Types of Mattresses: Understanding the Pros and Cons
With so many types of mattresses, it can be tough to know which one is best for you. We have outlined the pros and cons to help you pick your next mattress.
May 21st, 2021 •
You spend about a third of your life asleep, so it’s important to find a mattress that fits your needs. What position you sleep in, whether you sleep warm, and how much you’re willing to spend are just a few of the variables that can determine what type of mattress is best for you.
In this article, you will learn about the different types of mattresses available on the market today and how to choose the best one based on your body type. We have outlined the pros and cons of each mattress type to help you decide which type to look for when you’re ready to buy a mattress.
Types of Mattresses Comparison Guide
Innerspring mattresses are the oldest type of mattress still commonly used today. They were invented in 1857, and since then, have gained a consistent following. Even though there are many other mattress types available today, innerspring mattresses are still the most popular.
Innerspring mattresses are also known as coil mattresses thanks to their makeup. Each innerspring mattress is constructed of a steel coil support system. As a general rule, the greater the number of coils, the higher the quality and comfort.
- Cost: Innerspring mattresses are some of the least expensive mattresses available.
- Familiarity: Most everyone knows what an innerspring mattress is, and as such, picking one out and sleeping on one can feel familiar and comfortable.
- Support: The push back from coils yields a firm and supportive mattress.
- Sleeps Cool: These mattresses are very breathable. They don’t trap much heat.
- Lifespan: Coil mattresses wear out faster than many alternatives, with certain types having particularly poor longevity.
- Noise: The steel coils can result in noise when you move, and this noise tends to worsen over time. If you have ever heard a mattress squeak, it was due to the coils within.
- Alignment: Coils do not conform well to the body, which can create aches and pains in the areas of the body that put the most weight on the mattress. This is particularly troublesome for side sleepers who need a mattress with more give to accommodate the hips and shoulders.
- Movement: Because the coils are usually connected to one another, this type of mattress results in movements being felt throughout the bed.
Our top picks: Best Innerspring Mattress of 2021
Encased Coil Mattresses
Encased coil mattresses, also known as Marshall or pocketed coil mattresses, are a higher-end version of the innerspring mattress. The difference is that the coils within are not wired together, but are instead individually wrapped in fabric.
Pros (in comparison to a traditional innerspring mattress)
- Noise: Because the coils are wrapped in fabric, they are less noisy than traditional innerspring mattresses.
- Movement: The fabric wrapping and lack of attachment results in an increased ability to absorb movements, making this a better option for couples who toss and turn.
- Support and Alignment: Because the coils respond individually, they offer better alignment and support to the parts of the body that weigh the most.
- Cost: This type of mattress is more expensive than a traditional innerspring mattress.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are made from a polyurethane foam first designed by NASA to help absorb shock and make seats more comfortable during takeoff and landing. The foam is incredibly responsive, sinking in at your heaviest points and providing a soft-feeling support.
- Noise: Unlike coil mattresses, memory foam mattresses are very quiet.
- Comfort: Many people rave about the comfort that comes from lying on memory foam. Its comfort is so well-known that it is used in other products, like shoes and chair cushions.
- Alignment: Because memory foam forms to your unique shape, the right memory foam mattress can allow for proper spinal alignment, reducing aches and pains.
- Movement: The foam isolates movement, making it a good option for couples who toss and turn.
- Cost: While this type of mattress was initially expensive, there are now many budget-friendly options.
- Sleeps Hot: Because you sink into the foam, it can become hot. If you sleep hot or if your room is hot, memory foam mattresses may be too warm for you.
- Too Soft: Some people will find memory foam mattresses to not offer enough support.
- Initial Odor: When you bring home a memory foam mattress, it must initially be allowed to breathe to release certain chemical odors.
Our top picks: Best Memory Foam Mattress of 2021
Gel mattresses are not a unique type of mattress but rather an improvement upon memory foam mattresses. Gel is infused into memory foam to reduce its tendency to trap heat. While gel does take on the temperature of its surroundings, it does so much more slowly than memory foam, allowing for a cooler night’s sleep.
Pros (in comparison to traditional memory foam):
- Cooler sleep: Gel-infused memory foam allows for cooler sleep.
Cons (in comparison to traditional memory foam):
- Cost: Gel-infused mattresses are a bit more expensive than their traditional memory foam counterparts.
Latex Foam Mattresses
Latex mattresses have been around for nearly a century; however, they have recently become more popular thanks to advances that have decreased their cost. Latex mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses in that they offer contouring and pressure point relief, but they are generally firmer, more bouncy-feeling, and sleep cooler.
There are two primary types of latex mattresses: dunlop and talalay. Talalay is considered superior as it’s more breathable, allowing for cooler sleep.
- Alignment With Support: Latex mattresses mold to the shape of the person sleeping on them while providing more support than memory foam mattresses. This can be a good option for those with back pain.
- Can Be Natural: Plant-based latex mattresses are one of the few all-natural mattress options.
