion

What is a foam mattress?

The core of a foam mattress is a specific type of foam. This could be Visco foam or cold foam, both of which are very popular. The mattress may have a single layer of foam or it could be composed of two or more layers of foam. High-quality models like the Emma mattress will have more than one layer of foam.

Emma Original
The Emma Original

LEARN MORE ABOUT FOAM MATTRESSES

Foam mattresses are often open-celled and have air-permeable pores, particularly in the upper mattress layer, which makes the mattress as a whole more breathable.

There are many different materials that can be used in a foam mattress. Not all of them will suit every type of sleeper. We’ll get back to this in more detail further down.

What is a spring mattress?

Innerspring mattresses are considered classics in the mattress world. But not all innerspring mattresses are equal, and there are enormous differences in quality between different types of innerspring mattresses. This is why you should be particularly vigilant when making an innerspring mattress purchasing decision.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SPRING MATTRESSES

Overall, innerspring mattresses tend to feel much firmer than most foam mattresses. They are also much more resilient.

In contrast to foam mattresses, mattresses with a spring core have better temperature regulation. They are also more suitable for people who sweat heavily at night. This is because of the spacing of the springs, which means that moisture can dissipate very well. Overall, the sleeping climate remains pleasantly cool.

That said, there are still many variations of innerspring mattresses, which we’ll consider in more detail further down.

Detailed comparison

Below you'll find a detailed comparison of the major differences between foam mattresses and spring mattresses.

Differences in composition

The biggest difference between foam mattresses and innerspring mattresses, of course, is the composition of the actual mattress.

Foam mattresses consist almost exclusively of foam layers - either one or several. Popular combinations include cold foam, Visco foam, and latex foam.

In order to refine the feeling of sleeping on a cold foam mattress, many manufacturers also like to add a thin layer of latex, Visco foam, or gel foam.

In contrast, the core of a spring mattress is only made of springs/coils. There are many different types of springs available. Spring mattresses are also combined with a foam element on the upper and lower surfaces and on the sides. This ensures a high degree of comfort. The comfort material often consists of comfort foam, polyurethane, or cold foam, all of which are quite similar. Synthetic or natural latex foam may also be used.

Differences in lying down

A rough rule of thumb: Foam mattresses are often softer and spring mattresses a little firmer.

Foam mattresses can adapt well to the contours of the body, and thus ensure a pleasant sleeping experience. Visco foam, cold foam, and latex foam are particularly popular. They’re great at relieving pressure and have low motion transfer, so you won’t be disturbed by your partner’s movements at night. This makes foam mattresses great for couples.

While foam mattresses offer great support, heavy-weight sleepers can often sink in too deeply, especially on a softer foam mattress. If you sleep on your 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 there are also harder foam mattresses available. In our reviews, you’ll see that we rate the firmness of a mattress on our Sleep Hero firmness scale, ranging from 1 to 10. The higher the number on the scale, the firmer the mattress.

Foam layers of the Emma Original
Foam layers of the Emma Original

A spring mattress provides more stability and supports the sleeper well. They are well-suited for many different sleeping positions. The springs are (usually) individually loaded and only give out where they are really needed. This ensures that there are no unnecessary pressure points and the body can relax sufficiently.

Due to their inherent elasticity, innerspring mattresses have a very high point elasticity. This allows them to give people who sleep on their back or stomach the required stability while still being very comfortable.

High-quality innerspring mattresses have a long lifespan. However, you should always pay attention to the quality and density of a mattress before making a purchase. Cheaper innerspring mattresses can wear out very quickly and form dents, which is likely to cause back pain. Once this has happened, the mattress will have to be replaced.

A very light-weight person may not sink deeply enough into an innerspring mattress when lying on the side. This can lead to neck and shoulder pain. In this case, a slightly softer mattress would be preferable.

Firmness

Both foam mattresses and innerspring mattresses are available in almost every degree of firmness.

Standard degrees of firmness:

  • H1 (ultra-soft, very rare)
  • H2 (soft)
  • H3 (medium)
  • H4 (firm)
  • H5 (ultra-firm, very rare)

Some of these degrees of firmness are very common and some less so. The most common degrees of firmness are H2 and H3 and, more recently, H4. Most spring mattresses are available in several degrees of firmness, so everyone has a choice. H1 and H5 mattresses are very rare.

Some foam mattresses are so-called “one-for-all” mattresses. The idea behind this is that everyone should be able to sleep well on them. Of course, this is not always that easy as not every mattress will be ideal for everyone.

Mattresses designed according to the one-for-all principle don’t specify a degree of firmness. As a general rule, we’ve discovered that such mattresses are of medium firmness, but are often perceived to be somewhat softer (for example, the Emma mattress). In our experience, there are really only very few mattresses that can be used universally.

It is very important to choose a mattress with the right degree of firmness for you. A mattress that’s too soft or too hard is likely to cause back pain. You can turn to our reviews to help you with this, but also consider looking at other customer reviews. If you struggle with severe pain, you may benefit from an orthopaedic mattress.

