Mattress Type Comparison

Types of Mattresses

Buying a new mattress is a big decision. You’ll spend one third of your life in your bed, and the quality of your mattress will have a huge impact on how enjoyable and restorative that time is—not to mention impacting the energy you have left to tackle the other two-thirds of your time. That said, many factors go into selecting a mattress. It can start to feel pretty overwhelming!

Luckily, by taking it one decision at a time, you can easily find the perfect mattress choice for you. We’ve created this mattress buying guide to help you with the first decision you need to make: what kind of mattress to buy. Read through the detailed descriptions below with your specific needs in mind, and you should be able to get a good sense of what type of mattress is right for you!

Innerspring Coil Mattresses

Conventional coil spring mattresses have been around for years. They use metal coils as a primary support system. The number and size of the steel springs varies between manufacturers, but as a general rule, the more coils the higher the quality. Some of the biggest mattress brands even use variations on innerspring design in their products to this day. However, the biggest advantages that coil spring mattresses provide are availability and price. At best, an innerspring mattress provides fair to middling comfort for regular sleep and pain relief, so be aware that you’re trading sleep for price.

Comfort

Laying on a coil spring mattress generates pressure points on the body that can be uncomfortable and exacerbate back and neck pain. As the innerspring mattress padding wears, the springs can often be felt through the surface of the bed, leading to depressions and lumpy spots. Worn spring mattresses tend to sag in the areas of the bed that are most used, creating divots and low spots that trap the body in awkward positions.

Lifespan

The longevity of innerspring mattresses is rather short compared to the durability of modern mattress construction techniques using natural latex and synthetic polymers, which have 10-20 year lifespans. You will probably need to replace an innerspring coil mattress often. The softer your mattress preference, the more likely you are to experience sagging.

Construction

Since spring mattresses don’t have any natural resistance to mold or dust mites, the mattresses need to be treated to resist pests and allergens. This is usually done with chemicals that are then present in the mattress core. Over the lifetime of the mattress, they slowly dissipate, which means you are breathing them in every night—a particular concern for children or those with medical issues.

Noise

Squeaking and clunking as the springs flex during the night is not uncommon. Unless preventive measures are taken to silence the movement of the bed springs (which is common even on some high-end mattresses), the coils are never truly silent. Although wrapping the coils and adding material to the bed is effective in silencing the mattress, it adds substantial time and cost to the manufacturing process, which is generally reflected in the price tag.

More Recent Innovations: Hybrid Innerspring

Some of the newer coil mattresses attempt to improve on traditional innerspring mattresses by adding more individual springs or materials like memory foam or latex. This extra padding can be inserted around the coils in order to add support and dampen noise, or added as a thicker top comfort layer to distribute weight across the mattress. Thick topping layers used to improve mattress performance tend to wear out much faster than the mattress itself, and often create an uncomfortable sleeping surface long before the springs actually start to wear. In the end, these hybrid fixes can only improve on an outdated design and cannot provide the full body comfort that the newest mattress construction techniques provide.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Many modern mattresses are either wholly constructed from memory foam, or feature a high-density memory foam top layer. Viscoelastic memory foam reacts to both pressure and temperature, forming to the shape of your body when you lie dow, and retaining that impression for a time after you remove your weight from the bed. This conforming nature of the material has both a positive and a negative impact on your ability to sleep well.

Comfort

Memory foam distributes weight very evenly, which minimizes pressure points on the body, and creates a floating feeling as it molds to your body shape. Unfortunately, the depression in the mattress does not rebound immediately, which means it can be difficult to move around in the bed at night. This can affect the quality of your sleep if you are a person that changes position frequently during the night. Another down side to memory foam is heat retention. Originally designed by NASA, memory foam has some great health benefits for people that suffer from ailments that benefit from the application and retention of heat. For many people, however, the heat retention can become uncomfortable, especially in warmer climates and during the summer months. Many people complain that a memory foam mattress ‘sleeps too hot’.

Memory Foam

Lifespan

Memory foam durability varies as a function of the density of the material. Premium memory foam mattresses usually use the highest density viscoelastic foam, which lasts longer than its softer counterparts. Longevity on these high density models is usually very good, but over time the mattress may become softer and less supportive due to repeated compression. Most memory foam mattress warranties are in the 5-10 year range, but some high end models may feature up to a 20 year warranty. Mattress softening may not be included in warranty coverage.

Construction

Since memory foam is a synthetic polyurethane, it does require a chemical process to manufacture, and as a result, there are some potential health risks. The quality and density of the foam can cause an odor. For people particularly sensitive odors and irritants, it is possible to have some reaction during the initial break in period. Memory foam does not have any natural resistance to mold and mildew, which might be a worry in bedrooms with poor ventilation and/or high humidity.

Waterbeds

There was a time in the 1980s when waterbeds were all the rage, seen as the height of luxury living. Water beds do a decent job of distributing body weight and reducing pressure points while sleeping. The newer waterbeds even offer much better motion isolation than older models, which had a single internal bladder, meaning that any movement in the bed set the entire thing in motion. Fun for the kids, but not so great for sleeping peacefully through the night. Although waterbeds do perform relatively well in some areas, they also have some serious drawbacks that should be considered.