- Sleeps Cool: In comparison to memory foam, latex mattresses sleep cooler.
- Movement Isolation: Latex can absorb movement, allowing partners to sleep together more peacefully.
- Lifespan: Latex mattresses are the most durable mattress type, with some warranties lasting upwards of 20 years.
- Cost: Latex mattresses are one of the more expensive options.
- Weight: Latex mattresses can be difficult to move because they’re very heavy.
- Initial Odor: Synthetic latex mattresses will have a strong initial odor that needs to be released.
Our top picks: Best Latex Mattress of 2021
Different from air mattresses, airbeds are those that have a chamber that you can fill with adjustable quantities of air. By increasing the quantity of air, you boost the firmness of the bed. Similarly, when you decrease the quantity of air, the pressure decreases and it becomes softer.
Above the air chambers you will typically find a variety of foam layers. The air chamber provides customizable support and the foam layers provide comfort and pressure relief.
- Customizable Support: Air beds are one of the few options that can be good for almost anyone. By finding the optimal fill level, you can get the right amount of support for you.
- Split Side Option: There are some airbeds that have separate chambers for the right and left sides, allowing couples to sleep together while being able to satisfy their individual needs.
- Good for Injuries: Air mattresses allow for you to change the pressure throughout the day or night, which is great for people who need to spend long periods of time in bed. This allows you to change the support depending upon pain that you’re feeling in that moment.
- Comfort: The foam layer on top with the air chambers below allow for you to find a mattress that feels both comfortable yet supportive.
- Cost: Airbeds are one of the pricier options available thanks to the technology needed to create high-quality adjustable air chambers.
Our top picks: Best Air Mattress of 2021
Pillow Top Mattresses
Pillow tops can be employed with any other type of mattress, including coil mattresses, foam mattresses, latex mattresses, and air mattresses. Pillow top mattresses are simply those with a soft, cushiony layer that is added on top of the mattress to offer a plush, cloud-like feel.
- Comfort: This added cushion is generally used for comfort reasons and is particularly great for those who enjoy a soft feel.
- Pressure Point Relief: This added cushion can help to relieve pressure placed on your shoulders and hips.
- Cost: Pillow top mattresses tend to be on the pricier side.
- Too Soft: For those who need firm support, a pillow top can be too soft.
Our top picks: Best Pillow Top Mattress of 2021
Hybrid mattresses are those made from more than one of the above categories. Common examples include innerspring mattresses with a memory foam layer, those with multiple types of foam, latex plus foam, and more.
- Customizable: Hybrid mattresses offer the most variety. No matter what your preferences, you are likely to find a mattress that works for you.
- Support and Comfort: By combining supportive base layers, like innerspring or air chambers, with soft upper layers, like memory foam or a pillow top, you can enjoy both support and comfort.
- Expensive: A high-quality hybrid mattress can be more expensive than many other types of mattress.
Our top picks: Best Hybrid Mattress of 2021
Adjustable Bed Mattresses
Adjustable beds are often used for people who have trouble getting in and out of bed and for those who must spend long hours in bed. Only certain types of mattresses are compatible with adjustable beds. These include latex, memory foam, gel, air, and certain hybrid mattresses.
You will want to pick the mattress for your adjustable bed frame similarly to how you would pick any other mattress. Think about your needs and use the information above to help you select the right mattress.
Our top picks: Best Mattress for Adjustable Beds of 2021
How to Choose a Mattress Type for Your Body Type and Weight
Body weight is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing a mattress. The same bed will feel different to one person who is 120 lbs and 5 feet tall than to someone 250 lbs and 6 feet tall.
We’ll give you a few quick tips for mattress shoppers of each body type so you can find the right type of mattress for you.
For heavy people:
- Remember mattresses feel softer when you weight more.
- Try firm mattresses as they can keep you from sinking too deep.
- Try memory foam mattresses with cooling layers built in to avoid overheating.
- Try a pillow top on any mattress that you choose as the extra softness can help hug your curves.
Our top picks: Best Mattress for Heavy People of 2021
For lightweight people:
- Remember mattresses feel more firm when you weigh less.
- Choose a soft to medium mattress, as a firm mattress is unlikely to offer the contouring that you need.
- Foam mattresses can also be a good choice, but you may want to pick one with moderate-density foam like the Casper Mattress.
For average weight people:
- Think about what you want from a mattress. Do you like soft or firm? Bounce or contour? Use your preferences to decide, but remember that medium firmness is likely to be the best.
- Don’t pick a bed that is too soft or too firm. Typically, softer beds are better for lighter people and firmer beds better for heavier people. You are likely to do best avoiding extremely soft or firm mattresses.
With so many mattress options available when you’re ready to replace your mattress, there is certainly one out there that is designed with your needs in mind. Now that you understand the pros and cons of different types of mattresses, you can use this knowledge to narrow down the type of mattress that’s best for you.