What Does Responsiveness Mean in a Mattress?

Responsiveness is a measure of how well your mattress responds to your body weight and movements. This can be an important factor when buying a new mattress.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Most kids enjoy at least one good round of jumping up and down on a mattress, using the spring coils to grain great heights as they giggle and lose their breath. This bounce from innerspring mattresses is reminiscent of a padded, indoor trampoline. If you know what I’m talking about, then you have firsthand experience enjoying the responsiveness and bounciness of a mattress.

But not all mattresses these days have that same sort of responsiveness. Take memory foam mattresses. Few kids are going to have a great time bouncing on one of those; however, that does not mean that memory foam is not responsive.

So, what does it mean for a mattress to be responsive?

Man and woman on the mint mattress testing responsiveness

What Is Responsiveness in a Mattress?

Responsiveness is the rapidity and degree to which a mattress responds to motion or pressure. The faster a mattress adjusts to your movements, the more responsive it is.

Innerspring mattresses are one of the most responsive types of mattresses. The coils within respond nearly instantaneously when you sit on them or move from one location to the other. They respond by sinking in and then applying pressure back up (this is why mattresses feel firm and supportive).

As for foam mattresses, responsiveness is a bit less obvious. Push your hand down firmly onto a memory foam mattress. If the mattress is responsive, the mattress will give way to your hand’s pressure quickly, and when you release it, the foam will quickly replace your handprint.

If the mattress isn’t responsive, it will feel stiff and take more time to respond to the pressure of your hand. Once you release your hand, it will take more time for the foam to regain its original shape.

You can see from these two examples that all mattresses can be responsive, but different materials will express their responsiveness in different ways.

Which Is Better—Coil or Foam Responsiveness?

Because different mattress materials provide responsiveness in different ways, some people may prefer one type of responsiveness to another. The biggest difference when it comes to the experience of responsiveness is between innerspring mattresses and memory foam mattresses.

Innerspring Mattress Responsiveness Explained

Traditional innerspring mattresses, also called coil mattresses, are made up of coils that are connected to one another. While springs are very responsive to your movements, when they are connected to one another, the vibration from your movements is easily transferred to your partner. Because motion transfer is high, this mattress type is not ideal for couples who share a bed.

Pocketed coil mattresses are innerspring mattresses where the coils are not connected. Instead, they are individually wrapped, allowing each spring to respond individually to your movement and pressure. Because each part of your body will be supported by a different set of springs, these mattresses are more responsive. Plus, this lack of connection reduces the spread of movement to anyone sharing the bed.

Who Should Consider Innerspring Mattresses:

  • Those who sleep alone
  • Those who like a bouncy mattress
  • Those who enjoy having sex on their mattress

Who Should Avoid Innerspring Mattresses:

  • Those who sleep with a partner
  • Those who need pressure point relief

Memory Foam Mattress Responsiveness Explained

What’s unique about memory foam responsiveness is that it allows the mattress to conform to your body. If you have a responsive memory foam mattress, you will feel hugged and supported whenever you reposition. This provides for greater customized support and alignment.

Keep in mind that not all memory foam mattresses are made from the same quality of foam. There will be some that lack responsiveness, leaving you feeling like you’re trapped in quicksand whenever you move around at night or when you need to get out of bed.

But there is one downfall to memory foam’s responsiveness, even in that of highly responsive memory foam: it doesn’t have much bounce-back. While this might not matter for some, it can make adult bedtime rendezvous a bit trickier. If you enjoy a mattress’s bounce during sex, memory foam may not be the best choice.

Who Should Consider Memory Foam Mattresses:

  • Those who sleep on their sides or backs
  • Those who desire pressure point relief
  • Those who sleep with a partner

Who Should Avoid Memory Foam Mattresses:

  • Those who like an extra-firm mattress (when compared to other mattress types, even the firmest memory foam mattress is only medium-firm)
  • Those who sleep hot (although there are options that sleep cooler)
  • Those who prefer sex on a bouncy mattress
  • Those who struggle to get out of a bed

Latex: Responsiveness Plus Contouring

There is another major material player in the mattress game: latex. Latex can be made naturally from the sap of the rubber tree, or synthetically using petroleum-based compounds. Whether natural or synthetic, latex has more bouncy responsiveness than memory foam and greater contouring for pressure points than coils.

This unique combination makes latex mattresses the most responsive mattress type available. You will find that the rapid responsiveness and firm bounce-back results in a mattress that is much better for adult play time, although it is not quite as bouncy as a coil mattress (sorry kids).

Another great thing about latex is that movement is isolated. When the latex responds to your movements, it does not then spread them to anyone else sharing your bed. This makes latex mattresses a good option for those who sleep with their partners.

Who Should Consider Latex Mattresses:

  • Those who like a bouncy mattress
  • Those who have sex on their mattress
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Those who weigh more
  • Those who sleep with a partner

Who Should Avoid Latex Mattresses:

  • Those who like soft mattresses

Hybrid Mattresses Offer Unique Responsiveness

Are you not sure which type of responsiveness you prefer? Maybe you like a mattress to have a bit of a springy bounce, but you also love the feeling of gracefully sinking into memory foam. Or maybe you want a natural latex mattress, but the high price point is a bit high.