Comfort

Waterbeds generally rate pretty well with consumers when it comes to overall comfort. Reducing specific points of pressure is essential for a great night’s sleep. Generally only the premium waterbeds feature the additional lumbar support needed to keep from sinking into the bed too far, which can aggravate lower back pain. The water in the bed usually needs to be maintained at a comfortable temperature which requires finding the right balance for the season. The sound of water movement can be kept down by removing any excess air from the bladder in the bed.

Weight & Other Hassles

Waterbeds are heavy. One gallon of water weighs roughly 8 lbs, so once your waterbed is set up it could weigh as much as 1000 lbs. This makes it almost impossible to move the bed to another location for any reason, including cleaning, without first emptying the bed which then requires it be refilled. The initial installation and ongoing maintenance should be considered when buying a waterbed. The amount of water needs be maintained, water conditioner needs to be added, and excess air should be removed regularly to minimize the noise created by movement.

Lifespan

Unlike other types of mattresses, water beds don’t wear mechanically in specific areas that affect your comfort. Unfortunately, having hundreds of gallons of water sealed in a large soft plastic container comes with other problems. Punctures or leaks in the seals are relatively common. Additionally, the heating elements used to keep the bed comfortable need maintenance and repair and will likely need replacement at some point during the life of the bed. All of this means water beds can be a hassle.

Adjustable Air Mattresses

The major benefit to an adjustable air mattress is the ability to customize the firmness of the bed to accommodate your individual sleep preferences. With an air mattress, the support the bed provides is created by inflating an air chamber with an electric pump, usually one on each side of the bed. The inner air chambers of the mattress are usually cushioned with a topping layer that is generally polyurethane foam or memory foam.

Comfort

When adjusted correctly, air mattresses do a fair job of reducing pressure points on the body, however, getting this adjustment right can be tricky. Too firm and you might as well be sleeping on an innerspring mattress, too soft and you lack the lumbar support that you need, which can be hard on your back. Additionally, models that adjust independently tend to have a middle seam or crack in the center of the bed that can be uncomfortable to lay on. Air mattresses do a much better job of supporting your weight than an innerspring, but can’t really compare to a latex or memory foam mattress for consistent weight distribution and overall comfort.

Construction

Be aware of the quality of the various mattress components. Basic air mattress construction requires a sealed air chamber (or chambers), a topping layer and pumping system to inflate and adjust the pressure in the bed. The internal air chamber can be made from natural rubber, PVC or nylon depending on the manufacturer, and durability varies greatly depending on the materials used. It is not uncommon for seams and seals to leak on less expensive beds, which should be kept in mind when purchasing. Cheaper flap air pumps should be avoided in favor of the sturdier piston-style pump with a replaceable fuse for surge protection. One common point of failure for an air mattress is the the topping layer. Even on the best air mattresses, the poor quality of the mattress topper can lead to premature wear, compromising the overall comfort and usability of the bed.

Lifespan

With proper care, diligent and informed purchasing and a bit of luck, an air mattress can last for many years. However, due to the many issues listed above, you may find yourself repairing or replacing components sooner than expected. Practically speaking, there are many ways for an air mattress to go wrong due to the complicated design and sheer number of moving parts. Like a waterbed, sharp objects should be kept away from the bed to avoid punctures. Buyers should be aware of these potential risks before buying a mattress that is intended to last for ten to twenty years.

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Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses are the newest innovation in mattress technology and natural organic latex is the best material for any premium mattress. This new mattress technology is becoming increasingly popular in the market because of its many benefits. Latex provides all the comfort of memory foam, with none of the heat retention issues or problems related to premature wear. Organic latex is renewable and recyclable, and can be manufactured without the need for any harsh chemicals, making it the healthy alternative.

Comfort

Latex is both soft and supportive. It resists impressions and sleeps cool, quiet and dry. Latex conforms to your body and pressure points, helping to alleviate joint and back pain. A combination of Dunlop and Talalay latex mattresses can provide ideal support for just about any sleeping position and body type. Unlike memory foam, latex responds more quickly to pressure changes, with no lasting impressions left in the mattress when you move. All types of latex mattresses are quiet and reduce motion transfer across the bed very effectively. Unlike ultra firm spring mattresses or ultra soft memory foam, latex provides the perfect amount of cushioning and support for your lower back and spine. Reverie mattresses even offer custom support on both sides of the mattress for couples.

Lifespan

The durability of the latex mattress is unparalleled. Many latex mattresses, including our own, carry warranties of up to 20 years. If you are looking to maximize your investment, you should strongly consider a mattress that will not wear out quickly, with a great warranty for regular use and wear and tear.

Construction & Health

The latex process has been around for many years. Latex is naturally hypoallergenic, mold, mildew and dust mite resistant. If you suffer from allergies, latex is your best choice. Natural organic latex is made from the renewable and sustainable Hevea milk and does not require any harsh chemicals for processing or treatment.