Firmness

Sleeping climate

In general, spring mattresses offer a cooler sleeping climate and foam mattresses offer a warmer sleeping climate.

This is because some foams absorb and store body heat more easily. Innerspring mattresses have ventilation channels between the integrated springs. This allows the heat to dissipate well and moisture can be wicked away. For this reason, innerspring mattresses are suitable for people who sweat heavily at night.

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Foam mattresses Spring mattresses
Advantages
  • Good pressure relief
  • Adapts well to the body
  • Well suited for people who easily feel cold at night
  • Generally suitable for all sleeping positions
  • Also suitable for people with back pain
  • Adjustable slatted frames can be used
  • Low motion transfer
  • Firmer lying sensation
  • High stability
  • Point elasticity higher in pocket spring mattresses
  • Also suitable for heavier-weight people
  • Especially suitable for people who sleep on their stomach or back
  • Very good temperature regulation
Disadvantages
  • Not suitable for people who sweat heavily
  • Not always suitable for restless sleepers (especially with Visco foam)
  • Some mattresses have an initial rubber smell
  • Some mattresses are softer
  • Not suitable for people who easily feel cold
  • Doesn’t have great motion transfer
  • Not all models are suitable for light-weight people who like to sleep on their side
  • There are bad quality models available that wear out quickly
  • Not well combined with an adjustable slatted frame
  • Quite heavy and can be difficult to move

What kind of foam mattresses are available?

As already mentioned, there are many different foam mattresses available. We’ll give you an overview of the most common types of foam used in foam mattresses.

Latex mattresses

A latex mattress is suitable for someone who likes a softer feeling when lying down. Latex foam offers a comfortable and soft surface to lie on and is especially suitable for people who like to sleep on their side. But it is also great for people who prefer to sleep on their stomach or back. Restless sleepers can sleep well on a latex mattress as the foam quickly returns to its original shape once the body has moved. Moving on a mattress with high resistance to position changes, such as on a Visco mattress, is less pleasant.

A latex mattress is also suitable for people who suffer from allergies, unless, of course, they suffer from a latex allergy.

Natural latex mattresses are also great for ecologically-conscious people. Some manufacturers only use natural latex, which is more expensive.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LATEX MATTRESSES

Cold foam mattresses

Cold foam is one of the most popular mattress foams. It is characterised by its durability, thermal insulation, and adaptability. Cold foam mattresses offer a very high point elasticity and a medium sleeping climate.

They are often available as 7-zone mattresses. Here, the built-in comfort zones are intended to support optimal spine alignment and allow the body to sink in where it needs to and be supported where it needs to. A good way to envision comfort zones is to imagine different degrees of firmness at different points of the mattress. Comfort zones are great but not always necessary. There are many excellent mattresses available that don’t have comfort zones.

LEARN MORE ABOUT COLD FOAM MATTRESSES

Visco mattresses

Visco mattresses are made from a thermo-elastic foam originally designed by NASA for space travel. Visco foam (also known as memory foam) can adapt to the body in an optimal way and provide great pressure relief.

It is one of the highest quality mattress foams available. Tempur mattresses are known for this foam.

Mattresses made purely of memory foam are often perceived to be softer. This type of foam is sometimes recommended for joint and back pain, but it is also supposed to help with circulatory problems.

Visco mattresses have a high resistance to position changes, meaning that moving on them can be a little more difficult and uncomfortable. While great for still sleepers, we would not recommend a Visco mattress for restless sleepers. They would be better off considering latex or innerspring mattresses.

LEARN MORE ABOUT VISCO MATTRESSES

Visco Mattresses
Visco mattresses adapt well to the body

Gel mattresses

Gel mattresses, which are filled with viscous and/or heavy gel, are particularly innovative. They offer great pressure relief and can adapt well to the body, offering an optimal lying position. Gel mattresses are regularly combined with other foams but the gel layer will form the upper layer of the mattress.

These mattresses are usually quite expensive.

Gel mattresses are temperature neutral and, in contrast to other foam mattresses, offer a slightly cooler sleeping climate.

These mattresses can be quite heavy and care should be taken when transporting or unpacking.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GEL MATTRESSES

What kind of spring mattresses are available?

There are also many different types of spring mattresses available. Some of these are high quality, while others are not recommendable.

Pocket spring mattresses

In pocket spring mattresses, the individual springs are located in a fabric pocket. This protects them from contamination and allows for more springs to fit into the core of the mattress. Unnecessary noise pollution - that is, the squeaking noises often associated with spring mattresses - is also reduced. The pocket springs are encased in foam, so you will not actually feel the springs when lying down.

Pocket spring mattresses are very point-elastic and can adapt well to the body. Each spring is separated from the other and works on its own. This means that it only gives way where it is loaded. This is also the prime difference between pocket spring mattresses and Bonell spring mattresses.