Hybrid mattresses exist that offer combinations of coils, memory foam, and latex. You can shop around to find one that offers the benefits that you’re looking for.

A look inside Nest Bedding's Natural Hybrid Latex mattress

Who Needs a Responsive Mattress?

There are many factors that determine what type of mattress is best for you. For some, mattress responsiveness is of particular importance. This is true for those who fall into any of the below categories.

Light Sleepers

Do you find yourself waking up frequently at night? Maybe the slightest noise or movement from a partner wakes you up, and you have trouble falling back asleep. Or maybe you wake up frequently, but you’re not sure why.

When something wakes you up at night, one factor that determines whether you fall back asleep right away or become more alert is how quickly your mattress responds to your movements. It is tough to fall back asleep when your mattress doesn’t allow you to move around easily.

For light sleepers who sleep with someone else, we recommend responsive memory foam or latex mattresses. Responsive coil mattresses can transfer your partner’s movement to you, resulting in increased restlessness.

Position Changers

Are you someone who never seems to wake up in the same position as when you fell asleep? Maybe you notice that the covers and pillows have all migrated during the night. These are signs that you either toss and turn during the night, or that you may sleep in a variety of sleep positions.

If you change from side to back, back to front, side to side, or simply toss and turn a lot, you need a mattress that rapidly responds to your movements. This is what responsiveness is. A mattress that isn’t responsive, such as a memory foam mattress made using low-quality foam, can make it so you wake up every time that you move around.

Keep in mind that the support offered by a traditional innerspring mattress can cause problems if you are a nighttime mover who shares their bed. In this scenario, it would be best to look for a responsive memory foam or latex mattress.

Support Seekers

Some people require a mattress with a bit more support than others. This is true of people who sleep on their fronts (too much give and the spine will fall even further out of alignment) and those who are above average weight. As a general rule, if you weigh over 230 pounds, it is best to have a mattress that is highly responsive.

If a mattress doesn’t provide the right amount of pushback when you move, you can find yourself feeling a lack of support. In a memory foam mattress, this can result in sinking in and feeling hot, trapped, and uncomfortable.

High-quality memory foam, innerspring, or latex mattresses can offer the responsiveness needed by those requiring extra support.

Those Seeking the Best Mattress for Sex

Some of us use our mattress for sleeping only, but others revere their mattress as a place for sex. While you can of course have sex on any mattress, it is a bit easier on one that’s responsive.

Many people have long valued the coil mattress for its springiness in these circumstances. But understand that a latex mattress also offers a great surface for sex.

Those Who Struggle to Get Out of Bed

Elderly people and those who generally find themselves struggling to get out of bed need a responsive mattress. Non-responsive mattresses will not give the support that’s needed to help them get out of the bed.

This is particularly troublesome with old or poor-quality memory foam as it can make you feel like you’re fighting to escape from quicksand. Without the pushback and support that a responsive mattress offers, it can be difficult to get out of bed alone.

For those who have difficulties getting in and out of bed, latex and innerspring mattresses are usually the best options. Even the most responsive memory foam can result in a bit more trouble moving. If you do enjoy the pressure relief offered by memory foam, look for a hybrid mattress that includes a top layer of memory foam with coils or latex underneath.

What Other Features Matter When Shopping for a Mattress?

Responsiveness is not the only characteristic that you will want to consider when you go shopping for your next mattress. Other things that are important include:

  • Cost: Certain memory foam and innerspring mattresses are the most budget-friendly.
  • Bounciness: This is a bit different from responsiveness. It is a direct measure of how much of a rebounding effect occurs when you apply pressure. Coil mattresses are the bounciest, followed by latex, and then memory foam.
  • Conforming: How well a mattress conforms to your body determines how good it is for pressure point relief and optimal spine alignment. A mattress that conforms well is particularly important for side sleepers. Memory foam is usually the best, followed by latex, and then innerspring mattresses.
  • Heat: Some people struggle with sleeping hot. Memory foam mattresses are the most likely to trap heat. Both latex and innerspring mattresses are better at not sleeping hot, and there are memory foam mattresses with gel and other technology to allow them to sleep cooler.
  • Noise: If you are sensitive to noise, innerspring mattresses may not be the best option. Both latex and memory foam mattresses are nearly silent.
  • Durability: We all want a mattress that will last us for many years. Latex mattresses usually last the longest, followed by memory foam, and then coil mattresses.
  • Firmness level: The ideal firmness is determined by personal preference, sleeping position, and more.
  • Trial period: Some mattresses will offer a generous trial period. This allows you to test out the mattress before committing 100%.

Closing Thoughts

Responsiveness is the measure of how quickly and efficiently a mattress responds to your movements. For some people, it is very important to have a mattress that is highly responsive. If this is you, we recommend latex mattresses, although there are good options for responsive innerspring and memory foam mattresses too.


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