What Are Innerspring Mattresses? Everything You Need to Know

Innerspring mattresses are the most popular type of mattress available today in spite of many other options. This begs the question, what are innerspring mattresses?

By Nicole Gleichmann

Have you ever been on a mattress that squeaks when you move around? Or have you or your kids spent some time seeing how high you can jump on a super-bouncy mattress? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you are familiar with an innerspring mattress.

Innerspring mattresses, also known as spring or coil mattresses, are the OG of the mattress world. Most of us grew up sleeping on this type of mattress without a second thought about using anything else.

Traditional coil mattresses were not the first type of mattress, but they are the oldest type of mattress that is still commonly used today. First invented in the late 1800s, it wasn’t long before they pushed out the old school competitors like cotton and down.

By the 1930s, innerspring mattresses had taken the number one spot as the most popular mattress, and it continues to hold this coveted spot today. This lasting love for the innerspring mattress isn’t simply due to habit; there are distinct benefits to innerspring mattresses that make them a great choice for some people.

What Are Innerspring Mattresses?

Innerspring mattresses are those that contain a core layer of metal springs typically made from tempered steel. These coils provide the support and bounciness of the bed, adjusting to body weight by compressing and then returning some of the pressure.

Innerspring mattresses are made up of more than coils. On top of the coil center is a comfort layer made from foam or latex. Around the edges a variety of materials are used to provide structure, edge support, and prevent sagging. All of this is then wrapped in a protective outer fabric that is quilt-like, providing the nice look and feel of innerspring mattresses.

Today, there are four types of coils that you will find on the market. They differ in their coil technology and design, which results in variations in cost, comfort, longevity, and more.

1. Bonnell Coils or Open Coils

Bonnell coil mattresses are the most basic type of springs used in an innerspring mattress. These coils are made from steel tempered into an hourglass shape, meaning that the circumference is greater at the top and the bottom of the coil than in the middle. These coils are then connected together with wires known as helicals and further reinforced with thick wire.

Bonnell Mattress Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Very firm
  • Lightweight

Bonnell Mattress Cons 

  • High motion transfer
  • Poor body contouring

2. Continuous Coils

Also known as Mira Coil, continuous coil mattresses are made from a continuous wire that is used to make rows of coils. Helical wires are used to further connect and support the structure. This type of mattress is inexpensive and durable, but not the most comfortable. They are often used in places where mattresses will be used often and need to last for many years, such as in dorm or motel rooms.

Continuous Coil Mattress Pros

  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Firm

Continuous Coil Mattress Cons 

  • Poor body contouring
  • High motion transfer
  • Noisy

3. Offset Coils

You can think of offset coil mattresses as a more durable and comfortable form of the Bonnell coil mattress. Offset coils are also made from hourglass-shaped steel coils, but the difference is that the coil is straightened at one or both ends to create a hinging effect when laid upon.

You can expect an offset mattress to feel firm and supportive, but more contouring than the Bonnell coil. Their construction leads to better motion isolation, meaning that it is a better option for those who share their bed.

Offset Coil Mattress Pros

  • Motion isolation
  • Body contouring
  • Firm

Offset Coil Mattress Cons 

  • Expensive

4. Pocketed Coils

Pocketed coils, or wrapped coils, are the nicest and most expensive innerspring mattress option that is made up of individual Marshall coils wrapped in fabric. Unlike the other innerspring mattress coils, these coils are not connected together, leading to a higher quality mattress. Many hundreds to thousands of coils are used, creating a mattress that is better at contouring and isolating movements.

Pocketed Coil Mattress Pros

  • Body contouring
  • Motion isolation
  • Pressure point relief
  • Medium to firm support

Pocketed Coil Mattress Cons 

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
Spring in old bed mattress with pills. Hole in old dirty leaky couch, need of repair or replacement.

What to Look for When Shopping for an Innerspring Mattress

When you go shopping for an innerspring mattress, there are many factors that you will want to consider. Outside of the coil types listed above, it is also helpful to understand coil gauge, coil count, and edge support.

Coil Gauge

Coil gauge is a measure of how thick the wire is that makes up each coil. The gauge typically runs from 12 to 15. A higher gauge is thinner, creating a gentler spring, while a lower gauge is thicker, creating a more firm, supportive spring.