All pocket spring mattresses are covered with foam. Some models offer comfort zones, which allows the body to sink into the mattress a little deeper at some points (for example, the shoulder region). In these areas, the springs will give way more easily (or less easily, if required). This keeps the spine in optimal alignment.

The individual springs of a pocket spring mattress are spiral-shaped and offer good point elasticity and climate regulation. However, pocket spring mattresses are not as good as the Barrel pocket spring mattresses.

Barrel pocket spring mattresses

The barrel pocket spring mattress is the highest quality version of a spring mattress. In the very high-quality models, over 1000 springs are sewn into small fabric bags. This is similar to the composition of a pocket spring mattress.

Mattress Springs
Springs in a fabric pocket

The difference, however, is that the springs in a barrel pocket spring mattress are not spiral-shaped. Instead, they have a bulbous form. This allows weight to be better distributed on the spring, and, in turn, provides the sleeper with more support and a higher quality of sleep.

The point elasticity of barrel pocket spring mattresses is also higher, and the larger gaps between the springs allow for even better air circulation.

Bonnell spring mattress

Bonnell springs are slightly curved. These mattresses do not contain a large number of springs, which is why they are not as pressure-relieving as pocket spring mattresses or barrel pocket spring mattresses.

Bonnell spring mattresses are suitable for lighter-weight people and for children. The springs are connected to each other by wires. They have surface elasticity but are not point-elastic and relieve the pressure of an entire area, and not just at certain points.

These mattresses do not adapt well to the body. They are also the cheapest among the innerspring mattresses.

Which mattress is best for me?

Which mattress is best for you? Should you choose a foam mattress or an innerspring mattress? Because of their unique characteristics, foam mattresses and spring mattresses are best suited to different groups of people.

Foam mattresses are suitable for:

  • People who sweat less or feel colder at night
  • Allergy sufferers (though beware of latex allergies)
  • More light- or average-weight people
  • Children (but care must be taken to ensure that the mattress is not too soft or too firm)
  • Side sleepers (but also suitable for other sleeping positions)
  • Adjustable slatted frames

Spring mattresses are suitable for:

  • People who sweat heavily or prefer a cooler sleeping climate
  • Heavier-weight people, who need a little more stability
  • People who prefer a firmer sleeping surface
  • People who prefer to sleep on their back or stomach
  • Restless sleepers

Available sizes

Mattress Sizes

There is no need to worry about any limitations. Both foam mattresses and spring mattresses are available in the most common sizes.

In the UK, these include:

Custom sizes are a little more complicated as not all manufactures will offer these.

What should I pay attention to when buying?

There are certain elements that are worth considering before purchasing a foam mattress or innerspring mattress.

  • Degree of firmness: The right degree of firmness is very important, but choosing this isn’t always easy. Decisive factors include your height and body weight, as well as personal preferences. The right degree of firmness is important to prevent back and neck pain. In general, lighter-weight people should choose softer mattresses while heavier-weight people should choose firmer mattresses.
  • Density: High density equals high quality. The volume weight figure indicates how many kilograms of foam has been used in one square meter. The more, the better. Mattresses with a high density are less likely to sag and have a longer lifespan. A good mattress should have a minimum density of 40 kg/m³.
  • Certifications: To ensure that your mattress is really free from harmful substances, you should look out for certificates from LGA or OEKO-TEX.
  • Delivery conditions and trial periods: We highly recommend buying online. It’s faster, more convenient, and eliminates the problem of transporting the mattress back home. In most cases, the mattress will be delivered to your home free of charge. A great addition is the risk-free trial period, where you can test the mattress for a set number of days at home to ensure that it really is the right mattress for you. If it isn’t, the manufacturer will simply collect it again and issue you with a full refund. Trial periods range from 30 days to 100 days, depending on the manufacturer.
  • Value for money: You should pay attention to the value for money or price-performance ratio of a mattress. A good way to familiarise yourself with this is by reading our reviews. We’ve already done the work and tested dozens of great mattresses from a wide range of price categories. What's more, we've also collected all the discount codes so you can get your mattress at the best price possible.

FIND THE BEST MATTRESS

Conclusion

Ultimately, choosing the right mattress is a matter of sensitivity and personal preference. Nevertheless, there already are many factors that would indicate whether a foam mattress or a spring mattress would be more suitable for you.

Heavier-weight people who like to sleep on their stomach or back should lean towards choosing a good spring mattress, while lighter- to average-weight people could choose a foam mattress.

Both types of mattresses have models that offer low motion transfer and are great for couples.

It is important to pay attention to a high quality and good price-performance ratio. We would always recommend buying a mattress that offers a suitable trial period. That’s the only way you can ascertain whether a mattress is really right for you or not. Plus, it’s a risk-free choice and you can return the mattress for a full refund if you’re not happy with it.

Nancy K.

Yoga-loving nature fan (when the sun shines) with a knack for all things health & wellness. Strangely obsessed with tacos. 

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