When it comes to comfort, the lower the gauge the firmer the mattress. A lower gauge will usually last longer before it loses its responsiveness, resulting in a less comfortable, saggy mattress. For those who want a bit of a softer mattress, you will want to go with a 14 gauge or higher for optimal comfort.

Coil Count

As a general rule, the more coils, the higher quality the mattress. More coils allow for better responsiveness, contouring, and reduced motion transfer.

Edge Support

There are many different ways to provide support around the perimeter, and it is beneficial to know how the edges are supported. Foam and thicker coils around the perimeter are better than a rod as they are more durable and comfortable.

Pillow Top

A pillow top is often laid on top of the mattress to add a bit of snuggly comfort for those who prefer a mattress that is softer with a bit more pressure relief.

What Do Innerspring Mattresses Feel Like?

Before you decide if an innerspring mattress is right for you, it can be helpful to know what you can expect from this type of mattress. In general, innerspring mattresses are known for:

  1. Providing firm support: Coils are very supportive in a firm way. When you compress a coil, it will squeeze until it has supported your entire body weight.
  2. Sleeping cool: Innerspring mattresses do not trap heat the way that some other types of mattresses do. They allow for your body heat to be released through the materials.
  3. Having sturdy edges: Thanks to the edge support, most innerspring mattresses have a firm, supportive edge that holds weight well when sat upon.
  4. Being bouncy and responsive: When you move around on a traditional coil mattress, you will feel it bounce back, responding to your movements quickly. This can be beneficial for sex or those who move around a lot.

Who Should Use an Innerspring Mattress?

Based on the benefits above, there are people for whom an innerspring mattress can be a good option. These include those who:

  1. Sleep on their stomachs: Stomach sleepers need a firm mattress to keep their body in as good of alignment as possible. As innerspring mattresses are the firmest type of mattress available, they are usually a good option for those who sleep on their fronts.
  2. Prefer firm mattresses: Some people want their mattress firm and responsive.
  3. Sleep hot: Innerspring mattresses are one of the most breathable types of mattresses, allowing those who sleep hot to be more comfortable.
  4. Enjoy a bouncy mattress: Coil mattresses are the bounciest, which can be beneficial for those who enjoy having a responsive mattress for sex.
  5. Have trouble getting out of bed: Because innerspring mattresses are firm, bouncy, and supportive, they are one of the easiest types of beds to get out of. This is important for those who struggle to get out of bed, such as the elderly or those who are injured.

Who Should Not Use a Traditional Innerspring Mattress?

Just as there are people who are well-suited for an innerspring mattress, there are others for whom this mattress type is unlikely to be ideal. These include those who:

  1. Sleep on their sides: Side sleepers need extra cushion and contouring for their hips and shoulders. Innerspring mattresses are usually far too firm to allow for proper spine alignment for those who sleep on their sides.
  2. Need pain relief: A traditional innerspring mattress does not provide optimal spine alignment for most people. If you find that you wake up in pain or toss and turn during the night, you may need a mattress that is better at contouring and relieving pressure points throughout the night.
  3. Light sleepers who share their bed: Innerspring mattresses allow for more motion transfer than other mattress types, and the springs can be somewhat noisy. Light sleepers who share the bed will be most negatively impacted by these drawbacks.

For those who fall into one of the categories above, you may want to try out one of the following mattress types:

  1. Memory Foam Mattresses: Memory foam mattresses are the best when it comes to contouring, motion isolation, and pressure point relief. This is great for those who sleep on their sides, those who suffer from joint or back pain, and those who share their bed.
  2. Latex Mattresses: Latex mattresses are firm and responsive while still offering good contouring and pressure point relief. They are a good option for those who like firm mattresses but could use a bit better alignment and body contouring.
  3. Airbed Mattresses: Airbed mattresses contain one or two chambers of air that offer adjustable firmness levels. They can be a good option for couples with different firmness preferences as well as for those who could benefit from changes in firmness one night to the next.
  4. Hybrid Mattresses: Hybrid mattresses are typically a combination of innerspring with layers of memory foam, latex, or both. These are a great option for those who like the traditional coil mattress but would prefer a bit better contouring and comfort.

Conclusion

Innerspring mattresses are a good option for those who like a firm, bouncy mattress. For those who like the support that innerspring mattresses provide but would like better comfort or pain relief, try a hybrid mattress to get the best of both worlds.


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